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The FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, 2013 Philadelphia Eagles Preview with Mike Clay

Boy, how will we ever come up with something Eagles-related to talk about? There’s hardly been any offseason news whatsoever.

Oh. Right.
So we needed a guest who could help us boil all this down. Mike Clay joins us to talk all things Eagles.  Pro Football Focus Fantasy, Rotoworld, Yahoo…they ALL have him on their fantasy team, so you know you’re getting the pure stuff here. Plus, you know Sen Dog has some things to get off his chest about the Eagles. Feed your Sickness on many levels by clicking on the “listen now” button below. This one hits hard. Better GET YOUR HELMET ON!!!
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The FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, 2013 Volume 7: TEBOW-FREE!

In the latest edition of the podcast, we talk everything going on around the world of football…except that.

Click HERE for the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, 2013 Volume 7

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Click HERE to SUBSCRIBE to the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST via iTUNES.

...and THIS is why.

…and THIS is why.

The FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, 2013 Vol. 6

Urlacher retires, the plot thickens in the San Francisco-Seattle arms race, and friend of the SICKNESS Jim Day (@fantasytaz) stops by to talk fantasy ball and spread the word about a great cause.  We know, it’s only May. That is no excuse for you to not GET YOUR HELMET ON.

Click HERE for the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, 2013 Vol. 6

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Click HERE to SUBSCRIBE to the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST via iTunes.

urlacher

GOING HOME AGAIN: NFL Week 2 Preview & Picks

With the first week in the books, it’s time to leave the novelty and excitement of opening day and the first game of the year behind.  This is where we start to really learn who just came out of the gate well, and who’s built to last.  Some teams we expect to be in the conversation stumbled in their opener (that would be you, Atlanta).  It’s important to get on track because 0-2 is a much bigger hole than it sounds.  16 games ain’t that much.  Margin for error is limited.  It’s part of what makes the NFL the greatest show on earth.  With a handful of exceptions, it looks like the schedule makers decided to get some ugly matchups out of the way.  But that Sunday night special is going to be…well…special.

We expect lots of excitement from these dudes this weekend. Couch plant, affirmative!

THE SICKNESS SPECIAL DOUBLEHEADER

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES AT ATLANTA FALCONS:  Mike Vick returns to the house that Deion built to take on the Falcons.  Mind you, it was Deion’s house, but Vick was responsible for filling it for several years, and fill it he did with electricity and athleticism.  But don’t think those Atlanta fans haven’t considered once or twice over the last year as they’ve watched Vick emerge into a truly special quarterback that they could’ve had that and not had to go through those awful lean years that led to Matt Ryan.  Sure, they’re back among the best, but the sting of promise unfulfilled no doubt remains.  As for Vick, there’s no reason for bitterness, but you know he’s excited to show off not only the player he has become but all the weapons with whom the Eagles have surrounded him.  Tough scheduling break for the Falcons, but that’s how that goes.  They have been dominant at home under Matt Ryan, but I think we get the rare exception this week in a close one.  EAGLES 31, FALCONS 27.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS:  My Sickness partner-in-crime and I both see this as an AFC title game preview.  The Chargers took it to the Vikings in San Diego last week, and everyone saw Tom Brady’s monster 500 yard performance in Miami against a supposedly superior defense.  This week’s test, I suspect, will be much stiffer for both.  I was extremely impressed with the Chargers’ speed on defense, and am curious to see how they match up against the explosive New England offense, which now features a whole lot of the two-tight end sets we were talking about all offseason with the Gronk and Hernandez leading the way.  Same in the other direction, I want to see how New England deals with a multi-pronged Chargers attack.  Let’s not pretend the New England defense was of shut-down caliber last week.  Chad Henne lit them up.  Chad Henne! This is Phillip Rivers, who brings Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates, Mike Tolbert and others with him, and has done the Patriots in their own building before.  This one has all the makings of an instant classic.  Get your clam chowder and fish tacos ready.  PATRIOTS 31, CHARGERS 30.

The Best Of The Rest

Brian Urlacher will play at New Orleans with a heavy heart.

CHICAGO BEARS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS:  Alright, I’ll make it official: The Bears are damn good.  Granted, I like their defense a lot more than their offense, but Martz’s boys are coming around as well.  Jay Cutler appeared to have taken another step in his development even if the performance wasn’t flawless.  Martz found creative and useful ways to get Matt Forte and Devin Hester the ball in space.  And the Monsters of the Midway went hunting.  Now, they’ll be riding an emotional wave after heart-and-soul Brian Urlacher lost his mother unexpectedly this week.  That can go two ways, but are you betting against Urlacher?  Actually, you might be this week, because going into the Superdome and beating the Saints after they just got outscored by the Packers is not going to be a matter of merely showing up.  This will be a fantastically physical game, and the team that gives up the least shots on the quarterback and turns the ball over fewer times will be the winner.  You know, like most NFL games.  Should be a great game, but I like the Who Dat’s at home.  SAINTS 27, BEARS 24.

OAKLAND RAIDERS AT BUFFALO BILLS:  First things first: that was not a fluke when the Bills went into Arrowhead and smashed the Chiefs.  I’m not saying they’re going to dominate 16 opponents and win a Super Bowl in 2011, but if you treat them like a circle win on the calendar, you are in serious peril of marking your own with a big, red L.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is the real deal.  Dareus and Williams is a defensive line 1-2 punch to rival almost any.  Chan Gailey understands how to creatively gameplan to use his dynamic playmakers.  So I’ll say it again: do not sleep on the Buffalo Bills.  I’d say the same about the Raiders, but perhaps an occasional nap is in order, like the kind the Raiders offense still seems to want to take every other quarter or so.  Still, they can get you on any given Sunday.  Nobody can just stop Darren McFadden, and don’t look now but Darius Heyward-Bey looked- dare I say- semi-polished?  And their D-Line is downright impressive, deep with big, physical monsters.  This should be a solid NFL matchups, and like many close ones, I’ll say the home field advantage will be the decider.  BILLS 24, RAIDERS 23.

ARIZONA CARDINALS AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS:  All of a sudden this one looks pretty fun, doesn’t it?  Say what you will about the competition each of these teams faced last week, but the fact of the matter is that most of you (us) were saying those same things about the Cardinals and Redskins a week ago.  Now?  We’ve seen that Kevin Kolb is obviously a big upgrade.  We’ve seen that Rex Grossman might be capable of leading a team with a strong running game and a nasty defense to some wins.  Frankly, I’m pumped to watch this one.  Ultimately, I still believe in defense, and the ‘Skins are the superior team on that side of the ball.  REDSKINS 27, CARDINALS 20.

The Rest Of The Rest

CLEVELAND BROWNS AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS:  Well, here’s a real barn-burner, eh?  Intellectually, I knew going into last week the following two facts.  First, the Colts without Peyton Manning aren’t a very good team.  Second, my Cleveland Browns aren’t a very good team.  No qualifier for them.  The first I only partially believed until Nate Dunlevy of 18to88.com told me on the Football Sickness Podcast that they were an absolutely hideous team if #18 wasn’t able to go.  Four Kerry Collins-ridden quarters later, and Mr. Dunlevy seems rather prophetic, no?  That was not pleasant, and I don’t expect it to get much better against the Browns, who have a solid power running game and a couple of absolute monster DT’s who should prove a tough matchup for the Indy O-Line.  Of course, that might not matter if the Colts were to take a lead. Because then, and this much is certain: it will be Colt-hunting season, and Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will be escorted to the passer like a bull through a matador’s red cape- only that cape will have Colt McCoy behind it.  Both teams looked uneven in week 1, but the Colts looked just awful. I’ll take the Browns in another in a long line of low-scoring stinkers between these two clubs.  BROWNS 17, COLTS 13.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS AT DETROIT LIONS:  It does not get any easier for the Chiefs, as everyone’s 2011 darling welcomes- and I use that term loosely- Kansas City to Ford Field for the Lions’ home opener.  If Ryan Fitzpatrick carved up your defense, imagine what Matthew Stafford could do to it with all the ridiculous weapons he has…Steve Johnson is no Calvin Johnson. Scott Chandler is not Brandon Pettigrew.  I’m seriously concerned that the Chiefs could be that team that disappoints this season.  It sure won’t be the Lions.  Stafford displayed the characteristics that made him the number one overall pick in the 2009 draft and led the Lions to victory on the road against a tough, physical Bucs squad that won ten games in 2010.  The defense has become fast and aggressive under the watchful eye of The Schwartz and Gunther Cunningham.  In short, I like this squad just as much as everyone else seems to.  I expect them to put the Chiefs down with authority.  LIONS 28, CHIEFS 17.

BALTIMORE RAVENS AT TENNESSEE TITANS:  Keep your helmet nearby, Jake.  If week one is any indication, the Ravens mean business.  And Matt Hasselbeck is no Big Ben.  Baltimore got my full attention last week, and I’ll be watching closely to see if they can follow up on the big win against the Steelers by taking care of business against the vastly inferior Titans.  That’s what championship teams do.  The Titans, for the most part, know very little about that right now.  Chris Johnson is going to have to get a hell of a lot more work than 9 carries for 24 yards if this one is to stay close.  He will, but it won’t.  RAVENS 27, TITANS 13.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS:  My gut reaction is to take the Vikings at home, but I just can’t do it.  Not after a pathetic 39-yard performance by Donovan McNabb in San Diego, in a game that would have been immediately out of hand if not for the wondrous stylings of Percy Harvin and his kick return to the house to open the game. It could be Christian Ponder or Joe Webb time much sooner than even I expected if it keeps looking like that.  The Vikes just didn’t look ready.  Neither line played well, they looked old and slow…all the things you were worried about before the season started.  Tampa was a little uneven against an up-and-coming Lions squad, but I suspect they ride LeGarrette Blount and take a workmanlike victory home from the Twin Cities.  BUCCANEERS 23, VIKINGS 20.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT NEW YORK JETS:  In some ways, these two teams have a lot in common.  They’re both built on a premise of physicality and toughness.  Both have a quarterback I love and numerous weapons on offense.  Wait.  Strike that.  Only the Jets have those last two things.  Look, I can appreciate where Del Rio and company were convinced that David Garrard was not the answer, but don’t you make that decision, say, four weeks ago or more?  And for Luke McCown?  OK.  It worked against Tennesee.  It won’t against Rex’s Jets.  And you Sanchez non-believers keep at it.  The kid has a knack for making big throws.  I’m not saying he’s there yet.  That should-have-been-pick 6 that he threw off Alan Ball’s facemask was evidence.  But he will be there eventually, and you’re going to look silly.  JETS 23, JAGUARS 17.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS:  The Steelers are at home and lost to their most hated rival by four (!) touchdowns last week.  In related news, Tavaris Jackson should be shopping for life insurance this week.  STEELERS 34, SEAHAWKS 16.

The future may be bright, but Cam won't light up the Pack the way he did Arizona.

GREEN BAY PACKERS AT CAROLINA PANTHERS:  I’ll defer to Lee Corso on this one…Not so fast, Cam.  This is a different kind of test.  And will bring about a very different result. The Super Bowl Champions roll.  PACKERS 37, PANTHERS 17.

DALLAS COWBOYS AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS:  Ah, how I long for the days of my youth, when this was the finest game in all the land.  While visions of Joe and Prime and Troy and Emmitt and Flash 80 and Rathman and Young and Car-Pisser Haley and so-many others may dance in the heads of Cowboys and Niners faithful everywhere, the unfortunate fact is that these two teams can’t stack up with any of those.  Sure, the Cowboys are talented, but I’ve grown weary of the Tony Romo post-game press conference apologies for stupid, team-crushing plays.  I like Romo, but there is no denying that a pattern has emerged here.  And the Niners, despite the attitude shift that a guy like Coach Harbaugh can bring, strike me as still lacking sufficient talent to be taken too seriously.   I mean, sure, they scored 33 last week, but how many times is Ted Ginn going to bring two kicks back for TD’s?  Either team could win here and it wouldn’t surprise me, but I think the Cowboys are better.  I don’t know it.  I think it.  COWBOYS 27, 49ERS 20.

HOUSTON TEXANS AT MIAMI DOLPHINS:  That Dolphins D did not look the least bit elite.  Granted, the Patriots are a special animal, but this Houston team can flat out score, too.  Still, you had to like the aggressiveness of the Miami playcalling, even if the idea of Reggie Bush as feature back still sounds preposterous.  Houston beat the brakes off of the 18-less Colts, and come in with good momentum.  Another team about whom we have to ask: can they do it again?  I say yes, but it’ll be a good one.  TEXANS 27, DOLPHINS 23.

ST. LOUIS RAMS AT NEW YORK GIANTS:  Welcome to the Spags Bowl!  Equally disappointing starts for each of these squads last week, and one of them will have to leave the new stadium in New Jersey an 0-2 loser.  Never ideal.  The Rams bandwagon got a little crowded for me this offseason and preseason, and unlike so many who picked an upset special, I wasn’t surprised to see them looking overmatched by a very strong Eagles squad.  I was surprised, however, to see the Giants get handled by the Redskins.  I just don’t see how they can absorb all those injuries, and the Rams strike me as hungrier.  This is a good test to see where they are.  RAMS 23, GIANTS 20. 

CINCINNATI BENGALS AT DENVER BRONCOS:  Gross.  Do I have to?  The Bengals had a few moments against the Browns, and the Broncos looked like a team in the middle of a rebuilding effort and a quarterback controversy.  This one could get sloppy.  The Cincinnati defense could give Orton fits, and if the youngster Andy Dalton is ready for Cincy, he could learn real fast that the speed of defenders is very different in most NFL towns than it was in Cleveland last week.  It’s a toss-up to me, but I’ll take the Broncos at home.  I know.  I’m just as stunned as you are.  BRONCOS 20, BENGALS 17.

 

EAGLE EYE: That was UGLY!

Top 3 QB & Top 10 RB potential all in one dude. Yes, please.

Ooh boy, that was a tough one to watch. As Andy said, “We all stunk.” Hopefully now, the Dream Team label can be put to bed. The Pittsburgh Steelers seemed a bit angry that they let Rex Grossman slice up their defense. They took out their anger on Michael Vick and the rest of the Eagles’ offense. The Eagles’ defense wasn’t any better. This one is gonna hurt, so let’s make it quick.

 

Offense

 

5-12 47 yards 3 INT. Not exactly the line that Andy Reid was looking for when he arrived in Pittsburgh. Vick had been extremely sharp all camp long, but Thursday night, he was a shell of himself. He was entirely Jamarcus-esque. Almost every throw was into coverage. Mike Kafka continued the tradition of Eagles backup QBs playing well in the preseason. He was 14-19 for 160 and 2Tds. He seemed to have a great relationship with Johnny Lee Higgins and Dion Lewis out of the backfield. The offensive line was a little better this week and seems to be getting a handle on Howard Mudd’s blocking scheme.

 

Defense

 

The Eagles have never been a stout run defense, but against the Steelers they looked amateur. The defensive line was stuck to blocks leaving way too many holes for the linebackers to plug. Speaking of the linebackers, I have to believe that there is going to be a free agent veteran in the Eagles’ future. Also, I think it’s clear that Jamar Chaney should be the starting middle backer. He played well at that position last year and Casey Matthews seems overwhelmed by the speed of the game to this point. Finally, the secondary was torched. There is a lot of money in that defensive backfield and they will get better. Asante Samuel better stop peaking in the backfield because teams are wise to his game. Nate Allen still looks like he is testing his knee’s health, and getting used to the switch from free to strong safety. He looks late and unsure of himself in coverage, and misses a lot of tackles in the run game. Bad combo.

 

At the end of the day… the Eagles will have to work much harder this week in preparation for the 3rd preseason game against the Browns at home. The 3rd week is traditionally the dress rehearsal, and the way the Browns have looked, the Eagles will need to be sharp. Colt McCoy is looking like a seasoned vet and is picking up Pat Shurmur’s offense with ease. We’ll see if that continues into the regular season, but I know a Browns fan that is extremely hyped right now.

PACKERS 21, EAGLES 16: The Pack Rise Again

Dom Capers' Packers defense kept Michael Vick under wraps all day long.

The first chapter of the unbelievable comeback story of Michael Vick finally came to a close as the Packers outlasted the Eagles. As detailed more thoroughly in this week’s edition of Eagle Eye, the Eagles ran into the same issues they’ve had all season with respect to offensive balance and defensive fortitude, and a talented Packers team that had to claw its way into the playoffs looked much more ready to play from start to finish. If you’re a Packers fan, you’re ecstatic even though during the preseason this position would not have surprised you. If you’re an Eagles fan, you’re disappointed even though if I had told you before the year started that you would win the division and lose a tough playoff game to the Packers, you would have taken it. You know you would have. Interesting dichotomy, no? It’s important to keep these things in perspective.

WHAT HAPPENED: The Chico Kid came out slingin’ for the Packers, and Dom Capers showed through his defensive gameplan that he was taking notes when the Bears, Giants, and others made life tougher on Michael Vick and the Eagles than did, say, the Redskins. Rodgers threw for only 180 yards, but he was all about efficiency, managing three touchdowns (and James Jones dropped a bolt of sheer loveliness that would have been another). Meanwhile, the Packers found a running game in the person of fantasy unicorn James Starks, who rumbled for 123 yards on 23 carries and may be the missing element to a Super Bowl run in Green Bay. Meanwhile, the Packers smacked Michael Vick and his weapons around as Marshall Faulk’s pre-game observation that he had not seen the Eagles receivers “handle it” when defensive backs “put hands on people” turned prophetic. As usually happens, the most physical team won the football game.

SO LONG: To the Eagles, who put together an exciting if uneven season. When they were right this year, they were as good as anybody, and perhaps the most explosive offense in the league. But they consistently stumbled against a strange reluctance to employ their enormous offensive line and supremely gifted running back in the power running game. Perhaps as a direct result, teams that worried little about the sweep simply pinned their ears back and took shots on Vick (who, by the way, is small by NFL quarterback standards). The beating seemed to sap him of some of his electricity down the stretch. The defense struggled to absorb a number of key injuries and continues to seek an identity as it turns over from the old guard to the new. On the whole, it was a successful season, but you can’t help but wonder what could have been.

SEE YOU NEXT WEEK: My Super Bowl champion pick before the season, the Packers looked like a confident bunch this weekend in dismissing Philly at the Linc. They’ve got another tough one this week at Atlanta, but they just lost one down there a few weeks back and will no doubt be looking for redemption. A battle of two of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks is not a bummer for those of us with the Sickness.

EAGLE EYE: That’s All, Folks.

Michael Vick could not save the Eagles this time.

So ends the roller coaster that was the 2010 Philadelphia Eagles. They achieved their goal of winning the NFC East, but were not able to move past the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the playoffs. The problems that plagued them in this game were prevalent all season long. This time, Michael Vick wasn’t able to save them.

The absence of a running game is hard to understand. LeSean McCoy is an explosive running back, and has repeatedly shown that ability when he’s gotten the opportunity. Unfortunately, those opportunities were few and far between. I thought for the Eagles to win this game, he would need to be above 20 carries. That would slow the defense down and keep the much maligned Eagles defense on the sidelines. Too bad I’m not on the coaching staff because at the end of 60 minutes he only toted the rock 12 times. Contrast that with Packers running back James Starks who ran the ball 23 times. Weren’t the Packers the ones coming into the game with questions in their ground game? Maybe I missed something. Don’t they both run a West Coast offense?

By choosing not to keep the Green Bay defense off balance, Michael Vick was under constant pressure. Just check the first play of the game. Eagles were backed up on their 14, they came out in gun, and the Packers crushed him from the backside. Second play, same as the first. They blitzed right up the middle for another sack. It’s no wonder Vick has been running much more recently. It’s called fight or flight. Including Sunday night’s game, he’s been sacked 53 times. That’s way too much for a guy that isn’t much bigger than most wide receivers. He hung in there, showed mad heart, and tried to pull this one out but he chose the wrong time to throw his worst pass of the season. 35 seconds left in your season, and you chose a blanketed Riley Cooper to throw the ball to? The result was predictable.

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles have been horrendous in the red zone, and it continued. Coming into the game they were giving up touchdowns 77% of the time. They were even worse against the Pack: three trips for the Packers inside the 20 ended up in 21 points. The multiple injuries that this defense has suffered throughout the year have been hard to overcome, but at some point pride has to kick in. At the same time, they get some credit because they were able to keep the team in the game and give the offense a shot to win this one at the end.

This leads me to the one constant of the last 11 years, Andy Reid. I may be crazy, but I feel like it’s time for a change. He’s lead the Eagles to the playoffs in 9 of those 11 years. In those 9 playoff appearances, 6 have come by way of winning the NFC East. These are great numbers by any account, and there are a bunch of other teams that would kill for that resume. But every year has ended the same, with a loss in their last game. The Eagles found themselves in 10 games that were decided by 7 points or less. They lost as many of those as they won. Four of those 5 losses were at home. That’s unacceptable for a coach that is considered one of the best in the game. That’s the difference between going home early and a bye in the first round.  Either he changes his style and gets this team to be more physical offensively and defensively, or it’s time for someone else to try. See, this is his baby, so someone has to answer for losing the last 3 games of the year after such a promising start. I guess there’s always next year. But then again, I’ve been saying that for 35 years.

WHO WOULD REGGIE ROOT FOR? NFC WILD CARD PREVIEW

New Orleans Saints (11-5) at Seattle Seahawks (7-9)


We’re not going to spend our time beating up on the Seahawks for getting an invite to the party. They did what they had to do, no matter how ugly it may look. There is some justice, though, because for their prize, they get to take on the defending champs in the first game of the NFL playoffs.

The Seahawks don’t seem to matchup very well with the Saints on paper. They do have the advantage of playing 12 on 11 with the best home field advantage in the league. But let’s get real for a moment. The crowd can’t score for them, and with the uncertainty at quarterback it’s going to be tough for them to put up points. The Saints finished with the best defense in the NFC and the 4th best overall. On the other hand, and not surprisingly, the Seahawks were among the worst in the league on offense. Only Minnesota had a worse turnover ratio in the NFC than the Seahawks, and turnovers in any game, let alone the playoffs, will kill you.

When Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense take the field, it will be bombs away. Hopeful Seahawks supporters will note Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas’ trips to the IR this week as an indication that their run game could be the Achilles heel in Seattle. But in reality, injuries to Thomas and Reggie Bush derailed the New Orleans running game most of this year, and it was up to Brees to make due.

The reigning Super Bowl MVP kept the train on the tracks, carrying the Saints in 2010. Despite a couple of tough outings, it was his 5th straight season of at least 4000 yards passing and he hit for 33 touchdown passes. He doesn’t have just one weapon, he gets everyone involved. Eight receivers caught at least 30 balls, and Burger Man Dave Thomas just missed the cut at 29. It must be nice to know that if you are the first to get open, you’re getting the ball. I expect more of the same against the 27th ranked pass defense in the NFL.

Whoever Pete Carroll choses to play at QB will need to be almost perfect. They can’t afford to continue to turn the ball over in this game and give the Saints’ offense a short field. Keeping the crowd noise up will give them an edge in rushing the passer, but not enough to rattle Brees. Saints start slow, finish strong, and get ready to take on the rival Falcons. Saints 31, Seahawks 17.

Green Bay Packers (10-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

Two of the leagues most exciting QB's hook up in Philly on Sunday.

Fox (not to mention the rest of us) struck gold with this matchup for Sunday afternoon. The Packers are ratings gold, and they’re playing the #1 story of the 2010 NFL season, Michael Vick.  It’s not surprising to see the Pack in the playoffs, but it is a surprise to see them playing on the opening weekend and on the road no less. But that’s what losing half your starters will do to a team, we suppose.

Green Bay visited the Linc back on opening day, outlasting the Eagles 27-20. That was the first game that gave us a taste of what the new Vick was going to look like after Kolb was knocked out with a concussion. He ran for over a 100 yards and threw for 175 and a touchdown. It was just the start of a great season for him and the NFC East champs. The first problem for the Eagles was mental. They committed 10 penalties, most of them negating big plays or keeping them from scoring early in the game. The second problem was named Clay Matthews.

If the Eagles are going to defend their home turf this time around, they have to successfully protect Michael Vick. He was sacked 6 times in game 1, and Eagles’ QBs have been sacked 44 times, 2nd in the NFL. Green Bay will put all their energy into hitting Vick over and over again. If they can’t, their secondary will need to be on their P’s and Q’s because the Eagles’ offense is as explosive as they come. LeSean McCoy is the team’s leading rusher and also the leading receiver. DeSean Jackson is the best big play receiver in the league, and the Eagles scored the most points in the NFC. Put all that together, sprinkle in a little Vick magic, and you can see why the Eagles caused so much trouble for defensive coordinators this year.

But again, the Pack have been there, done that. Their biggest edge resides on the arm of The Chico Kid, one Mr. Aaron Rodgers. He has been out of control lately, and he’s facing a pass defense that is looser than a prom date.  They have allowed 31 touchdown passes this year, and in the red zone teams are scoring at an 80% clip. Greg Jennings had a big game in the first meeting, and the Eagles have suffered a bunch of injuries this season on the defensive side of the ball. There are rookies at corner, safety, and linebacker. They’ve still been a productive bunch, finishing with the 2nd most picks in the league, including 2 against Rodgers himself. I expect Coach McCarthy to spread the field and let Aaron Rodgers have a field day. The big concern will be his health since he’s already had two concussions this season.

If you’ve followed the Sickness, then I don’t have to tell you where my sentiments lie. But looking at this matchup, I am genuinely conflicted. The return of Stewart Bradley will help stabilize the linebacking corps, but the secondary is still a major concern. They did get some extra rest during week 17 so they should be fresh. Green Bay’s defense is so strong. Matthews had 7 tackles, all solo, and 3 sacks in the first meeting, so the Eagles’ offensive line needs to do a better job than they did last week against DeMarcus Ware.

Cold. Home playoff game. Rabid Philly Phans. Vick’s energy. Make it 3-0 vs. Green Bay in the playoffs and set up a rematch in Chicago. Eagles 27, Packers 24.

EAGLE EYE: 8 Minutes

Touchdown. Game. Division.

8 minutes. That’s how long it took to rip out the collective hearts of the New York Giants. 8 minutes. That’s how long it took for the Eagles to sit atop the throne of the NFC East. 8 minutes. That’s how long it took for Michael Vick to snap out of a 3 quarter slumber. 8 minutes. That’s how long I screamed as DeSean Jackson skipped into the end zone.

It’s only right that the Eagles christened the New Meadowlands Stadium with a kidney shot to the rivals from up north. Even without Stewart Bradley and Brandon Graham, and losing Nate Allen during the game, the defense bowed up and made the necessary plays.

But I have to mention Dmitri Patterson. They say it’s not how you start but how you finish. It was extremely true for him. He had one of the worst first halves that I can remember for a cornerback. The Eagles played a lot of zone coverage, and he was routinely toasted while giving up the first 3 touchdown passes. In the second half, the Eagles became more aggressive with blitzes and played more man to man. That was a great adjustment, allowing him to react rather than sit and watch. He really stepped up his play, along with the rest of the secondary.

There are no words left to describe Michael F. Vick. He may not win the MVP award, but it’s obvious that he is just that. Without Vick, the Eagles get 0 yards in the 4th quarter. He accounted for all 245 yards( 151 passing, 94 rushing). In the first 3 quarters, the Giants did a great job of limiting Vick’s effectiveness. Then it seemed like their defense wore down and lost discipline. It allowed Vick to have some more time in the pocket and to break the contain of the defense. You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.

And finally special teams. Football is a game of three phases. Offense and defense get the most glory, but in a game of too evenly matched squads, special teams tends to be the difference. It certainly was in this game. The Eagles recovered an onside kick after completing a 64 yard touchdown pass to TE Brent Celek. How could the Giants not be ready you ask? Well Coughlin says they reminded them to watch for an onside kick, but it looks like the message wasn’t received. Which brings me to…

Matt Dodge. Paging Matt Dodge. There’s an angry coach waiting for you on the white courtesy phone. He and everyone else are wondering how you didn’t kick the ball into the parking lot. Coughlin again said that he told the rookie to kick it out of bounds, and not into the waiting hands of Djax; But it seems something was lost in translation. What we have here is a failure to communicate. Take this excerpt from the mouth of my 11 year old son: “Why didn’t he kick it out of bounds? All he does is practice kicking into a net on the sidelines. If he can’t do it, they should call me. I can kick it out of bounds.” Nuff said.

So what’s next? One more win to officially clinch the division. Two wins and a Bears loss gets a first round bye. Two wins and two losses by the Falcons gets home field through out the playoffs. I’m not going to hold my breath, but just laying out scenarios.

First things first. Minnesota comes into the Linc this weekend. They have the best running back in football, but that doesn’t scare me. What does is the effect that an emotional win like this can have on the team. It will be easy to enjoy this one too long, especially when we have no idea who the QB for Minnesota is going to be. Reid has done one of his best jobs this year with all of the injuries and changes at quarterback. He will have to keep the boys focused on the prize. Win one more, get the division wrapped up, and then go from there. As for me, I’m going to enjoy this one for as long as I damn well please. FLY EAGLES FLY!

NOW I’VE SEEN IT ALL: NFL Week 15 In Review

What a Sunday! An epic comeback lead by a one-of-a-kind superstar quarterback, a number of key games coming down to the wire, a seventy-one yard kickoff return by a guard…this was one of those quintessential classic NFL weekends that has infected us all with the Sickness. And you know what’s even better? The playoff picture isn’t really all that much clearer today than it was yesterday, meaning we’ve got a couple more weeks of this insanity in front of us. Yes, my friends. Life is good.

The dual threat of the Michael Vick Experience was too much for the Giants to handle.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 38, NEW YORK GIANTS 31: I’m going long on this one, because in all seriousness it was one of the most exciting football games I have ever seen in my life, and I still cannot believe I saw it. (Brief aside: it is at times like these that my cup of gratitude for the fact that I was born into the NFL’s technological golden age does indeed run over. Here’s to you, Sunday Ticket, Red Zone Channel, picture-in-picture, and High Definition. Well done.) Anyway, like I said in my picks last week: I think the Eagles take a close one and I think Michael Vick is the difference. Check and big, fat bold CHECK.

Any other takers on the “Michael Vick should not be an MVP candidate” argument? I thought not. Consider this: #7 did damn near nothing the entire first half of the game as the Giants’ D put together another successful hailstorm of pass rush designed to contain him by forcing him into quick decisions. The second half was a completely different story, as Michael Vick suddenly remembered, “hey…I’m Michael Vick.” Thirty minutes and thirty-five points later, Vick had almost single-handedly won the game, finishing with 130 yards and a score on the ground and 3 touchdown passes. That, my friends, is video-game-level SICK.

The Giants choked away a 21-point lead. Then came the kill shot. Those who follow me on Twitter know that about 30 seconds before the game ended, I tweeted: “Do NOT punt this ball to #10. Don’t do it. Just trust me.” And that, as they say, was that.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 31, GREEN BAY PACKERS 27: That was a valiant effort by Matt Flynn and the Packers’ O, and if not for a team-wide case of the dropsies the underdogs from Green Bay probably win this game. The defense dropped two sure picks and a third pretty easy one, and the offense dropped several big passes. Nevertheless, Flynn looked poised and deadly accurate for the bulk of the game, and if nothing else likely gained some vital confidence in the locker room and front office of Lambeau Field. The Patriots were fortunate to come away with this one, but you have to be impressed with how seamlessly they’ve reinvented themselves since a year ago. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are the centerpieces of their passing offense. Think about that. 12-2 gets it done in any season.

The Closer.

BALTIMORE RAVENS 30, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 24: This was exactly the kind of win I needed to see from the Ravens. As in, one that showed me they remembered who they are at their best: a strong D and and game and a half’s worth of Ray Rice stuffed into 60 minutes. They’ve been holding him back, but no more. They’re about to unleash fresh Ray Rice on people, and that makes them infinitely better. What’s more, they did it against the defending champs, who had been one of the hottest teams in the league coming in. Bravo, indeed. Meanwhile, the Saints are now essentially guaranteed to go into the playoffs as a wild card. A repeat will be infinitely tougher winning three road games just to get there. I can’t say I see that happening.

NEW YORK JETS 22, PITTSBURGH STEELERS 17: The Jets are another team that rediscovered their identity this weekend, and not a moment too soon. You had to figure Rex Ryan was going to run home to the ground n’ pound philosophy, and he did so successfully and impressively. The Steelers, of course, are a totally different defense without Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu on the field, but the Jets did what they needed to do to win. Mark Sanchez returned to managing the game and taking well-placed shots, and the formula got them back on track and a huge win in the playoff race. The Steelers aren’t likely to miss the postseason, but the way they are playing right now they will struggle to win a game once they get there.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 34, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 24: A couple of MVP candidates in Maurice Jones-Drew and Peyton Manning went at it, and #18 got the best of the matchup and the W. The game was marred by another full-body cringe-inducing hit on poor Austin Collie, who is almost certainly finished for the season given the league’s focus on head safety. Scary stuff, and we can only hope Collie is OK. I know it’s his job to go get it, but I find it interesting that going unmentioned is the fact that Collie is getting thrown into some tough spots. Also worth noting from this game was the Donald Brown explosion. Did we just find out who has Joseph Addai’s old gig in 2011? Oh, and Jacksonville: here’s your DONE stamp.

Don't worry, Tim. There will be brighter days.

OAKLAND RAIDERS 39, DENVER BRONCOS 23: I don’t need to see anything else to know three things about Tim Tebow in the NFL. One, from a throwing the football standpoint, he can throw the football just fine. Two, a significant chunk of his ground game translates. Three, so does the rah-rah stuff so readily dismissed by all the cool kids as schoolboy schtick. Bottom line: real passion is infectious. People know it instinctively. And like it or not, Timmy’s got it in spades. Unfortunately for Tebow, however, one cannot win on passion alone, at least not most weeks. The Raiders dominated the game in the trenches where it matters and remained unbeaten in the AFC West. Remember that. It could come into play later.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 27, ST. LOUIS RAMS 13: A nice steady return for Matt Cassel getting a much needed win against an improving St. Louis squad. Jamaal Charles touches the ball and good things happen. Case in point: 11 carries, 126 yards, 1 TD. I might give him the ball a bit more. Just a thought. The Rams are still tied for first, somehow, with games against the two teams they’re battling in the NFC West remaining. I honestly expect them to finish third, but it will be fascinating to see if Sam Bradford and the boys can duke it out with their division rivals.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 34, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 7: The Niners maintained their familiar inconsistency, showing up somewhere midway though the fourth quarter. The Chargers dropped the V-JAX Bomb on them, and it was over quickly. And yet somehow San Francisco remains alive in the playoff hunt in the NFC.

DETROIT LIONS 23, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 20 (OT): This one had to hurt in Tampa. In what may be the game they look back on as the one that got away and cost them a playoff berth, Tampa just could not hang on to a lead built on solid, mistake-free football. Meanwhile, someone in Detroit deserves a ton of credit for the fact that they have gotten solid play from all three quarterbacks on their roster this year. Fairly impressive.

ATLANTA FALCONS 34, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 18: Speaking of fairly impressive, the Falcons just keep getting it done. They took advantage of one Seattle mistake after another, spread the ball around to their two superstars and quality supporting weapons, and dominated possession of the football. In other words, standard operating procedure. Meanwhile, Matt Hasselbeck got (deservedly) pulled in favor of Charlie Whitehurst, and it’s fair to wonder if the ol’ “change of scenery” card needs to be played. No matter who plays quarterback, the Seahawks need to get the O-Line to gel before it will matter.

DALLAS COWBOYS 33, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 30: I will just say this: Andy Reid has been right about a great many things in the year 2010.

TENNESSEE TITANS 31, HOUSTON TEXANS 17: I’m through with you, Texans. Call me when you grow up. And Tennessee, I’m not all that happy with you either. Where have you been for the last month? You both wasted promising starts, and it’s a shame.

CINCINNATI BENGALS 19, CLEVELAND BROWNS 17: Colt McCoy’s return could not inspire a Cleveland sweep of the Battle of Ohio. Cedric Benson looked outstanding, showing great patience and burst through the hole as the Bengals finally got off the schneid in the division.

BUFFALO BILLS 17, MIAMI DOLPHINS 14: Hey, Dolphins, here is your DONE stamp. A good win for the Bills, who have been competitive in the vast majority of their games.

CAROLINA PANTHERS 19, ARIZONA CARDINALS 12: Let’s ignore this one, shall we? Good.

Enjoy the Monday Night Football Blizzard Bowl from the University of Minnesota.

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