Previewing Week 1 Around the NFL

Previewing Week 1 Around the NFL

1:00s

Washington @ New Orleans
While the Eagles are taking care of
business against Cleveland (we hope), an NFC East foe will be locked in a
far different kind of battle. The Washington Redskins, winners of five
games a season ago, are pitted against New Orleans Saints to break in the
season, a perennial Super Bowl threat despite bounty scandals as long as
Drew Brees is in tow. Tough draw for our rivals to the south.

Obviously the Birds
will see the Skins twice this season, and with second overall pick
Robert Griffin III at quarterback, the expectation -- at least here --
is they can no longer be taken lightly. How he performs in his debut will
surely be a hot topic in football circles, but as for the Eagles,
Washington is not the only concern is this one. They take on the Saints
in a big Monday night contest at the Superdome in Week 9.

Unfortunately
this game will not be broadcast locally, as it's a much more compelling
match-up than Philly against Cleveland even -- at least on paper. The
much-hyped arrival of RG3 would be reason alone to tune in, along with
the added suspense of the Saints trying to win a football game now on
their interim-interim head coach. And hey, despite all that stuff, NOLA
is still a contender this year, at least they are in my eyes.

This
has the potential to be a great game, a shootout even if Bob lives up
to the hype. Brees's Saints should have little trouble putting up big
numbers against a questionable secondary (that might be a little kind), but Griffin has a chance
to begin defining his legacy from day one against a defense that's been
overhauled schematically. In all probability, New Orleans is simply too
mush for Washington, but the experiment could be fun to watch.

St. Louis @ Detroit
I'm going to throw in my first UPSET
ALERT! of the season. The Lions remain a trendy pick to make the playoffs upon
finally returning to prominence a season ago, but the Rams should not be
slept on here. With Jeff Fisher taking over as head coach in St. Louis,
they will be tougher than expected. Meanwhile, Detroit -- Philly's Week 6
opponent -- is expected be a tough customer in the NFC landscape, but they
still have plenty of holes to exploit. In all likelihood, the Rams still have too many themselves, but they could surprise.

Atlanta @ Kansas City
The
Falcons are said to be utilizing more three-wide formations on
offense this season, so the world will get its first real look at the new passer
friendly version in Arrowhead Stadium. The Birds get Matt Ryan and
Atlanta immediately following the bye, so they are a team to keep an eye on.

Indianpolis @ Chicago
The
Eagles don't have the Bears this season, but they looked an awful lot
like a playoff team last year until Jay Cutler got hurt. Chicago should
be in the mix again in 2012, and this game takes on an added dimension
with number one overall draft pick Andrew Luck making his first career
start.

Jacksonville @ Minnesota
We have eight TVs, and there are nine one o'clock games. Guess which one didn't make the cut?

4:25s

San Francisco @ Green Bay
Neither
team pops up on Philadelphia's schedule, but if the Birds plan on
playing deep into January, there is a good chance they'll run into one
of them eventually. The 49ers made it to the NFC Championship last
season, and the Packers are only one year removed from winning it all.
Including playoffs, the two of them combined for 29 victories in 2011.
This is the marquee match-up in the conference for Week 1.

As
long as Aaron Rodgers is under center, Green Bay will continue to be heavy
favorites. What's less than certain is whether Frisco's breakout 13-3
season was a fluke, but their defense should remain stingy as ever.
Great game that will be appearing in most markets.

Carolina @ Tampa Bay
Unlike
the national game above, the Eagles face both the Panthers and the Bucs
later on in the slate. Both clubs have made sweeping changes coming off
of losing seasons, so it will be interesting to see how much progress
can be measured in Week 1. With the games coming so late in the season
-- it'll be about two and a half months before Philly hosts Carolina -- a
lot can change between now and those encounters, but this should serve
as a glimpse into how successful an offseason it was for two future
opponents.

Seattle @ Arizona
Perhaps the most relevant
afternoon game to Philadelphia this Sunday, because the Birds head to
the desert themselves two weeks from now. John Skelton gets the opening
day start for the Cardinals, but it could get ugly for whoever is under
center, as Arizona's offensive line is scary.
Rookie Russell Wilson making his debut as the quarterback for the
Seahawks adds a layer of intrigue as well, and who knows, they could
even be surprise team coming out of the NFC West.

8:30

Pittsburgh @ Denver
The
big story here will be Peyton Manning making his first start for the
Broncos, but the Eagles actually have to play one of these teams, and
it's not Denver. Watching the elder Manning has always been a treat for
any true football fan, as nobody operates an offense quite like he can,
but over the long haul, the Steelers are the team Birds fans need to
worry about -- in Week 5 to be exact.

NBA Playoffs: Warriors sweep their way to 3rd straight NBA Finals

NBA Playoffs: Warriors sweep their way to 3rd straight NBA Finals

BOX SCORE

SAN ANTONIO -- Stephen Curry scored 36 points as the Golden State Warriors closed out the Western Conference Final against the injury-ravaged San Antonio Spurs with a 129-115 victory Monday night, becoming the first team in league history to start the playoffs 12-0.

Golden State led by as many as 22 points in cruising to its third straight NBA Finals. The Warriors await a possible third straight championship matchup with Cleveland, which leads Boston 2-1 in the East finals.

"It's great to be one of the last two teams standing, we'll see how it goes," said Kevin Durant, who had 29 points and 12 rebounds.

San Antonio's only lead came on the opening possession when Manu Ginobili tossed in a left-handed scoop shot. The Spurs started Ginobili in what could be his final game with the team. The 39-year-old had maintained he will not ponder whether to retire or return until after the season.

Unsure if the beloved veteran will return, the crowd serenaded Ginobili with "Manu, Manu" chants as the game came to a close.

"An amazing competitor, even more fun playing against him," Durant said of Ginobili. "He was phenomenal this series."

Kyle Anderson scored 20 points to lead the Spurs, who were without Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and David Lee. San Antonio didn't go down without a fight despite the injuries.

Anderson dove on the court for a loose ball that the Spurs had tipped away defensively, pushing the ball upcourt to Patty Mills who fed Ginobili for a 3-pointer that pulled San Antonio to 108-94 with 7 minutes remaining.

The effort made Spurs coach Gregg Popovich smile and clap at times, but the Warriors' depth and talent proved too much for short-handed San Antonio.

Golden State shot 56 percent and were 14 for 39 on 3-pointers.

Draymond Green had 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Warriors.

Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge closed out a disappointing series with his second eight-point effort against the Warriors.

Ginobili finished with 15 points in 32 minutes.

Phillies held to 3 hits again, pounded by Rockies in return home

Phillies held to 3 hits again, pounded by Rockies in return home

BOX SCORE

The loudest noise made by the Phillies' offense on Monday night was the thud — clearly audible above the small crowd — that Odubel Herrera created when he smashed his batting helmet on the dirt infield after grounding out to third base to end the seventh inning.

Herrera's frustration spoke for an entire team. The Phillies were hammered, 8-1, by the Colorado Rockies (see Instant Replay). They were out-hit, 13-3. The loss was the Phils' 18th in the last 22 games and they have been outscored 126-89 over that span.

The loss left the Phils at 15-27 for the season, matching their worst 42-game start since 2000 when they finished 65-97 in front of tiny crowds at Veterans Stadium in Terry Francona's last season as skipper.

Over the last two games, both losses, the Phils have just six hits.

"Three hits today, three hits yesterday," manager Pete Mackanin said. "You're not going to win a lot of games getting three hits."

Aaron Altherr had two of the Phillies' hits, both doubles against Colorado rookie Jeff Hoffman, who was very impressive with seven walk-free innings and seven strikeouts.

Herrera went hitless in three at-bats and is hitting just .200 in the month of May and .232 overall — not what the front office expected when it signed him to a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension in the offseason.

"It's very frustrating because I feel like I am being selective and waiting for my pitch, but when I make contact things don't happen," Herrera said. "I feel like I'm swinging the bat well, but I'm just missing."

Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff gave up nine hits, seven of which were singles, and four runs over six innings. Four of the hits that Eickhoff allowed came in the third inning when the Rockies scored three times. Two of the runs scored on a flare double and the other on a groundball through a drawn-in infield.

"I executed a lot of good pitches," Eickhoff said. "I got a lot of the contact I wanted. The ball just didn't land in the gloves."

Eickhoff did not walk a batter. He struck out four.

Despite being 0-5 with a 4.70 ERA in nine starts, the right-hander believes he has made strides his last two outings. He gave up three runs (two earned) over six innings in his previous outing at Texas. Prior to that start, he worked on fixing a mechanical flaw in his delivery.

"These past two have been night-and-day different," he said. "I felt great today and in Texas and I'm going to keep that positivity going."

Finding other things to be positive about with this team is becoming difficult.

This Phillies team was not expected to contend; it is still in a rebuild. But things weren't supposed to be this bad, either.

"I'll tell you what, I'm getting frustrated, too," general manager Matt Klentak said before the game. "This team is better … there is more talent on this team than we've shown in terms of our record.

"We'll pull out of it. We will. That's what talented players will do. I'm not going to tell the fans they shouldn't be frustrated. We've gone through a tough stretch.

"But I'm not ready to call it regression. I think there's been a lack of consistency on our team in general, with some players more than others. There's been a lack of consistency, but especially for young players, two months is a relatively small sample size to categorize it as regression."

At 29-17, the Rockies have the best record in the National League. They have 16 road wins, which is one more than the Phillies have overall. The Rockies are in town for three more days. This ugly start could get even uglier.