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?

Drexel alum Ken Tribbett enjoys 'special' week for Union

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Drexel alum Ken Tribbett enjoys 'special' week for Union

CHESTER, Pa. — For more than a month, Union center back Ken Tribbett waited patiently on the sidelines, hoping to get the starting spot back that he had and then lost.

Last week, he indeed got back on the field … and then some.

After Joshua Yaro separated his shoulder in Orlando on Wednesday, Tribbett proceeded to notch his first MLS goal and assist, before playing the full 90 minutes in front of 30 family members in his home state of Colorado on Saturday.

It was quite the eventful week for someone who wasn’t expected to play at all during the road trip, let alone accomplish a couple of emotional milestones.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Tribbett told reporters from Tuesday’s training session after the Union returned home following hard-fought road draws vs. Orlando City SC and the Colorado Rapids. “For me, being out a month, mentally I had to make sure I stayed tuned in. And when I got my chance, I stepped in and was ready to go.”

Even if you are mentally prepared, it’s still not an easy thing to step in at center back in the middle of a game, considering that’s a position that rarely gets changed. Making things even more difficult was the fact that Yaro, who took over starting duties after Tribbett rolled his ankle in April, had been looking every bit like the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft.

“Josh was playing a great game in Orlando,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “If you go back and watch the tape, he was one of our top performers. Ken stepped in at the end of the first half, which is challenging at center back — not a position you like to sub at all. But Ken came in pretty seamlessly and got the goal, which is a bonus, obviously.”

You can call it a really big bonus.

Tribbett was never expected to even be in MLS this year after failing to get much notice following a standout career at Drexel.

And he certainly wasn’t expected to log much playing time this season with the Union, who added Yaro and Anderson, a Brazilian, to a position that already featured a rising star in Richie Marquez.

So surprises are nothing new for Tribbett, who started the first five games of the year after soaring up the depth chart in the preseason and now has a goal to add to his unlikely MLS resume.

But it’s no surprise to him.

“I don’t think shock is the right word because I expect a lot of myself and I expect to score a couple of goals this year,” Tribbett said. “So it was just more relief to get the first one out of the way. Any time you score, it’s jubilation, so that was awesome. And to tie the game in Orlando after going down 2-1 was really good for the team, so everything about it was just a special moment.”

Tribbett, who also had a secondary assist in Orlando, enjoyed another “special moment” just three days later when he got to play in the Denver area where he grew up. That was not something he could have imagined after his circuitous journey took him from Colorado to Drexel to the USL’s Harrisburg City Islanders and now to the Union.

“That was probably a moment I won’t ever forget,” Tribbett said. “I had about 20 or 30 family members there, and for a lot of them it was the first time they’ve seen me play professionally. So being back home in Colorado was a special feeling.”

Although the Union backline stayed organized and surrendered only a couple of shots on target in Colorado, Curtin did say it wasn’t the best performance from Tribbett. But the Union coach is ready to lean on him again for Wednesday’s game vs. the Columbus Crew at Talen Energy Stadium (7 p.m./TCN) while Yaro gets an MRI on his shoulder.

“He did fatigue at the end and I talked to him about it,” Curtin said of Tribbett. “He had a couple of little mistakes toward the end of the game. Part of that is your legs starting to fade. But it’s good for him that’s under his belt. He’ll be ready to go now [Wednesday] for the full 90 minutes.”

With the Union idle for two weeks following Wednesday’s game because of a Copa America layoff — and Tribbett’s place in the lineup uncertain from there — the Drexel alum is certainly excited to get back on the field for his first home game since April 8.

“It’s a very important game,” Tribbett said. “We want to go into the break with certain goals for ourselves. We want to be at the top of the conference, and if we win, we’ll achieve that goal. We want to keep one goal per game [allowed]. Right now, we’re one off that, so if we get a shutout tomorrow, we’ll be right back on track.”

Pete Mackanin sends Cesar Hernandez a message

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The Associated Press

Pete Mackanin sends Cesar Hernandez a message

Pete Mackanin dropped second baseman Cesar Hernandez to eighth in the batting order for Tuesday night’s game against the Washington Nationals.

“If you want to call it a message you can call it a message,” Mackanin said.

Hernandez entered the game hitting .255 with a .616 OPS. Last year, he hit .272 with and .687 OPS.

“I expect more out of him,” Mackanin said. “I think he's a better hitter than he's shown. I think he's a .280 hitter and I think he's at .250. I want to see improvement. We need him to get back up to .280, where I think he belongs. He’s got to make adjustments. We need offense.”

Mackanin pointed to Hernandez’ double-play partner, shortstop Freddy Galvis, as an example of a player who has made improvements.

Galvis entered Tuesday night hitting .257 with a .696 OPS. But in the month of May, he was hitting .277 with a .708 OPS.

“Freddy is starting to come on,” Mackanin said. “He’s starting to make adjustments.”

Galvis has also played excellent defense.

The Phillies are a rebuilding club with a number of potential big-league contributors rounding out their development in the minors. The team’s top prospect is a shortstop – J.P. Crawford – and he’s in Triple A now. It’s not out of the question that he will be the team’s opening day shortstop next season.

Crawford’s eventual ascension impacts both Galvis and Hernandez. Galvis can also play second base. Whether Hernandez or Galvis becomes the second baseman when Crawford arrives could be determined by who hits. This is the time to make impressions.

“That's basically what it boils down to,” Mackanin said. “I've even talked to them about that — 'It's an important year for both of you because there are people who want to be in the big leagues that are in the minor leagues and want to take your job.' You have to approach it that way. You can't let down. You have to stay focused and work hard.”

While all signs point to Crawford taking over at shortstop in the future, Mackanin said Galvis’ defense should not be taken for granted.

“As well as Freddy is playing shortstop, you'd hate to move a guy like that out of that position,” Mackanin said. “It's a defensive position and he's been so good at it.”

Galvis entered Tuesday night with just two errors in 50 games. His .990 fielding percentage trailed only San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford and Detroit’s Jose Iglesias, both .995.

National champion Villanova honored by President Obama

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National champion Villanova honored by President Obama

WASHINGTON — For the most successful senior class in the history of Villanova basketball, Tuesday's trip to the White House was the culmination of a championship season and quite possibly the final time the 2016 National Championship team will be together as one.

President Barack Obama praised their poise, which was epitomized by the final play when Ryan Arcidiacono fed Kris Jenkins for the buzzer-beating, championship-winning three-pointer.

"A lot of teams would have had their spirit broken — the Wildcats, they took control, they responded," Obama said. "And on a play called ' 'Nova,' Kris took a pass from Arch and pulled up a few steps behind the line and shot this team into basketball lore. That was a good shot. It was like Christian Laettner-good. It was like a Jimmy-V-running-up-and-down-the-court shot. Charles Barkley apparently jumped out of his seat, which — (laughter) — he doesn’t do very often these days." 

In what has become customary for a championship team's visit, head coach Jay Wright presented the 44th President of the United States with a Wildcat jersey and the number "44." The Wildcats wore the uniform when they played Oklahoma on Dec. 7 of last year in Obama's home state of Hawaii.

"This was an amazing day for us," Wright said. "We not only presented him with the jersey, but with a picture of him that mirrored Kris Jenkins hitting that game-winning shot, because we've got a lot of respect for him as a great leader."

While gracious as guests at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., it was the Wildcats who spoiled Obama's tournament bracket when they knocked off the president's pre-tournament pick, Kansas, in the Elite Eight on their way to the Final Four. At the time he made his picks back in March, Obama mentioned Wright's Wildcats, telling ESPN, "I know eventually they're going to break through." He just wasn't confident enough to see the 'Cats win it all roughly three and a half weeks later.

Obama on Tuesday confirmed he should have listened to his second-in-command, "Joe (Biden) wanted me to remind you that he picked 'Nova to win it all. This is the type of wise counsel that you are looking for from a vice president. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow his counsel and so my bracket was busted.

Wearing a stars-and-stripes bow tie, junior Josh Hart, who decided last week to return to Villanova for his senior season, attended nearby Sidwell Friends School, where he was a classmate with President Obama's oldest daughter Malia.

"We talked a little, not too much," Hart said. "I try to give her some space. She's busy with senior projects and graduation and stuff."

Now Hart will refocus on guiding Villanova to become the first school since the Florida Gators in 2006-07 to win back-to-back National titles, and with that, a return trip to the White House.