Prediction Time: How Will the Eagles Fare in 2011?

Prediction Time: How Will the Eagles Fare in 2011?

Here it is: the official predictions thread. Saw some of you folks were getting a jump on them in yesterday's season preview, but if you want them to count, you better re-post them here!

After the jump, we go game-by-game for the season ahead in our most extensive Eagles predictions to date, and as always, we want to hear from all the Birds loyalists.

For the record, I don't often pat myself on the back, but as long as I've been posting these predictions on The700Level, I've been extremely accurate. In '08, I predicted an NFC Championship appearance, in '09 I correctly predicted the Division Championship would come down to Week 17 against Dallas, and last season I had the Eagles winning 10 games and making their surprise playoff appearance. Let's make it four-for-four this year.

Week 1 @ St. Louis
The Eagles are not the only team in flux to start the season. QB Sam Bradford will playing in his second offensive system in as many seasons, and had just 38 days to get it down. He isn't exactly working with a plethora of weapons in the passing game either, so the transition could be slow and painful. Head coach Steve Spagnuolo will bring a tough defense to the party, but the Birds have enough playmakers to survive. Look for LeSean McCoy to be a big factor here. W

Week 2 @ Atlanta
Back-to-back road games might be a bit much to kick off the season, especially one at the Georgia Dome, where the Falcons have been practically unbeatable in recent years. The Eagles' defensive line and linebackers will be tested by a power running game featuring RB Michael Turner, which gets the better of them in the end. Michael Vick's homecoming on Monday Night Football is spoiled when Atlanta wins the time of possession battle, thus continuing their recent trend of losing to playoff teams. L

Week 3 v New York Giants
The Giants will eventually get their defense sorted out after being absolutely decimated by injuries this summer, but it won't happen this fast. Even several of the players who will return this season won't be back by Week 3. Meanwhile, the Gmen have allowed 150 points against the Eagles in their last four meetings, and have lost a grand total of six straight to the Birds. After Week 3, it will be seven. W

Week 4 v San Francisco
The Birds draw the 49ers for the fourth consecutive season, and are the winners in the first three, though every contest has been relatively hard fought. Once again, San Fran just doesn't have the horses to keep up for 60 minutes, but it could be another close one. TE Vernon Davis will be all Jamar Chaney can handle, while RB Frank Gore will make the Eagles' smaller linebackers work. Alex Smith is still the QB however, and that only takes a team so far. W

Week 5 @ Buffalo
Could this be one of those infamous trap games, like the Raiders in Week 5 of '09? Maybe, but the Bills offense will play right into the Eagles' strengths. According to Football Outsdiers Almanac, no team went empty backfield more often than Buffalo, a whopping 15% of the time, and no offense, but QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the gunslinger we envision solving this secondary. Whether their defense is improved will be the X-factor, but c'mon, this isn't a cross country trip to Oakland or anything. W

Week 6 @ Washington
Believe it or not, there are actually people out there who think the Redskins will be good, maybe even win the division! We won't weigh in here, but no matter how bad things are in D.C., they always seem to take at least one off the Birds. This could be a look-ahead game (to the bye week) for a team that's starting to get a little over-confident. RB Tim Hightower gives the defense fits, and Vick has a tough outing against a defense desperately seeking redemption after 2010's 59-21 embarrassment. L

Week 7 Bye

Week 8 v Dallas
If there has been one constant during the Andy Reid era, it's the Birds will win coming out of the bye. Doesn't seem to matter who the opponent is, and the Cowboys, while a quality team, are not exactly a superpower this year. W

Week 9 v Chicago
After three consecutive appearances at Soldier Field (1-2 record), the Eagles will finally welcome the Bears back to the friendly confines of Lincoln Financial. As is the theme with the familiar foes in the early parts of the schedule, these are always close games, and we know what to expect from the Bears--average offense, solid defense. That defense matches up well against the likes of Vick, with great athletes like DE Julius Peppers and MLB Brian Urlacher. In their traditional fashion, Chitown finds a way to just barely edge the Birds. L

Week 10 v Arizona
The Cardinals are a difficult team to get a read on, in part because despite spending four seasons here, we don't really know what to think of Kevin Kolb yet. What we do know is Arizona's offensive line has protection problems, and Kolb struggled when the pressure got to him. This has Jim Washburn-impact game written all over it. The Cards are also thin in the secondary after trading Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie and losing Greg Toler to injury, so DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin should find room to work. W

Week 11 @ New York Giants
After Week 3, the streak is up to seven, and we don't see it ending this season. Under Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, we expect the defense to steadily improve as some guys come back, and they find answers in other areas, but not enough to run with the Eagles. It's just not their year, but the winning streak is starting to remind me of the one the Giants had over the Birds early last decade. They will eventually snap out of it, just not yet. W

Week 12 v New England
This could very well be the NFL's game of the year. Whether or not you think the Eagles can beat the Patriots depends on how good you think either team is. Bill Belichick is a brilliant coach who will find a way to get his offense moving no matter what defense it is, and the Patriots defense is questionable enough to assume they will give up some big plays. I am going with a New England loss for two reasons: 1. I think Andy Reid is due against Belichick, and 2. the Eagles play some of their best football in November. W

Week 13 @ Seattle
Scheduling gods, be damned! After hosting perhaps the best opponent on their slate, the Eagles must fly cross country to Seattle for a Thursday night game against the Seahawks. It doesn't matter how good or bad they are, that situation has loss written all over it. Qwest Field is a hard enough place to play as it is, but on three days rest after a brutal showdown against one of the NFL's best... L

Week 14 @ Miami
And then the rebound game. There really isn't much that stands out for the Dolphins. Their offense is underwhelming in basically every possible way, and
the defense is solid, but features few game-changers. With 10 days off between games, the Eagles will be extra fresh for this game, and unless Miami can find a way to come up with some big plays, the Birds should pull away. W

Week 15 v New York Jets
The number one thing with the Jets is their defense is not quite as great as its reputation. They were flat out dominant in '09, but came back to earth last season. They still have a scary secondary, headlined by CB Darrelle Revis, but they are a little soft up front after DT Kris Jenkins' retirement, and lacking a dangerous pass rush specialist. Offensively, they'll have success on the ground, but Mark Sanchez is their quarterback. Unless he drastically improves, it could be a big day for Philly defensive backs. W

Week 16 @ Dallas
With the Giants and Redskins looking very much like they will be out of the picture by, oh, let's say November, the Cowboys could step up and become the number one competition to the Eagles in the NFC East. And with Philly potentially in the mix for a post-season bye, and Dallas reaching for a playoff spot of their own, look for them to pull out all the stops in this one. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will do his best to confuse Vick, who at this point is still prone to laying the occasional egg, and Big D gets a much needed win to stay alive. L

Week 17 v Washington
Whether this game matters to the Eagles or not... doesn't matter. By this time, the Mike Shanahan experiment will be on the way out, as the Redskins will have nothing to play for but pride. And at many positions, the Birds are so deep, their backups could probably beat a lot of the lesser teams out there... like Washington! Eagles roll no matter what it means in the standings. W

Post-season
Ever since the Eagles' shopping spree this off-season, people have been approaching me to ask whether I think they will win the Super Bowl. If you've been reading long enough, you know I don't think things work that way.

Too much can happen between now and the playoffs, in a sport where the final score can be determined by one unlucky bounce, or one great individual effort. Part of winning a championship, obviously, is having a quality team. The other parts are being fortunate and timely.

My answer is, they will be there at the end. Maybe not the Super Bowl, maybe not even the NFC Championship, depending on who they draw. They are certainly a team to put on the watch-list though, one that the rest of the NFC will not want to see along the road to Indianapolis.

When the games are kicking off in September, 11-5 and a true contender are all you can ask. How do you see them finishing this season?

Flyers' loss changes complexion after questionable penalty on Radko Gudas

Flyers' loss changes complexion after questionable penalty on Radko Gudas

There are good penalties. And bad penalties. And penalties which aren’t even penalties.

The last one would perfectly describe Radko Gudas’ hip check on Miles Wood that was whistled as clipping by referee Dan O’Halloran in the second period.

Even Wood was laughing as Gudas went to the box, realizing what a break he had gotten – a power play for nothing.

“He’s a pretty quick D-man,” Wood said. “I don’t think it should have been a call, but it was a good hit by him.”

That gave the Devils a power play. Then, when Wayne Simmond argued the call with O'Halloran, Simmonds drew two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. The resulting 5-on-3 New Jersey power play saw the Devils score to break a 1-1 tie.

Minutes later, the Flyers had a bad line change and it was 3-1. Game over. The Devils would go on to win, 4-1 (see game story).

Bottom line? The Gudas call changed everything.

“I was really surprised,” Gudas said. “I didn’t think it was a penalty at all.”

Is this oversimplifying the game to say everything changed with that one call?

“Are we really simplifying it?” Gudas asked. “I think that after those calls we have to get together as a group and make sure we kill these off. Unfortunately, we let them score on that power play. It was just unlucky.”

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol called it “an excellent hit” by Gudas. He wouldn’t go deeper than that.

The six muffed power plays gave him enough reason to believe the Flyers could have gotten back in it. His Flyers are 3-9-3 since winning 10 games.

You can’t underestimate how those two calls turned the tables on the Flyers in this game.

“Everyone has their own opinion on the hit and we were obviously frustrated on the hit,” Travis Konecny said. “We thought it was a clean hit and we reacted to it. We have everyone’s backs.

“We have all had the one’s where we are angry with the ref and the one who made a hit like that. There is a time for that moment there.”

Goalie Michal Neuvirth thought it was a difference maker.

“Oh, absolutely, we were playing better in the second period,” he said. “I thought we had a momentum. You know stuff like that 5-on-3 for two minutes, it’s tough to defend.

“I think it’s taking way too many penalties lately and you got to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders are on quite a nice roll.

Anders Lee scored two power-play goals to lead the Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, giving New York its third straight win and fourth in the last five games.

"We've been keeping it simple of late," said Lee, who has four goals in two games against the Kings this season. "We've been getting shots on net and being more effective. I'll do my thing down low."

John Tavares had a goal and an assist, Jason Chimera also scored and Jean-Francois Berube stopped 34 shots to earn his first win in his third start of the season (see full recap).

Hartnell snaps tie as Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blue Jackets would just as soon forget the second period of Saturday's game, when the Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie it.

Columbus didn't play much better in the third but withstood 15 shots and killed three penalties. Midway through, Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the game , and the Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2.

Columbus got the win despite being outshot 37-20.

Hartnell scored in the first period and then netted the tiebreaker, helping the Blue Jackets overcome a horrendous second period - in which they managed only two shots on goal - to beat Carolina for the second time this week (see full recap).

Beagle scores in overtime, Capitals beat Stars 4-3
DALLAS -- Jay Beagle scored 19 seconds into overtime and the Washington Capitals rallied to beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 on Saturday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov skated behind the net and put the puck in front to Beagle. His wrist shot beat goalie Kari Lehtonen, who got tangled with a defender and lost his footing.

The Stars led 3-1 and didn't allow Washington a power play until the third period, but then Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie scored with the man advantage in the first 5:26 of the period.

Adam Cracknell and Jamie Benn scored for Dallas on plays that originally were ruled no goal. Patrick Eaves had a goal and an assist for the Stars (see full recap).

Bogosian scores in overtime, Sabres edge Canadiens 3-2
MONTREAL -- The Sabres couldn't score from in close on All-Star goalie Carey Price late in regulation Saturday night.

So Zach Bogosian teed it up from a ways out in overtime to lift Buffalo.

Bogosian scored his first goal of the season in overtime and the Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in the second game of a back-to-back for both teams.

Buffalo nearly broke through against Price near the end of the third period. Price made a pad save on Matt Moulson on a breakaway at 19:40, and then with six seconds remaining, he robbed Rasmus Ristolainen with a windmill glove save (see full recap).