With or Without Vick, Eagles-Browns a Week 1 Preview of Sorts

With or Without Vick, Eagles-Browns a Week 1 Preview of Sorts

As you've likely heard, Michael Vick will sit out tonight's exhibition game in Cleveland following Monday's scare, and there seems to be some dissent over whether he will be ready for the regular season opener. Andy Reid expects his quarterback to be ready for kickoff in two weeks, but according to Reuben Frank, Vick makes it sound less than certain. While Reid has been caught in fibs in the past, we're banking on a little gamesmanship on the quarterback's part.

Either way, it means Nick Foles has gained the opportunity to enhance his legend by making his first start against the Browns -- and this time we'll see how he fares against a first-string defense. Who knows, if Vick really is hurt worse than Reid is letting on, this could be the rookie's audition to get the ball in Week 1.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns plan to play their starters the entire first half. If Foles conducts himself well for a third-consecutive game, he just might jump Mike Kafka on the depth chart officially. It's still preseason, and these teams meet again to open the schedule, so he still won't see quite the wrinkles he would if it were September 9, but it's yet another test for the Canton-bound 23 year old (I kid, I kid).

Besides Vick, the Eagles starters should play about a quarter as well. That's good news for Foles, who must continue to prove himself out there, but it's also an opportunity for the defense to vindicate themselves somewhat. Juan Castillo and his unit have been knocked around by critics already this season, which is not all that unreasonable given the results thus far. If they get diced up by rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, there will be full-scale panic.

What we really need to see out of the defense are two things: fewer penalties and more stops on third down. The third down issue is more troubling, and harder to explain. As individuals, plenty of players have stood out with strong preseasons, but collectively, there always seems to be a breakdown when it's time to pin the offense to the mat. The issues seem to go hand-in-hand though, as penalties have already produced first downs for the opponent three times in very limited action.

Speaking of limited action, it's worth repeating that the starters should only play one quarter, this preseason winding down slightly earlier than normal. Of note, fifth-round pick Dennis Kelly will be at right tackle in place of Todd Herremans, who is out for personal reasons.

Otherwise there are some interesting position battles brewing. King Dunlap seems to have a choke hold on the left tackle spot for now, but may be walking a fine line there. Fourth rounder Brandon Boykin replaced Joselio Hanson at nickel corner last week. Bryce Brown is raising some eyebrows carrying the football. Does Jaiquawn Jarrett make this team? Is there a roster spot for Damaris Johnson at wide receiver?

But I think what everyone really wants to know is, limited or not, will we see a team that appears ready to play meaningful football?

Best of NBA: Curry, Warriors demolish Cavaliers, 126-91, at home

Best of NBA: Curry, Warriors demolish Cavaliers, 126-91, at home

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors certainly looked ready to trade some more blows with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers come June.

The two-time reigning MVP hit five 3-pointers and had 20 points while matching his season best with 11 assists in Golden State's 126-91 rout of the defending champs Monday.

Klay Thompson scored 26 points with five 3s, and Curry made four steals. Draymond Green produced his third triple-double of the season with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists while matching his career best with five blocks -- and had another dustup with King James in the process.

James had 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting and eight rebounds, and he and Green became the talk once more as their relationship turned even more testy.

Kevin Durant added 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and three blocks for the Warriors in a much-hyped matchup merely weeks after Golden State lost 109-108 in Cleveland on Christmas (see full recap).

Thomas explodes for 17 in fourth quarter to lift Celtics over Hornets
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas scored 17 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, and the surging Boston Celtics beat the Charlotte Hornets 108-98 on Monday night for their ninth victory in 11games.

It was Thomas' 25th straight game with 20 or more points. He's been putting up big final quarters of late -- scoring 20 or more three times this season. No other NBA player had done it more than once entering Monday.

Al Horford had 22 points, while Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder added 15 apiece for Boston, which has won all three meetings with Charlotte this season.

Kemba Walker scored 24 points and Marvin Williams 21 for the Hornets, who lost their fifth straight -- all on the road.

Thomas scored 13 straight points, pushing Boston ahead 93-83 with his 3-pointer from the left wing with 7 minutes left.

Boston led 80-71 entering the final period (see full recap).

Wizards remain hot with win over Trail Blazers
WASHINGTON  -- Bradley Beal scored 25 points and John Wall had 24 as the Washington Wizards took a page from the Portland Trail Blazers' playbook by hitting 13 3-pointers in a comfortable 120-101 victory on Monday afternoon.

The Wizards, who rely less on the 3-pointer than almost any NBA team, were 13 of 23 from beyond the arc in their 12th consecutive home victory. The 3-pointer-heavy Trail Blazers shot 8 of 26 on 3-point attempts.

After Washington coach Scott Brooks called Portland guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum as good as any backcourt in the league, Beal and John Wall outplayed them. Lillard led the Blazers with 22 points and McCollum had 12, but they combined to shoot 11 of 29 from the floor.

The Wizards have won four of their last five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored 34 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins ended the Washington Capitals' nine-game winning streak with a wild 8-7 victory Monday night that included nine second-period goals.

Sheary had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Evgeni Malkin picked up his 11th career hat trick during a frenetic second period, and Sidney Crosby collected his NHL-leading 27th goal to go with two assists. Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray got the win despite allowing seven goals on 28 shots.

The Penguins trailed 3-0 before scoring six goals in less than 11 minutes in the second period, more goals than the Capitals had allowed in a game all season. Pittsburgh led 6-5 after 40 minutes.

Lars Eller scored twice for Washington, and T.J. Oshie, Brett Connolly, Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky also found the net. Philipp Grubauer made eight saves after coming on in relief of Braden Holtby, who was pulled during Pittsburgh's second-period deluge (see full recap).

Eichel scores twice to give Sabres' 4-1 win over Stars
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored two goals and the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Monday.

Tyler Ennis scored 19 seconds into the first period. Ennis returned after missing 30 games with a groin injury that required surgery.

Jake McCabe also had a goal and Robin Lehner made 31 saves after missing the past three games with an illness.

The Sabres snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Stars for the first time in four matchups.

Radek Faksa scored for the Stars in the opener of a three-game road trip. Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 shots. Dallas has lost two in a row and six of eight (see full recap).

Bishop anchors Lightning to 2-1 win over Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brian Boyle scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period, and the Tampa Bay Lightning opened a six-game road trip with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

Ben Bishop made an early mistake that led to Kyle Clifford's goal for the Kings, but bounced back to make 31 saves in his second start back from a three-week absence with a lower-body injury.

Tyler Johnson scored in the first period for the Lightning, who won for just the second time in seven games.

Peter Budaj stopped 27 shots for the Kings.

Both teams played without stars due to illness. Kings captain Anze Kopitar missed his first game since Nov. 20, and All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman missed his first game of the season for Tampa Bay (see full recap).