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

Eric Paschall's game rounding out when Villanova needs it most

Eric Paschall's game rounding out when Villanova needs it most

Those on the outside are now starting to see what those on the inside of Villanova basketball program have seen for the last year and a half.

Eric Paschall can play.

Paschall on Saturday had the biggest game of his career – at least his Villanova career – with 19 points, six rebounds and two steals in the Wildcats’ Big East-clinching win over Creighton at the Pavilion.

With Darryll Reynolds sidelined since early February with a rib injury, the Fordham transfer has been starting and playing at a high level. But he was at his best on Saturday when his team needed him the most.

Paschall was essentially a guard at Fordham, but with Reynolds out and Omari Spellman forced to sit out the year, Paschall has been playing a lot of the 5 for Villanova, and against Creighton, he effectively neutralized 6-foot-11 Blue Jays center Justin Patton, who managed just four points – 9 ½ below his average.

“He’s getting better, that’s the biggest thing,” teammate Josh Hart said of Paschall. “He’s down there battling with Patton, a 7-footer, he’s down there battling with 6-10, 6-11 guys just about every night, and he’s battling and battling and we just tell him, keep working like that. That’s more important to us than him going out there scoring 20.

“We know he’s talented enough to score 20, you saw that (Saturday), but the way he’s battling and the way he’s not being frustrated and just keeps getting better, for us that’s the best part.”

Paschall averaged 15.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game two years ago for the Rams, earning Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year honors.

He was one of only three NCAA Division I freshmen who averaged at least 15.9 points and 5 ½ rebounds per game. The others were D’Angelo Russell of Ohio State and Jahlil Okafor of Duke, who are both now double-digit scorers in the NBA.

But to play at Villanova, you have to play defense, and that’s where Paschall has shown the most improvement.

“Eric is developing as a Villanova basketball player defensively in terms of executing far better than anyone knows,” coach Jay Wright said. “We know. When he’s in the game, we are executing at a high level. We’re just starting to see what he can do offensively, but in our program, you’ve got to be able to (play defense) first and he’s been doing that all year.

“(He’s) getting better and better, and today you just saw a glimpse of what you’ll probably see next year, but you’ve got to get the basics down first, which he’s done an incredible job of this year. It’s like I tell you with Dante (DiVincenzo), these guys play against him in practice, they’re not surprised when they see him do that, but I know everybody else is, because they don’t get to see it all the time.”

It’s not easy to transfer into a new program and get used to new players, a new coach, a new system, a new philosophy.

“It was a process,” Paschall said. “The biggest thing was getting used to what they wanted, and that’s defense and rebounding. That took some getting used to, but once I understood what they were looking for from me and what they wanted me to do, that just made it easy.

“The guys welcomed me with open arms. It’s a brotherhood here and we’re all brothers and they made me feel like I was a part of it from Day 1. It can be hard sometimes as a transfer coming in, but they made it easy. It’s just a matter of focusing on my job.”

Overall, Paschall is averaging 7.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game and shooting 50 percent from the field in an average of 21 minutes a night. But during these last five starts, he’s 21 for 32 from the field (66 percent) and is averaging 9.8 points per game.

“Eric, he came in knowing what coach wanted, knowing what coach’s philosophy is and how coach wants things, and he’s come and in done what’s expected,” Jalen Brunson said.

“He’s done a great job for us and we’re extremely confident in him. It’s hard coming in front a different school, coming in and learning a new system, learning the philosophy, but he’s done a good job.”

Paschall can play the 2 through the 5, so he gives Wright a lot of versatility.

His 19 points Saturday were his most as a Wildcat and his most in any game since he scored 21 for Fordham vs. George Mason on Feb. 18, 2015.

When asked about his role, he just pointed at Hart and Kris Jenkins.

“Just listen to these guys, making sure I have my head clear every game,” he said. “They do a great job of telling me what to do during the games and having my attitude right during the games so I can just go out there play hard, play together, play smart, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

As thin as Villanova is – Wright has played just six guys in his regular rotation since Reynolds got hurt – Paschall has been a life-saver.

It’s hard not to imagine how talented Villanova will be next year with Spellman, Paschall, Mikal Bridges, Phil Booth, Brunson and DiVincenzo.

But first there's a game Saturday against Georgetown, the Big East Tournament in New York and then the NCAA Tournament.

“We see him getting better every day with his decision making,” Hart said of Paschall. “Last year he definitely kicked our butt a lot when he was on the scout team.

“One thing we always had a question about was how was he going to fit in with just playing hard the way we play defense, and he’s doing the best job, and he keeps getting better, and seeing him develop and seeing him grow has been amazing. Looking forward to seeing what he’s going to do in the future.”

Phillies prospect Nick Pivetta has long-awaited meeting with Roy Halladay

Phillies prospect Nick Pivetta has long-awaited meeting with Roy Halladay

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Phillies pitching prospect Nick Pivetta had one of those pinch-me moments Saturday.

He met his boyhood idol, Roy Halladay, at a charity event.

Someone had filled in Halladay that Pivetta had grown up in Canada and had regularly watched Toronto Blue Jays games on television. Pivetta loved watching Halladay pitch, as he talked about a few weeks ago here.

“I got to briefly shake his hand,” Pivetta said Sunday morning. “He knew I was like a stalker. He said, ‘Oh, right, you’re the guy from British Columbia.’ “

Halladay, who pitched for the Phils from 2010 to 2013, lives in the Clearwater area. Pivetta said he expected to speak more with Halladay in the coming days.

Halladay was honored at the 44th annual Clearwater For Youth banquet and Pivetta attended with a number of his teammates and Phillies officials. Phillies chairman David Montgomery and his wife Lyn were also honored for their charitable works.

Pivetta will pitch for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic in March.