3 reasons the Eagles could upset the Denver Broncos on Sunday

3 reasons the Eagles could upset the Denver Broncos on Sunday

Somewhat lost amid all of the hoopla over the buzzsaw known as Peyton Manning is the fact that the Eagles are an NFL team with a chance to win a football game this Sunday. Sure, you hear a few people touting this idea, but it sure seems like most are chalking this up as a loss already.

To be fair, the Birds probably will lose. The Denver Broncos have been nearly perfect through their first three games, and the firepower in that offense is unreal. The person who figures out how to contain Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas and those running backs with Peyton Manning at the helm should instantly win some kind of lifetime achievement award.

The Eagles could go into Denver and get absolutely steamrolled and not one person would be caught off guard by that. The Broncos are 11-point favorites, and it’s probably safe to say we’re all prepared for the worst on some level.

But as the old cliché goes, that’s why they play the game. If you don’t think the Eagles have even a remote chance of pulling off the upset over Manning this week, well that’s your opinion, but it’s not one I happen to agree with. There are actually some relatively important details working in their favor going in to this encounter. Whether or not it’s anything that can swing the outcome remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t rule out any of this stuff coming into play.

Extra Rest/Short Week

As much as nobody wants to hear Peyton whining about the schedule after Philadelphia just played three games in 11 days, he has a point. The fact that the Eagles have 10 days between games and the Broncos have a short week with only six creates a significant advantage for the Birds.

For one, the Eagles should be a little less beat up than their opponent. Their players have nearly twice as much time to rest up, so at least in theory Philly should be the fresher ream.

What really seems to have Manning concerned though is the extra time the Eagles have to prepare. They already own the NFL’s second-ranked offense to begin with, and now Chip Kelly spent last weekend in his laboratory coming up with all sorts of ways to attack Denver’s defense. Oh yeah, I suppose defensive coordinator Bill Davis might benefit from the additional time to work on the game plan as well.

If this stuff didn’t make a difference, nobody would be talking about, least of all the opposing team’s quarterback. The players still have to go out and execute on Sunday, but their bodies should be ready, and the coaches able to put them in optimal positions to come away victorious.

Injuries

The only injury that’s prevented anybody from practicing for the Eagles this week is Patrick Chung, who is dealing with a shoulder contusion and is listed as doubtful. Assuming he can’t go, rookie Earl Wolff will likely make his first career start, which is a little scary given the opponent.

That said, Denver’s injury report reads like a novel these days, and the climax is in the secondary. Seven-time All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey has yet to suit up this season, and is still limited in practice by a foot injury – even if he is active, he could be rusty. Bailey's backup Tony Carter is dealing with an ankle himself and was limited this week. And at safety, starter Duke Ihenacho had not practiced at all as of Thursday.

Add in the suspension to outside linebacker Von Miller – the club's most dangerous pass rusher – and you have a defense that very well could be vulnerable on Sunday.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball the Broncos lost left tackle Ryan Clady for the season last week. Any Eagles fan can tell you how difficult that is to overcome.

Other than Miller and Clady, we’ll have to wait and see who’s playing and who isn’t, but the real upset here would be if all three of those defensive backs returned in time for the game and looked their sharpest. Maybe the Broncos have people who can step up in a pinch, but it’s hard to imagine any team can be that deep. These injuries could potentially create a huge advantage for the Birds’ offense.

Offense Can Hang With Anybody

Not that the Eagles necessarily needed those other advantages, although they help of course. Yeah, Manning is great, but Philadelphia’s offense is right behind Denver’s in the rankings – they’re one and two.

The only thing that’s stopped the Eagles so far this season is the Eagles. In Washington, they took their foot off the gas pedal too early. Against San Diego, dumb penalties and lack of execution prevented them from running up the score. Versus Kansas City, it was entirely too many unforced turnovers.

You’re not going to get away with much of that against the Broncos, but even with all of that going wrong for the Birds, again, they have the second-ranked offense in the NFL – eighth-highest scoring offense. Theoretically, they should be able to run with almost anybody.

It’s very possible the Eagles will have to score upwards of 40 points to have a chance to win on Sunday, but it’s not an implausible number. They probably could have done that in Weeks 1 and 2 with the most minor of tweaks. Now they have a Denver defense on a short week with a bunch of injuries, and you’ve got to think Chip has something up his sleeve with the extra days to prepare.

For the Eagles to have any shot at winning on Sunday, they’ll likely need a perfect storm of sorts. The offense can’t leave a bunch of plays on the field, and Peyton Manning can’t go all 158.3 on them which seems like a real possibility with their defense.

That said, I think there’s enough here to feel somewhat upbeat about the Birds’ chances on Sunday. I’m not bold enough to predict a Birds victory based on this, but I doubt it would even be the most shocking thing that happens in the NFL this weekend.

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

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USA Today Images

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

It's been nearly two months since Villanova won the National Championship in one of the most memorable games in NCAA Tournament history.

Since then, the Wildcats have been honored by the city (parade), the New York Stock Exchange (opening bell), the Phillies (first pitch), the Flyers and the Union. Earlier this week, head coach Jay Wright addressed the Eagles.

But that will all pale in comparison to where the Wildcats will be next Tuesday, when they become the latest championship team to visit the White House and meet President Barack Obama.

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 4:10 p.m. and will be streamed on www.whitehouse.gov/live.

In his pool, President Obama had Villanova finally advancing past the second round — "I know that eventually they're going to break through. They've had some bad luck over the last couple of years," Obama told ESPN.com — but had the Wildcats falling to Kansas in the regional semifinal.

He then had Kansas beating North Carolina to win the title.

After surviving the first weekend for the first time since their Final Four run in 2009, Villanova ousted Kansas, 64-59, before shocking Buddy Hield and Oklahoma in the national semifinal, winning by 44. The Wildcats then won one of the most memorable championship games in NCAA Tournament history when Kris Jenkins hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Tar Heels, 77-74.

Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

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Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

The Union have cashed in on Michael Lahoud.

After terminating his loan to the New York Cosmos on Tuesday, the Union recalled Lahoud and officially sold the 29-year-old midfielder to Miami FC of the NASL for an undisclosed amount.

“Mike always served the club in a professional manner during his time here,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, who loaned Lahoud to the Cosmos this offseason. “We thank him for his service and want to wish him the best of luck in Miami and in his future endeavors.”

Lahoud, whose prorated $115,637.50 guaranteed salary comes off the Union’s salary cap, was acquired in 2012 in a trade with Chivas USA for defender Danny Califf. He made 58 appearances with the Union before being loaned out.

Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

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Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

Allen Barbre is the Eagles’ starting left guard.

For now.

The 31-year-old offensive lineman started all 16 games at left guard in 2015, and as of Tuesday at OTAs, he was still a starter for Doug Pederson’s new-look offense.

But that could change.

There are several players pushing for the left guard spot. Among them are Stefen Wisniewski, Malcolm Bunche, Isaac Seumalo and Andrew Gardner.

“I definitely am trying to start somewhere,” said Wisniewski, a free-agent signing. “I think I would be a good starting left guard.”

Wisniewski, 27, signed a one-year prove-it deal in early April to join the Eagles (see story). After being taken in the second round of the 2011 draft, Wisniewski has started 77 of 80 possible games in the NFL. He clearly views himself as a starter in the NFL.

For the last two weeks, he’s been working with the second team at guard and center.

“Yeah, it’s weird. It’s definitely weird,” Wisniewski said. “I haven’t spent much time with the twos in five years. Probably a week or two. So it’s definitely different, but I’m just looking at it as a temporary thing, though.”

This offseason, the Eagles added veteran Brandon Brooks to play right guard, taking over for Matt Tobin, but Barbre is still slotted on the left side. In fact, to hammer the point home, the starting offensive linemen have their lockers in a row in the deep corner of the locker room, from left to right: Jason Peters, Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brooks, Lane Johnson.

So, as of late May, Barbre is still the starter.

“I really like where we're at. I like the depth at that position right now,” Pederson said last week. “But yeah, Allen Barbre is my guy and he's our starter.”

Wisniewski is the most accomplished of the backups pushing for that starting left guard spot, but he’s not alone.

Bunche, who was on the Eagles’ practice squad in 2015 after going undrafted out of UCLA, has been working with the second team at left guard during practice. And the second-year player thinks he has a shot at the starting job too.

“Oh yes. But not just that one,” Bunche said. “Throughout the season, anything can happen. That’s one thing that [offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland], he talks about it a lot, you never know when you’re number is going to be called. You just gotta stay in tune with what’s being called, the play-calling, the different techniques going into certain games. I feel I have an opportunity to take that spot if I wanted to. My mindset it to come in and get better each and every day.”

Another possible starting left guard isn’t with the team right now. Third-round pick Seumalo, from Oregon State, is back at school because of the NFL graduation rule and Oregon State’s quarters system. He would be a logical choice to compete for that starting job, but he’s missing valuable time at OTAs.

Meanwhile, Barbre, who had started just eight total games in his seven-year career before 2015, is trying to stave off his competitors. The veteran knows the team brought in a bunch of new offensive linemen this offseason (they have 17 on the roster). He just doesn’t care.

“Honestly, I wasn’t really worried about that,” Barbre said Tuesday. “Honestly, I thought I played fairly decent (in 2015), if you studied the film and you understood what went on. There was a lot of stuff that was tough on the O-line, so it made it kind of tough on us.”

The criticism of the offensive line last season was loud, especially criticism of the guard positions, but Barbre did his best to avoid it.  

“I don’t even read it,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t even care. You guys got your jobs and I have my job. We all have different things we have to do.”

Right now, Barbre’s job is to hold onto that starting spot, while Wisniewski and the rest try to steal it away.