Posts tagged Philadelphia Eagles
79th and Halas - "It's Go Time"
79th and Halas - From Worst to First

The Bears go worst to first! Flows and Scott talk about Sunday’s season-ending sweep of the Vikings before looking ahead to the Bears’ first playoff game in eight years this Sunday against the defending champion Eagles!

79th and Halas - Pick your poison

Flows and Scott get you ready for Sunday’s season finale with the Vikings. Join them on 79th and Halas throughout the Bears playoff run!Celebrate your division champs by grabbing one of the NEW shirts straight from The Barber's Chair merch store!

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Ball Don't Lie - "Shanghai Melo"

It's the final Ball Don't Lie before the Thanksgiving holiday! Pierce is back with Joe and Scott to talk the latest news in the Association and the NFL.

Bears-Vikings preview
Golden State Warriors drama
Jimmy Butler to the Sixers
Is Melo's NBA career done?
The new look Duke Blue Devils
Aaron Donald's not for the ray tay
Panthers not a top tier NFC team
Steelers byke
The "Is the Pats dynasty over" narrative is back
What's wrong with the Eagles?
A Gruden is not to be trusted
Sound byte of the week
Cooper Kupp tears ACL
Dez tears Achilles
Loudpack Leveon missing the 2018 season
Week 11 predictions
Goofy Mog of the Week

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2018 NFC Playoff Outlook

Every season we tend to see around five new teams emerge during the season and make their way into the playoffs.  Most of them are surprises too. 

Last season the Rams and Eagles took two giant premature steps forward.  I didn't expect much from either team last year but now they both have the appearance of perennial contenders.  An injury to Aaron Rodgers allowed for three NFC South teams to book a playoff ticket. 

A lot can happen so let's take a look at a few certain contenders along with some of those potential surprises.   

Tier 1: Locked In

New Orleans Saints
Minnesota Vikings
Los Angeles Rams

The Saints were one Stefon Diggs touchdown away from having a real shot at winning the Super Bowl last year.  No more wonders of how Adrian Peterson is going mesh with the offense. Mark Ingram will be suspended for the first four games but they have no problem making Alvin Kamara the focal point of the offense until then. Michael Thomas, Cameron Meredith, and Ted Ginn Jr. are already a solid foundation but rookie Tre'Quan Smith adds even more raw speed.

Speaking of rookies, first round DE Marcus Davenport makes his way onto a stout defense led by sophomore CB Marshon Lattimore. 

The Vikings made all the way to the conference finals on the back of Case Keenum before getting embarrassed by the Eagles. They've been contenders for the past several seasons thanks to their elite defense so they have no concerns on that side of the ball. Their offense has gotten better every year and now it takes another step forward.

Replacing Keenum is Kirk Cousins, who's is a more willing runner and deep ball thrower. Dalvin Cook returns from an injury that derailed his rookie season after four games.  He possesses the best traits of both Jerick McKinnon and Latavis Murray and was actually on pace to lead the league in rushing at the time of his injury. 

Sean McVay was the blessing that Jared Goff and Todd Gurley needed. New life was injected into the Rams' passing game and the addition of Andrew Whitworth at left tackle gave Gurley some actual lanes to run through. Sammy Watkins was a great asset in the red zone but I think Brandin Cooks is an upgrade for the type of uptempo offense they run.

The defense lost Trumaine Johnson but added Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Sam Shields, and Ndamukong Suh so they should be all set. 

Tier 2: Not Far Behind

Philadelphia Eagles
Carolina Panthers
Green Bay Packers
Atlanta Falcons

The only reason I have the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles right here is because Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffrey are currently working their way back from injuries. If they're forced to missed time then that may cost them a couple of games. Regardless, their defense alone should win them games. I'm not concerned.

The Carolina Panthers have one of the most consistently disciplined defenses in the league regardless of who they plug in there. The offense tends to be a tad on the inconsistent side but everything is currently aligning. Greg Olsen and Curtis Samuel are back and healthy. Christian McCaffrey is expected to take a big leap this year as the projected three-down back.

On top of that, first-round rookie receiver DJ Moore was viewed by many as the most talented prospect in his position's draft class. If everything clicks, they could beat anybody.

Green Bay still had a chance to make the playoffs even with all of the time that Aaron Rodgers missed. Ted Thompson is no longer the GM so now they'll actually participate in free agency going forward.  Brian Gutekunst made that apparent with the signings of Muhammad Wilkerson and Jimmy Graham this offseason.  Graham has surely lost a step but he'll have no problem hauling in all those red zone targets that Jordy Nelson left behind.

From a fantasy perspective, their RB situation is messy. From a real-life perspective, they have three guys (Ty Montgomery, Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams) that can start and produce on any given week. We all know their offense is a threat but their defense is sneaky good and is loaded with talent at all three levels. 

The Falcons' offense looked watered down in 2017 as they transitioned from a Kyle Shanahan offense to a Steve Sarkisian-led side.  Despite the step down, they still made the playoffs in a difficult division.  If they can get a better grasp on Sarkisian's scheme then they have all the pieces to return to form.  

Tier 3: Don't Be Surprised

New York Giants
Chicago Bears
San Francisco 49ers
Arizona Cardinals

In 2016 we saw the emergence of a stingy Giants defense that paved a way to the playoffs.  We didn't see that same defense in 2017.  The offense couldn't help them at all.  The entire receiving corps was depleted with injuries and there was zero semblance of a run game.  Now that 2016 team gets Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley.  I'm sure they're excited about a healthy Odell Beckham too. 

The Bears had a top 10 defense last year which a lot of people don't realize.  It's pretty impressive considering their offense was at the bottom of the league in terms of total plays ran. Jordan Howard has managed to be successful in vanilla schemes but now the training wheels are off in Matt Nagy's new offense.

Just like the Giants, they didn't have anybody to throw the ball to last season. Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel, and Anthony Miller hope to aid Mitchell Trubisky make a leap similar to Jared Goff with his revamped team.

If I wrote this a couple months ago then I might have had the 49ers a tier higher. The hype surrounding them has been immense so I've tried to temper my expectations recently. The once elite defense has been a place mat in recent years but the front seven is young and promising. Richard Sherman also provides a type of intelligence and star power the team hasn't seen since Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman were together. Jerick McKinnon isn't as good between the tackles as Carlos Hyde but has a better knack for catching the ball which is what Kyle Shanahan is looking for.

The Cardinals could hover around 8-8 or even 9-7 this season, but they face a similar problem to the other teams in their tier. If everything goes right for the previous teams then the conference may be too crowded to let everyone into the playoffs. The Cardinals are probably one more year out from returning to prominence.

Their defense always lands in the upper half of the league, David Johnson is back, and they have a Hall of Famer in Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver. The glaring problem is the quarterback situation. Sam Bradford is talented enough to lead a playoff team but can never stay healthy for a full season.  Even if he is healthy, they may be too eager to get Josh Rosen on the field. Rosen will probably have the QB position set in stone by next season but Larry Fitz may be gone by then.

The Toronto Raptors - Underdogs of the NBA

Fresh off Superbowl 52 and watching my beloved Philadelphia Eagles finally win the big game, my fandom will shift focus to my hometown Toronto Raptors, whom I’ve been loyal to since however long I’ve been watching basketball, which is definitely over 15 years. The 2017 Eagles played the role of the Underdogs. Their star QB Carson Wentz was having an MVP-type season before tearing his ACL on December 10th in Los Angeles, which I was in attendance for. The odds weren’t in our favour if you were to ask Vegas or any sports analyst who had a collective thought to offer up as to what the future of the Eagles was going forward for their season. For the rest of the season, the Eagles were underdogs in all but one game (Week 16 vs the Raiders) and the common denominator was Carson Wentz. Never mind the fact that the team had lost other core pieces of the team, but that didn’t stop the non-believers from adding fuel to the fire.

Rob Turennte - Getty Images

Rob Turennte - Getty Images

In the NBA, the Raptors have always been known as “that team in Canada,” or “that team that doesn’t matter” in whatever capacity in which they’re addressed throughout American media. Being the only basketball franchise in a country of 32 Million, which is still primarily a hockey country, the Raptors have their own problems gaining traction in the respect column from Canadians as a whole, but that has changed over the years since their improbable 7-game playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets in 2014. That series started a trend of making the playoffs repeatedly the following years to the point where it’s just expected that they make it to the postseason now.

As a Raptors fan, that’s still hard to believe sometimes. I can give one hard sneeze and be sent back flashes of a 4-19 start and multiple double-digit losses in a row. They were dark times that flash of bad Jay Triano coaching and heartbroken Chuck Swirsky calls, not to mention the putrid rosters that were ‘supposed’ to elevate Chris Bosh and a then young DeRozan who really hadn’t made anything of himself.

Without going into the history of how we got to this point, the fact is that the Raptors have consistently been a great team in the East without having a superstar player (although DeRozan’s play in this season is challenging that), an elite head coach (Casey’s pretty good), and a stacked roster. No one jumps out at you and says to the average fan that they’re a must have for their Fantasy teams. The Raptors aren’t always going to be a go-to team you run with on NBA2K. We’ve always been the fanbase that screams that we need “one more piece” in order to compete, but with so many people saying that Canada isn’t a desirable place to play ‘because of the cold’ (like New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, Detroit etc. don’t exist), the excuses are running thin. With notable names having played in Toronto in recent years by the likes of Rudy Gay, DeMarre Carroll, and currently Serge Ibaka, players are not adverse to wanting to play in Toronto like they used to.

DeMar DeRozan has been part of the 2-headed juggernaut to carry the team in years past, but for the first time in his career (maybe the 2nd), the team has been fortified from top to bottom to be put in a position to compete at a high level consistently, especially when it matters. Yes, regular season success is great, and with 7 rounds of playoff experience, including an appearance against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016, you’d think that they’d be on the radar for the forseeable future. In the famous tone of Charlie Murphy (RIP), Wrong! Wrong!

Boston, Cleveland, and Washington have really always been the staple teams to be discussed when it comes down to ‘who can win the East and advance to the Finals.’ The Cavs; we’re witnessing (haha) their collapse and what looks to be the 2nd post-Lebron era looming. Boston has a hot-shot coach in Brad Stevens and one of the youngest and most talented rosters that oh, just happened to acquire Kyrie ‘Uncle Drew’ Irving and Gordon Hayward, to vault themselves as the ones to dethrone the King, and I mean, I get it. Boston is an esteemed franchise which has a rich history of success on its resume. Washington is only mentioned because they have star power and no one wants to say Toronto, which brings me to the Raptors. If any year they should take a look at the model for success that the Eagles ran with, it’s by embracing being the underdog. The whole city of Philadelphia, and its fans, clung to the label and it unified the locker room to the point where they were able to bring in their first NFL championship since 1960, and their first Superbowl overall.

I can be positive that everyone in the East is tired of hearing that LeBron is the be-all and end all of the conference. It’s true; in order to get to the Finals, you have to take down the King. It’s especially evident in the AFC for Tom Brady and the Patriots. You have to go through the best to be the best. Toronto has been stewing for a while. One thing about Canadians is that we’re pretty damn passive. It’s not a good thing, but it’s our thing. Don’t ask, it’s just in our engrained DNA for the most part. We’ll shout things like “Fuck Brooklyn”and “We don’t give a shit about ‘It’” in the playoffs and be bounced gracefully, but we’ll always come back with that same energy until we ourselves grow tired of being that whimpering kid asking why people don’t like us.

After being swept by the Cavs in the ’16-’17 season (completely wiped from my memory, if I’m being honest), Masai Ujiri called for a culture reset. What was working when it didn’t matter wasn’t working when it did, and that needed to change. With a retooled offence, an aggressive defence, and a selfless environment hovering over the organization, for the first time in its franchise, the Raptors actually looked poised to make a deep run that has some people thinking that June basketball is a possibility. Now, barring any major injuries, because God loves to throw those hurdles in there, anything is possible.

This year’s Philadelphia Eagles are examples of that, but it’s not about a group of players going down, it’s about the attitude of the organization as a whole and the collective will that each person has in order to assert themselves in a position to win. The Raptors have put themselves in a position not for ‘win-now,’ but for steady growth so that when they want to win, they’re doing it in a consistent fashion.

Time will tell as to how the success of this ‘culture reset’ will result, but at the beyond halfway mark of the season, the Raptors have improved in their efficiency and are winning games against good teams – contenders, I should say. They deserve to have more respect in the NBA, and for them not to have a Christmas game while having two multiple all-stars on the team in the city that just held one of the best all star weekends, that was a big slap in the face, and the top dogs of the team let the NBA know it. They’re all about to “prove ‘em,” and where the expectation is for the Raptors to falter right out of the gates in April, I think these guys from the North have other plans that stretch past the expiry date a lot of people have already plotted out. We’ll all know soon enough.

That’s My Word & It STiXX