The time Michael Vick outdueled Peyton Manning

The time Michael Vick outdueled Peyton Manning

A lot of us—myself included—are just about ready to chalk up the Eagles’ trip to Denver this Sunday as another loss. The Birds have their share of flaws, but Peyton Manning has been simply masterful so far this season. You could argue he’s never been surrounded by so much talent before in his 16-year career, and it shows in the numbers.

After last night’s demolition of the Oakland Raiders—in which Manning completed 32 of 37 pass attempts—Manning has now thrown for 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns with a 134.7 efficiency rating. All of those numbers are on pace to shatter NFL records.

I don’t envy Bill Davis. Philadelphia’s defensive coordinator is tasked with stopping the league’s No. 1 offense this week, a unit that includes Pro Bowlers Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker, another 1,000-yard receiver in Eric Decker, and emerging playmaker Julius Thomas as tight end. Oh yeah, and the Broncos can run the ball a little bit too—they’re ranked 14th.

Lucky for Davis, the Eagles have the No. 2 offense in the NFL, not to mention a few guys who know what it takes to outscore Professor Manning. Back in 2010, the Eagles defeated the Indianapolis Colts 26-24 at Lincoln Financial Field, at a time when Michael Vick was in the midst of a career renaissance, and LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson were still just beginning to make names for themselves.

The Colts leaned heavily on Manning that day, as the future Hall of Famer completed 31 of 51 tries for 294 yards and a score, but it was not enough.

Hosting Indy at the Linc in November after coming off of a bye, Vick was 17-for-29 with 218 yards and a touchdown pass, plus went for an additional 74 yards and a score on the ground. Shady went  for 95 on 16 carries, while DJacc hauled in seven receptions for 109 and reached paydirt.

After the victory, we wondered whether or not it would be a defining moment for that Eagles squad.

We might look back at this W somewhere down the road with a deeper appreciation for how it impacted this season. They lasted four quarters with the reigning AFC Champions, a perennial powerhouse featuring several of the top players in NFL history, and despite almost every conceivable break going for the other side, the Birds amazingly came away the better team for one day.

Of course, the real hero that day might’ve been Asante Samuel, who picked off Manning twice. And Manning wasn’t spinning it to Welker, Decker or Thomas & Thomas—besides Reggie Wayne, his primary targets that day were Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Jacob Tamme.

With their level of talent, I don’t think it’s silly at all to suggest Denver has a long shot to run the table this year. I’m talking 16-0.

There is one similarity though, the fact that the Eagles once again have extra time to prepare for Doctor Manning’s surgical procedure. The Broncos will be playing on a short week after their Monday night game, while the Eagles are heading to Denver on 10 days rest. This tidbit did not elude one of the great minds in NFL history.

The moral of the story is anything could happen this Sunday. The Broncos no doubt will have their guns loaded, and there’s no such thing as shutting down Manning—best you can hope for is limiting him. I don’t recall many people giving the Eagles much of a chance in 2010 though, but Vick and co. managed to surprise the Colts. Anyone believe they’re poised to do it again?

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Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

ATLANTA — The Phillies entered Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves — No. 157 of 162 — ranked last in the majors in runs scored (591) and were hanging out near the bottom in a slew of other important offensive categories.
 
The stat sheet says the Phillies need more offense.
 
So does the manager.
 
Pete Mackanin plans to make his case for adding a bat this winter – the best fit would be in the outfield – in an end-of-season meeting with the front office Friday at Citizens Bank Park.
 
“Basically, having talked to the rest of the coaching staff, we’re all pretty much in agreement with what our needs are,” Mackanin said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m anxious to hear from (general manager) Matt Klentak and from (president) Andy MacPhail and if there’s an owner there. We’d like to hear what they have to say. We’re pretty much in agreement on a lot of what we need.
 
“I, for one, think we need at least one hitter that gives you quality at-bats.”
 
There could be hurdles in adding a bat. Money is not one of them. All of the team’s big contracts will be gone when Ryan Howard rides off into the sunset on Sunday. The team that spent over a half-billion in salaries from 2012 to 2014 (and missed the playoffs each time) has plenty of money and has vowed to spend it in due time. But that time might not arrive until team leaders believe the club has built a nucleus that would benefit from the signing of a "finishing" talent or two. The team is committed to building that nucleus from within, and there lies the potential hurdle in adding the difference-making bat that Mackanin craves. Building from within requires eventually giving players from the system an opportunity to prove themselves and grow at the major-league level. The front office, still very much committed to a rebuild, will be cognizant of blocking those players and their opportunities. Klentak has said as much on several occasions this year.
 
Even Mackanin acknowledged that the situation is a Catch-22.
 
“I know I don’t want to block a prospect that has a chance to be a big part of it,” he said.
 
“But at the same time, I think by having one guy in the middle of the lineup or somewhere in the lineup that can take a little pressure off (Maikel) Franco and (Odubel) Herrera and the rest of them could do wonders. You look at when (Matt) Kemp joined the Braves. They all went off. They’re all hitting. They’ve scored more runs than anybody, I think, since the All-Star break. Last year, with (Yoenis) Cespedes, he joined the Mets and all of a sudden they all started hitting.
 
“I will give those examples. I feel that’s important.”
 
A number of outfield bats will be on the free-agent market this winter. Cespedes could be there if he opts out of his contract with the Mets, but he’s not likely to be interested in joining a rebuilding team and the Phillies are unlikely to want the long-term commitment a player like that would require. Dexter Fowler and Matt Holiday could be free agents if their options for 2017 are not exercised. Ian Desmond will be out there, but the Rangers will probably look to retain him. Jose Bautista, Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Colby Rasmus will also be out there. Martin Prado is the type of “professional hitter” that would appeal to Mackanin, but he agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Miami Marlins on Tuesday.