Eagles-Patriots Gamethread: Storylines and What Today Means

Eagles-Patriots Gamethread: Storylines and What Today Means

Technically, the Eagles are
still alive. The Giants have a difficult Monday night game against the
Saints, then the undefeated Packers the following week. The Cowboys
could come away from this week with a relatively firm grasp on first
place, but they're the Cowboys, so until Tony Romo puts a full season
together, I will always believe there is a chance he will give enough
games away to keep things interesting.

Obviously, that's the only
chance the Eagles have. As expected, there aren't many great Wild Card
scenarios with six games to play, but they are only one game out from
controlling their own destiny in the NFC East. If Philly can gain a win
on Dallas, and also defeat them on Christmas Eve, they would own the
tiebreaker and win the division -- provided New York predictably
takes a turn for the worst.

Okay, A LOT has to happen, but we got that out of the way... What has to happen for the Birds to win today?

Under Center
Quarterback controversy? Eh, probably not, if for no other reason than
Mike Vick's enormous contract, but it goes without saying Vince Young
played pretty well last week once he shook off the rust, and he has
played at a Pro Bowl level in the past. Should the Eagles win and move
to 2-0 under Young, you can bet there will be some fans who want Andy
Reid to go with Captain Dream Team the rest of the way. And honestly, if
that happens, he probably should at least consider it.

Andy vs. Bill
Speaking of Reid, love him or hate him, he's accomplished many things
during his career. One of them is not beating Bill Belichick in a
meaningful game. Including Super Bowl XXXIX, Belichick's Patriots are
3-0 in regular or postseason meetings. Besides the championships, there
are quite a few parallels between the two organizations during the head
coach's tenures, and Reid is compared to Belichick often -- always
coming up on the short end of the stick obviously.

Just saying,
there's gotta be some extra personal motivation there this week for Reid,
especially not knowing when the next time the two will stand on
opposite sidelines will be.

Prince Akeem
- The commenters wanted to see some
love for Akeem Jordan last Sunday, who according to Man-Up was in on 20
snaps, having recently taken over for Moise Fokou. In case you hadn't
noticed, he's been a clear upgrade, stuffing quite a few runs from the
strongside the past few weeks.

Jordan is a unique situation. He
joined the team as an undrafted free agent out of James Madison in '07,
and wound up in the starting lineup by '08, where he stayed through the
next season. He was fairly underwhelming, but has maintained a spot in
the organization and become something of a special teams ace. Initially
it appeared the front office wouldn't re-sign him as a free agent this
off-season, but he wound up coming back, and it may have been the best
thing for his career.

Jordan is the most tenured linebacker in
this defense by far, and it looks like he's playing with a bit of an
edge suddenly. I really like seeing him finally get another shot
considering everything they've been through, and the way he's playing,
he seriously could be an answer at that position... and suddenly, the
linebackers are turning into a decent-enough unit.

Bradylicious Attack
- I'm willing
to bet if the Eagles win, it's because the defensive line had some
success pressuring Tom Brady. I've been deflecting for the defense all
year, but I don't really see them as having the personnel to cover the
Patriots' tight ends. That's not even totally a swipe at this defense.
Rob Gronkowski in particular is looking more and more like a special
player, and most teams -- especially the ones utilizing the 4-3 -- will
have issues with these two.

But the Eagles in particular lack
size and perhaps toughness at the positions usually counted on to cover
the tight end. Which of their linebackers has the combination of size
and speed to keep up with either of those guys down the field? Which
safety would you count on to catch one of them once the ball is in their
hands, then wrestle them to the ground?

The best way to keep the
ball out of their hands is to prevent a crisp pass from leaving Brady's
hand. We'll be watching Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins, two high-priced
free agents from this off-season, to see if they can set the tone
against this extremely efficient offense.

UPDATE: Nnamdi Asomugha is ACTIVE. No word on whether he'll be able to be a full go, but he's at least slated to play.

Stew Milne-US Presswire

No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?


No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?

No. 16 Villanova (5-2, 3-1) vs. No. 23 Albany (4-2, 1-2)
Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pa.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Fresh off a rare loss, Villanova looks to get back on track during its homecoming game against another nationally ranked foe. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Scouting Villanova
The Wildcats saw their five-game winning streak snapped in resounding fashion as they were shut out for the first time since 2004 in a 23-0 loss to Richmond. Sophomore quarterback Zach Bednarczyk left the game in the second quarter with an injury, a big reason why the Wildcats finished with just 222 yards of total offense. But despite the final score, Villanova’s defense played well again with Austin Calitro and Rob Rolle each hitting double digits in tackles. The unit is ranked fifth in the FCS in scoring defense (16.3 points per game) and sixth in total defense (237.9 yards per game) and has scored four defensive touchdowns.

Scouting Albany
After winning their first four games, the Great Danes lost their next two, a 36-30 triple-overtime heartbreaker to Richmond followed by a 20-16 setback to Maine. Sophomore quarterback Neven Sussman led Albany with 187 passing yards and 75 rushing yards. But for the season, their offensive strength has been with sophomore running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who’s second in the CAA in rushing, averaging 105 yards per game. Albany’s defense is only behind Villanova in points allowed per game (19.3) in the CAA, but interestingly enough is last in total defense (420.2 yards per game). The Great Danes lead the league in turnover margin (plus-15), led by linebacker Michael Nicastro and safety Mason Gray with three interceptions apiece.

Series history
Villanova has only played Albany twice, beating the Great Danes, 48-31, in 2014 and steamrolling it, 37-0, last season. 

Storyline to watch
The big question going in is whether Bednarczyk will play with Villanova saying it will be a game-time decision after the QB suffered a concussion last week. If he can’t go, Adeyemi DaSilva will get the start in his place after replacing him in the second quarter vs. Richmond. DaSilva is a promising player but Bednarczyk was coming into his own this season and his absence would naturally be a difficult one. Of course, the Wildcats have been through this before with Bednarczyk taking over as the starter last season when star John Robertson went down with an injury of his own.

What’s at stake?
Villanova still has a chance to win the CAA but probably can’t afford a second loss in the league. And of course, there’s nothing better than winning in front of a homecoming crowd.

A lot depends on whether Bednarczyk can play … but even if he doesn’t, the Wildcats’ dominant defense may be enough to get the job done. 

Villanova 20, Albany 17

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

MIAMI — A woman performing the national anthem before an NBA preseason game in Miami on Friday night did so while kneeling at midcourt, and opening her jacket to show a shirt with the phrase "Black Lives Matter."

The singer was identified by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence. It was unclear if she remained in the arena after the performance, and messages left for her were not immediately returned.

Heat players and coaches stood side-by-side for the anthem, all with their arms linked as has been their custom during the preseason. Many had their heads down as Lawrence sang, and the team released a statement saying it had no advance knowledge that she planned to kneel.

"We felt as a basketball team that we would do something united, so that was our focus," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We've had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action."

The anthem issue has been a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand for its playing. Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports -- and many levels, from youth all the way to professional -- have followed his lead in various ways.

"All I can say is what we've seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in New York earlier Friday, at a news conference following the league's board of governors meetings. "It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do."

The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

Heat guard Wayne Ellington often speaks about the need to curb gun violence, after his father was shot and killed two years ago. He had his eyes closed for most of the anthem Friday, as per his own custom, though was aware of Lawrence's actions.

"At the end of the day, to each his own," Ellington said. "If she feels like that's the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her."

Making a statement in the manner that Lawrence did Friday is rare, but not unheard of in recent weeks.

When the Sacramento Kings played their first home preseason game earlier this month, anthem singer Leah Tysse dropped to one knee as she finished singing the song.

Tysse is white. Lawrence is black.

"I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans," Tysse wrote on Facebook. "I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability."