Eagles-Chiefs: Commence The Andy Bowl

Eagles-Chiefs: Commence The Andy Bowl

It’s rare when any game on the Eagles’ schedule takes on an air of meaning larger than any against, say, the Cowboys or Giants. Maybe this isn’t it quite on that level either, but there is certainly a greater feeling of importance surrounding tonight’s contest than a regular season meeting against the Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) has any right to have.

That’s what happens when the former head coach of 14 years comes back to town roughly eight months after he was let go, on the same night his franchise quarterback of 11 years will have his number retired in a ceremony at halftime. For the first time in a long time, Chip Kelly is almost an afterthought in Philadelphia.

As soon as the game kicks off though, obviously that will no longer be the case. Chip’s offense still has something to prove versus its stiffest test to date, a Kansas City defense that comes into Week 3 ranked third in total yards and second in points allowed.

How stout the Chiefs’ defense really is, that’s up for debate. They opened their season with the Jaguars – a team that’s found the end zone all of once so far – while several of their nine sacks (tied for the league lead) would chart as “unblocked” against mediocre offensive lines in Jacksonville and Dallas. That’s not to say KC doesn’t have some quality pass rushers in their front seven, but the Birds’ line anchored by Jason Peters stands a better chance of avoiding similar breakdowns.

Then again, it may not matter one way or the other if the Eagles can’t get some stops. Alex Smith is no Philip Rivers, but he’s perfectly capable is dissecting a defense on short and intermediate routes, while Jamaal Charles is a home-run threat in the running game, which was an issue the Birds had during the preseason.

In other news, the No. 5 is painted on the sidelines at the Linc, and the end zones are painted black. Coool.

Standout Star & Prediction

I’m going with inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks for my game MVP this week. Thursday games are typically lower scoring, probably because guys are still beat up from Sunday, and Kendricks really needs to bounce back from a rough performance against San Diego. Antonio Gates really made the second-year backer look bad in coverage, but the Chiefs don’t have anybody near as good at tight end.

Kendricks will get his number called on the blitz as well, and I suspect he’ll be better in that area as well. Last week he couldn’t find a lane to the quarterback if he had a GPS, but he was making plays in the backfield all night in Washington back in Week 1.

As for the game, I’m going Birds again. If defensive coordinator brings the safeties closer, that should make things harder on Smith, who looked deep (beyond 15 yards) less frequently than any starting quarterback in the league last season (per Football Outsiders Almanac 2013). Force the QB to beat the defense over the top, and hope they can keep Charles from ripping off too many huge gains.

Score: Eagles 27-23

NBA Finals: Warriors coach Steve Kerr not well yet , but hasn't ruled himself out for Game 1

NBA Finals: Warriors coach Steve Kerr not well yet , but hasn't ruled himself out for Game 1

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Golden State's Steve Kerr expects to decide soon whether he will coach in the NBA Finals, saying Monday he's not yet ready but hasn't ruled himself out for Game 1.

Kerr said: "As of right now I would not coach Thursday night. It's still up in the air." He said that by Game 1, he might make a decision on his status.

The reigning NBA Coach of the Year, still not feeling well after a May 5 procedure to repair a spinal fluid leak, addressed the media Monday when acting coach Mike Brown was out with the flu.

He joked: "I told the team the good news is the team is really healthy, the bad news is the coaching staff is dropping like flies."

Brown has been coaching the team since Game 3 of the first round at Portland, with Kerr assisting at practice and from the locker room before and during games.

Inside Doop: How a record win streak came to an end

Inside Doop: How a record win streak came to an end

Over the course of a long season, there are forgettable games where few things — or players — stand out.

Saturday night’s Union game out in Salt Lake City seemed like one of those — but will still be remembered for the fact that it ended a record winning streak.

Here’s a closer look at the 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake that snapped Philly’s four-game winning and six-game unbeaten streaks, as well as a look ahead for a team that will now look to start another one.

Three thoughts about Saturday’s game
1. There was one play early in the game that could have been exceptional as Haris Medunjanin lofted a pinpoint over-the-top pass from midfield to Fafa Picault, who got behind the defense and controlled it perfectly. But Picault’s first attempt and his follow-up were both saved — the second on a goal-line clearance from defender Aaron Maund — and the Union had few other good chances as their offense dried up. That was perhaps, bound to happen, after the team, led in part by the strong play of newcomers Medunjanin and Picault, scored multiple goals in every other game this month.

2. While Nick Rimando showed why he’s the most accomplished MLS goalie ever by earning the shutout, Andre Blake showed why he’s the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year with even better saves, including a few spectacular diving and leaping ones. Blake certainly wasn’t to blame for the Union’s eight-game winless streak to start the season but he also wasn’t making the kind of game-changing saves Philly fans grew accustomed to last year. Now that he is, it’s one of the big reasons why the Union are back in the playoff race, despite Saturday’s loss. 

3. Although it didn’t really show earlier in the season, one of the Union’s biggest strengths is depth at the winger position as they have four players — Picault, Chris Pontius, Ilsinho and Fabian Herbers — who are capable MLS starters. But with Herbers injured and Ilsinho sliding over to the central midfield, head coach Jim Curtin needed to call upon rookie Marcus Epps as his first winger off the bench. It was a difficult MLS debut playing on the road, across the country, with the team pushing for a late goal. But Curtin likes throwing guys into the fire to see what they’re made of, and will likely use Epps’ minutes in Utah as a springboard moving forward.

Three questions for the week ahead
1. The Union had a busy end of the month, flying out to Salt Lake City a few days after a three-games-in-eight-day stretch. But they also have 15 days between MLS games following Saturday’s contest vs. New York City FC at Yankee Stadium (1:00, 6ABC). So does Curtin opt to give guys some rest because of the former or trot out the same lineup because of the latter? There are also other things to consider, including the fact that the Union will open U.S. Open Cup play on June 14 — often an ideal time to give minutes to younger guys and backups.

2. One particular position to watch is the No. 10 attacking midfield spot. Ilsinho had filled in beautifully there in place of the injured Roland Alberg, particularly during a 2-0 win over Houston on May 17. But he was mostly invisible vs. RSL, a game in which Alberg returned from a three-game absence. Considering both have never really been 90-minute players and have similar playmaking abilities, could Curtin consider a platoon with Alberg and Ilsinho? Or will Ilsinho return to the wing, at least until Herbers returns from his injury?

3. Another spot to watch is the backline, which had been mostly kept intact during the team’s six-game unbeaten run. But now that the team lost, will Curtin go back to starters Keegan Rosenberry and/or Richie Marquez? What about Josh Yaro, who’s on the mend from shoulder surgery? The makeshift group that included Jack Elliott, Oguchi Onyewu, and Ray Gaddis should be commended for changing the course of the season, but it seems unlikely that Rosenberry and Marquez will remain on the bench must longer considering they were two of the team’s most promising players last year.

Stat of the week
Fabinho played his 100th MLS game Saturday. The only other players to surpass 100 games for the Union have been Sebastien Le Toux, Brian Carroll, Sheanon Williams, Gaddis and Amobi Okugo.  

Quote of the week
“A good run of six games comes to an end for us now. We’ll have to look forward to starting a new streak as we go away to New York City next week.”

— Union manager Jim Curtin 

Player of the week
Andre Blake got the loss but still had one of his best games of the season, wowing the crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium on more than one occasion.