Is the worst already over for the Philadelphia Eagles?

Is the worst already over for the Philadelphia Eagles?

In case you’re still searching for silver linings from the Eagles’ 52-20 drubbing in Denver two days ago—their third consecutive loss, and looking increasingly less competitive with each passing week—well the good news is there actually are some reasons to remain upbeat.

Go ahead and scoff at the mere implication the sky isn’t falling. If the Birds handle the New York Giants this Sunday (possible), and the Dallas Cowboys fall to the Broncos (likely), Philadelphia would actually take over first place in the NFC East. Ah, the joys of playing in a weak division.

It gets better. Anybody who checked the schedule is no doubt already aware the Eagles’ slate is about to lighten significantly compared to the first four games. Their opponents thus far have combined to produce an 11-5 record, good for a winning percentage of .688. The next 12 are just 16-32 with a .334 percentage.

And although it’s impossible to predict where many of these teams could be sitting one month from now, even just the immediate future seems favorable. Three of the next four opponents (Tampa Bay, Giants x2) have yet to win so much as a game so far this season.

Let’s face it: the Eagles are a rebuilding team, and were completely outclassed by the Broncos in Week 4. They also lost to another of the league’s five remaining unbeatens in the Kansas City Chiefs, and even that defeat took a pile of unforced turnovers in order to essentially give the game away. Throw in a last-minute loss to the San Diego Chargers, and the Birds had actually been competitive in every game up until Sunday.

Philadelphia easily could be at least 2-2 right now, if not 3-1 had they not completely imploded against the Chiefs.

Now the next four weeks pose a golden opportunity to turn things around. The Giants have been absolutely hammered by injuries, and have allowed opponents to outscore them 69-7 the last two weeks. Tampa Bay has hitched its wagon to rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, a third-round pick who was abruptly promoted to starter last week.

Even the first-place Cowboys coming to town in three weeks—while a challenge—is not especially frightening. They’ve already lost San Diego and Kansas City as well, so we’ll see how much better they fare against Peyton Manning’s armada.

The Eagles’ schedule toughens up again down the stretch, but there are still clashes with Oakland, Washington, and Arizona leading up to then. Between now and Week 14, the only intimidating game on the schedule is a trip to Green Bay in November.

Do we expect the Eagles are going to beat all the teams they “should?” Probably not, given they look like one of those teams themselves based on the standings. True rebuilding teams usually don’t run into too many honestly lesser opponents—although some of these franchises are in pathetic shape.

The point is, it’s much too early to give up on this season much less this coaching staff after four games, three of which the Birds were against quality teams with established NFL quarterbacks. The Eagles will have the opportunity to prove where they stand in the pecking order of unfinished products around the league beginning this weekend. Who knows, a last-place schedule may yet propel this team to a run to an NFC East title.

Chip Kelly and his squad have a lot to work to do, but if they knock off Eli Manning and the G-men in New York this week, that could go a long way toward turning the momentum back in the Eagles' favor.

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

He posted the same message on Instagram as well.

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.”