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Eagle Eye: Eagles-Vikings Predictions
Pictured from left to right: Quarterback Nick Foles, running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Riley Cooper. (AP)
It's time for this week's edition of 25 Random Points!
Let's get started:
1. Nick Foles has 20 touchdown passes and one interception.
2. Regarding Random Point No. 1, it’s tough to really grasp exactly how remarkable this is. Whatever happens these next three weeks, barring a historic meltdown, Foles is going to finish with one of the greatest seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. Say he throws six touchdowns and six interceptions in the Eagles’ last four games, which is hard to imagine since he’s thrown three INTs in his last 12 games. But even if he completely falls apart and throws six TDs and six INTs the rest of the way, he’ll still finish with 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions. And only seven quarterbacks in NFL history have done that in a season, including Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre. So even with a complete collapse, Foles has an all-time great season.
3. Did the Phillies sign Jack Morris yet?
4. Whenever some company asks me on the phone for the last four digits of my social security number, I always have to go through my entire SS number in my mind to get to the last four digits. I am clinically unable to isolate the last four digits by themselves. This drives me crazy.
5. LeSean McCoy has a very good chance to earn first-team all-pro status this year, the ultimate individual NFL honor. If he does, he’ll be the Eagles’ first offensive player to win multiple first-team all-pro honors in a career since tight end Keith Jackson from 1988 through 1990.
6. Every time I hear a Sheryl Crow song, I’m astonished anew by just how remarkably awful she is.
7. It’s truly remarkable what Jason Peters has been able to do this year coming off two Achilles surgeries. That’s an injury that a lot of guys never come back from, and at 31 years old, not only has he come back, he’s creeping closer and closer to playing at the all-pro form we’re used to seeing (see story). No offensive lineman has ever been named Comeback Player of the Year, but I can’t think of anybody who’s more deserving.
8. I covered the Fog Bowl in 1988, the Pickle Juice game in 108-degree conditions in 2000 and the Snow Bowl Sunday at the Linc. Sunday’s game reminded me a lot of the 2000 opener in Dallas for one reason: The Eagles simply refused to let the extreme conditions beat them. They didn’t use the snow, cold and poor field conditions as an excuse. They didn’t cry about it. They simply played football, and they got themselves a quality win because of it. The 2000 team was the same way. Before the 2000 opener in Dallas, Hugh Douglas stood up in front of the team and yelled that if he heard one more guy in the locker room complain about the heat he was going to fight him. Hugh screamed: “Bleep the heat! Bleep 108 degrees! Bleep the Dallas Cowboys! Let’s just shut the bleep up and go win this bleeping game!” And they did. Hugh. Freaking Hugh.
9. It’s fascinating that for the last 25 years the Eagles haven’t just had terrific running backs, they’ve always had a terrific receiving back. From Keith Byars to Ricky Watters to Duce Staley to Brian Westbrook to LeSean McCoy, they’ve always had one of the best receiving backs in the league. This has been under five different head coaches and various GMs, even two owners, so there’s obviously no real reason for this. But if you like a versatile back who can make plays running or coming out of the backfield, you’re in the right city. From 1988 through 1992, Byars was second among all NFL backs with 339 receptions (three fewer than John L. Williams). From 1995 through 1997, Watters was fourth among RBs with 161 catches, and from 1998 through 2002, Staley was seventh with 237 receptions, even with all the time he missed with the lisfranc injury. From 2003 through 2008, Westbrook led all NFL backs with 392 receptions (and 28 touchdowns), and since 2009, McCoy is fourth (behind Ray Rice, Darren Sproles and Matt Forte) with 260 catches. Since 1988, Byars, Watters, Westbrook rank fifth, 13th and 14th in the NFL in receptions by running backs, and over the past 10 years, Westbrook and McCoy rank fourth and 10th. And one cool aspect about all this is how these guys overlapped. Watters and Duce were teammates for a year, Duce and Westbrook played together from 2002 through 2003, and Westbrook and McCoy were teammates in 2009. So there’s a lineage from Ricky to Duce to Westbrook to Shady over a 19-year span. Very cool.
10. The best thing about Minneapolis: The Replacements and Hüsker Dü.
11. This could conceivably change, but right now my Eagles MVPs would be Foles on offense, DeMeco Ryans on defense and Donnie Jones on special teams. Why Foles over McCoy? Because it was when he became the starter that the Eagles became a playoff hopeful. He is the single biggest reason the Eagles went from an 1-3 also-ran in early October to an 8-5 division leader and the hottest team in football in mid-December. You can’t argue with 6-1 as a starter. Shady has been brilliant, but Foles turned the season around.
12. Mind-blowing stat No. 1: Over the last eight games, Riley Cooper has more receiving yards (621) and touchdowns (six) than DeSean Jackson (555, 5).
13. And here’s a corollary to that stat: In 19 quarters playing with Vick this year, Cooper has nine catches for 83 yards and one touchdown. In five quarters playing with Matt Barkley, he is 5-for-69 receiving with no TDs. And in 28 quarters with Foles, Cooper is 23 for 562 with six TDs. Based on that, here are Cooper’s projected numbers pro-rating his numbers over a full season with the Eagles’ three quarterbacks:
• With Vick: 30 for 279 with three touchdowns.
•With Barkley: 64 for 883 yards with no touchdowns.
• With Foles: 52 for 1,284 with 13 touchdowns.
14. The Eagles face some interesting decisions at wide receiver, with both Cooper and Jeremy Maclin scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this offseason. The guess here is that the Eagles will re-sign both. I just don’t see teams offering Maclin a big long-term deal coming off a second career knee injury (he had an ACL in college). Maybe Andy Reid will, Maclin being a favorite of his and a Missouri graduate. But if I had to guess, I’d guess they’ll sign Cooper to a long-term deal and Maclin to a one-year deal. Who plays the slot? Jason Avant’s numbers, in contrast to Cooper’s, have plummeted since Foles replaced Vick -- he was 18 for 233 in six games Vick started and 11 for 103 in the seven games Foles has started -- and at 30 years old and in his eighth season, you wonder how much longer he has. Avant remains a tremendous leader and locker-room presence and is still a great blocker down the field. But the Eagles may want somebody more productive in the slot. Cooper and Maclin are both primarily outside guys, but Maclin probably could be a decent slot. So maybe that’s the route they go. Cut ties with Avant, bring back Maclin on a one-year make-good deal to play the slot, stick with Jackson and Cooper outside, and then draft a receiver in the second or third round.
15. This is a note to people who go to concerts. Specifically, concerts in small, intimate venues. Especially the people who went to see Joseph Arthur at the Sellersville Theater and were sitting in Row G, seats 4, 5 and 6. Please don’t talk incessantly while the band is playing. Because people paid a lot of money to listen to some pretty great music. They didn’t pay a lot of money to listen to you talk incessantly. It’s rude and it’s inconsiderate and it bothers the crap out of everybody near you and it’s stupid. If you want to talk during a concert, go somewhere else. Preferably, really far away. And stay there, please. Thank you. Roob.
16. This is such a cool story: Brianna Gess is a freshman at Haddonfield High School in South Jersey, and on Saturday she finished 13th in the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships at Balboa Park in San Diego. Haddonfield produced an Olympic miler in Erin Donohue not too long ago, and Gess is already faster over 5,000 meters than Donohue ever ran in high school. Remarkable.
17. Mind-blowing stat No. 2: McCoy has three fourth-quarter touchdowns of 40 yards or more this year. Every other player in the NFL combined also has three.
18. My five favorite NFL stadiums of all-time: 1. Century Link (Seattle), 2. Lambeau, 3. Lincoln Financial, 4. Arrowhead (Kansas City), 5. Raymond James (Tampa).
19. My five least-favorite NFL stadiums of all-time: 1. Astrodome, 2. County Stadium (Milwaukee), 3. The Vet, 4. Sun Life / Joe Robbie (Miami), 5. Metrodome (Minneapolis).
20. This is a special guest Flyers random point from Sarah Baicker: I think the Flyers' recent six-game road trip epitomizes the team's identity. There were high points (the win in Detroit) and low points (the thrashing in Chicago), but there was absolutely no consistency. Every time the Flyers take a step forward, they seem to follow it up with one or two big steps back -- they'll win a game then lose two, or win a couple then lose, badly, to a lesser opponent. And barring any major changes, there's no reason to believe it will change much.
20. The best album of 2013 was The Would-Be Plans by Jimmer Podrasky, and if you haven’t heard it, don’t argue with me, listen to it!
21. Let’s take a peek at the Eagles’ 2014 schedule: In addition to the home-and-home series with the Redskins, Cowboys and Giants, the Eagles have the Rams, Seahawks, Jaguars and Titans at home, in addition to the NFC South team that finishes in the corresponding spot in the standings -- likely the Saints but possibly the Panthers. On the road, they’ll face the Cards, 49ers, Texans and Colts in addition to the NFC North team that finishes in the corresponding spot -- the Lions, Bears or Packers. The San Francisco trip will be the Eagles’ first game at the 49ers’ new stadium in Santa Clara.
22. Mike Shanahan has coached 14 seasons since the Broncos’ second Super Bowl, and he’s won one playoff game.
23. Mind-blowing stat No. 3: In franchise history, the Eagles have drafted three quarterbacks who have started at least 10 games in an Eagles uniform and have a winning record: Donovan McNabb (92-49-1), Randall Cunningham (63-43-1) and Foles (7-6).
24. Did you ever notice that wherever there’s a Goodyear, there always seems to be a Firestone within like half a mile?
25. The Eagles and the Army-Navy Game crossed paths Saturday on the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport. Turns out the Eagles’ charter to Minneapolis was parked next to the Blue Angels, who were scheduled for a flyover before the Army-Navy game at the Linc later in the day. Several players, support staff and team officials posed for pictures with the pilots before the Eagles left for Minneapolis. Had to be a thrill. If you’ve never seen the Blue Angels perform, find an air show near you soon. They are insane.