The Sign? Swing away . . . far far away

The Sign? Swing away . . . far far away

The following post is guest blogger Brad Maule, who is the editor of and holds Plan C tickets in the front row of the Pat Burrell section of the Arcade Level.

Citizens Bank Park is a nice ballpark, there's no doubt about it. The playing field's dimensions are an asset (although Pat Burrell probably isn't a fan of the reconfigured leftfield wall after he missed a game-tying homerun by less than a foot last night), the field's upkeep is excellent (more so if you were raised on The Vet), the causeways are roomy, the sightlines are unobstructed, the beer and food selections are great and even somewhat local, and the Schmitter will take ten years off of my life because I can never say no.

CBP could have been better, though; there's no doubt about that either. Having come on the late side of the Camden Yards Ballpark Revival, it could have provided a bold architectural statement but instead went with conservative (boring) brick paneling. It could have been located perfectly at 30th and Walnut, an easy walk for residents of Center City, West Philly and two major universities, directly above the Schuylkill Expressway, and two blocks from 30th Street Station, which serves every Septa regional rail line, the El, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak, but instead it was built as a 'neighborhood ballpark' in a massive parking lot.

And then there is that goddamn Phillies sign.

The Phillies sign in the centerfield parking lot . . . now that is an obstruction. Google "Phillies sign skyline" and try to find a single favorable opinion. They don't exist; everyone hates that sign. It would seem that even the Phillies organization doesn't think too highly of it. The architectural renderings of CBP -- you remember them, "Homerun Pat Burrell, Phils Win!!!" -- showed no sign of The Sign, but instead a clear and straight view to the skyline. (It also has 10th Street dead ending into trees, and 76 is absent.)

The Phillies recognize the view as part of the experience; the city skyline was on all the marketing literature leading up to the opening of the ballpark. The Sign? Not so much. The 2005 Opening Day ticket painted -- or should I say photoshopped -- the Phillies' embarrassment of The Sign. The ticket design featured a photo of the skyline, for which some poor intern was probably assigned to remove The Sign from the view. Except, well, they didn't finish the job. As you can see below, the photoshop job was left only half done, and 45,000 tickets were printed with half of The Sign.

We've all heard the rumors: "oh yeah, the Phillies are eventually going to tear that thing down." Reality check: CBP is now in its fourth year of use, and well, this is Philadelphia. Penn's Landing was supposed to be a historic waterfront attraction, but we built an interstate highway between it and Independence Park. Love Park was a destination to skateboarders across the world, but after we landed ESPN's X-Games two years in a row, our mayor spent taxpayer money to make it skater unfriendly. It's only appropriate that we have a ballpark with a fantastic view that is blocked by an unnecessary sign.

The Sign is a relic of The Vet Era. Believe it or not, it was built by the City, but it was taken over by the Phillies in the 80s and retrofitted with a more Vet-like appearance.

Well, The Vet is gone, so are they going to finally tear it down? On the contrary. The Phillies are in the process of putting their Theme Tower (that's right -- it's called Theme Tower) up for bids for renovation. It is going to be modernized, it will feature more info ("Suzie will you marry me . . . Dave Matthews tickets on sale Saturday"), and it will be neither moved nor shortened.

So, Phils fans and skyline aficionados, get used to The Sign -- err, the Theme Tower -- cos it ain't goin' anywhere.

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

It appears the Sixers' frontcourt logjam may not be an issue early on.

Nerlens Noel, who is having surgery Monday for an inflamed plica in his left knee, will miss the first three to five weeks of the season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Noel suffered a left groin injury in the first preseason game against the Celtics and missed the rest of the preseason. While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

It's been an odd start to the season for Noel. The big man was outspoken about his displeasure with the Sixers' frontcourt situation early in camp. With the deadline for Noel's rookie contract extension approaching on Oct. 31, the team has not had conversations about it, according to a report.

The Sixers are already without No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons as he recovers from surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. The team will also be without their starting point guard Jerryd Bayless who is dealing with a ligament issue in his left wrist. Bayless won't require surgery and will be reevaluated in two weeks.

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Riding a two-game losing streak, the Eagles (3-2) return home Sunday for the first time in nearly a month and welcome a familiar face to the confines of Lincoln Financial Field. 

Sam Bradford and the Vikings (5-0) will come to Philadelphia fresh off a Week 6 bye and, most notably, as the league's lone unbeaten team. Minnesota boasts one of the league's top defenses, ranking first in points allowed (12.6 per game) and second in yards allowed (287.6 per game), and is looking to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 2009.

The last time these two franchises met was back in December 2013, when Matt Cassell and the Vikings put up 48 points in a win over Chip Kelly's Eagles.

To get a better handle on this year's Vikings, here's what they're saying about the Eagles' Week 7 opponent.

Brian Robison poses yet another challenge for Big V
Making his NFL debut in a start against the Redskins last week, Halapoulivaati Vaitai struggled mightily. Ryan Kerrigan beat Vaitai and got to Carson Wentz for 2½ sacks, all of which came in the first half.

It won't get any easier for the rookie right tackle this week either, as he'll likely be lined up against Brian Robison for most of the afternoon. Robison has four sacks and two forced fumbles on the season and, according to Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune, the versatile 10-year defensive end could be difference maker on the defensive side of the ball Sunday.

"Whether his hand is in the turf at left end or he’s standing over a guard or center as the defensive tackle, Robison could be dropping back to cover a tight end or running back," Krammer wrote. "At the line, he’s given responsibilities to call stunts or twists depending on their own play call. Sometimes he’s setting the pick to free another teammate. ... And on Sunday against the Eagles and their rookie right tackle, keep an eye on Robison when he lines up at his traditional spot of left end. All four of his sacks this season, including two strip-sacks, have come from there."

Makeshift offensive line remains a question mark
The Vikings may be undefeated, but by no means are they made up of perfect parts. As the midway point of the NFL season approaches, Minnesota's injury-battered offensive line is still a work in progress. 

Starting tackles Matt Kalil and Andre Smith are both sidelined with season-ending injuries. Starting guard Brandon Fusco suffered a concussion Week 5 against the Texans, but is expected to return against the Eagles. Center is the only position on the line the Vikings haven't had to replace because of an injury at some point this season.

But despite the constant changes up front, Minnesota has been stout overall in protecting the quarterback, allowing eight sacks and 27 quarterback hits across five games. According to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press, the performance of that makeshift offensive line is going to be key in the Vikings' potential success down the road. 

"What’s best for Bradford and the Vikings’ standing as the NFC’s top dog is better pass protection," Murphy wrote. "He was sacked twice when Houston defenders turnstiled Clemmings and hit hard in the pocket other times. ... Offensive line intrigue never is a sexy storyline, but how well the Vikings manage the unit week to week figures to be an underlying factor to their continued success."

Strong away from home
The Vikings are a just a few years removed from going winless on the road, finishing 0-7-1 away from home in the 2013 season. Minnesota secured wins in only two of its first 10 away games under the tutelage of Mike Zimmer, but have since gone on a tear.

Minnesota has won seven of its last eight road games dating back to last season and, in their most recent game away from U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings took down the Panthers, 22-10, in Week 3. A testament of a true contender is having the ability to win consistently on the road, which holds true with the Vikings.

According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the Vikings' vast improvement over the past two-plus seasons has contributed to them becoming a stronger team away from home.

"Facing a tough opposing crowd once was a tall order for the Vikings, but it’s much less of one now. After being one of the worse road teams in the NFL earlier this decade, they’re now one of the best," Tomasson wrote. "Overall, the Vikings have improved, having gone from 7-9 in 2014 to 11-5 last season to 5-0 this year. That’s the main reason the road record has gotten so much better. Still, players say the continuity the team has had has especially helped when entering rugged road environments."

While Vegas has the Vikings as light favorites on the road, national experts have them heavily favored straight up to hand the Eagles their third straight loss.

ESPN: All nine experts picked the Vikings

CBS Sports: Seven of eight experts picked the Vikings

FOX Sports: Three of five experts picked the Vikings