Flyers Return Home to a Heros Welcome, Hopeful to Avoid Letdown Versus Panthers

Flyers Return Home to a Heros Welcome, Hopeful to Avoid Letdown Versus Panthers

You can’t blame the Flyers for maybe feeling a little
physically and emotionally drained the day after their 6-5 slobber-knocker against
the Penguins in Pittsburgh. The show must go on though, and the troops will
turn right around to host the Florida Panthers at the Wells Fargo Center on
Thursday night.

This is already the third and final regular season meeting with
the Panthers, a club that was actually on the upswing two short weeks ago.
Since defeating the Flyers 3-2 in a shootout two weeks ago, Florida has posted
a 0-2-3 record. They’ve been shut out three times during the current winless
streak, while allowing an average of 4.20 goals per contest.

Florida is now 4-7-4 on the season, just one point out of
last place in the Eastern Conference. The reigning Southeast Division Champions
have the 27th-ranked offense in the NHL at 2.27 goals per game, and defensively
are a league-worst 3.73 goals against per game.

It’s difficult to put a finger on exactly what the problem
is there. Injuries have certainly been an issue, calling into question the
organization’s depth.

For the Flyers’ part, it seems they just need to dig deep
and try to carry over their outstanding efforts from the last two tilts against
the Pens and Islanders. On paper they clearly have the Panthers overmatched, so
it’s all about avoiding the trap.

Easier said than done. No team has played more dates in the
early part of their schedule than Philadelphia, who finished up their
season-long six-game road trip with an uber-intense encounter with a bitter
rival. Orange & Black will be skating for the 19th already, compared to 16
for Florida, or even 14 for the Boston Bruins in action elsewhere.

The uneven number of games played around the league muddles
the playoff picture in the standings a bit, but here’s what you need to know:
thanks to their recent surge, the Flyers can back to .500 with a win tonight
for the first time since the season began. After a 2-6 start, Philly is 6-3-1
for 13 of a possible 20 points in their last 10.

No word yet on whether it will be Ilya Bryzgalov or Brian
Boucher in net, nor do we have an update on Matt Read, who has four of his
seven goals against the Panthers this season. If Read can’t go, Tye McGinn will
likely be back in the lineup for the first time in two games. We’ll update as
we hear more leading up to 7 p.m. puck drop.

Update:

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Josh Norman goes WWE on division, ready for Alshon Jeffery

Josh Norman goes WWE on division, ready for Alshon Jeffery

Josh Norman is going all WWE on the NFC East. 

Washington's outspoken cornerback is featured in a lengthy Q&A with Bleacher Report and he's, well, outspoken. 

He starts in the story by saying crazy things like this: "I feel like King Leonidas leading an army into battle, leading troops into defending your territory."

Yeah, off to a good start. 

He then goes after his nemesis Odell Beckham Jr. hard, calls Dez Bryant "just a guy" and even has some thoughts on new Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery. 

Norman praised receivers Julio Jones and Antonio Brown, saying there aren't those types of challenging players in the NFC East. He was asked if there was any player he has circled on his schedule. 

Jeffery was the one that came to mind. 

"Alshon [Jeffery] is going to be with us this year," Norman told Bleacher Report. "He's a big guy. He uses his body. And I enjoy going against big guys because they think they can get physical with me. They think that. That's quite the contrary."

Norman will get his shot against Jeffery in the opener, when the Eagles travel to Washington on Sept. 10. 

Comparatively, Jeffery got off easy. Norman was much less complimentary when speaking about Beckham, with whom he has an infamous history, and Bryant, the Cowboys' top receiver. 

On Bryant: "That's a guy. Just a guy. Dez was Dez in 2012, '13, '14. Maybe '14. Now? He's a guy."

Norman might have a little point with Bryant, who has failed to go over 800 yards in either of his last two seasons. In 2016, he caught 50 passes for 796 yards and eight touchdowns. From 2012-14, Dez was over 12,000 yards with at least 12 touchdowns in each of the three seasons. 

He even called Bryant a "fake tough guy" for his behavior on the field.  

But even Bryant got off easy. 

There's no secret about the way Norman feels toward Beckham. And Norman didn't hold anything back. Based on his comments, the WWE speak may turn into WWE-type action during the 2017 season. 

Here's a part of the Q&A about ODB: 

You get Beckham twice a year now.

Yeah, and that game gets so hyped up by the time we play them, it won't even be Giants vs. Washington—it'll be me and him. You know what I'm saying? It's like when it becomes bigger than the game. ... Because now you have us on Thanksgiving Night. C'mon, man!

So when you think of Odell, what is his game?

He tries to be a tough guy. He tries to put on this persona which he's not. Because he's always going to have his head on a swivel. Always. Always when we play each other. He's scary like that. He does things that he normally wouldn't do because of all the pressure and added hype that he has to put on his whole persona. He's not this guy. If you go back and watch the games in which we play compared to the games we don't play each other, he's a totally different guy.

How so?

When people get physical, tough, like the Minnesota game, he acts out. He's a kid. He's a big kid, man.

Like messing around with a kicker's net.

When you really, really want to see what a person's really like, you get in their face, you smell what they ate and you take their soul from them. How do you do that? You put your fist right into their chest and you see what they're made out of.

And you did exactly that with him. What did you see in Beckham?

You see a person who's actually not what they're made out to be. Because they come back at you. And that's not him. They come back at you in a way like, "He's not going to punk me! He's not going to sissy me out!" All right! But then when you go and you do things you're not accustomed to doing, that's pretty much what it is.

This is going to be fun. 

Throughout the whole thing, Norman speaks like a classing wrestling heel. If nothing else, the trash talk is going to make the NFC East more fun. 

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly is joining ESPN as a studio analyst next season.

ESPN announced Friday it has signed Kelly to a multiyear deal.

Kelly will primarily be part of Saturday pregame, halftime and wrap-up shows on ESPN2. He'll also provide NFL analysis on Sundays during SportsCenter.

The 53-year-old Kelly spent the last four seasons in the NFL, coaching the Philadelphia for three years and San Francisco for one. Kelly was fired by the 49ers after going 2-14 last season. He was 26-21 with a playoff appearance for the Eagles.

Before jumping to the NFL, Kelly spent four seasons as Oregon head coach and went 46-7. In 2010, Kelly led the Ducks to the BCS title game and was The Associated Press coach of the year.

"I spoke with a lot of people this offseason about different situations for me -- in coaching and TV," Kelly said in a statement. "I had various opportunities in both. In the end, I have had a relationship with ESPN for many years from when I was coaching and after speaking with them, I decided it was the best step for me to take."

Kelly figures to be in demand at the college level when head coaching jobs begin opening next season. Spending a season or two doing television has been a common path for coaches between jobs. Urban Meyer spent a season at ESPN between resigning from Florida and landing at Ohio State. So did Rich Rodriguez after being fired by Michigan and before being hired by Arizona.

"I have been a coach for nearly the last 30 years," Kelly said. "Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different perspective, but I didn't take the job with the intention it will lead to something specific. I love the game of football and working with good, smart people; ESPN presents an opportunity to combine those two things."

Kelly will fill an opening left by Butch Davis, who became head coach at Florida International.

Kelly was considered one of the most innovative coaches in college football. His up-tempo spread offenses dominated defenses and were mimicked by teams all over the country.

"As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach," said Lee Fitting, ESPN senior coordinating producer. "We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process."