Eagles-Patriots Gamethread: Storylines and What Today Means

Eagles-Patriots Gamethread: Storylines and What Today Means

Technically, the Eagles are
still alive. The Giants have a difficult Monday night game against the
Saints, then the undefeated Packers the following week. The Cowboys
could come away from this week with a relatively firm grasp on first
place, but they're the Cowboys, so until Tony Romo puts a full season
together, I will always believe there is a chance he will give enough
games away to keep things interesting.

Obviously, that's the only
chance the Eagles have. As expected, there aren't many great Wild Card
scenarios with six games to play, but they are only one game out from
controlling their own destiny in the NFC East. If Philly can gain a win
on Dallas, and also defeat them on Christmas Eve, they would own the
tiebreaker and win the division -- provided New York predictably
takes a turn for the worst.

Okay, A LOT has to happen, but we got that out of the way... What has to happen for the Birds to win today?

Under Center
-
Quarterback controversy? Eh, probably not, if for no other reason than
Mike Vick's enormous contract, but it goes without saying Vince Young
played pretty well last week once he shook off the rust, and he has
played at a Pro Bowl level in the past. Should the Eagles win and move
to 2-0 under Young, you can bet there will be some fans who want Andy
Reid to go with Captain Dream Team the rest of the way. And honestly, if
that happens, he probably should at least consider it.

Andy vs. Bill
-
Speaking of Reid, love him or hate him, he's accomplished many things
during his career. One of them is not beating Bill Belichick in a
meaningful game. Including Super Bowl XXXIX, Belichick's Patriots are
3-0 in regular or postseason meetings. Besides the championships, there
are quite a few parallels between the two organizations during the head
coach's tenures, and Reid is compared to Belichick often -- always
coming up on the short end of the stick obviously.

Just saying,
there's gotta be some extra personal motivation there this week for Reid,
especially not knowing when the next time the two will stand on
opposite sidelines will be.

Prince Akeem
- The commenters wanted to see some
love for Akeem Jordan last Sunday, who according to Man-Up was in on 20
snaps, having recently taken over for Moise Fokou. In case you hadn't
noticed, he's been a clear upgrade, stuffing quite a few runs from the
strongside the past few weeks.

Jordan is a unique situation. He
joined the team as an undrafted free agent out of James Madison in '07,
and wound up in the starting lineup by '08, where he stayed through the
next season. He was fairly underwhelming, but has maintained a spot in
the organization and become something of a special teams ace. Initially
it appeared the front office wouldn't re-sign him as a free agent this
off-season, but he wound up coming back, and it may have been the best
thing for his career.

Jordan is the most tenured linebacker in
this defense by far, and it looks like he's playing with a bit of an
edge suddenly. I really like seeing him finally get another shot
considering everything they've been through, and the way he's playing,
he seriously could be an answer at that position... and suddenly, the
linebackers are turning into a decent-enough unit.

Bradylicious Attack
- I'm willing
to bet if the Eagles win, it's because the defensive line had some
success pressuring Tom Brady. I've been deflecting for the defense all
year, but I don't really see them as having the personnel to cover the
Patriots' tight ends. That's not even totally a swipe at this defense.
Rob Gronkowski in particular is looking more and more like a special
player, and most teams -- especially the ones utilizing the 4-3 -- will
have issues with these two.

But the Eagles in particular lack
size and perhaps toughness at the positions usually counted on to cover
the tight end. Which of their linebackers has the combination of size
and speed to keep up with either of those guys down the field? Which
safety would you count on to catch one of them once the ball is in their
hands, then wrestle them to the ground?

The best way to keep the
ball out of their hands is to prevent a crisp pass from leaving Brady's
hand. We'll be watching Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins, two high-priced
free agents from this off-season, to see if they can set the tone
against this extremely efficient offense.

UPDATE: Nnamdi Asomugha is ACTIVE. No word on whether he'll be able to be a full go, but he's at least slated to play.

Stew Milne-US Presswire

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Washington

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Washington

VOORHEES, N.J. — Jordan Weal participated in the Flyers' full practice Tuesday at Skate Zone, but will remain out of the lineup against Washington on Wednesday with an apparent concussion.

He was nailed in Edmonton by Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba. The hit in the corner came at 13:57 of the opening period.

Video replays show Gryba sandwiched Weal hard on the boards with Weal striking his head and right shoulder, then falling to the ice. Actually, Gryba hit him earlier in the period, as well, but it was the second hit that seemed to go the most damage. 

Weal said both he and trainer Jim McCrossin agreed it was better to not return to the game after the second hit.

“He kind of drove me in pretty good there,” Weal said. “It’s a hockey play, though. Not much you can do.” 

The Flyers are being cautious with the head injury.

Coach Dave Hakstol was vague as to when Weal would re-enter the lineup. Weal had just been called up last week to replace Travis Konecny, who was placed on IR.

“I feel good,” said Weal, who took extra practice on Tuesday. “It definitely has been progressing every day ... I’m day-to-day and as soon as I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go.

“It’s one of those injuries you just have to take your time with. I think when I feel I’m ready to play, I’ll be in.

“It’s frustrating. But it’s part of the game. With these injuries, it’s tougher than if it was, say your finger or your shin or something where you could put ice on it and get it better. You just have to treat it right and get back as quick as I can.”

Gudas’ departure
Defenseman Radko Gudas left early during what was a brief but long-delayed 45-minute practice on Tuesday.

What was noteworthy about Gudas’ departure, however, was that he picked up his gear and headed back to the dressing room while both trainers remained on the bench.

So he wasn’t injured.

Immediate speculation was that he might have been traded. An hour later, general manager Ron Hextall announced Gudas had a dentist appointment to fix a broken tooth, incurred during the recent road trip.

Needless to say, Gudas’ leaving blew up Twitter with trade rumors.

Lower, lower body
Jake Voracek took a shot below the belt line and couldn't stand for a few minutes near the end of practice. He remained in obvious pain in the dressing room and did not talk … as if he could. 

Michael Del Zotto on trade watch as NHL deadline nears

Michael Del Zotto on trade watch as NHL deadline nears

VOORHEES, N.J. — Michael Del Zotto knows the score.

With the NHL trade deadline just a week away, this can be a very uncomfortable time of year for an unrestricted free-agent-to-be.

Players who are expecting a pay day on a club where there are at least two or three younger and far less expensive rookies anticipating a promotion, know what that implies.

They’re on trade watch.

“It happens every year,” Del Zotto said. “It’s not like it’s the first time. I’ve been traded before. It is what it is. It’s a business.

“You realize that pretty early in your career. I understand where I’m at as far as my contract, being a UFA this summer.

“Same thing with taking each game one day at a time. You take each day one day at a time. Go home, make dinner, get ready for tomorrow and whatever happens, happens.”

The 26-year-old Del Zotto was traded in 2013-14 from the New York Rangers to Nashville. That trade occurred in January, well before the deadline, during a season after which he was about to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time.

That same summer, Del Zotto signed a one-year deal with the Flyers for $1.3 million. His current deal pays him $3.875 million. He’d have to take a pay cut to stay here given the long line of prospects ready to step in at a first-year NHL salary and that fact he has struggled defensively this season.

Del Zotto averages 19:23 ice time. He has 10 points in 32 games and is second among Flyers defensemen with 113 hits. He’s missed a total of 22 games this season with two different injuries, one to his left knee, the other to his left leg.

If you had a chart ranking of Flyers likely to be dealt at next Wednesday’s deadline, Del Zotto would be No. 1, with Mark Streit and one of the Flyers’ two goalies right behind him.

If possible, general manager Ron Hextall would like to add draft picks at the deadline.

“It’s a business and these things are out of your control,” Del Zotto said.

When he was traded to Nashville a few years ago, Del Zotto said he saw it coming.

“Anytime it does happen, and for the first time, it hits you hard,” he said. “Being in New York, I had my brother and wife living with me, it made it extra tough. With our schedule being tough, you don’t get to see them very often, but with them living with me, it was pretty special.

“That’s what hurt the most. Leaving my family. I decided, it’s a business and you never know when it can or can’t happen ...”

The line behind him in Philadelphia includes Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers, etc.  

Del Zotto laughed and admitted he’s aware of those waiting.

“That’s the part of the game that is out of my control,” he said. “That is why you have the GM and coaching staff. To make those decisions. My job is to come into work every day, give everything you have.

“That’s one thing. I can always look myself in the mirror. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I give everything I have every day. At the end of the day, if I can look myself in the mirror, I’m happy. That’s all I can control.”

The Flyers host Washington on Wednesday before going to Pittsburgh for their Stadium Series outdoor game this weekend.

"[Those] are huge four-point games for us," he said. "We can't overlook that. We know where we are in the standings."