Who are these Flyers? Tonight's visit to Chicago could go a long way in answering that question

Who are these Flyers? Tonight's visit to Chicago could go a long way in answering that question

Patrick Kane… Michael Leighton’s five hole… Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final... Yada, yada, yada.

Whatever. That all happened three-and-a-half years ago.

Snap back to reality and focus on the here and now because the Philadelphia Flyers finish up their six-game road trip tonight with a visit to Chicago to take on the once-again defending Stanley Cup champion and red-hot Blackhawks, who have the most points in the NHL with 49.

The Blackhawks are the most well-oiled machine the league has to offer.

They lead the league with an average of 3.58 goals per game. They’re second in the league with 33.7 shots on net per game. Don’t forget their lethal power play, which is fifth-best in the league with a 22.9 percent success rate.

Kane is well on the way to having the best season of his career. With 40 points, he trails Sidney Crosby by just three points for the league lead. He’s also scored 17 goals, which puts him at fourth-best in the league. Captain Jonathan Toews is one of the best players in the universe. Duncan Keith is second among all defensemen with 27 points, third among defensemen with a plus-15 rating and is back playing at his 2010 Norris Trophy-winning form.

To wrap things up here in Christmas paper and put a pretty little bow on top, this is one of those litmus test games for Flyers that could help us figure out of the they are contenders or pretenders. Tonight help show us who these Flyers really are.

The up-and-down road trip has pretty much been a microcosm of the season so far.

On this trip, the Flyers won a shootout (!) in Nashville, sleepwalked to a shutout loss in Minnesota, exploded in the third period to win in Detroit, got blitzed in the second period of a loss in Dallas and blew a third-period lead and lost in a shootout in Ottawa.

The trip really hasn’t shed much light on what the team is or isn’t. The same questions about goal scoring, defense and consistent play still linger. It doesn’t help that second-line center Vinny Lecavalier was injured on the trip could miss up to a month.

Getting back to tonight’s visit to Chicago, look for Sean Couturier and his line to play a big role.

If Flyers’ head coach Craig Berube has his way and gets the matchups he wants, Couturier and his line will be out there as much as possible against Toews and his line.  Whichever line gets the best of the other will have a huge say in the way the game goes. Keep in mind that Couturier’s line has been the Flyers’ best offensive line recently, too. If the matchup evens itself out, it’ll be up to the respective teams’ secondary scoring. With guys like Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Andrew Shaw, just to name a few, it’s a clear advantage to the Blackhawks.

Ray Emery goes tonight between the pipes for the Flyers. Steve Mason has allowed eight goals in his last two starts – the first two times he let in more than three goals as a Flyer – so he gets the night off. Expect Mason to be back in net tomorrow night when the Flyers finally come home and face the Montreal Canadiens in the second game of a back-to-back.

Emery, of course, won a Cup with the ‘Hawks last season and will be facing his old mates for the first time since. Last season with the ‘Hawks, “Razor” went 17-1-0 with a .922 save percentage and a 1.94 goals-against average in 21 games played. This season in his second stint as a Flyer, Emery is 3-5-0 with a .908 save percentage and a 2.56 goals-against average in 10 games played.

Let’s just say the quality of defense in front of the goaltender helps. But that’s another story for another day.

The last time the Flyers had a big game like this, Emery started and the Flyers won, 2-1, in Pittsburgh.

Long story short, this game will go a long in proving whether the Flyers can hang with the big boys of the NHL or whether they aren’t much better than a middle of the pack team.

Either way, it’s never a bad thing to have an excuse to look at the Blackhawks’ beautiful sweaters. Best uniform in pro sports right there.

Is Eagles' Carson Wentz the 'holy grail' of modern NFL QB prospects?

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Is Eagles' Carson Wentz the 'holy grail' of modern NFL QB prospects?

The NFL is constantly evolving, but pro offenses, their very design, and the types of athletes who can run those offenses are changing, rapidly beyond recognition.

That is precisely one of the reasons behind the Eagles' bold decision to trade three years worth of draft picks in April for the opportunity to get Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State. Because Wentz didn't represent merely another quarterback prospect coming out of college — some feel as though this 23-year-old kid might be the future of the position in the NFL.

Don't take my word for it. Take that of Brad Childress, former Eagles offensive coordinator who eventually wound up following long-time head coach Andy Reid to Kansas City. It's there where Childress was tasked with a unique role: "spread game analyst."

For more on that, what the spread offense is and how its prevalence in the college game is altering the landscape of the NFL, you'll have to read Kevin Clark's piece over at The Ringer. Trust us, it's worth it. Long-time Eagles executive Joe Banner hails the piece as, "One of the best, smartest, most correct articles I have read in a long time," and it's hard to argue. Chances are you'll learn something.

But for our purposes, the aspect of the piece we'll focus on is how the growth of the spread offense is tied to the selection of Wentz. NFL coaches like Childress or front-office types such as Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman see in Wentz a rare hybrid of the the spread and pro-style quarterback, which as it turns out, may be ideally suited to succeed in a league that increasingly uses both types of offense.

Childress, meanwhile, believes the current holy grail is the prospect who ran spread plays at the college level that can be easily imported to the pro level. He mentioned Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who at North Dakota State played in a multiple-style offense that incorporated spread concepts. Childress was impressed that Wentz played under center sometimes and in the shotgun at other times, and that regardless of the formation, he was adept at making various throws. He said some of the sweep plays Wentz ran were particularly impressive, and that he wants to incorporate what he saw into the Chiefs’ game plan.

Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman, who took Wentz second overall in the draft, called his college system “a pro-style concept that hints at where the sport is going.” Roseman, like Spielman, said that changes in the college game have forced him to alter how he evaluates passers: Because the college game is so different from the NFL game, Roseman is forced to put less emphasis on tape and more emphasis on test scores and smarts.

It's an extremely interesting perspective. It also jives with another line of thinking many believe led the Eagles to jump all over Wentz: There may not be another college signal-caller with this type of makeup to come around for a long time, as more and more programs go to entirely spread-based systems.

Yes, concepts of the spread have made their way to the NFL, and they're likely there to stay. However, whether it will become an offense that's fully embraced around the league is a bit trickier, which is why it's probably best to have somebody who can do it all. That partially explains why Wentz became so attractive to the Eagles.

It's also not at all surprising that Childress, Reid, Roseman and current Eagles coach Doug Pederson would all share similar mindsets on the direction the NFL is headed. There are too many ties here for it to be purely a coincidence, and Clark's piece about the spread offense would seem to shed some light on some of the back story about how Wentz became an Eagle.

Experience a day in the life of Temple football's training camp

Experience a day in the life of Temple football's training camp

Before their classmates even stepped foot on campus, Temple football was going through what was possibly their toughest test of the season—three weeks of training camp.

Coach Matt Rhule and the Owls gave us a behind-the-scenes look at what the players and coaches go through during a day of camp in the video above. We were there through the meetings, meals and walk-thrus before the team eventually departed for the Phillies game. It was a 12 + hour day for the players, but with walk-thrus replacing actual practice, this particular day was considered a “light” one.

This Temple squad still have veteran leadership returning from last season, but they have to replace multiple NFL draft picks on defense. Everyone from seniors to freshmen will be looked upon to keep up the Owls' strong defense going (see story)

Rhule is in his fourth season as the Owls' head coach. After going 2-10 in his first season, Rhule has brought Temple to a 10-4 record a year ago, highlighted by an appearance in the AAC Championship Game and the Boca Raton Bowl. However, the Owls are already moving past their strong 2015 (see story).

For a look at Temple's training camp, check out the video above.

Charles Barkley weighs in on Zeke Elliott: 'all marijuana made me want to do was eat potato chips'

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Charles Barkley weighs in on Zeke Elliott: 'all marijuana made me want to do was eat potato chips'

Charles Barkley may have recently had his hip replaced but he hasn't let a little procedure slow him down. Well, slow his mouth down at least.

Sir Charles joined the 94 WIP morning show on Friday to chat with his old pal Howard Eskin.

The worst part about the hip replacement and need to use a walker for about six weeks?

“I can’t put my foot up your [butt] like I want to," Barkley told Eskin.

Their conversation was wide ranging: Olympics basketball, Cowboys RB Zeke Elliott being photographed in a marijuana shop in Seattle, his new show on TNT show "The Race Card," and anything else that came into his head.

They started off talking about Team USA and their gold medal in Rio. Sir Charles thinks they need more role players on that type of team.

"I thought they had too many ball-dominant guys. You need role players for that team to flow freely," Barkley said, pointing to DeAndre Jordan as one of the few guys on the team who played his role nicely without needing the ball.

Barkley would also love to see young players like Ben Simmons or even Nerlens Noel in the Olympics to make them more watchable.

Perhaps the funniest line of the interview came up when talking about Zeke Elliot being in a marijuana shop in Seattle where such a store is legal.

“That’s just stupid,” Barkley said.

“Come on, man. You gotta be smarter than that. I’m not a marijuana guy. I smoked pot like five times in my life. All it made me want to do was eat potato chips. It was like a waste of my time. I didn’t feel no euphoria it didn’t take me to no special place. I just said, ‘do we have any more potato chips in the state of Alabama or Pennsylvania.’”

The two briefly mentioned Barkley's new show on TNT which will focus a lot on race relations.

“Cops have made some mistakes but we need the cops," Charles said. "We as black people need to do a much better job at policing ourselves. It’s not like it’s a right or wrong answer, there are a lot of layers.”

It's interesting to hear Barkley talk about a nuanced issue. You don't typically hear Sir Charles consider things with more than an instant response.

And, finally, the interview ended with Chuck saying something we can all agree on after learning Eskin was flying out to Indiana for an Eagles preseason football game.

“Preseason football may be the greatest scam in the world today. What a waste of time.”

Yep.

Check out the podcast of Barkley's interview here.