Firing Juan Castillo Doesn't Fix Eagles' Real Problems

Firing Juan Castillo Doesn't Fix Eagles' Real Problems

There are a lot of numbers being thrown around today. Here are two you may not have heard yet: 54 seconds and 23 yards.

54 seconds is the amount of time the Eagles' offense managed to eat up while clinging to a three-point lead on their final possession of the fourth quarter on Sunday. 23 yards is all the distance the Lions needed to travel to kick a game-winning field goal in overtime.

Say what you will about Juan Castillo. The decision to promote him to defensive coordinator may not have been the wisest. Maybe he truly was in over his head. Either way, his firing on Tuesday morning was the very definition of scapegoating.

There is no disputing that his defense's performance over the final 19 minutes on Sunday was a disgrace, as they allowed 20 points in their opponent's final five possessions. To say the offense didn't have a big hand in the collapse would be completely false though.

Marty Mornhinweg gift-wrapped a Lions fourth-quarter comeback when he called not one, but two clock-killing plays on a drive in the final minutes that did not produce a single first down. Michael Vick put a bow on the victory when he went backwards and lost 21 yards in the extra period, forcing the Eagles to punt from the back of their own end zone.

Vick's three turnovers didn't help matters either, one of which was an interception where he missed badly on an opportunity to hit DeSean Jackson deep for six.

Or we can go back to last week in Pittsburgh, where the Eagles held the Steelers to 16 total points in their building, where Vick lost two fumbles, one on the goal line. We can all count. Those points would've helped.

So while it's become fashionable to point out the defense has blown seven fourth-quarter leads under Castillo in 22 games, what always seems to get lost in that statistic is the anatomy of the comeback. We dissected the five meltdowns in 2011, and found many of the same extenuating circumstances existed on offense and special teams -- surrendering field position, giving the ball away, and leaving points on the field.

All anybody might choose to remember is the defense had a chance to put a lid on some (not necessarily all) of those games in the end. Regardless, the fact is Juan Castillo did not lose these games -- the Eagles lost them.

Which is why the cycle will not end with Todd Bowles' ascension to defensive coordinator. Philadelphia's defense is allowing 18.8 points per game. The offense is scoring 17.2 points per game, and has turned the ball over an astounding 17 times. How is this change going to correct that?

The simple answer is it's not. It's a rare desperation move by Andy Reid that does nothing to address the true problems his team has. The defense? Ha. That was the least of my worries heading into this bye week.

Eagles-Vikings predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-Vikings predictions by our (cough) experts

The Eagles are coming off two straight losses and the slate doesn't get any easier with the 5-0 Vikings coming to town.

It also marks the return of Sam Bradford, who was traded just before Week 1, paving the way for rookie Carson Wentz to start.

The Eagles kick off against Minnesota at the Linc on Sunday at 1 p.m., so it's time for our (cough) experts' predictions for the Week 7 matchup.

Dave Zangaro (2-3)
I'll admit, this game just has a weird feel. It has the feeling like the Eagles might be able to catch the Vikings sleeping after their bye week and hand them their first loss of the season.

I was almost tempted to pick the Birds in this one.

But I'm not.

Ultimately, the Vikings are just the better team. I'm not sure how the Eagles are going to put up points against them. And I'm not convinced the Eagles' defense will be able to stop anyone after what we saw last weekend.

They keep it close, but the Birds fall to 3-3.

Vikings 20, Eagles 17

Derrick Gunn (2-3)
The good news is Minnesota's offense is ranked 30th in the league and the Vikings' run game is dead last averaging 70.6 yards per game. 

The bad news is the Vikings' defense is a monster, ranked 2nd overall and first in points allowed at 12.6.

There is not a weak link in the Vikings' D and they are fundamentally sound across the board. The Eagles' defense vows that what happened to them at Washington — allowing 230 rushing yards — won't happen again. 

Carson Wentz got roughed up by the Redskins' pass rush, and unless the Eagles' offensive line plugs the leaks, more of the same could happen this Sunday. The Birds have every reason to rebound at home, but I just don't like the overall matchup. 

Vikings 20, Eagles 13

Ray Didinger (2-3)
The Vikings aren't going undefeated. You don't go 16-0 in the NFL with a 30th ranked offense which is what the Vikings have. Yes, their defense is very good. Going back to last season they have held each of their last nine opponents to 17 points or less. They are deep, fast and well-coached by Mike Zimmer. But the offense led by Sam Bradford coughs and sputters a lot.
As a result, the Vikings will play a lot of close, low-scoring games and somewhere along the line they are going to lose. It could even happen this week when they play the Eagles. Special teams could be huge. The Eagles have a big edge with kicker Caleb Sturgis. Vikings kicker Blair Walsh has already missed three field goals and two PATs. However, the Vikings return men -- Marcus Sherels on punts, Cordarrelle Patterson on kickoffs -- are very dangerous. I expect the Eagles to keep it close but in the end I have to go with the superior defense.
Vikings 21, Eagles 16

Andrew Kulp (2-3)
Which Eagles defense shows up on Sunday? If they can limit Minnesota's anemic ground attack, which ranks dead last in the NFL, this should be a close game. Sam Bradford is playing really well, but it's not like he's airing it out all over the place.

Then it becomes a question of how Halapoulivaati Vaitai responds to a rough debut. The Vikings pass-rush is fierce, so it doesn't get any easier this week. As long as the protection gives Carson Wentz a chance, that will at least give the rookie signal-caller a shot at making a few big plays.

For some reason, I like their chances at both. It's going to be another ugly one, but the Eagles do just enough to squeak by.

Eagles 20, Vikings 19

Corey Seidman (2-3)
I foresee a low-scoring game in which the Eagles are more competitive than some might think.

But in the end, the Vikings have the personnel and the defensive-minded head coach (Mike Zimmer) to get key stops down the stretch.

Vikings 20, Eagles 16

Andy Schwartz (1-4)
You’re still reading? 

Well good for you. Much appreciated. 

Because clearly I certainly don’t know what to expect from this team. 

But let’s forget all that for the moment and look at the Bradford Bowl. 

The Vikings’ offense is hardly scary (30th in the league in yards per game behind the Rams and Niners), but their defense is (second in yards per game behind Seattle).

The Eagles’ offense is hardly scary (22nd in yards per game), and their defense (sixth in yards per game) was pretty scary a few weeks ago.

So let’s look at the intangibles. Which team needs this game more? The Eagles. And they’re at home. 

But given the outcomes the last two weeks and that Minnesota is unbeaten and coming off a bye, it certainly makes sense to pick the Vikes, who are favored by 2.5.

Then again, the Eagles not too long ago were unbeaten and coming off a bye … and we all know what happened.

So I’ll say the Birds pull off another upset and remain unbeaten at the Linc. 

Just don’t bet on it.

Eagles 6, Vikings 5

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

It appears the Sixers' frontcourt logjam may not be an issue early on.

Nerlens Noel, who is having surgery Monday for an inflamed plica in his left knee, will miss the first three to five weeks of the season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Noel suffered a left groin injury in the first preseason game against the Celtics and missed the rest of the preseason. While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

It's been an odd start to the season for Noel. The big man was outspoken about his displeasure with the Sixers' frontcourt situation early in camp. With the deadline for Noel's rookie contract extension approaching on Oct. 31, the team has not had conversations about it, according to a report.

The Sixers are already without No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons as he recovers from surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. The team will also be without their starting point guard Jerryd Bayless who is dealing with a ligament issue in his left wrist. Bayless won't require surgery and will be reevaluated in two weeks.