Bye Weeks: The NFL's Version of the Frank S. Farley Plaza

Bye Weeks: The NFL's Version of the Frank S. Farley Plaza

Philadelphia sports fans can be glad of one thing this weekend: the
Eagles didn't lose. After the Phillies clinched the East last Sunday,
the Eagles crapped on our imaginary parade by dropping another division
game in pathetic fashion. This week, the Phillies returned the favor and let the Birds off the
hook, barely showing up for their first playoff appearance in over a
decade.

When the Eagles are rolling, bye weeks are torture. Waiting 6 days every week is
long enough, and once a season, it's more than doubled. But when the
season's seemingly in the tank, we're all a little grateful for the
mutual break. We need some time to focus on something other than
losing, and they need some time to get A) healthy and B) their shit
together. Andy Reid has been far from perfect this season, but that's
often the case before the bye. Bob Brookover did some number crunching,
and he points out that under Big Red, the Birds have won a modest 30 of
58 games before the midseason rest stop. After the bye, their record
jumps to 50-20. Broken down on an individual-game basis, the team is
3-5 in the game before the bye, and 8-0 in the game just after.

We've written this team off before, and they've come back and won, just
like the Phillies did this year. It'll be harder this season
considering how many they've already dropped to division opponents, but at this
point I'd settle for some watchable football. Once I see that, I'll raise my standards. Andy, Marty, Jimmy, and
the guy who's in over his head on special teams have plenty of
adjustments to make this week when the team returns to practice. The
squad has clearly been affected by injuries, but that's true of half
the teams in the league, so it's really no excuse. Still, when the
Eagles play the god-awful Jets next Sunday, Brian Westbrook and Brian
Dawkins will be back, and hopefully William Thomas too, so we'll at
least be less likely to see double-digit sacks.

A loss to the Jets would bring Andy's post-bye week run to an end, and
I don't see the Eagles turning it around if they can't win this game.
There's nothing worse for Eagles fans than watching football strictly for
fantasy purposes on Sunday, so this team better put together a few wins and keep us from losing our minds. I don't want to spend every Sunday hoping Mason Crosby kicks four field goals.

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.