Will Sunday's Eagles Game Even Matter By Kickoff?

Will Sunday's Eagles Game Even Matter By Kickoff?

As you know, the Birds technically have a shot at sneaking into the postseason, though surely nobody is counting on it. However, if neither the Giants or Cowboys make it to nine wins, and the Eagles win out (there's the kicker), they would win the NFC East at 8-8 by virtue of a 5-1 record in the division.

That scenario is highly improbable with New York and Dallas already sitting at 7-6, and three games left to play. Further complicating the matter is the fact that they go head to head one more time in the final game of the season, which means if they both win this week, the Eagles' season is all but officially over. At that point, one of those two clubs can wind up with no fewer than the requisite nine.*

Dallas heads to Tampa Bay on Saturday night, and the Giants take on the Redskins at 1 p.m. on Sunday. By the time the coin toss is held at 4:15 at the Linc, there might not be a whole lot left to play for.

*If you're wondering how a tie would factor in, 8-7-1 is still better than 8-8.

And while I'm completely confident both the Giants and Cowboys are capable of losing to just about anyone, both have very favorable match-ups this weekend.

Tampa is mired in an absolute free fall, having lost seven in a row. Their head coach is on the verge of being fired, and only the Colts and Rams have worse point differentials than the Bucs' -138. It's a road game for Dallas, but that seems to be their only disadvantage.

New York will have their hands full with a division rival, even if it is only Washington. The Skins actually defeated the Giants 28-14 all the way back in Week 1, and they've been a tough team to beat all season. The game is at the Meadowlands though, so the crowd is gonna be into it.

If somehow one or both of them lose, the Eagles' chances only stand to improve. All three teams will be in action on Christmas Eve -- the Giants get a difficult opponent in the Jets, while Philadelphia would control its own destiny to an extent versus the Cowboys.

But clearly the playoff picture might not devolve to that point. If the Cowboys and Giants take care of business this weekend, the Eagles' Sunday afternoon game against the Jets could be utterly meaningless. Should that come to pass, who knows what kind of effort we will get, but that game could get real, real ugly.

Unless, of course, they are chasing the even more remote possibility of a wild card berth. A Lions win over the Raiders would also end their season, but that game doesn't start until 4:05. The wild card is an even greater long shot anyway. Plenty of pieces still need to fall into place for the Eagles to have a legitimate chance at securing the sixth seed in the NFC.

As we've been saying for months, the Eagles' best opportunity to get in lies in the division championship.

What's going to happen? Rooting for a Christmas miracle, or eager to be put of your misery?

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”