Eagles-Jets Yes, They Are Still Alive...

Eagles-Jets Yes, They Are Still Alive...

Update: Dallas predictably steamrolled hapless Tampa Bay last night, but Washington is currently taking care of business against the Giants, which would leave the window cracked for the Eagles in the NFC East. Woo? Now they need the Giants to lose to the Jets on Christmas Eve, then beat the Cowboys Week 17, while Philadelphia must win out.

Alternate headline: Eagles-Jets -- Hope You Just Love Football, or Have Fantasy Interests.

Face it. If you're still watching, you're either a hopeless optomist who believes the Birds can sneak another miracle post-season berth (or merely counting on the inevitable collapses of Tony Romo and Eli Manning), or you love the NFL. Nothing wrong with that, and since the Eagles are mathematically still in the running, you should be treated to a competitive football game against a strong New York Jets team either way you approach this afternoon.

A breakdown of some of the key story lines after the jump.

Welcome Home?
The last time the Eagles played in front of a Lincoln Financial Field crowd, the fans started chanting "Fire Andy" in the third quarter, then flooded out the gates in the middle of a game that was not quite out of hand. Who could blame them? The Eagles have only won one game at home all season, racking up an impressive 1-5 record in Philadelphia. Home field advantage, indeed.

How or why they can't win at home is almost beyond explanation, but we're curious to see what kind of atmosphere the Linc provides today. With those slim playoff hopes still out there, there's a good chance 69,000 people will start the afternoon fully behind their Eagles.

But how quickly will they turn on their Birds? How early will the sea of humanity transform into large expanses of empty seats? After the old fashioned walkout, will some ticket holders choose to send a message and never show up at all? Lots of intrigue in the stands, as well as on the field.

Eagles Receivers v. Jets Secondary
Will DeSean Jackson visit Revis Island?

Back in August, we hoped the Birds' secondary would be one of the best in the league, only rivaled by the group in New York. But while Nnamdi Asomugha appears to have been vastly overrated, and Asante Samuel plays a fairly one-dimensional role, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are the real deal. Revis is a shutdown corner who expertly uses his body and the boundaries to disappear receivers, Cromartie a freak who can match size and athletic ability with practically any receiver in the league.

Yet as we all know, Jackson is a unique talent capable of blowing by any defensive back out there. Rarely if ever do you see any team attempt to cover him one-on-one, so even though it is Revis -- the consensus best corner in the league -- I would expect to see a scheme that provides at least some help over the top.

And on that front, the Jets lost safety Jim Leonhard for the season to injury last week, which could come as good news for the Birds. Leonhard is their best safety, the quarterback of their defense, and when he went down last year, New York's defense took a step back. We'll see if Mike Vick and the Eagles can take advantage.

Eagles Defense v. Jets Running Game
Juan Castillo's unit will have their hands full today with running back Shonn Greene, who has really turned up the noise in recent weeks.

The Eagles enter the game with the NFL's 18th ranked run defense, allowing 115 yards per game, and 4.4 yards per carry. New York's ground attack is only 22nd overall, but they are strong up front, and Greene is on a roll. After getting out to a slow start, the Iowa product is beginning to reach his potential, gaining 711 yards on 4.6 per carry, and punching in five scores over his last nine games.

With playmaking wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress, and athletic tight end Dustin Keller to test them vertically, the Eagles will not easily be able to over-commit to stopping the run. That means a pair of Pro-Bowl offensive linemen -- D'Brickashaw Ferguson and and Nick Mangold -- could have multiple opportunities to tee off the Birds' beleaguered linebackers.

Meaningless Trivia
The Eagles have never lost to the Jets in eight games. That means they never will lose to the Jets, right?

Chase Utley owns the New York Mets, according to Wikipedia

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Chase Utley owns the New York Mets, according to Wikipedia

The New York Mets' majority owner, Fred Wilpon, has a reported net worth of $500 million.

But on Saturday night, the Mets were not owned by a suit who made their profits off real estate development.

No, the Mets were owned by former Phillies second baseman and current Los Angelers Dodger Chase Utley.

At least according to the Mets' Wikipedia page.

Utley, who has become one of the greatest villians in New York sports of recent memory, made his return to Citi Field this weekend after breaking Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada's leg with a hard, controversial slide into second base successfully breaking up a double play during the postseason. On Friday night, the 37-year-old delivered a three-run game-tying double in the ninth inning, athough the Dodgers fell to New York, 6-5, after Curtis Granderson hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth.

But on Saturday night, Utley's legend grew even stronger in the Dodger's 9-1 win. Utley was thrown at — and missed — by Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard, who was subsequently ejected from the ballgame, in the third inning. In his next at-bat during a scoreless game, Utley took New York reliever Logan Verrett deep to give L.A. a 1-0 lead.

It gets better. Coming to bat with the bases loaded and a 2-0 lead in the seventh, Utley entered the batter's box serenaded with boos from the Mets' faithful only to hit a grand slam. You can watch it all right here.

Owning the Mets is nothing new for Utley, however. The second baseman has 33 home runs, 113 RBIs and a .283 average in his career against New York. We love Utley in Philadelphia because he plays the game hard, was a key member of the Phillies' 2008 World Series team and he kills the Mets. Remember this one from 2007?

What will Utley do as an encore on Sunday Night Baseball? We will all be watching because some of us won't be able to catch Game of Thrones live because we work.

Remember, no spoilers. And plus, Utley owning the Mets is a better storyline than any TV show can give us.

Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Getting Vince Velasquez back on track

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Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Getting Vince Velasquez back on track

Phillies (26-23) at Cubs (33-14)
2:20 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies have lost back-to-back games to the MLB-best Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field and on Sunday afternoon, they'll look to salvage a victory in the series finale.

Here are five things to get you ready for the ballgame:

1. Avoiding a sweep
Phillies fans had losing shoved down their throats for long stretches last season. This season has been much different … at least until the last three series.

With Saturday's loss, the Phils have lost three consecutive series for the first time in 2016 and will look to avoid their first sweep since their opening series in Cincinnati. The 4-1 victory by the Cubs was the Phillies' fourth loss in five games. They haven't lost five of six since September 2015. 

Meanwhile, the Cubs have won four straight games after losing eight of 12 games in mid-May. A win Sunday would give Chicago its fourth win streak of at least four games already in 2016. 

If that doesn't underline how tough a task the Phillies have ahead of them, Sunday's starter will do the trick.

2. Solving Lackey
John Lackey doesn't have the pizzazz of a Jake Arrieta or Jon Lester, but the veteran righty has been a consistent force in the Cubs' rotation. Coming over from the rival Cardinals in free agency, Lackey has a 4-2 record with a 3.38 ERA in nine starts in 2016.

However, the underlying numbers have been even better. He's completed six innings in all but one start and has seven quality starts. He has 61 strikeouts compared to just 13 walks and 45 hits in 61⅓ innings. 

Lackey has been a workhorse for the Cubs and has struck out at least five batters in each of his last four starts. 

The good news for Phillies fans? Despite Lackey's solid numbers, the Cubs have lost four of his nine starts.

3. Getting back on track
At 23 years old, it's tough to expect Vince Velasquez to be an ace all season, even if he may fill that role at some point in the not-so-distant future. 

So Velasquez's relatively minor struggles over his last few starts shouldn't worry fans as a sign of things to come. In Detroit, the flamethrowing righty could only complete four innings while giving up three home runs. While he struck out 10 and gave up no runs the start before against Miami, he failed to get past the fifth inning.

Those two starts came after consecutive outings where Velasquez gave up four runs in six innings. His last quality start came May 1, although it's tough to call his game against the Marlins anything but impressive.

While he's faced some strong lineups like the Mets and Nationals, the Cubs are a force Velasquez hasn't dealt with quite yet. He has no career numbers against the Cubs' probable starters, a group that has combined to be one of baseball's top offenses in 2016.

4. Who's on first?
Ryan Howard's final season in Philadelphia has been a grind to say the least. The veteran first baseman has just six hits in 58 at-bats in May and has just a .154 batting average this year. Howard's eight home runs have been a bright spot, but he doesn't have a homer since May 11.

Howard has three hits (two home runs) in 16 career at-bats against Lackey. But with right-handed first baseman Tommy Joseph excelling in his first big-league action, manager Pete Mackanin may turn to the rookie Sunday, as Howard tries to end his slump.

5. This and that
• Obubel Herrera is 3 for 4 in his only career appearances against Lackey. Maikel Franco is 2 for 3 against the righty.

• The Phillies are 3-0 in the final game of road trips this year … and 3-0 in the final game of homestands, too. 

• The Cubs have not swept the Phillies in Chicago since 1995.

Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

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Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Brian Carroll tied it in 92nd minute and the Union escaped with a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids in a showdown of the Western and Eastern conference leaders.

Carroll ran underneath Fabian Herbers' high-arching header and slotted the finish under goalkeeper Zac MacMath from close range.

The Union (5-3-5) responded only 5 minutes after the Rapids (8-2-4) opened the scoring on Sam Cronin's header in the 87th minute. Cronin made a deep run to connect with Marlon Hairston's cross from the right flank, redirecting it into the far corner of the goal.

Both Dillon Powers and Luis Solignac had shots crash off the crossbar for the Rapids after the 70th minute.

The Union extended their unbeaten streak to seven while the Rapids stayed unbeaten in their nine home games this season.