2012 Eagles Regular Season Precap SWAGs

2012 Eagles Regular Season Precap SWAGs

When the Eagles' upcoming season schedule is announced, most fans enjoy taking a shot at predicting their record, with some adventurous folk picking the individual wins and losses they expect to see. We do this too, although with the obvious caveat that NFL seasons rarely go as scripted. Remember last year, when the 49ers loss was so devastating because everyone thought they were terrible?

Well, we thought it'd be fun to take a crack at predicting outcomes from the upcoming season, along with some guesses as to what might happen in the games and why. Obviously, we're not saying these things will happen. Just adding a little color to the usual predictions…

WEEK 1 @ CLEVELAND

The Browns haven't won more than five games in four consecutive seasons. They enter Week 1 with rookie starters at quarterback, running back, right tackle, defensive tackle, and outside linebacker. Even if we were to assume this team is ready to take a leap forward in 2012, it's hard to imagine how they start fast. QB Brandon Weeden will find little time to scan the field and few open targets, while Michael Vick shakes off the rust and creates enough big plays in the passing game to make this one look easy.
W 34-10

WEEK 2 VS. BALTIMORE

The Ravens are polar opposites to their rival Browns, averaging 11 wins per season over the last four. They have an established offense to go along with their nasty defense headlined by multiple future Hall of Famers. The Eagles do get a slight reprieve with OLB Terrell Suggs -- the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year -- out due to an offseason Achilles injury, but Baltimore still controls the middle. This game could come down to whether or not the Birds can prevent QB Joe Flacco from orchestrating that one key drive. A long march capped by a late touchdown pass to WR Anquan Boldin breaks up the defensive stalemate.
L 19-13

WEEK 3 @ ARIZONA

Big revenge game for the Eagles. Last year, the lackluster Cardinals came to the Linc and shocked Philly, dropping the Birds to 3-6 on the season. We are not predicting an encore performance in the desert. Arizona's offensive line is awful, and worse than ever after the loss of OT Levi Brown for the season with a torn triceps, so expect Trent Cole to terrorize the quarterback -- whoever that may be by Week 3. DeSean Jackson won't be scratched from the lineup with an attitude problem either, so a higher scoring affair should be in order.
W 30-17

WEEK 4 VS. NEW YORK GIANTS

It will be an emotional Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field, which doesn't always bode well for the home team. Brian Dawkins' No. 20 will be retired at the game's midpoint, a ceremony that will undoubtedly be the most popular halftime show of the season. The Eagles come out flat and go into the locker room down by two possessions, but with the crowd re-energized, DeMeco Ryans turns the tides in the second half with a big hit to jar the ball free from RB Ahmad Bradshaw. With less than two minutes remaining, a LeSean McCoy touchdown run drives the final nail into the coffin.
W 24-23

WEEK 5 @ PITTSBURGH

Tough game to follow up with after a knock-down, drag-out fight with the G-men, but that's the hand the Eagles have been dealt. Meanwhile, the Steelers are coming off of an early bye week, so they should be well rested and ready for battle. The Birds hang in there early, but Pittsburgh becomes the more physical team as the game wears on. By the end, their offensive line is able to open huge holes for RB Isaac Redman, keeping the clock ticking in the fourth quarter and putting any hopes of another comeback on ice.
L 27-17

WEEK 6 VS. DETROIT

Like Pittsburgh, the Lions also emerge from a bye. Vick lasts longer than anybody would have predicted, but the dangerous Detroit pass rush led by scary DT Ndomukong Suh becomes the group that finally forces the fragile passer from the game in pain. Nick Foles enters the fray midway into the second quarter and struggles right away, making a rookie mistake with a dumb interception that quickly tilts the scoreboard in the wrong direction. The young QB fights through it, even winds up having a nice day with close to 300 yards and a couple of scores. Unfortunately, the hole is just too deep.
L 34-31

WEEK 7 - BYE

WEEK 8 VS. ATLANTA

Not only does Andy Reid's team maintain an unblemished 13-0 record the week immediately after their bye, but this is another opportunity for the Birds to exact revenge. The Eagles blew a late lead in the second game of 2011 after Vick was knocked out of the contest. With the extra time off, Vick returns to the lineup without missing the much-hyped return bout against his old mates. He winds up tossing his best game of the season, as he and Jeremy Maclin hook up for a pair of scores, including a long one over the top of Asante Samuel. The secondary holds Roddy White and Julio Jones in check to put a bow on a lopsided victory.
W 38-20

WEEK 9 @ NEW ORLEANS

It's apprentice versus master as Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is pitted against the Eagles offense after he allegedly considered rejoining Reid's staff over the winter. New Orleans and QB Drew Brees will score their share of points in this Superdome track meet, although the prolific one will have his hands full on a Monday night after Juan Castillo's staff have had an extra day to prepare. The key will be whether Spags can draw up blitzes to rattle Vick, only riding last week's hot performance, No. 7 is unphased. It's a shootout, with two receptions of 40 yards or more in front of a national TV audience restoring Djacc's shine.
W 35-31

WEEK 10 VS. DALLAS

This has letdown game written all over it, except nobody tells the defensive line. Having beaten both of the clubs that represented the NFC South in the 2011 playoffs in consecutive weeks, the Eagles return to the Linc as conquering heroes to face an opponent they embarrassed just a season ago. Add in a lost day of rest, and it's a recipe for disaster. Luckily, Jim Washburn has reserves. Brandon Graham, Philip Hunt, and Fletcher Cox torment QB Tony Romo, who then throws an ill-advised pick to Curtis Marsh in the late stages to solidify a few new playmakers on the Birds D.
W 20-10

WEEK 11 @ WASHINGTON

Faced with a true run/pass threat under center for the first time since he's taken over really, Juan Castillo's defense looks lost. Almost every time the defense gets to third and long, QB Robert Griffin III extends the play with his feet, either taking off for the sticks or waiting until the coverage breaks down. Meanwhile, King Dunlap struggles to keep relentless OLB Brian Orakpo out of the backfield, so while there are mismatches to be taken advantage of in Washington's defensive backfield, Vick's occasional big strikes are not enough.
L 28-23

WEEK 12 VS. CAROLINA

Fortunately Juan's a hard worker, and the Eagles' coaching staff has an extra day to prepare for the arrival of QB Cam Newton the following Monday night. With a refined game plan that utilizes Mychal Kendricks as a spy, the Birds focus on keeping the explosive athlete in the pocket, right where their front four wants him. The Panthers try to run, run, run the ball, and when that doesn't work, Newton doesn't have the targets to consistently beat Philly's deep secondary. They finally pull away with a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie INT for six.
W 27-16

WEEK 13 @ DALLAS

The Eagles make a trip out west on six days rest for yet
another date in primetime, while the Cowboys have an extra three days off after playing in their traditional Thanksgiving slot. Big D's revamped secondary is finally starting to gel, add in the fact that they're pissed, and this becomes akin to fending off a swarm of angry bees. Shady McCoy is shut down, and the passing game sputters without a consistent ground threat. The Dallas offense catches a Philly defense that's running on fumes in a few screen passes to RB DeMaro Murray and WR Miles Austin that go for chunks, then Romo wears them down with a heavy dose of TE Jason Witten. Huge clunker.
L 27-10

WEEK 14 @ TAMPA BAY

After losing two of three, and the offense not looking so hot in the process, Vick injury rumors begin to manifest. The reality is the run game had been kept in check. One week after being stonewalled, Shady goes off for his biggest game of the season on a defense that ranked last in the NFL against the ground attack in 2011. The Buccaneers trade scoring blows back and forth thanks to their reliable rookie RB Doug Martin and jump ball WR Vincent Jackson, but the Eagles lean on their biggest weapon to return to their winning ways on the road. A heavy influx of Philly fans in Tampa probably didn't hurt.
W 38-27

WEEK 15 VS. CINCINNATI

At this point, the Eagles are playing their seventh game in 39 days, so the roster is presumably a bit worse for the wear. This is a Thursday nighter at the Linc however, so it's hard to say the Bengals really hold much of an advantage. A relatively one dimensional offense, the Birds will be fine with Nnamdi Asomugha locked on WR A.J. Green most of the night. Cinci's secondary is in questionable shape, so as long as the O-line can protect Vick from a strong front four, they should be able to do just enough to pull out an ugly one.
W 24-13

WEEK 16 VS. WASHINGTON

By this point, the Redskins will have given up on the quaint idea they were a darkhorse Wild Card team, and depending on how big the circus was this year, the Linc may even play host the additional sideshow of a team in the process of quitting on head coach Mike Shanahan. Either way, by this point the Eagles have seen plenty of them mobile quarterbacks this season, so RG3 isn't catching them by surprise anymore. A sharp Vick racks up huge numbers, and eventually is the recipient of an early hook with a spot in the tournament now clinched.
W 41-20

WEEK 17 @ NEW YORK GIANTS

The outcome of this game will be largely dependent on its necessity. If our crystal ball is correct, the Eagles are 10-5, which may -- may -- be enough to lock up the division while still being plausibly in reach of a bye should they catch 11 victories. Hell, this meeting could be for the Division Championship. This game could mean a lot, or with the positioning already set, it could be a time to rest important players weary from a long year. Without knowing one way or the other, predicting an outcome is a waste of time. If we're right, the Eagles are going to the playoffs one way or another, and that in itself will bring some comfort after the way last Week 17 ended: hopeless.
TBD

Get your season W/L predictions on the record in the comments!

Late goal lifts Penguins over Sharks in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

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USA Today Images

Late goal lifts Penguins over Sharks in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- Nick Bonino looks the part. Thatchy beard that juts out well below his chinstrap. Nose a bit askew. The rugged forward has etched out a career making a living in tight spaces, putting his body in places on the ice that aren't for the meek.

Those instincts, honed from years of finding order in the middle of chaos, lifted the Pittsburgh Penguins to the early lead in the Stanley Cup Final.

Bonino darted to the net and knocked in Kris Letang's centering pass with 2:33 remaining, lifting the Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 on Monday night.

Pittsburgh recovered after blowing an early two-goal lead and spoiled San Jose's long-awaited debut on the league's biggest stage. Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Letang and Carl Hagelin took turns digging the puck out of the corner behind the San Jose net when Letang emerged with it and slipped it to Bonino, who collected himself and flicked it past Martin Jones' blocker for his fourth goal of the playoffs.

"Tanger put it right on my stick," Bonino said. "It was a shot that wasn't my hardest shot by any means but I kind of found a way to flip it over him."

Bonino has spent much of the last two months as the heady, understated center on Pittsburgh's hottest line while playing between hard-shooting Phil Kessel and Hagelin. Dubbed "HBK" -- a chant that occasionally greets them when they flip over the boards and onto the ice -- they have powered the Penguins to their first Cup Final in seven years. Yet it was Bonino, whose hockey IQ is considered his greatest attribute by Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan, who scored the group's biggest goal of the postseason.

"He does all the things right and found himself in a great position and capitalized on it," Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz said. "Any time you're in the slot, get him the puck. It seems like we find a way to win when he scores."

Rookies Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary also scored for the Penguins, though Rust left in the third period after absorbing a shot to the head from San Jose's Patrick Marleau. Matt Murray -- who like Rust and Sheary spent a significant amount of time this season with the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton -- finished with 24 saves.

Jones made 38 stops but couldn't get over in time on Bonino's knuckler. The Penguins threw 41 shots at Jones, the most he has faced in a regulation game during the playoffs. Marleau and Tomas Hertl scored during San Jose's dominant second period, but the Sharks spent a large portion of the third period on their heels and their dynamic power play failed to record a single shot when Ben Lovejoy went to the penalty box with 2:09 to play.

"They played their game for longer stretches than we did and that's what happens," San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said.

The Sharks made it to the first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history by rebuilding themselves on the fly. Two years removed from a brutal collapse from a 3-0 series lead in the first round against Los Angeles, San Jose ended a 9,005 day wait to play in the NHL's championship round by relying on a tough, aggressive style that squeezes opponents with a relentless forecheck while limiting chances in front of Jones.

Yet veterans Marleau and Joe Thornton -- the top two picks in the 1997 draft held in Pittsburgh who had waited nearly two decades to make it to the league's biggest stage -- insisted the Sharks were hardly satisfied after dispatching St. Louis in a cathartic Western Conference finals.

Maybe, but the Sharks looked a step slow -- maybe two steps slow -- while searching for their footing early on against the Penguins, who rallied from a 3-2 deficit to edge Tampa Bay in seven games to advance to their first Cup Final since 2009.

Rust, who surprisingly made the team out of training camp and became an unlikely playoff star by scoring both of Pittsburgh's goals in Game 7 against the Lightning, gave the Penguins the lead 12:46 into the first when he slammed home a rebound off a Justin Schultz shot for his sixth of the postseason, a franchise record for playoff goals by a rookie.

Less than a minute later, Sheary, who didn't become a regular until the middle of January, made it 2-0 when Sidney Crosby whipped a blind backhand cross-ice pass to Sheary's stick. Sheary's wrist shot from the right circle zipped by Jones, and the Penguins appeared to be in complete command by overwhelming the Sharks in a way few have in months.

Maybe it was the Penguins. Maybe it was jitters.

"You try to keep everything normal but you've been dreaming about it for a while," San Jose defenseman Brent Burns said. "Now we know what we're in for and we'll be better."

San Jose regained its composure during the first intermission and responded with a big surge. Hertl jammed a power-play shot from just outside the crease between Murray's legs 3:02 into the second to give the Sharks momentum. Late in the second, Marleau collected a rebound off a Burns one-timer behind the Pittsburgh net and then beat Murray on a wraparound that caromed off Murray's extended right leg and into the net.

Yet Bonino, who arrived in an offseason trade with Vancouver, helped the Penguins improve to 9-3 at home all-time in the Cup Final by sliding to a familiar spot in search of a familiar result.

Notes
San Jose went 1 for 2 on the power play. The Penguins were 0 for 3. ... The Sharks are 5-1 following a loss during the postseason.

Warriors complete comeback, oust Thunder in Game 7

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The Associated Press

Warriors complete comeback, oust Thunder in Game 7

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry knocked down yet another 3-pointer in the waning moments, pulled his jersey up into his mouth and yelled to the rafters in triumph once more.

A special, record-setting season saved for the defending champs, with a memorable comeback added to the long list of accomplishments.

Splash Brothers Curry and Klay Thompson carried the 73-win Warriors right back to the NBA Finals, as Golden State rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 96-88 on Monday night in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.

Now, Curry and Co. are playing for another NBA title -- just as they planned since Day 1 of training camp in September.

Bring on LeBron James again.

"You appreciate how tough it is to get back here," Curry said. "You've got to be appreciative of this accomplishment, and look forward to getting four more wins."

The MVP scored 36 points with seven 3-pointers to finish with an NBA-record 32 in a seven-game series, and also had eight assists. Thompson added 21 points and six 3s, two days after his record 11 3-pointers led a Game 6 comeback that sent the series home to raucous Oracle Arena for one more.

The Warriors became the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit and win a postseason series. They return to the NBA Finals for a rematch with James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost the 2015 title in six games as Golden State captured its first championship in 40 years.

Game 1 is Thursday night in Oakland.

"We survived by the skin of our teeth," coach Steve Kerr said. "We were able to pull it out, and we're moving on."

His signature mouthpiece dangling out and the game ball cradled in his left hand, Curry pumped his right arm as yellow confetti fell through Oracle Arena once the final buzzer sounded.

With the Thunder trailing 90-86, Serge Ibaka fouled Curry on a 3-point try with 1:18 to go and the shot clock running out. Curry made all three free throws, then that 3-pointer to seal it.

"This is who he is. Having a clutch performance in a Game 7, that's Steph Curry," Kerr said.

And Golden State's beloved "Strength In Numbers" catchphrase coined by Coach of the Year Kerr was needed in every way.

"No one ever had any doubt that we could get this done," Draymond Green said. "People have seen teams down 3-1 before but they ain't seen many. They've definitely never seen a 73-win team down 3-1."

Andre Iguodala joined the starting lineup for just the second time all season and the 2015 NBA Finals MVP hung tough against Kevin Durant, who scored 27 points on 10-for-19 shooting. Shaun Livingston's breakaway, one-handed dunk late in the third provided a big lift off the Warriors bench.

Oklahoma City won Game 1 108-102 at deafening Oracle Arena, so Golden State never envisioned this one coming easily. Russell Westbrook had 19 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds for the Thunder.

"It hurts losing, especially being up 3 games to 1," Durant said.

It took a quarter and a half for Thompson to warm up after his 41-point performance in a 108-101 win Saturday at Oklahoma City that sent the series back to the East Bay.

He missed his initial seven shots before hitting a 3 6:02 before halftime, energizing the Warriors in their first Game 7 at home in 40 years.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Thompson and Iguodala pulled the Warriors within 54-51 with 7:57 left in the third. They tied it on Curry's 3 at 7:21 and he followed with another 3 to give his team the lead.

Curry and Thompson each topped the previous record for 3s in a seven-game series, 28 by Dennis Scott and Ray Allen. Curry hit one over 7-foot Steven Adams in the third, and Thompson wound up with 30 3s.

Iguodala replaced Harrison Barnes in the starting lineup and what a move by Kerr, who did the same thing last year in crunch time. Iguodala made a pretty bounce pass through the paint to Green for Golden State's first basket, and his smothering defense on Durant kept the Thunder star without a shot until his 3 at the 5:45 mark in the first. Durant had just nine points on five shots in the first half.

But Oklahoma City dictated the tempo with snappy passes and the hard, aggressive rebounding that had been such a part of its success this season. The Thunder couldn't sustain it.

"They won a world championship last year, and they've broken an NBA record, and people are already talking about it before the playoffs started, this may be the greatest team to ever lace them up in the history of the NBA," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

The Warriors, who fell behind 35-22, lost their last Game 7 at home: 94-86 to Phoenix in the Western Conference finals on May 16, 1976.

Tip-ins
Thunder: The Thunder's 12 third-quarter points were the fewest allowed by Golden State in a playoff third quarter during the shot clock era. ... Durant took nine shots in the first 33:25. ... Oklahoma City led by as many as 13 in the first half. ... Donovan celebrated his 51st birthday. ... The Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State's opponent the previous round, are the only teams to beat the Warriors twice this season.

Warriors: The Warriors are 4-4 all-time in Game 7s -- 3-1 at home. ... Iguodala earned his first since Jan. 2 against Denver. ... Golden State wasn't whistled for its first foul until 2:34 in the first. ... The Warriors' 42 first-half points were their fewest at home this season. ... Curry hit a 3 in his 51st straight playoff game.

NL East Wrap: Matt Harvey gets back on track in Mets' win over White Sox

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USA Today Images

NL East Wrap: Matt Harvey gets back on track in Mets' win over White Sox

NEW YORK -- On the mound in the seventh inning for the first time this season, Matt Harvey gave up his first walk of the game and his second hit, leading to a sacrifice bunt and a second-and-third jam.

"You kind of think about the worst at that point," he said. "You start getting some negative thoughts that creep in your head."

But 11 days after disappointed fans at Citi Field booed him like a villain, the Dark Knight was back - at least for one afternoon.

Harvey retired Todd Frazier on a foulout and J.B. Shuck on a grounder to escape trouble, Neil Walker homered off Jose Quintana on the second pitch of the bottom half and the New York Mets beat Chicago 1-0 Monday to send the reeling White Sox to their seventh straight loss.

"Today's a big first step," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia got six straight outs to complete the two-hitter, preserving Harvey's first win since May 8. Harvey struck out six, walked two and threw four pitches of 98-98.5 mph after not topping 97.5 mph previously this season. He threw 61 of 87 pitches for strikes (see full recap).

Mallex Smith's 3-run triple powers Braves past Giants
ATLANTA -- Mike Foltynewicz is showing he can be more than just a fastball pitcher - and that he can be part of the Braves' long-term rotation.

Foltynewicz continued his recent upswing by allowing only three hits and one run in six-plus innings, Mallex Smith hit a three-run triple and Atlanta beat Jeff Samardzija and the San Francisco Giants 5-3 on Monday.

The Braves survived San Francisco's two-run, ninth-inning rally. They have won three of four and are 5-21 at home, still easily the worst in the majors.

Foltynewicz (2-2) gave up a leadoff homer to Brandon Belt in the second inning, but allowed only one other runner to advance to second.

Foltynewicz, 24, has had other recent strong starts, including eight scoreless innings in a 5-0 win at Kansas City on May 14. His start on Monday may have been his most impressive demonstration of altering the speeds of his fastball while mixing in a curveball and slider (see full recap).

Locke tosses three-hit shutout against Marlins
MIAMI -- Jeff Locke tossed a three-hitter and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 10-0 on Monday night.

Gregory Polanco's grand slam, Sean Rodriguez's two-run homer, and David Freese's four hits helped power the offense for the Pirates, who won the first of a four-game series in Miami. The first two games were originally scheduled to be played in Puerto Rico, but were moved due to concerns of the Zika virus.

Locke (4-3) struck out one and did not walk a batter while throwing 67 of 105 pitches for strikes. It was his first complete game in 101 career starts. Locke retired 19 straight at one point and needed just six pitches to get through the seventh inning.

The announced crowd of 10,856 was a season-low for the Marlins, who entered the day averaging just under 20,000 (see full recap).