Take a hike, Tom Brady: Eagles' Week 16 matchup with the Bears flexed to Sunday night

Take a hike, Tom Brady: Eagles' Week 16 matchup with the Bears flexed to Sunday night

If you are active on twitter, you may already know this since almost every single person in the history of twitter sent a tweet about this earlier this afternoon.  But for those of you who are social media-impaired – much like my father, who still doesn’t get the whole “tweeter” thing – there was some news today regarding the Eagles’ schedule.

The NFC East-leading Birds – damn, that feels good to say – and their Week 16 matchup with the Bears on Dec. 22 at the Linc has been flexed from a 1 p.m. start time to the NBC national slot at 8:30 p.m.

It’s an interesting choice by the folks over at NBC considering that the originally scheduled Sunday night game that week was Patriots at Ravens, a game chock-full of both high-profile stars and likely playoff implications.

The Patriots currently lead the AFC East with a 10-3 record, are fighting for a first-round bye and have some guy named Tom Brady as their quarterback. The Ravens currently hold the last AFC Wild Card slot with a 7-6 record, are the defending Super Bowl champions, and have national appeal. The teams would have drawn a great rating.

That game has been moved to the 4:25 p.m. start time.

All this proves is that Eagles – the hottest team in the NFL with their five-game win streak – are a sexy team in the eyes of network executives, and for good reason.

They have the NFL’s leading rusher in LeSean McCoy, a red-hot quarterback in Nick Foles, dynamic receivers in DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper, a solid defense anchored by linebacker Connor Barwin, all led by evil genius head coach Chip Kelly.

Long story short, they are a team people want to see right now.

And people outside of this area haven’t seen them much because the Birds have only played in primetime twice this season. They hung on to beat Washington, 33-27, on Monday night in Week 1 during Kelly’s debut. They put us to sleep two weeks later with a 26-16 loss to the Chiefs on a Thursday night in Andy Reid ‘s return to Philadelphia.

Now, the entire country will get a chance to see the high-flying juggernaut that the Eagles have become and in an important game, too. The Eagles could have chance to wrap up the NFC East and a playoff spot that night if everything goes according to the master plan. Monster receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall and the rest of the Bears will still be in the thick of the muddled NFC North race.

Since the Sunday night package went to NBC at the start of the 2006 season, the Eagles have been featured in that slot 18 times and have an 8-10 record in those games.

Two of those games were against the Bears and both were at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Bears won, 24-20, on Sept. 28, 2008 and the Eagles won, 24-20, on Nov. 22, 2009.

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.