Prediction Time: How Will the Eagles Fare in 2011?

Prediction Time: How Will the Eagles Fare in 2011?

Here it is: the official predictions thread. Saw some of you folks were getting a jump on them in yesterday's season preview, but if you want them to count, you better re-post them here!

After the jump, we go game-by-game for the season ahead in our most extensive Eagles predictions to date, and as always, we want to hear from all the Birds loyalists.

For the record, I don't often pat myself on the back, but as long as I've been posting these predictions on The700Level, I've been extremely accurate. In '08, I predicted an NFC Championship appearance, in '09 I correctly predicted the Division Championship would come down to Week 17 against Dallas, and last season I had the Eagles winning 10 games and making their surprise playoff appearance. Let's make it four-for-four this year.

Week 1 @ St. Louis
The Eagles are not the only team in flux to start the season. QB Sam Bradford will playing in his second offensive system in as many seasons, and had just 38 days to get it down. He isn't exactly working with a plethora of weapons in the passing game either, so the transition could be slow and painful. Head coach Steve Spagnuolo will bring a tough defense to the party, but the Birds have enough playmakers to survive. Look for LeSean McCoy to be a big factor here. W

Week 2 @ Atlanta
Back-to-back road games might be a bit much to kick off the season, especially one at the Georgia Dome, where the Falcons have been practically unbeatable in recent years. The Eagles' defensive line and linebackers will be tested by a power running game featuring RB Michael Turner, which gets the better of them in the end. Michael Vick's homecoming on Monday Night Football is spoiled when Atlanta wins the time of possession battle, thus continuing their recent trend of losing to playoff teams. L

Week 3 v New York Giants
The Giants will eventually get their defense sorted out after being absolutely decimated by injuries this summer, but it won't happen this fast. Even several of the players who will return this season won't be back by Week 3. Meanwhile, the Gmen have allowed 150 points against the Eagles in their last four meetings, and have lost a grand total of six straight to the Birds. After Week 3, it will be seven. W

Week 4 v San Francisco
The Birds draw the 49ers for the fourth consecutive season, and are the winners in the first three, though every contest has been relatively hard fought. Once again, San Fran just doesn't have the horses to keep up for 60 minutes, but it could be another close one. TE Vernon Davis will be all Jamar Chaney can handle, while RB Frank Gore will make the Eagles' smaller linebackers work. Alex Smith is still the QB however, and that only takes a team so far. W

Week 5 @ Buffalo
Could this be one of those infamous trap games, like the Raiders in Week 5 of '09? Maybe, but the Bills offense will play right into the Eagles' strengths. According to Football Outsdiers Almanac, no team went empty backfield more often than Buffalo, a whopping 15% of the time, and no offense, but QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the gunslinger we envision solving this secondary. Whether their defense is improved will be the X-factor, but c'mon, this isn't a cross country trip to Oakland or anything. W

Week 6 @ Washington
Believe it or not, there are actually people out there who think the Redskins will be good, maybe even win the division! We won't weigh in here, but no matter how bad things are in D.C., they always seem to take at least one off the Birds. This could be a look-ahead game (to the bye week) for a team that's starting to get a little over-confident. RB Tim Hightower gives the defense fits, and Vick has a tough outing against a defense desperately seeking redemption after 2010's 59-21 embarrassment. L

Week 7 Bye

Week 8 v Dallas
If there has been one constant during the Andy Reid era, it's the Birds will win coming out of the bye. Doesn't seem to matter who the opponent is, and the Cowboys, while a quality team, are not exactly a superpower this year. W

Week 9 v Chicago
After three consecutive appearances at Soldier Field (1-2 record), the Eagles will finally welcome the Bears back to the friendly confines of Lincoln Financial. As is the theme with the familiar foes in the early parts of the schedule, these are always close games, and we know what to expect from the Bears--average offense, solid defense. That defense matches up well against the likes of Vick, with great athletes like DE Julius Peppers and MLB Brian Urlacher. In their traditional fashion, Chitown finds a way to just barely edge the Birds. L

Week 10 v Arizona
The Cardinals are a difficult team to get a read on, in part because despite spending four seasons here, we don't really know what to think of Kevin Kolb yet. What we do know is Arizona's offensive line has protection problems, and Kolb struggled when the pressure got to him. This has Jim Washburn-impact game written all over it. The Cards are also thin in the secondary after trading Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie and losing Greg Toler to injury, so DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin should find room to work. W

Week 11 @ New York Giants
After Week 3, the streak is up to seven, and we don't see it ending this season. Under Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, we expect the defense to steadily improve as some guys come back, and they find answers in other areas, but not enough to run with the Eagles. It's just not their year, but the winning streak is starting to remind me of the one the Giants had over the Birds early last decade. They will eventually snap out of it, just not yet. W

Week 12 v New England
This could very well be the NFL's game of the year. Whether or not you think the Eagles can beat the Patriots depends on how good you think either team is. Bill Belichick is a brilliant coach who will find a way to get his offense moving no matter what defense it is, and the Patriots defense is questionable enough to assume they will give up some big plays. I am going with a New England loss for two reasons: 1. I think Andy Reid is due against Belichick, and 2. the Eagles play some of their best football in November. W

Week 13 @ Seattle
Scheduling gods, be damned! After hosting perhaps the best opponent on their slate, the Eagles must fly cross country to Seattle for a Thursday night game against the Seahawks. It doesn't matter how good or bad they are, that situation has loss written all over it. Qwest Field is a hard enough place to play as it is, but on three days rest after a brutal showdown against one of the NFL's best... L

Week 14 @ Miami
And then the rebound game. There really isn't much that stands out for the Dolphins. Their offense is underwhelming in basically every possible way, and
the defense is solid, but features few game-changers. With 10 days off between games, the Eagles will be extra fresh for this game, and unless Miami can find a way to come up with some big plays, the Birds should pull away. W

Week 15 v New York Jets
The number one thing with the Jets is their defense is not quite as great as its reputation. They were flat out dominant in '09, but came back to earth last season. They still have a scary secondary, headlined by CB Darrelle Revis, but they are a little soft up front after DT Kris Jenkins' retirement, and lacking a dangerous pass rush specialist. Offensively, they'll have success on the ground, but Mark Sanchez is their quarterback. Unless he drastically improves, it could be a big day for Philly defensive backs. W

Week 16 @ Dallas
With the Giants and Redskins looking very much like they will be out of the picture by, oh, let's say November, the Cowboys could step up and become the number one competition to the Eagles in the NFC East. And with Philly potentially in the mix for a post-season bye, and Dallas reaching for a playoff spot of their own, look for them to pull out all the stops in this one. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will do his best to confuse Vick, who at this point is still prone to laying the occasional egg, and Big D gets a much needed win to stay alive. L

Week 17 v Washington
Whether this game matters to the Eagles or not... doesn't matter. By this time, the Mike Shanahan experiment will be on the way out, as the Redskins will have nothing to play for but pride. And at many positions, the Birds are so deep, their backups could probably beat a lot of the lesser teams out there... like Washington! Eagles roll no matter what it means in the standings. W

Post-season
Ever since the Eagles' shopping spree this off-season, people have been approaching me to ask whether I think they will win the Super Bowl. If you've been reading long enough, you know I don't think things work that way.

Too much can happen between now and the playoffs, in a sport where the final score can be determined by one unlucky bounce, or one great individual effort. Part of winning a championship, obviously, is having a quality team. The other parts are being fortunate and timely.

My answer is, they will be there at the end. Maybe not the Super Bowl, maybe not even the NFC Championship, depending on who they draw. They are certainly a team to put on the watch-list though, one that the rest of the NFC will not want to see along the road to Indianapolis.

When the games are kicking off in September, 11-5 and a true contender are all you can ask. How do you see them finishing this season?

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel's tenure in Philadelphia wasn't characterized by a whole lot of winning, but he'll still likely be remembered fondly by Sixers fans as being one of the original members of the process.

It's always an emotional time when a fan favorite departs for another city and a new team instead of seeing the championship aspirations many had for them in Philly through to fruition.

Noel posted an emotional message to his Twitter account on Thursday evening thanking the city of Philadelphia and its fans for the support they showed him through the ups and downs. 

The tweet contained the hashtag #Philly with a couple of exclamation points with a screenshot of a note that read:

What an exciting journey it’s been… To have such an amazing city embrace a kid from Boston coming out of Kentucky the way y’all did, is something I’ll truly never forget. And even through the ups and downs I never doubted the love here and that won’t change. Thank you to everybody that’s believed in me and supported through #TheProcess.

Love! -NN4

Noel was traded earlier in the day to the Dallas Mavericks for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut, and a conditional first round pick that will likely turn into two second round picks.

Bryan Colangelo will address the media on Friday morning to discuss his rationale behind moving Nerlens.

Related:

>>Every reason why the Nerlens Noel trade was unjustifiable 

>>Video: Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid say their goodbyes 

>>Joel Embiid reacts to Nerlens trade on Twitter: 'Trust it'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel emerged from the trainer’s room in a red sweatshirt and made his rounds of handshakes and hugs. It would be his last time in the Sixers' training complex as a member of the team, marking the end of the longest-tenured player’s stay in Philadelphia.

The Sixers traded Noel to the Mavericks on Thursday for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick, according to a source (see story). He went through a portion of practice and was removed from it because of the deal. 

Noel’s now former teammates had a strong reaction to his departure. 

“Nerlens, he’s my guy,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s been my best friend since I got to Philly and I’m happy for him. He wants to start. I think in Dallas he’s going to get the chance to start and they’re going to re-sign him and they’re going to pay him a lot of money. Here it was kind of hard for him to start unless they were starting us together. But I’m happy for him. He’s going to get the chance he wanted.”

Noel’s future with the Sixers had been in question for two years as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Last season, the team struggled to find a way for him and Jahlil Okafor, both true centers, to play together. This season, the logjam was magnified when Embiid made his debut and took over the starting role. 

Noel candidly spoke out about the overcrowding at the beginning of the season but that situation was sidetracked when he missed 23 games because of injury. Once he returned, he quickly was on the short end of minutes. 

“I need to be on the court playing basketball,” Noel said in mid-December. “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s--- out.”

The Sixers did figure out his role, later making him the defensive leader of the second unit as Okafor became the odd man out. The Sixers also considered the possibility of pairing Noel and Embiid in the starting lineup, as they did with Embiid and Okafor, but that experiment played out only over a handful of minutes. 

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Embiid said of not playing more alongside Noel. “I thought we should have tried that a little bit more. I think the few times we did, it actually looked pretty good offensively and defensively.”

Of the bigs, it seemed like Okafor would be the one moved at the deadline after being held out of two games because of trade talks. In the end, it was Noel as the one to go on Thursday. 

“He’s one of my favorite players here,” Dario Saric said. “He’s always ready for jokes, he’s always ready to enjoy every moment.” 

Noel was the only player remaining from Brown’s first season as head coach with the Sixers. Brown could not comment on the Noel trade because it was not official at the time he addressed the media. 

Ilyasova leadership missed
On Wednesday night the Sixers dealt Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks for Tiago Splitter, a 2017 second-round pick and 2017 second-round pick swap rights. Even though Ilyasova played only 53 games for the Sixers, the veteran leader left his mark.

“He was a consummate pro,” Brown said. “He helped teach our young guys about that professionalism and helped contribute to our culture. He was good. You add those things up and we’re going to miss him.” 

Ilyasova’s departure affects those who played with him and behind him. Embiid credited Ilyasova for stretching the floor when they were in the starting lineup together. 

Saric, though, is perhaps the most impacted by the trade. Saric moved to the second unit when Ilyasova took over the starting role. He learned from his fellow international power forward, who helped him adjust to the NBA on and off the court. Saric is likely to get the nod as a starter. 

“For me, it’s hard,” Saric said. “I lost in Ersan some kind of mentor.” 

Brown also plans to play Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes at power forward at times, as well. If Covington slides over from small forward, Brown eyes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Gerald Henderson and Nik Stauskas as players who could fill in at the three spot. 

The Sixers will resume activity on Friday morning for shootaround ahead of their game against the Wizards. They will approach that contest without familiar faces on the court. 

“I lost two good friends,” Saric said. “But this is the NBA. This is part of the business, part of the job.”