Comparing the Eagles to the Houston Texans, Themselves

Comparing the Eagles to the Houston Texans, Themselves

The Houston Texans played and won the franchise's first ever postseason game on Saturday, and the city's first since 1993, way back when Warren Moon was under center. We don't particularly care for Texas around these parts, but it's a nice thing for sport when a perennial loser finally makes some progress toward legitimacy. In fact, were it not for a bevy of injuries, Houston might have been the favorite to win the AFC.

There were some bumps along the way before the Texans arrived as a contender, not at all unlike the ones the Eagles faced in 2011. Two years ago, Houston was coming off a 9-7 season in which they narrowly missed the playoffs. Naturally expectations were high for 2010, but for a variety of reasons, the Texans hit a lengthy rough patch, and before they could regroup, had finished with a mediocre 6-10 record.

Houston was 10-3 at one point this season, likely headed for a first-round bye, but once quarterback Matt Schaub went down with an injury, their fortunes changed dramatically. They were fortunate to avoid a first-round exit instead. Still, point is the front office didn't take drastic measures to rebound from a disappointing campaign. They tweaked their coaching staff and roster in the offseason, but mostly they stayed the course.

It starts with the head coach. Last winter, Gary Kubiak looked like a goner. Five years after he was hired, Kubiak had a couple of 8-8 years, and of course the 9-7 season in '09, but he had failed to produce a single playoff appearance. Fans were growing impatient, and there was talk 2010's awful conclusion would provoke ownership to make a change. They stuck with Kubiak though, who rewarded the franchise with the best season in its ten-year existence.

Houston's other big problem was on defense. In fact, Houston made NFL history by becoming the first team to lose four games in which they came from behind to tie the score or take the lead in the fourth quarter. When you think about it, that's not very far removed from blowing five fourth-quarter leads like the Eagles did this season. The Texans responded in the offseason by changing defensive coordinators, and adding talented free agents to their trouble spot in the secondary.

Those types of changes could be on the way for the Birds as well. Adding a free agent and/or drafting a talented linebacker or two seems like it should be priority number one for the Eagles' front office. There is also a lot of about replacing Juan Castillo with somebody like Steve Spagnuolo -- although, the Texans had the 30th ranked defense, while Philly's was eighth this year.

And with Pro Bowlers at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver, neither roster required many changes on the other side of the ball. They are already built in the head coach's identity.

Of course, the flip side to this comparison would be the 2010 San Diego Chargers. Disappointing season, embattled head coach, subtle changes to the coaching staff and roster -- 8-8 finish in 2011. Clearly there are no guarantees sticking with these coaches and players sparks the necessary turnaround a year from now.

The Eagles shared some remarkable similarities with another team this season -- themselves.

Friend of the Level Johnny Goodtimes put together a fascinating piece that asks, "Did we just relive the the Eagles' 2007 season?" Both iterations of the Birds finished 8-8, but the comparison runs far deeper than that. Many of the team and player statistics, as well as several of the events that transpired over the course of the year, are eerily familiar to their counterparts in 2011.

For instance, the Eagles ended this season on a high note by winning their final four games, two of those when they were already eliminated from postseason contention. In '07, they finished on a three-game streak after the playoffs were out of reach. Both teams had three-game stints with their backup quarterback at the helm as well.

Most of it probably doesn't mean much as far as the 2012 Eagles will be concerned, but it is interesting to note the '08 team made it all the way to the NFC Championship. Hopefully a deep playoff run the following season will be the last thing these clubs have in common.

NFL Notes: LeSean McCoy doubtful for Bills; Matt Jones out for 'Skins

NFL Notes: LeSean McCoy doubtful for Bills; Matt Jones out for 'Skins

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills look to be short-handed on offense in a pivotal divisional matchup against the New England Patriots.

Bills running back LeSean McCoy (hamstring) is doubtful and not expected to play. Wide receiver Robert Woods (foot) is questionable, and receiver Marquise Goodwin (concussion) is out.

Buffalo (4-3) is home against New England (6-1) at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

McCoy has not practiced all week due to a hamstring injury. He originally injured the hamstring on Oct. 19, leading up to Buffalo's Week 6 game against Miami before suffering a setback against the Dolphins.

"Obviously, he never practiced so you can guys can figure that out," Bills coach Rex Ryan said.

McCoy has been the driving force on offense for the Bills this season. He is fourth in the league in rushing with 598 yards and six touchdowns.

Backup Mike Gillislee is expected to start in place of McCoy. Gillislee is questionable with a foot injury but expected to play. He's performed well with limited reps and had a 44-yard touchdown against San Francisco in Week 6.

Redskins: RB Matt Jones out
LONDON — Redskins running back Matt Jones says he will not play in Washington's game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium on Sunday because of a knee injury.

Jones, who has 99 carries for 460 yards and three touchdowns this season, says he has "a bruise and some cartilage damage" after getting hurt in the second quarter of the Redskins' 20-17 road loss to the Detroit Lions last Sunday.

He has not practiced at any point this week and was the only Redskins player who did not participate Friday at Twyford Ground in Acton.

With Jones out, the Redskins will turn to Chris Thompson, who ran for a career-high 73 yards against the Lions, and rookie Robert Kelly. They also signed Mack Brown off their practice squad, cutting safety Josh Evans.

Browns: Josh McCown to start vs. Jets
BEREA, Ohio — Josh McCown will start at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns against the New York Jets on Sunday.

The 14th-year pro has been sidelined since Sept. 18, when he broke his left collarbone in a home game against Baltimore. McCown began the season as the backup to Robert Griffin III before both injured their non-throwing shoulders.

McCown was medically cleared to play earlier in the week, and coach Hue Jackson formally chose him as the Sunday starter following the team's morning walkthrough.

The winless Browns have used six quarterbacks in their first seven games, including starters Griffin, McCown and rookie Cody Kessler.

Third-round pick Kessler suffered a concussion last week at Tennessee and remains in the NFL's head trauma protocol. He had been Cleveland's starter since Week 3.

Broncos: No timetable for Anderson's return
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — C.J. Anderson tweeted early Friday that his knee surgery was a "super success" and he was in "great spirits" but he added there was still no timetable for his possible return to the Broncos lineup.

Anderson had surgery in California on Thursday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

He got hurt Monday night on his second carry against Houston but returned to the game and ran 14 more times for 84 yards and a touchdown, finishing with 107 yards in his best performance of the season.

Rookie Devontae Booker will make his first start Sunday when the Broncos (5-2) play the Chargers (3-4), with Kapri Bibbs backing him up.

Rival Penguins may be what Flyers need to get off to fast start

Rival Penguins may be what Flyers need to get off to fast start

VOORHEES, N.J. — Saturday might be a good time for the slow-starting Flyers to meet their cross-state archnemesis.
The Pittsburgh Penguins often bring out the best in the Flyers.
They’re sitting atop the Metro Division with 11 points and their veteran leaders, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel are having an impact.
“Stanley Cup champs, it’s going to be emotional,” Jakub Voracek understated. “Something has to change tomorrow. That team is very fast. If we’re gonna have a slow start, they’ll jump out 2-0 or 3-0 and it will be hard to come back. We can’t afford to do that tomorrow.”
The Flyers had been living off comebacks lately, but fell short against the Coyotes in Thursday's 5-4 loss.
Since 2014, the Flyers are 4-1-0 against the Penguins at Wells Fargo Center. That’s the good news. 
The bad news is the Flyers have given up 30 goals this season — tied for worst in the league — and they’re meeting an offensive machine.
“These are always intense games with a fun atmosphere and we’ve got to be ready for it,” said goalie Steve Mason, whose slot has been under siege with uncontested shots lately. “We don’t want to take them lightly and get off on the wrong foot like we did [against Arizona]. 
“We've got to take the play to them and not sit back and let them dictate things. They’re too good for that.”
Dave Hakstol said after the Flyers’ poor first-period performance against the Coyotes that it shouldn’t matter who they face next, they simply need to start faster. It’s been a problem most of this season and haunted them early last fall, as well.
“They’re a team that comes out hard and it’s as good a challenge as any for us,” Hakstol said. “After the loss in our building, it shouldn’t matter who we’re playing at the start of the hockey game.”
Interestingly, Mason said following that loss that the Flyers seem hellbent on trying to outscore their opponents without taking care of their defensive responsibilities. 
Given the influx of speed and some new offensive talent, perhaps the emphasis has switched to offense at the expense of defense.
Offensively, Claude Giroux (9 points) and Voracek (8) are among the top 10 in NHL scoring. Giroux leads the league in three areas: nine assists, six power play assists and six power play points.
Rookie Travis Konecny is tied for fifth with six assists. Wayne Simmonds’ four power play goals rank first with Matt Moulson (Buffalo). 
Lotta offense behind the Flyers' 28 goals scored.
“It’s a good question,” Voracek said. “It’s tough to say. It’s still early, but if you’re going to get scored on so many goals a game, you’re obviously doing something wrong. Might be the case. It’s hard to answer. 
“We have to make sure even if we have talented players offensively ... we have to be responsible defensively. In today’s hockey, everybody can play defense.” 
You never know which direction these games against Pittsburgh will go. They can be very physical and low-scoring. Or they can be wide-open, pond hockey with a goal fest. 
“Bluntly, last year, they played a fast, pressure-type game and I didn’t think we dealt very well with it,” Hakstol said. “That won’t be any different tomorrow. 
“They’ll play a fast, pressure-type game and we have to be ready to deal with it and take advantage of it. That will be a challenge for us.”
Defensive pairs
Hakstol changed his defensive pairs in practice. 
Brandon Manning worked with Radko Gudas; Ivan Provorov worked with Mark Streit; and Nick Schultz was with Shayne Gostisbehere.
Why the changes?
“They weren’t very good [against Arizona],” Hakstol replied. “It’s not all on the D-pairs, that’s for sure. There is some thought process behind ... switching the pairs. But ultimately, the goal is to have a more competitive group of six back there playing below the top of our circles.”
Andrew MacDonald, who had several turnovers/miscues this week, will sit against the Penguins.
Hakstol didn’t mince words when asked why he was reinserting Schultz into the lineup.
“Absolute, competitive, prideful defender,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
As for the lines, it would appear Nick Cousins will be scratched because he centered Michael Raffl and Scott Laughton in practice and both are injury-scratches right now.