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!

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Ron Hextall said when Flyers training camp began there were spots to be won and spots to be taken from others.

Even though it’s still early in camp, it seems fairly clear Russian forward Roman Lyubimov is going to steal someone’s job among the bottom-six forwards.

He’s been the right wing on Boyd Gordon’s line in camp with Chris VandeVelde on the left side. 

That fourth line worked again Tuesday night as the Flyers opened their home preseason schedule with a 4-0 win over the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.

The 6-2, 207-pound Lyubimov plays a heavy game. He is tenacious in one-on-one battles and, perhaps more importantly, jumps on loose pucks after faceoffs as demonstrated during the 2-0 loss in New Jersey on Monday.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol took notice.

“It’s a nice trait for a player to have automatically and it’s an important trait,” Hakstol said.

“His competitiveness and his battle level on 50-50 pucks, things like that, hasn’t changed from Day 1.”

After spending six years in the KHL, it appears Lyubimov has found a home here. He’s already making a nice adjustment to the smaller rink, too.

“Last couple of years, playing for the Red Army team, there were some pretty physical games,” he said, via translator Slava Kouznetsov. “I think it was pretty close to NHL games. I just have to adapt to the smaller ice.”

He logged 3:55 ice time on the penalty kill against the Devils — second only to rookie defensive prospect Ivan Provorov — and Hakstol has his sights set on using him in that capacity if he makes the final cut.

While playing for the Russian Army, Lyubimov was used in a shutdown role and on the PK with little power-play time.

“I was more defense-oriented,” he said. “If you don’t let the [opponent] score on you, it’s easier to win games. Here, I’ll see what the coaches want me to do. I watched a lot of NHL games. One of my criteria was to be good at the penalty kill.”

The only hard question Hakstol has to answer is Lyubimov’s adjustment to the smaller rink.

“I think he is still working through that but he is game for it,” Hakstol said. “He doesn’t look for open ice in terms of shying away from traffic areas. He is battling in those high traffic areas.”

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare made the adjustment quickly, coming over from France. Michael Raffl played a couple games with the Phantoms after coming over from Austria.

It’s possible the Flyers could start Lyubimov with the Phantoms and then call him up.

“He plays a small-ice type of game,” Hextall said of Lyubimov. “He goes hard to the net, he’s good on the wall, does all those little things. Space I don’t think will affect him as much as other guys.”

He had a prime scoring chance in Tuesday’s game against the Islanders, chasing down a puck behind the net and getting a wraparound that was blocked at the post by defenseman Kyle Burroughs.

Lyubimov finished with 12:07 of ice time and two shots.

His best shot to make the cut is to take away VandeVelde's spot on the fourth line (see story). Once Bellemare returns from the World Cup of Hockey, someone has to go. Another factor here is whether the club carries 23 players instead of 22.

Lyubimov said what impressed him about the Flyers was how players are treated here, on and especially off the ice.

That was always something former Flyers loved about their late owner Ed Snider. He treated them as family, not employees.

“There is a difference,” Lyubimov said. “Everything here is comfortable and done for the players. Here I live five minutes from the rink. In Moscow, it’s 45 minutes. Everything works for me here.”

So much so, Lyubimov is bringing his wife, Katrina, and their 1-year-old daughter Alexa, over this fall to live here even though he has just a one-year deal worth $925,000.

“I want to stay here more than a year,” he said. “I will do whatever I have to do. This is the place I wanted to come.”

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent – hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in – he’ll try to put me in – to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel the only one of the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”