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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

The Greek God of Wrestling delivers a qualified endorsement of No Mercy. Achilles Heel also tells you who Brock Lesnar’s Survivor Series opponent is likely to be, expresses disappointment at TNA’s Bound for Glory and criticizes its world title booking, and tells you which former WWE champion was stabbed.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the NCAA lifting Penn State’s sanctions, a positive NFL story overshadowed by the Ray Rice debacle, and how Chip Kelly’s roster moves Sunday hurt the Eagles.

Gordon Glantz analyzes the Eagles’ draft, explaining why they made the picks they made and what he would have done instead.

Archive for December, 2018

Believe It!

Posted by Eric Fisher On December - 30 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

The story was too good to end Sunday.

Correction: the story is too good to end.

The Eagles and quarterback Nick Foles will continue their remarkable and improbable journeys beyond the regular season after the Eagles dominated the host Redskins, 24-0, while the Bears, who had already clinched a playoff berth, provided essential help with a 24-10 victory over the host Vikings, who would have clinched the second NFC wild card and prevented the Eagles from reaching the playoffs by beating the Bears.

The Bears will quickly be transformed from friends to foes. The Eagles, the defending Super Bowl champions, will open the playoffs against the Bears next Sunday (4:40 p.m.) at Soldier Field.

“The bottom line is we gave ourselves an opportunity,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “We’re excited to continue our season.”

Foles ties NFL record, but suffers injury

It’s particularly exciting for some Eagles who are likely in their final season with the team. That list includes Foles, who added to his legend by tying an NFL record Sunday with 25 consecutive completions.

“I want to wear that jersey one more time – and hopefully more,” Foles said.

There is some question, however, whether Foles will be able to play against the Bears and, if so, what type of condition he’ll be in. Foles left Sunday’s game early in the fourth quarter with what was described as a chest injury. He was also drilled in the chest the previous week by the Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney, drawing an unnecessary roughness penalty, at the beginning of the Eagles’ game-winning drive. A report after the game said Foles has bruised ribs.

“It’s sore, but I’m optimistic,” said Foles, who added that he’ll know more about the injury on Monday.

Returning from an injury would merely be another incredible chapter in Foles’ riveting story. From his magnificent 27-touchdown, 2-interception season with the Eagles to flirting with retirement after being released by the Rams, and from his return with the Andy Reid’s Chiefs, with Pederson as offensive coordinator, to replacing Carson Wentz last season and being named Super Bowl MVP, Foles’ story is remarkable.

Eagles’ overcome adversity

But this season has also been an incredible journey for the entire team. After an embarrassing 48-7 loss to the Saints dropped the Eagles to 4-6, few gave them a legitimate chance to make the playoffs. They hadn’t won two games in a row all season and didn’t display any signs of altering their fortunes.

The Eagles fell behind in their next game, 19-3, but rallied to defeat the Giants, 25-22. It can argued that each of the Eagles’ past two seasons turned around with a pivotal victory over the Giants, with a Jake Elliott field goal providing the winning points both times.

The victory over the Giants began a stretch in which the Eagles won five of six games, with the only loss coming in overtime against the Cowboys. The Eagles followed the loss to the Cowboys with victories over the Rams and Texans, who won the NFC West and AFC South divisions, respectfully.

“After the Dallas loss, and it was a tough loss, we had a choice to either fall down or stand up,” Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett said in an interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Derrick Gunn, “and we all stood up.”

Following the overtime loss to the Cowboys, the Eagles learned that Wentz had a stress fracture in his back. That’s when Foles stepped up to the plate for the second consecutive season.

“If you stick together, if you lean on one another,” Foles said, “you can do great things.”

The Eagles overcame a lot of adversity to win the Super Bowl last season. Left tackle Jason Peters, running back Darren Sproles, linebacker Jordan Hicks and Wentz were among the key players who suffered season-ending injuries. The Eagles, with Foles as the starting quarterback, were underdogs in every playoff game.

The Eagles may once again be perennial playoff underdogs this year. That will certainly be true if Foles isn’t able to play next Sunday. If that were the case, either Wentz would have to make a remarkable recovery or the Eagles would turn over the reins to Nate Sudfeld.

Time to smile

Sudfeld completed a touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor after entering the game to replace Foles (28 of 33, 221 yards, 2 TDs). It was Agholor’s second touchdown reception of the game, the first time he’s achieved that feat during his career.

The touchdown will be memorable because of what happened afterward. Agholor presented the ball to a young Eagles fan wearing a Nick Foles jersey. But Sudfeld wanted the football because it was the first touchdown pass of his career. A deal was made with the young fan, who received a replacement football in exchange for the one he gave to Sudfeld.

“That touchdown won’t mean as much (in the future),” Agholor said with a smile, “because he’s going to throw a lot more of them.”

The Eagles could smile and laugh after Sunday’s victory because the Bears helped them out. But they don’t have much time to bask in the glory of their victory.

They await the important medical news about Foles, which is supposed to come on Monday. And they have to get ready for the Bears, who have a tremendous defense.

But the most important thing is the Eagles have provided themselves with the opportunity to extend their remarkable journey yet another week.

Putting it on the Line

Posted by Eric Fisher On December - 29 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Except for missing on my top pick – I made a mistake by not figuring in the impact of the Saturday games on the Dolphins game on Sunday – Week 16 was a good week for me. I was 9-6-1 for the week, with a 3-0-1 mark for my “other top picks.” I’m hoping to finish the regular season strong with another good week.

The final week of the regular season can be difficult to evaluate because it’s difficult to judge motivation levels for teams eliminated from the playoffs. Some teams look as if they’re counting down the minutes until vacation while others play tough until the very end. Also, there are playoff teams that might sit out starters, such as the Saints and Cowboys, or could pull its starters in the middle of the game, such as the Bears. Still, there are some games which stand out this week.

The Eagles are playing their best football of the season. They need a win to make the playoffs, although they need help from the Bears against the Vikings. The Eagles have scored 30 and 32 points during their past two games, wins over the NFC West-champion Rams and AFC South-leading Texans. Thirty points should be more than enough to cover a 7-point spread against the Redskins, who are using their fourth-string quarterback. That’s why the Eagles are my “best bet.”

The Texans (-6½ vs. Jaguars), who need a victory to clinch the AFC South title, are among my “other top picks.” The Seahawks, who clinched a playoff berth last Sunday with a win over the Chiefs, need another win against the Cardinals to secure the top NFC wild card, which would mean a first-round game against the Cowboys rather than having to go to Chicago or L.A. in the first round. That should be motivation enough to cover the 13½-point spread and be one of my top picks.

The other “top picks” are based on the lack of motivation of one team. The Cowboys, locked in as the fourth seed in the NFC, have nothing to play for Sunday against the Giants (-6), who, for that reason, are a top pick. It also helps that the Giants are playing well during the second half of the season. The Saints have nothing to play for, but quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will want to show teams he can still play, which makes the Saints (-7) one of my top picks against the Panthers, who look like they’ve quit on this season.

Here are my Week 16 selections:

(Home team in CAPS) 

(Winning team against the line in bold)

GIANTS -6 vs. Cowboys

CHIEFS -14 vs. Raiders  

SAINTS -7 vs. Panthers

PATRIOTS -13½ vs. Jets

Eagles -7 at REDSKINS

Lions +8 at PACKERS

TEXANS -6½ vs. Jaguars

RAVENS -6 vs. Browns

Falcons -2 at BUCS

BILLS -5½ vs. Dolphins

Colts -3½ at TITANS

Bengals +14½ at STEELERS

Bears +5½ at VIKINGS

Chargers -6 at BRONCOS

SEAHAWKS -13½ vs. Cardinals

49ers +10½ at RAMS

Best bet: Eagles -7 at REDSKINS

Other top picks: TEXANS -6½ vs. Jaguars; GIANTS -6 vs. Cowboys; SAINTS -7 vs. Panthers; SEAHAWKS -13½ vs. Cardinals

Last week: 9-6-1 (114-130-10 this season)

Best Bet: 0-1 (7-9 this season)

Other top picks: 3-0-1 (31-30-3 this season)

Harper hits 1st home run as Phillie