Eagles (Tentatively) Set to Begin Regular Season on September 11

Eagles (Tentatively) Set to Begin Regular Season on September 11

Over the past several years, the NFL's
popularity has increased to the point where even the release of the
schedule results in hoopla and ballyhoo. Personally, I've never much
understood the excitement over a list of games that are well over four
months away, and now more than ever it seems meaningless. The very sport
hangs in the balance as a result of the lockout, and with free agency
being delayed and the draft still a week away, it's much harder to
predict which teams will rise and fall in the coming year.

That being said, the league went ahead and produced the schedule
anyway, with the regular season tentatively slated to begin Thursday
night in Green Bay on September 8, when the Super Bowl champs will take
on New Orleans. The Eagles kickoff their 2011 campaign three days later
in St. Louis on Sunday, September 11, and then eventually open the Linc
in Week 3 against the rival New York Giants on September 25. Full schedule and analysis below.

Week 1: @ St. Louis

Week 2: @ Atlanta - Sunday Night

Week 3: v. New York Giants

Week 4: v. San Francisco

Week 5: @ Buffalo

Week 6: @ Washington

Week 7: bye

Week 8: v. Dallas - Sunday Night

Week 9: v. Chicago - Monday Night

Week 10: v. Arizona

Week 11: @ New York Giants

Week 12: v. New England

Week 13: @ Seattle - Thursday Night

Week 14: @ Miami

Week 15: v. New York Jets

Week 16: @ Dallas - 4:15 Saturday (Christmas Eve)

Week 17: v. Washington

Pros: The Eagles drew the NFC West this season. While that division
couldn't possibly be worse than it was last season (could it?), three of
the four teams might feature new starting quarterbacks in 2011, with
only the Rams currently married to sophomore Sam Bradford. Either way,
all four franchises have an upward climb to respectability after a
sub-.500 club was able to secure a division title for the first time
this past season.

In terms of travel, the Birds will only compete further west than
Dallas once, though it is a trip to Qwest Field in Seattle. That's
always an imposing environment.

Cons: The Eagles drew the AFC East this season. Buffalo and Miami
probably don't scare anybody, but New York and New England will almost
certainly be powerhouses once again. If there is anything positive to
take away from those matchups at all, it's the Birds will be home for
both.

However, they also have a pair of road games on short weeks following
those meetings with likely Super Bowl contenders. The Eagles fly to
Seattle for a Thursday nighter after doing battle with the Pats, and
will head to Dallas for a division contest six days after their duel
with the Jets. Both trips are in December, further compounding the
matter.

Of course, as was already mentioned, it's not very constructive
trying to predict which teams will be good in April, particularly in the
wake of the lockout. We'll examine the schedule as--or perhaps more
appropriately, if--we get closer to the regular season, but for
now, which games will you try to pick up tickets for, and which road
trips are the most appealing?

Flyers Notes: Promising performances from young defensemen

Flyers Notes: Promising performances from young defensemen

The most impressive thing about the Flyers' 4-0 preseason win over the Islanders on Tuesday night was the play of the their young defense and the outstanding work by the penalty kill.

Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers each gave a strong accounting of themselves while veteran Andrew MacDonald proved why experience helps with some terrific PK work during an extended five-on-three Islanders power play in the third period.

“Overall, they did a good job,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I look at some of the opportunities we gave up, especially in the second period, we gave up three or four Grade A opportunities that Mase (goalie Steve Mason) was great on, but I put those on our forwards.

“We’re still not into regular-season form on our play without the puck. I thought as a whole, the group of defensemen did a good job and the young guys in there were good tonight.”

Sanheim had strong plays the entire game from the point and picked up two assists (see highlights). He gets the puck quickly on net and joins the play up front.

“It took me a little bit, even in this game,” Sanheim said. “As I play more, I started to jump up more and you start to see my game more. It’s something I want to bring to this next level.”

Provorov logged 21:43 of ice time following nearly 29 minutes at New Jersey. He had 5:17 on the PK. Some of his clears weren’t deep or hard enough, at times, possibly because of fatigue.

He also took a bad boarding hit on Joshua Ho-Sang in the third period that set up an Isles five-on-three power play. It became extended because of a trip call to Myers but MacDonald did yeoman’s work on the extended PK.

Provorov quarterbacks the first-unit man advantage for now until Shayne Gostisbehere joins the crowd. He had some very skillful passes. The Russian can find the seam up the ice on the breakout quickly and had a no-look, hard pass to Nick Cousins in the second period for a quality one-timer on net.

Expect Provorov to handle the second-unit power play during the season, should he make the roster.

The goals
Although the Flyers, using a better NHL lineup, were lacking for offensive chances early against the Isles' "B" squad, they found their way in the final four minutes of the opening period.

First, Dale Weise had one of those pinball goals as a bouncing puck hit a couple of players in the slot, including goalie Chris Gibson, to make it 1-0 during four-on-four play.

That was the Flyers' first goal of preseason in three games. A little more than a minute later, Wayne Simmonds scored off a rebound just as a Flyers power play ended. Simmonds had two goals in the game, including a wrister from the left circle to open the final period.

Smallish (5-foot-7) — but bullish — centerman Andy Miele, a former Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey’s top player (Miami-Ohio), made it 3-0, out-battling Thomas Hickey for the rebound of Michael Raffl’s shot.

The shield
Simmonds is wearing a visor for the first time. It’s an experiment for now.

“Everyone is all over me about it,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. It wasn’t too bad tonight. The only thing is trying to track pucks in the sky when you are getting the glare from the lights. A little bit of an adjustment."

He said neither his mother nor girlfriend had pushed him as hard to wear the shield as someone else: “Ron Hextall,” he said flatly. “He gave me a call.”

Because of his tenacious play in the slot where sticks are high and pucks are deflected, a shield makes sense.

“Yeah, I think so, being that front guy and doing work on the PK,” he said. “Getting sticks in lanes like that, the game is really fast and pucks get deflected.

“Sometime you don’t know where they’re going and can’t react to that. Obviously, the shield is good for that."

He added he would wear the shield in a fight, too.

“Every time I fight and someone has a shield on, I’m at a disadvantage so I guess this evens it up,” he said.

Loose pucks
Weise did a nice job sticking up for teammates late during a melee after a Ben Holmstrom crosscheck to linemate Nick Cousins. “It was a bad crosscheck and you’re defending your teammates,” he said. “The ref was in the way and I kind of went overtop him. That’s what I’m about. Guys take liberties on my linemates, I’ll stand up for them.” … Matt Read had just 6:54 ice time through two periods. Fourth-liner Boyd Gordon had more ice time there — 9:39 — but Read finished with 13:55 to Gordon’s 13:41. More than half of Gordon’s ice time was on the penalty kill. … Goalie Steve Mason faced some point-blank chances among the first 17 shots he faced and finished with 23-save shutout.  

Carson Wentz named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Carson Wentz named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Another week, another award for Carson Wentz.

This time the Eagles' electrifying rookie has been named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Steelers.

In the 34-3 win over Pittsburgh, Wentz completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 125.9. It was the first 300-yard game of his very young career.

Wentz is the first rookie QB in Eagles history to win an Offensive Player of the Week award.

Through three games, the 23-year-old has completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 769 yards and five touchdowns. He's the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to achieve those stats in the first three games of a career. He still hasn't thrown an interception in 102 passing attempts, which is a record for rookies.

It looks like Wentz will have plenty more opportunities for awards this season.