Eagles Circle the Wagons in Buffalo

Eagles Circle the Wagons in Buffalo

Honestly, the more people who jump from the Philadelphia Eagles bandwagon, the better off this team probably is at this point.

Two of the biggest elements that have come back to haunt this club so far are perceptions and expectations -- the perception this was a "Dream Team" of sorts, and the Championship expectations that came along with that obnoxious label. Now that they are 1-3, the summer of free agent splashes a distant memory, all that's left is to play football.

Frankly, that's all football players should be doing.

There has been a massive shift in pressure away from the guys in pads, who are largely responsible for the dramatic errors that cost the Eagles three consecutive games. Instead the weight now rests squarely on the coaching staff and folks whose finger prints are all over this roster -- especially Juan Castillo, Andy Reid, and Howie Roseman.

Which is fine. One thing we've seen from this organization through the years is they are unwavering in the face of criticism. The men in charge will continue to work diligently toward solutions, while the media and fans continue banging the "Fire Reid" drum.

That's been our way over the past bunch of years.

Let's not forget who created the "Dream Team" moniker in the first place though: the players. Actually, it was Vince Young, but the way Pro Bowlers flocked to the nest intimated there was a belief that if you wanted to win a Super Bowl, sign in Philly.

In other words, it was another set of expectations that may have doomed the Eagles out of the gate: their own. They expected to win, expected to be in the race until the end. The postseason would come, because it usually does in Philadelphia, and because look at us! We've already won... on paper.

Michael Vick declared that was over with now, and for once, even those who doubt his sincerity have every reason to believe him. The losing is becoming embarrassing, not that it wasn't already, but if the individuals on this team have any pride at all, every person in that locker room should be able to dig deep and find some extra motivation to pull out of this.

And if you don't think motivation alone is enough to cover up the glaring holes that are still so prescient on the depth chart, that's fine too. The Eagles have done some of their best work when they were left for dead, their backs against the wall -- in '08, '06, and to a lesser degree, '03 -- long after many fans assumed they weren't going anywhere.

We're about to find out whether the 2011 iteration has that kind of character, or whether this season truly is spiraling out of control. Whatever the case, at least they should be loose, because those perceptions and expectations are long gone.


Jason Peters and Trent Cole are out today. King Dunlap takes Peters' place at left tackle. The Eagles' rotation at defensive end will be a little thin without Cole though -- Darryl Tapp and Juqua Parker return from injuries, but could still be slowed. Derek Landri was also brought back to replace Antonio Dixon, who went on injured reserve and was done for the year. Landri had a strong preseason, picking up two sacks. Danny Watkins makes his first NFL today at right guard.

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as he liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fade away jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guy’s first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of (Hakeem) Olajuawon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).