ESPN Thinks We're Gonna Lose the Opener to the Redskins By...How Much??

ESPN Thinks We're Gonna Lose the Opener to the Redskins By...How Much??

By the time Monday, September 9th rolls around, Philly sports fans are gonna be pumped for Philadelphia Eagles football no matter what, just by virtue of it being something besides the Phillies, who by that point will probably be fielding a starting outfield of Roger Bernadina, Casper Wells and Jeff Francoeur and waving to the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. At the very least, there's a sense of newness to the Eagles in coach Chip Kelly's first season, an excitement that should persist even if the team struggles a bit out of the gate--as long as their struggles aren't of the historic variety, anyway.

Well. ESPN the Magazine recently released their NFL season predictions (courtesy of analytics site Pro Football Focus), and understandably for a team in transition coming off a 4-12 record, they're none too bullish on our Birds. They have the Eagles going 6-10 and finishing last in the East, with the team going a miserable 1-5 in Division play. (They also predict that Nick Foles' risk-averseness will eventually win him the starting job from Michael Vick, for whatever that's worth.)

That's all tough, but none too surprising, and none even all that discouraging. But there is one somewhat eye-popping prediction contained in their Eagles season mini-preview. See, in addition to the PFF dudes predicting the results of every game on the NFL schedule for the Mag, they also predict the final score. And not only do they predict the Birds will lose the season opener to the Redskins, they predict it's gonna be by a fairly sizable margin.

41-0.

WHAT?? Well, the Mag doesn't provide per-game explanation for their scores--that'd be a lot for a preview issue--so we can't really know what the reasoning is behind their projected blowout. And they do predict the Redskins to win the East, though only with a 10-6 record, and not with scoring 40 or shutting out an opponent in any other game of theirs.

But geez, 41-0? Oddsshark.com currently only has the Redskins as 4.5-point favorites, and though that may change some, it's hard to see it going into the high double-digits. According to Pro Football Reference, the 41-0 loss would be the sixth-worst loss in Eagles history, and the worst since they were shut out 42-0 by the Seahawks in Decmeber 2005.

Such a loss would do about as effective as would be humanly possibly in quashing Eagles excitement before the season even really gets going, no matter how bad the Phillies are at that point. However, two minor silver linings to be found in this gloomiest of projected clouds. One is that ESPN does have the Eagles rebounding from the brutal opening loss to win their next two against the Chargers and the Chiefs, which might help get some sense of momentum back. (They lose the three after that, though.)

The other is that the loss isn't even the biggest blanking ESPN predicts for the 2013 season--that honor would go to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are predicted to lose 58-0 to the Seattle Seahawks in Week Three, just one point away from tying for the biggest blowout in NFL history. So there's that.

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).