Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On October 6

Sunday’s game with the Vikings has a little more urgency for the Eagles than one might expect for a game this early in the season.

After a mediocre 2-2 start, the Eagles find themselves at a turning point in their season. If they defeat the Vikings on Sunday, they will remain in the thick of the NFC East race, and, pending the outcome of the Cowboys’ game at Houston and the Redskins’ Monday night game at New Orleans, might even find themselves in first place. On the other hand, a loss may put the Eagles in a more difficult predicament.

You can never tell what will happen in the NFL from week to week, but the Eagles appear to have a difficult schedule the next few weeks. The Vikings are seeking revenge for the embarrassing 38-7 loss in last season’s NFC Championship Game. Furthermore, at 1-2-1, the Vikings have their own sense of urgency this week.

The Eagles won’t have much time to recover after the Vikings game. They go up the New Jersey Turnpike on Thursday (8:20 p.m.) to battle the Giants. The Giants have problems on both the offensive and defensive lines, but a short week tends to favor the home team, so the Eagles certainly shouldn’t take that game lightly.

After visiting the Giants, the Eagles return home to face the Panthers, a good – if not great – team. You can scout the Giants and Panthers at the same time this Sunday (1 p.m.) when they meet in Charlotte.

The week after the Panthers game, the Eagles travel to London for a game with the Jaguars. In addition to having a terrific defense, the Jaguars have experience playing in London. The Eagles do not. That will definitely be a tough game.

If the Eagles lose to the Vikings, they will have to go 2-1 during the next three games simply to remain at .500 at the midpoint of the season. That’s pressure the Eagles don’t need.


REMEMBERING HOPKINS: I haven’t written a Fish ‘n Chips since the death of former Eagles safety Wes Hopkins at age 57. For those too young to have seen the fierce-hitting Hopkins when he played with the Eagles, he helped set the tone for the dominant Eagles defenses of the late 1980s and early ‘90s. Hopkins and the late Andre Waters formed the hardest hitting tandem in the NFL.

My PhillyPhanatics.com colleague Gordon Glantz described Hopkins as Brian Dawkins before there was a Brian Dawkins. Hopkins didn’t reach Dawkins’ level as a Hall of Fame player, but the analogy is accurate in the sense that Hopkins played a similar role during his Eagles career, which lasted from 1983-93. PhillyPhanatics.com extends our condolences to Hopkins’ family, friends and former teammates.


CHANGING OF THE SEASONS: The color of the leaves isn’t the only thing that changes during this time of year. The Phillies’ season ended just as the Flyers’ season was about to begin and the Sixers were starting their preseason schedule.


MASCOT CONTROVERSY: I guess I need to weigh in on the most controversial topic of the fall. No, not the Phillies’ collapse or the Eagles’ sluggish start. I’m talking about the introduction of Gritty, the Flyers’ mascot.

Gritty got off to a rough start. People made fun of the way he looked. “Made fun of” is probably too kind. Gritty was mocked, both locally and nationally.

I’m a traditionalist. I don’t like the idea of a mascot at NHL games. I do, however, understand that the Flyers are trying to connect with a younger fan base. A mascot will be an additional attraction for young fans in the arena, and, hopefully, will help them form a closer bond with the team. Gritty is a way to build loyalty with fans at a young age.

I can accept that – with a few conditions. Gritty should be entertaining during stoppages of play or in the concourse. Gritty should not be performing or doing anything that in any way would distract from action on the ice. That’s a general rule for all mascots during hockey games; it’s not just for gritty.

My other rule is more specific to Gritty. Some of Gritty’s Tweets and Facebook posts seem a bit snarky. I’m not sure a mascot should have a Twitter account. Part of the Phillie Phanatic’s magic is ability to communicate without using words. Instead of responding to criticism, Gritty should remain above the fray and knock off the snarky attitude.


FRANKLIN’S DECISION: I have praised James Franklin for many reasons during his tenure as Penn State’s head coach. One aspect of coaching for which I haven’t praised Franklin is his play-calling. I think Franklin takes bad gambles and occasionally outsmarts himself.

One of the worst play-calling decisions Franklin has made came on fourth-and-5 on the Nittany Lions’ final possession during their 27-26 loss to Ohio State. After each team called timeout, Franklin somehow decided that a Miles Sanders run was the best play to call. The Buckeyes had been shutting down Sanders all game. What they hadn’t shut down was quarterback Trace McSorley.

McSorley had passed for 286 yards and rushed for 175 yards. The proper call was to put the ball in McSorley’s hands and give him the option to run or throw. Unfortunately, Franklin outsmarted himself by calling a running play. To his credit, after the game Franklin said, “We should have called something different there.”


MCSORLEY’S CEILING: I used to think that Trace McSorley was a terrific college quarterback but had little shot to be an NFL quarterback. The more I see McSorley, the more I’m starting to change my mind. McSorley has a swagger that makes him a natural leader. He’ll have to stop lowering his shoulder and trying to bowl over defenders in the NFL, but he might have the ability to follow in Baker Mayfield’s footsteps as a smallish quarterback who can succeed at the NFL level.


FULTZ WATCH: Markelle Fultz is an intriguing story. The first overall pick in the NBA Draft, Fultz endured a terrible rookie year. His first NBA campaign was plagued by injuries and rumors about mental blocks.

But the preseason has been filled with overreaction to everything Fultz does. He scored 12 points in the Sixers’ first preseason game, including a 3-pointer. That was good news, but it was hardly worthy of the overanalysis that followed. It was one preseason game. When Fultz makes shots during the regular season, that’s when we can start to get excited.


BREWING SUCCESS: Even before the baseball playoffs started, I was a big fan of the Brewers. They added MVP candidate Christian Yelich during the offseason, acquiring him fron the Marlins. The following day, they signed center fielder Lorenzo Cain, adding two-thirds of their starting outfield.

When the non-waiver trade deadline came around at the end of July, the Brewers acquired Mike Moustakas from the Royals. And they didn’t stop there. On Aug. 31, the final day for acquiring players who could be eligible for the playoffs, they acquired starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez from the Nationals, reliever Xavier Cedeno from the White Sox and outfielder Curtis Granderson from the Blue Jays.

I’m not sure that the Brewers’ starting pitching matches that of some other playoff teams, but the tone the organization set by continuing to strive to get better right up to the final moment seems to have carried over to the players, whose never-say-die attitude has pushed them to the brink of postseason success.

Eric Fisher, who has been writing about sports for 30 years, wonders how the number crunchers in the Phillies organization can explain why analytics didn’t predict their late-season collapse.  

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