Team USA Rolls Into Second Week of Competition, Face Toughest Opponent Yet Today

Team USA Rolls Into Second Week of Competition, Face Toughest Opponent Yet Today

It's been an up-and-down tournament for Team USA basketball in London
so far, but the unequivocally good news is that the team is still
undefeated going into their last contest of the preliminary round, today
against Argentina. With a victory, the team will finish the first
round with a Group A-best 5-0 record, and a chance to play the
fourth-place team from Group B in the Quarterfinal round on Wednesday,
likely to be Team Australia.

Argentina will be no easy out for Team USA, however. The Argentinian
squad is 3-1 in play thusfar, tied with France for the second-best
record in Group A behind the States, and has a number of pros and
pro-caliber players—most notably Spurs two-time All-Star guard Manu
Ginobili, as well as Suns power forward Luis Scola and our old friend,
small forward Andres Nocioni. (You remember how that guy actually
started a game for the Sixers last year? Whatta season we had.) By most
estimations, this'll be the toughest opponent the U.S. will face in the
first round.

Of course, the team already does have one very legitimate scare
behind them, as the guys just narrowly avoided defeat Saturday morning
in their game against Lithuania. A lax defensive effort on the part of
Team USA, and perhaps an over-reliance on the three-pointer on offense,
saw a Linas Kleiza-led Lithuanian team push the U.S. for all 48 minutes,
until a couple nice plays by LeBron James, and some big shots by Chris
Paul and Deron Williams, bailed them out in the final stretch for a
99-94 victory. For all the Dream Team comparisons, the '92 squad does
now have one real bragging point over this 2012 team: The Dream Team
never won by less than 32 points throughout their run.

Then again, the Dream Team also never scored 156 points in a
40-minute regulation game, as the 2012 Team did on Thursday against
Nigeria in their 82-point victory. The team set Olympic records for most
points scored in a game and largest point differential in a victory,
and Carmelo Anthony set team USA records for most points scored in an
Olympic game with his 37 and most 3's hit in a game with ten—in just 14
minutes of playing time, no less. Even our Andre Iguodala got in on the
scoring, connecting on all three of his attempts from deep—just a
fraction of the unthinkable 29 treys the team hit over the course of the
40-minute game. (The NBA record for a single game is just 23.)

Iguodala hasn't had a ton to do with Team USA's successes or
failures thusfar, getting most of his minutes after the game had already
been decided, and only playing three minutes against Lithuania. His
most consequential playing time probably came in Tuesday's game against
Tunisia, which was probably a little closer than it should have been
through fits first two quarters. Coach Krzyzewski decided that the
starters weren't getting the job done, so he left Iguodala's second unit
in to start the third, and they responded, opening the 13-point lead to
38 by the beginning of the fourth. 'Dre played his typical lockdown
defense, had a nice between-the-legs pass to Kevin Love for a
three-pointer in the fourth, and also contributed this trademark
put-back highlight dunk:

Today's game is at 5:15 EST, and should be a good one. Given that
the team has kinda played in an every-other-game sorta rhythm, hopefully
that means that this'll be a strong effort from Team US. If not,
definitely good to get the dud out of the way before starting the games
that actually matter on Wednesday. Go America.

Eagles mailbag: Carson Wentz's skill, running backs, center spot

Eagles mailbag: Carson Wentz's skill, running backs, center spot

The NFL found a way to prevent the Eagles from winning this weekend: Don't let them play. 

Yup, the Eagles are riding high at 3-0, but an early Week 4 bye has them waiting to play again until Oct. 9 in Detroit against the Lions. 

Thanks to a hot start from rookie Carson Wentz and the defense, the Eagles have been one of the biggest surprises of the NFL so far and have Philadelphia buzzing. 

As always, thanks for your questions. We'll dive right in: 

Wentz's ability to extend plays doesn't make his receivers better, but it certainly gives them more opportunities, which is really just as good. 

This skill is something Wentz really takes pride in. He wants his receivers to know that no matter how broken the play is, it isn't dead until the whistle. In that regard, the comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers make plenty of sense. And his receivers love the idea of having extra seconds to get open. 

During the Chicago game, Wentz really showed this ability. He showed he can move around and out of the pocket while also keeping his eyes downfield. It was just a matter of time before he hit big on one of those plays. 

Sure enough, he did it in the third quarter against the Steelers. I broke down that play using the tape and it showed a unique skill set out of a quarterback (see story)

https://twitter.com/faux_micahGreg/status/781171954241851392

We had a few questions about running backs, so we'll let this one speak for them all. 

On Monday, Doug Pederson said that once Ryan Mathews ankle is completely healed, Mathews is still the lead back who will get most of the team's carries. I think Pederson means it. 

Still, Mathews has had injury problems for a long time and it looks like this year is no different. It had to be encouraging for the Eagles to see how well Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood played against the Steelers. While Mathews is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry, Barner is at 6.1 and Smallwood is at 4.8. 

Sproles, who has 19 carries this year, shouldn't be getting as many carries as he has, but he's still going to get some. He's averaging just 2.7 yards per attempt.

That's a long answer to say this: For now, Mathews is the guy. But if he can't stay healthy, one of the other guys could and should earn more carries. 

https://twitter.com/ATONAMIS317/status/781174071400755200

I thought Stefen Wisniewski looked OK in camp as the primary backup at right guard. 

Sure, Jason Kelce hasn't looked like a Pro Bowler in 2016, but he might not be as bad as you think. Here's Andrew Kulp's film breakdown of Kelce from the Bears game, where to the casual observer, it looked like Kelce got worked (see story). We see Kelce looks bad when he's asked to block a nose tackle 1-on-1. That's never been his strength and never will be his strength. His strength is getting to the next level to block and use his athleticism. 

One more reason to not expect a change at center unless things start to go really bad is that Kelce has been really good for Wentz. Sure, there was a bad snap against the Steelers (something Wisniewski has had his troubles with) but Kelce is a veteran and has helped the rookie out plenty during the first three weeks. 

And besides, with Lane Johnson's suspension looming, the Eagles are likely going to use Wisniewski to fill it at left guard. They could put him at center and Isaac Seumalo at LG, but that would be a pretty big offensive line shakeup for a team that hasn't yet lost a game. 

No. 10 Washington dominates No. 7 Stanford in rout

usa-washington-christian-mccaffrey.jpg
USA Today Images

No. 10 Washington dominates No. 7 Stanford in rout

SEATTLE -- Jake Browning threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns, Myles Gaskin added 100 yards and two scores, and No. 10 Washington was dominant on both sides, overwhelming No. 7 Stanford 44-6 on Friday night.

After months of hype that Washington (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) was on the verge of a breakout, the Huskies showed they were ready for their return to the national stage.

And they did it emphatically, handing Stanford (3-1, 2-1) its worst loss since a 41-3 setback against Arizona State in 2007.

The Huskies raced to a 23-0 halftime lead, scored early in the second half to go up 30-0 and coasted to their biggest victory over an AP Top 10 team since beating No. 5 Southern California 31-0 in 1990. That game 26 years ago announced Washington as a national contender and the Huskies went on to share the national title a year later with Miami -- taking the coaches' version while Miami topped the AP media poll.

Browning was the leader of an efficient offense that scored on six of its eight drives. He threw touchdowns of 3 yards to Dante Pettis, 19 yards to John Ross and capped the night with a 3-yarder to Aaron Fuller with 5:30 remaining. Browning was 15 of 21 and did not commit a turnover.

Equally important was Washington's ability to establish a running game. The Huskies rushed for 214 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry.

Meanwhile, Stanford star Christian McCaffrey saw his Heisman Trophy aspirations hit a major speed bump. McCaffrey was held to 49 yards rushing on 12 carries, five catches for 30 yards and continued his streak of never scoring an offensive touchdown in a road game.

It was McCaffrey's fewest yards rushing since 2014 at California when he had 19 yards on three carries.

Stanford's only TD came late in the third quarter on a 19-yard pass from Ryan Burns to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.

Burns was 15 of 22 for 151 yards, but Washington controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides. Stanford quarterbacks were sacked eight times, six in the first half. Stanford had allowed only four total sacks in the first three games combined.

Stanford was playing short-handed without starting cornerbacks Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder, starting wide receiver Francis Owusu and starting fullback Daniel Marx. Starting right tackle Casey Tucker limped off with an apparent leg injury late in the fourth quarter.

Takeaways
Stanford: The Cardinal were unexpectedly sloppy. Stanford committed 11 penalties after entering the week as the least penalized team in the Pac-12. There were communication issues in part due to the roaring Washington crowd, but also a lack of sharpness not normally seen from David Shaw's team.

Washington: The defense was up to the task of keeping McCaffrey under control and forcing Burns to beat them through the air. McCaffrey had 34 yards on 10 carries in the first half and forced the Cardinal into numerous long third-down situations. That allowed Washington to bring extra pass rushers to get to Burns.

Up Next
Stanford: The Cardinal head home after two straight weeks on the road to host Washington State.

Washington: The Huskies travel to Oregon looking to snap a 12-game losing streak to the Ducks.