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Eagle Eye: Eagles-Raiders predictions
Nick Foles, Billy Davis and the Eagles take on the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. (AP)
1. It will be fascinating to see how Nick Foles responds Sunday to one of the worst games we’ve ever seen a quarterback play. Foles said all the right stuff during the week -- “One game won’t define me,” etc. He carried himself with poise and confidence and all that, but until he gets out there Sunday afternoon in a hostile environment and plays, it’s impossible to really know what Foles is all about. This is a defining moment for the 24-year-old from Arizona. Was the Dallas game really an aberration? If he plays well, put his name back in the hat for the quarterback mix moving forward. If this is a repeat of Dallas? Throw him on the pile next to Kevin Kolb, Bobby Hoying and Ty Detmer.
2. Before Billy Davis said, “Trust me,” the Eagles’ defense allowed 28 points per game. Since Billy Davis said, “Trust me,” the Eagles’ defense has allowed 18 points per game. I really like what Davis has brought to this team. I know his history. I know he hasn’t had tremendous defenses with other teams. But all I can go by is what I see, and I see a unit that battles every game, every snap. They don’t have a ton of talent, although I do like their young defensive linemen, but he’s found a way to get them to play sound, fundamental, team football. They’re physical, they tackle well, they don’t give up big plays, they stop the run. Heck, he even has Nate Allen playing well. Very impressed with Davis -- and with his position coaches.
3. Speaking of Davis, I got more than 100 tweets the first month of the season from people who seriously believed the Eagles should fire him. They’re on my timeline. You can find them. I know it’s hard, but sometimes you just have to give people some time. You just have to have some patience. New staff. New scheme. New players. New everything. You can’t just go around firing people when things don’t go well for a few weeks. You try to build the right way, and you look for progress. And when you see it, you know you’re on the right track.
4. Six-hour flight, and the guy across from me brought nothing. No book, no music, no crossword puzzle. He’s sitting there reading the SkyMall catalogue for the 36th time.
5. Here’s what I think of tanking, whether we’re talking about the 76ers trying to get in lottery position or the Eagles trying to have the best possible position to draft a quarterback: Winning is better than losing. Always. The benefits of building a winning culture far outweigh the benefits of landing some ballyhooed 20- or 21-year-old who may or may not become a stud. I remember sitting at John Harbaugh’s press conference the day he was hired as head coach of the Ravens, and he must have been asked 20 times who his quarterback would be. Remember, this was a couple months before the Ravens drafted Joe Flacco. He answered the same way each time. We’ll play hard, we’ll play smart, we’ll be physical, we’ll be disciplined, and we’ll find somebody to play quarterback, and we’ll win games. The message was clear. Without a winning culture and 53 guys with character all pulling in the same direction, it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is. I simply can’t root for a team I love to lose. If the 76ers go on to win 30 games and wind up missing out on all the supposed studs in the draft? I’ll take my chances with Brett Brown coaching Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams, the Pelicans’ 2014 pick, whoever the Sixers draft in the first round and whatever supporting cast Sam Hinkie puts around them. Losing every game is no guarantee the 76ers will pick first, and there’s no guarantee Andrew Wiggins will be a stud. The Sixers could lose every game, it doesn’t mean they’re going to win a championship. So I’ll take winning over losing. Every time.
6. That’s why Wednesday night was such a magical night at the Wells Fargo Center. Anybody who expected to see the 76ers just lay down for the mighty Heat had to be stunned to see these young kids running LeBron and his teammates off the court. That’s the sign of a tremendous coach. And then they back it up with a win at Washington. That’s your first-place 76ers.
7. Halloween. I just don’t get it. Grown men and women in costumes. It just weirds me out.
8. If you haven’t read them already, check out Geoff Mosher’s stories on CSNPhilly.com from his 1-on-1 interview with Eagles owner Jeff Lurie (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV). Very interesting stuff in there.
9. Hard to believe it’ll be 20 years this April since Lurie bought the Eagles from Norman Braman. Whatever you think of Lurie, he’s a tremendous owner, and he’s spared no expense to try and build a championship team. Lurie isn’t the one who drafted Danny Watkins, Jerome McDougle and Freddie Mitchell in the first round. Lurie isn’t the one who signed Nnamdi Asomugha, Dhani Jones and Demetress Bell to huge contracts. Lurie has done everything he could possibly have done to support the people making the football decisions over the years, and they’ve come up short. He got a stadium built, got a practice facility built, put everything in place. Not sure what else he could have done as an owner.
10. I love listening to Big Daddy Graham on the radio. Especially when he goes off on ridiculous random tangents.
11. My brother Alan lives outside Boston. He's a Red Sox season ticket holder. So when he called last week and said he had a ticket for Game 2 of the World Series, how could I say no? Once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I had a blast up there. But … the atmosphere at Fenway was nowhere close to what I experienced during the Phillies’ playoff runs from 2007 through 2011 at Citizens Bank Park. There was an electricity, an explosiveness, those nights at Phillies playoff games. Like the stadium could barely contain the energy. We all felt it. At Fenway? Yeah, it was exciting. The fans cheered when good things happened, they were sad when bad things happened, and they sang their little Neil Diamond song when they were supposed to. But that was it. The vibe was nowhere close to the experience at Citizens Bank Park during the run. Maybe the Boston fans are spoiled from all their championships but for whatever reason, Fenway just couldn’t come close to the atmosphere in Philly.
12. Walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on Friday, and gazing out over Alcatraz, it’s impossible not to think … “How did those dudes escape from that place?”
13. Why is there a West Philly but no East Philly? If West Philly starts at the Schuylkill, wouldn’t Center City be East Philly? Or maybe east of Broad Street? Somebody needs to get to the bottom of this!
14. And why is there a Market East train station but no Market West? Why isn’t Suburban Station Market West? It’s on Market Street, and it’s West of Market East.
15. Meanwhile in Carolina, Sean McDermott’s defense has allowed eight touchdowns in seven games.
16. I often wonder how much would have changed if Andy Reid had kept McDermott as defensive coordinator after 2010 and not replaced him with Juan Castillo. Of all the questionable moves Andy made his last few years here, that was the most bizarre and really played a major role in sending the franchise spiraling downward. We’re all seeing now what kind of defensive mind McDermott is. He’s a true Jim Johnson disciple, and that’s never a bad thing.
17. Here are the 10 best concerts I’ve seen so far this year (including each artist just once): 1. Joseph Arthur, City Winery, 2. Rhett Miller and Joe Pernice, City Winery, 3. Fleetwood Mac, Wells Fargo Center, 4. Iron and Wine, Union Transfer, 5. Matt Keating, Zirzamin, 6. Free Energy, World Café Live, 7. They Might Be Giants, World Café Live, 8. Tommy Keene, Sellersville Theater, 9. Southside Johnny, World Café Live, 10. Rose Windows, World Café Live.
18. The following is a special guest Random Point by CSNPhilly.com hockey writer Sarah Baicker: Fighting belongs in hockey. But there is a difference between a typical hockey fight and what transpired on the ice at the Wells Fargo Center Friday night between Flyers goalie Ray Emery and Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. Fighting keeps hockey players honest -- the threat of the fight, in theory, keeps most players from throwing a dirty hit they might have to pay for later. But what Emery did had nothing to do with standing up for his team or his teammates. Emery took out weeks of frustration on Holtby, who had made it clear he did not want to fight. That kind of attack is what gives the sport a bad name -- and keeps it as a niche (see story).
19. Who would your Eagles MVPs be halfway through the season? I’d go with Cedric Thornton on defense, LeSean McCoy on offense and Donnie Jones on special teams.
20. Most disappointing? Probably Trent Cole on defense, Todd Herremans on offense and Damaris Johnson on special teams.
21. If the Chiefs beat the Bills on Sunday -- and I kind of think they won’t -- Reid will have matched the longest winning streak he ever had with the Eagles. Before his first loss.
22. Oakland Alamada County Coliseum -- now called O.co Coliseum -- is the site of Randall Cunningham’s final start as an Eagle. Do you remember it? It was Week 4 in 1995. The Eagles went up 17-0 in the first quarter on a TD run by Charlie Garner, a Gary Anderson field goal and a long fumble return by Greg Jackson. But by halftime, the game was tied, and Ray Rhodes benched a struggling Cunningham for Rodney Peete. The Raiders went on to win 48-17, and that remains the only game in NFL history where a team that led by 17 or more points after the first quarter lost by 30 or more points. The Eagles fell to 1-3 that day but went to New Orleans a week later and won in Peete’s first start as an Eagle. I remember Rodney after the game standing in the tunnel at the Superdome and telling us that he once played a college baseball game in the Superdome when he was at USC and maybe he was the first guy to win both a college baseball game and NFL game in that stadium. The Eagles won four straight and seven of eight under Peete and roared to the playoffs, where Peete beat the Lions in a wild-card game. A week later Cunningham was forced to play in a playoff game, an ugly loss in Dallas, that he hadn’t prepared for since his first child was born that week, and he left practice in Vero Beach, Fla., to be in Las Vegas with his family. And left his playbook behind. Cunningham wouldn’t start another game for almost two years, late in the 1997 season when he was with the Vikings. And Peete remains one of only five quarterbacks in the last 50 years to win a playoff game in an Eagles uniform. And it all started right here in Oakland!
23. The following is a special guest Random Point by CSNPhilly.com Pearl Jam writer Sarah Baicker: Less than a week ago, I saw Pearl Jam five times in 10 days (and four times in five days), and you know what? The band still rocks. I don't care what Roob says (actually, I do, but he's been kind enough not to make fun of me for my love of Pearl Jam), but the band can still rock more than 20 years after their first record. Don't scoff at me -- instead, go back and read the 1993 Rolling Stone cover story about the band, and then listen to a couple old-school PJ tracks on iTunes ... you'll get it, too.
24. I still can’t get over the fact that the Athletics remain the winningest team in Philadelphia sports history with five World Series championships. Nearly 60 years after they moved!
25. And I can’t get over the fact that Boston now has more championships since 2001 (eight) than Philly has since 1950 (seven). That just shouldn’t be possible.