Schedule: Flyers to Face Devils in Round 2

Schedule: Flyers to Face Devils in Round 2

After the Rangers closed out the Senators in a dramatic game 7 finish, the Flyers' second round fate awaited the winner of the Panthers-Devils matchup. Jersey got out to a 2-0 lead, but Florida would tie it to force overtime, and even that wasn't enough. It took a few minutes into a second OT, but the Devils outlasted the Panthers, winning on a goal by Adam Henrique. 
The Flyers-Devils series will start Sunday at 3PM with Philadelphia hosting. The Rangers and Caps will play on Saturday. So how are we feeling about the matchup? We'll get further into it this weekend, but let's a quick look below, plus the rest of the schedule. 
First off, these aren't the Devils that curdle the postseason blood of Flyers fans… The goalie may be the same, but he's not the same goalie.  
The two teams split the season series, the Flyers going 3-2-1. Each Philly win came with Ilya Bryzgalov in net, each loss with Sergei Bobrovsky. Two of the wins (the first and the last) were shutouts by Bryz. The Devils scored on him just once in three games. 
Claude Giroux had four goals and three assists in the six games against the Devils. 
In the regular season, New Jersey scored at nearly the same clip as they allowed goals. They posted the best overall PK and eighth overall goals against, while their scoring both overall and on the power play was about average. However, their PK was very leaky in against the Panthers, and the Flyers' PP was unbelievably good against Pittsburgh. 
The Devils should be riding high after closing out a hard-fought series though. The rivalry has taken a backseat lately, but it should perk up starting on Sunday. Don't count this series as over just because the Devils don't appear to be as dangerous as some of the others in the East. They won six straight to close out the season, then three of the first four games in the opening round before losing a pair and finally winning game 7. 
Long DivisionShould they keep winning, the Flyers' path to a Stanley Cup may be on an all-Atlantic trajectory. To get to the promised land, they'll have to beat the Penguins, Devils, then the winner of the Rangers-Capitals series. That's not to say either remaining Eastern Conference series is a foregone conclusion. 
From the start, the night appeared to be a win-win for the Flyers. If the Senators won, the Rangers would be out. I'd like nothing more than to see the Flyers get through the Rangers in the ECF en route to a Cup, but we know they couldn't win so much as a game against New York this season, so we wouldn't have been too upset to see them out. When and if the time comes, we'll be pumped to see the Flyers turn it around against the Rags though. 
With a Rangers win, the Flyers would face the winner of what was considered to be one of the weaker matchups in the playoffs. The NHL's weighted system saw the Panthers hold the three seed with just 94 points, which was only sixth best in the conference. New Jersey meanwhile had just two fewer points than the fifth seeded Flyers—though one more regulation win. 
ScheduleSunday 4/29  3PM Devils at FlyersTuesday 5/1  7:30PM Devils at FlyersThursday 5/3  7:30PM Flyers at DevilsSunday 5/6  7:30PM Flyers at DevilsTuesday 5/8 TBD Devils at Flyers*Thursday 5/10 TBD Flyers at Devils*Saturday 5/12 TBD Devils at Flyers*
*everyone knows what this asterisk means
Early predictions?
Much more to come. We're gonna call it a night now that the first round of the NFL draft is in the bag and we know who the Flyers will face… 

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

Every morning on his way to work, Jaylen Watkins drives down Broad Street toward the NovaCare Complex and thinks back to his three months on the Bills' practice squad.

The former fourth-round pick out of Florida in 2014 joined the Bills' practice squad after the Eagles cut him last Sept. 5 in what he has previously referred to as a “humbling” experience.

“I try to never forget that moment because it was definitely a soul-searching moment,” Watkins said on Wednesday. “Anyone who is released or fired from their job, you have to do some soul-searching.

“Every day that I drive down Broad Street, I think about Buffalo and how far I’ve come and just not wanting to be on a practice squad again. Nothing’s wrong with the practice squad, but my goal is to be on the 53 and making contributions to the team.”

Watkins isn’t just on the Eagles’ 53 after rejoining them late in 2015. For the rest of the 2016 season, he’s also expected to have a major role.

After Ron Brooks was lost for the season when he tore his quad tendon against the Vikings, Malcolm Jenkins is the Eagles’ new slot cornerback. That means that Watkins, 23, will be the second safety on the field in the team’s nickel package.

That meant that he played 46 snaps against the Vikings after Brooks went out. And with how much teams pass in the current NFL, he’ll probably play a considerable amount the rest of the season.

“It’s something that I’ve been waiting for and I’ve just been patient,” Watkins said. “I’ve been waiting for this experience, so I’m just excited. This week was amazing for me. ... It was good for me this past week to be in the game plan and putting yourself in position that this could possibly be me on the first play of the game.”

Jenkins has said multiple times that he enjoys playing as the slot corner, but until Brooks went down, the team thought it was better off with him staying at safety.

With the secondary shuffle, what’s different with Watkins at safety instead of Jenkins?

“Nothing really man,” the Eagles’ other starting safety, Rodney McLeod, said. “It’s been a next-man-up mentality this whole year. ... Guys have a lot of experience back there. I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat. It’s obviously an unfortunate situation with Ron playing great. But Jenkins is ready and so is (Jalen) Mills and Watkins.”

Watkins was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round in 2014 and played just four games as a rookie before he was cut at the start of his sophomore season. He spent three months in Buffalo, where his younger brother Sammy is a star receiver.

When Jim Schwartz became the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Watkins was moved to safety. He quickly asserted himself as the first option off the bench at that position.

And just like McLeod and Jenkins, he’s a safety with a history and knowledge of every position in the secondary.

“He’s kind of our Tyrann Mathieu a little bit as far as being able to play safety, being able to play nickel, being able to play corner, being able to play all those positions,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “A swiss-army knife if you want to call it that. For him, it’s just about continuing to get reps, continuing to be confident.”

Jenkins, McLeod and Watkins are so interchangeable, Watkins joked that sometimes they get confused because they forget which position they’re playing. According to McLeod, there haven’t been any communication issues between him at Watkins when Jenkins moves down into his role as the nickel corner.

Watkins still thinks about his time in Buffalo, but he also thinks he’s a much better player now than he was before he went there.

“Just more confident player, I would say,” Watkins said. “My coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me. Now, I’m just confident and relaxed when I go out and play, making plays, doing what I did in college. I think I’m a much better player than before.”

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz's Rookie of the Year odds took a hit, the Eagles' Super Bowl odds shortened and the Vikings' lengthened after Sunday's 21-10 win.

The Eagles are 33/1 to win it all, a week after being listed by Bovada at 50/1. The Vikings, meanwhile, went from 7/1 to 9/1. They still have the third-shortest Super Bowl odds in the NFL and are two spots ahead of the Cowboys (14/1). 

Wentz, who had his worst statistical game against Minnesota, is now 9/1 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, according to Bovada. Last Wednesday, he was 6/1.

Wentz trails Cowboys studs Ezekiel Elliott (2/5) and Dak Prescott (11/5) on that leaderboard.

As far as this week, Wentz is favored to throw for more yards than Prescott. Wentz is 5/7 to outgain Prescott through the air in Week 8, while Prescott is 1/1 to outgain Wentz.

Elliott's over/under rushing total against the Eagles is 99.5. He's rushed for 130-plus yards in each of his last four games, and the odds are 3/1 that he'll reach that number again this week. 

The Eagles have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season, Washington's Matt Jones (16 for 135).

Elliott is also now on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. Dickerson had 1,808 in 1983; Elliott is on pace for 1,875. Will Elliott break that 33-year-old mark? A "yes" bet pays 2/1; a "no" bet pays 1/3.