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

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”