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!

Wired to win, Carson Wentz growing frustrated with Eagles' losing

Wired to win, Carson Wentz growing frustrated with Eagles' losing

He’s already lost more games as an NFL quarterback than as a college quarterback, and Carson Wentz says he’ll never get used to all the losing.
 
Wentz, who went 20-3 as a college starter, is 5-7 a dozen games into his rookie year.
 
The Eagles have lost five of their last six games and are 2-7 in their last nine.
 
From Seattle through Cincinnati, Wentz lost as many games in a 15-day span as he lost in his entire career as a starter at North Dakota State.
 
“It’s frustrating,” Wentz said Wednesday. “No one likes losing, especially in this business as a quarterback. 
 
“I’m wired to be a winner. I hate losing. But at the same time it doesn’t affect us going forward. I know it doesn’t affect me and I can probably say the same thing for the guys in that locker room. 
 
“We’re going to come in and prepare and be the same win or lose, because I think that’s what it takes to be great and you can’t waver. You can’t change how you approach things. You can’t change how you go about your business, win, lose or draw. 
 
“But at the same time, yeah, without a doubt. We don’t like losing around here.”
 
The Eagles have the third-worst record in the NFL since Week 4, ahead of only the hapless Browns and 49ers. 

They haven’t been eliminated from playoff contention yet, but it sure seems like only a matter of time.
 
Since building a 3-0 record, the Eagles’ only wins have come on Oct. 23 over the Viking and Nov. 13 over the Falcons, both at the Linc.
 
No NFL quarterback has lost more games than Wentz since Week 4. Wentz and Blake Bortles are both 2-7 during that stretch and Sam Bradford is 3-6.
 
North Dakota State went 71-5 with five national championships during Wentz’s five years in Bismarck, North Dakota. As a starter, he was 15-1 as a junior, including the postseason, then went 5-2 during an injury-marred senior year, although for a second straight year he led the Bison to the FCS national title.
 
So he’s not used to losing. Not at all. Not like this.
 
“You get in the locker room and it’s kind of a down feeling,” he said. “A lot of you guys are in the locker room after the game. They’re tough. You don’t like losing, no one does. Especially on the road having to get on the plane or the bus or whatever and come back home. 
 
“But you get over it. You turn on the tape and you learn from it. But right after you watch that tape, it’s on to the next. That’s kind of the nature of this league and that’s how you have to approach it.”

Fortunately, the Eagles have an expert on just this subject in the NovaCare Complex. 
 
Doug Pederson pointed out Wednesday he was a part of some really bad teams, and he said that gives him an ability to relate to Wentz on how to endure all the losing.
 
“In Cleveland we were 3-and-13 (in 2000), and then Philadelphia, my first year, being 5-and-11,” said Pederson, who was also an assistant coach on a 4-12 Eagles team in 2012. 
 
“Just kind of leaning back on those experiences and how we fought through. How we fought through adversity. How people try to divide the team or say negative things about players or whatever. We just kind of kept that thing nice and tight. 
 
“So those are things that I can lean back, when you talk about the experience factor. I lean back on those experiences to relay to Carson how we went about our business during those following weeks to come and kept that team together. 
 
“We had great leadership on the team, like we do now. With him, it's just a matter of keeping him grounded, keeping him level headed. He's a leader of this football team, and he doesn't have to do it all himself. That's the beauty of it. There are 10 other guys on offense, and 11 on defense, and special teams that have a big part in this whole process.”
 
Wentz has been going non-stop for almost a year now. From the FCS title game to combine prep to draft prep to OTAs and minicamps to training camp and now heading into Week 14 of the regular season.
 
But he said he doesn’t feel any signs of burn-out or fatigue. Although his numbers have dipped over the past couple months, he said he feels fresh and upbeat going into the final quarter of the season, which begins with the Redskins at the Linc on Sunday.
 
“I feel good,” he said. “I think it comes down to: Do you love it enough? I think if you love the game and you’re around it, you enjoy the grind. You attack it and it’s part of the process. 
 
“For me, there’s no more school to go to during the day. It’s just football all day every day and I love that. It’s been a lot of fun and by no means is it wearing on me in a negative way.”
 
What about his numbers? The stats are not pretty. 
 
Games 1 through 4: 67 percent completion, 7 TDs, 1 INT, 103.5 passer rating, 3-1 record.
 
Games 5 through 8: 61 percent completion, 2 TDs, 4 INTs, 72.4 passer rating, 1-3 record.
 
Games 9 through 12: 61 percent completion, 3 TDs, 6 INTs, 68.3 passer rating, 1-3 record.
 
Wentz shrugs it all off. 
 
“We’re all a work in progress. every quarterback in this league I think would say that,” Wentz said.
 
“You’re never a finished product, myself included. So you’re always analyzing different things you can do, from pocket movement to footwork. You’re always analyzing those things. So we talk about those things but we don’t harp on it. 
 
“Myself and really just everybody, we’ve just got to be better disciplined to things. Whether that’s alignment or pre-snap things, from recognition, from reads, you name it. We just all have to be disciplined. Really just execute better. It starts with me. Control our mistakes and that goes for everybody, myself first and foremost.
 
“We now what we’re capable of, I think everyone in the building does. We just have to get over the hump a little bit here.”

Zach Ertz, Rodney McLeod respond to criticism, defend effort after loss to Bengals

Zach Ertz, Rodney McLeod respond to criticism, defend effort after loss to Bengals

During a game after which Eagles head coach Doug Pederson eventually admitted “not everybody” played hard, two individual plays have been scrutinized more than any others this week. 
 
More than anything, two plays from the first quarter have stood out the most from the 32-14 loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati on Sunday. 
 
First, there was Zach Ertz’s non-block on Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, then there was Jeremy Hill’s short touchdown run where it looks like Rodney McLeod simply let him score.

“I understand all the criticism and stuff,” Ertz said by his locker on Wednesday. “I’m not going to get into the details of every thought I had on that play. I’m focused on giving this city everything I have on each and every play. I promise going forward, I will do that. I think I have done that in the past. 

"I understand how it looks on the film, but I’m not going to get into the minute details of what I saw on the play and what I didn’t see on the play and how it impacted the play and vice versa. I’m focused on getting better. I know I’m far from a finished product as a tight end. I’m looking forward to this week against the Redskins.”
 
On the play, Carson Wentz scrambled for a gain of 10 yards and with Burfict sprinting toward the play, Ertz side-stepped to let him through. Head coach Doug Pederson and Wentz have both said a block from Ertz wouldn’t have been a factor on the play because Wentz was going out of bounds. 
 
But it certainly didn’t look good and fans aren’t happy about the perceived lack of effort, which Ertz said he understands. 
 
So does Ertz think he did anything wrong on the play? 
 
“I think I could have maybe got in his way, impeded his progress a little more to ensure that he didn’t get near Carson by any means,” he said. “But like I said, there were a thousand things going through my mind on that play and there’s a million reasons why I do stuff on each and every play and I’m focused on getting better.”
 
While offensive coordinator Frank Reich suggested on Tuesday that he was OK with the non-block from Ertz because it will keep his best tight end healthy for the last quarter of the season, Ertz said the coaching staff hasn’t told him to pick his spots to be physical and claimed his past injuries aren’t affecting the way he’s been playing. 
 
And aside from that one play on Sunday, Ertz thinks he showed his toughness and effort throughout the afternoon. 
 
“If you look at that game, I did give my all,” he said. “That one play has come under a lot of scrutiny, obviously, but if you watch that game for all four quarter, I mean, I’m cramping up, I’m still going out there and battling each and ever play. All I care is what my teammates and my coaches think about me. That’s all I’m focused on.”
 
This isn’t the first time Ertz’s effort and toughness have been questioned this season. The lack of yards after the catch and after contact has become a major talking point among fans this season. 
 
But for Rodney McLeod, having his effort questioned is an entirely new experience. McLeod wasn’t a second-round pick like Ertz; McLeod entered the league as an undrafted rookie in 2012. He worked his way to becoming a starter and eventually earning a free agent deal with the Eagles this offseason. 
 
Hard work and effort are what got him here. 
 
“It definitely hurts,” McLeod said about the criticism. “I know what type of player I am. I’m going to take pride in that. I feel like effort, hard work are the things that got me where I am today. That’s what my game is built on. So when somebody questions or has doubt in that, it does hurt. But nothing I can do. Just continue to put good stuff on tape, which I feel like I have done and continue to ride for my teammates and others.”
 
McLeod’s explanation for what happened on the first-quarter touchdown run echoed what his defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said on Tuesday. Basically, he thought the play was going somewhere else and by the time he was able to react, he was flat-footed. 
 
He then said he didn’t hit Hill because he thought the running back had already crossed the plane of the goal line and he didn’t want to get flagged. 
 
When fans watch the play, they might see a player who didn’t give it his all on that play. Not McLeod. 
 
“I really don’t see it,” he said. “If you look at any play before then, any game, any practice film, I’m probably one of the guys that’s giving it his all out there for this team and for my teammates. Like I said, I’m a prideful guy. I take pride in effort, hard work, all those things, I think, describe who I am as a player. Looking at that play, I thought it would hit somewhere else. It kind of came through leaky, guy was low, felt like by the time I got over there, it could possibly be a late hit. It’s a tough situation for me to be in.”