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Completions this season by Carson Wentz and Eli Manning

The 76ers became the first franchise in the four major North American sports leagues to sell advertising on their uniforms. While the Sixers celebrate this “first,” Eric Fisher worries that NBA players — and fans who buy their jerseys — are going to become walking billboards.

The Greek God of Wrestling chronicles Braun Strowman’s meteoric rise to main event status. Achilles Heel also bemoans JBL leaving Smackdown, rips Sexy Star and for her conduct during and after a recent incident with Rosemary, and provides a link for Ric Flair’s first video after his nearly fatal medical issues.

During Thursday’s unique dual induction ceremony into the Flyers Hall of Fame, Eric Lindros and John LeClair complemented each other perfectly, just as they did as members of the Legion of Doom.

Archive for the ‘Fish ‘n Chips’ Category

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On September - 18 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Competition and youth. Those are the buzzwords for Flyers training camp.

There will be competition to make the team, competition at all positions, and competition for playing time.

Let’s start with the goaltending, where there will be competition but little youth. Barring an injury, Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth will form a veteran tandem. Elliott was signed as a free agent. Neuvirth, who has a lengthy injury history, returns after an unimpressive 2016-17 season during which he split time with Steve Mason. But will they split time evenly or will one goalie emerge as the No. 1 guy?

With Nick Schultz and Michael Del Zotto gone, there are two openings on the blue line. The top contenders for the openings are former first-round picks Samuel Morin (2013) and Travis Sanheim (2014), 2013 second-round pick Robert Hagg and Philippe Myers, whom the Flyers had signed as a free agent, so there should be plenty of youth in the defensive corps. Don’t count out Mark Friedman and T.J. Brennan. The returning defensemen are Radko Gudas, Andrew MacDonald, Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov and Brandon Manning, with Manning being the only one without reliable job security.

The forward lines should also receive an injection of youth, with the potential for young players to be sprinkled throughout all four lines. Nolan Patrick, the second overall pick in the NHL draft, is competing to be the No. 2 center. That would send Valtteri Filppula to a wing. Claude Giroux is the top-line center and Sean Couturier is slotted for the third line. Patrick probably would not be the fourth-line center, a position that usually goes to player without Patrick’s offensive skills.

The top candidates to be the fourth-line center are 2012 first-round draft pick Scott Laughton and former Union College center Mike Vecchione. Laugthon, who has had difficulty scoring at the NHL level, has reinvented himself as a defensive specialist. A look at the Flyers’ roster shows plenty of depth at center, including 2016 first-round pick German Rubtsov, 2014 sixth-round pick Radel Fazleev and 2015 fourth-round pick Mikhail Vorobyov.

Young forwards who could play significant roles include second-year player Travis Konecny, the 24th overall pick in the 2016 draft, and left wing Oskar Lindblom, a fifth-round pick in 2014. After making an immediate impact after joining the team late last season, Jordan Weal also figures to have a regular role. Speedy Taylor Leier is another young player who might break into the lineup.

With young players arriving and pushing for playing time, and with veterans Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek and Filppula locked into roster spots, there will be pressure on Jori Lehtera, acquired from the Blues in the Brayden Schenn trade, and holdovers Matt Read, Michael Raffl and Dale Weise to earn playing time.

The competition for roster spots and playing time should make this year’s Flyers training camp and preseason more interesting than usual.

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NEW BALANCE: I know the NFL has become a passing league, but calling 50 passing plays and only 13 running plays, as Eagles head coach Doug Pederson did during Sunday’s 27-20 loss to the Chiefs, is ridiculous. If defenses know the Eagles aren’t going to run the ball, the play-action pass won’t be effective. More importantly, defenses can focus their attention on attacking Wentz, which makes it more likely that he will suffer an injury.

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WEST IS BEST: There are a lot of unknowns this early in the NFL season, but one thing seems clear: the AFC West is the best division in football. The Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders are all 2-0. The Chiefs beat the Patriots by 15 points, the Raiders beat the Titans by 10 points and the Broncos blasted the Cowboys, 42-17. The Chargers, the fourth team in the division, have lost their games to the Broncos and Dolphins by a combined five points.

By the way, the NFC East is matched up with the AFC West this season. That’s one reason you might not see an NFC West team with 10 or 11 wins. The Redskins get the Raiders and Chiefs on back-to-back weeks, hosting the Raiders next Sunday night (8:30 p.m.) and then, eight days later, visiting Kansas City.

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OWLS TAKE STEP UP: Temple takes a step back up in competition Thursday (7:30 p.m.) when it travels to South Florida to battle the 21st-ranked Bulls. After an unimpressive 29-21 win over Massachusetts – the Minutemen missed three field goals – the Owls (2-1) will need to improve dramatically to compete with the Bulls.

Thank goodness the Owls don’t have Penn State on their schedule this season. The Nittany Lions obliterated Georgia State, 56-0, on Saturday and have moved up to No. 4 in the national rankings.

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FROM THE HEART: There was good news about former Eagles center Jon Dorenbos this past week, with Eagles head coach Doug Pederson announcing that the surgery to repair Dorenbos’ aortic aneurysm was successful.

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DEAD ZONE: The Bengals failed to reach the end zone in their first two games, both of which were played at home. They have nine points, all on field goals. No wonder offensive coordinator Ken Zampese was fired. You have to wonder how much longer the Bengals with stick with head coach Marvin Lewis.

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SUNDOWN ON THE UNION: After failing to gain ground during Sunday’s 0-0 tie with the New York Red Bulls, the Union’s playoff hopes are barely flickering. They trail the Red Bulls, who occupy the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference, by nine points with five games to play. Even if the Union could catch the slumping Red Bulls, who have played two fewer games, they must also leap frog over Montreal, New England and Orlando City to reach the postseason.

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NAME GAME: Philadelphia has been awarded a franchise in the National Lacrosse League. The franchise, owned by Comcast-Spectacor, is letting the fans choose the team nickname. The Wings, the name of the longtime lacrosse franchise in Philadelphia, would be the best choice.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for 29 years, was credited with as many rushing attempts as LeGarrette Blount on Sunday.

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On September - 10 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Do we already have a major internal issue which could affect the Eagles’ season? There is speculation that the basis for some of the biting criticism NFL analyst and former NFL executive Mike Lombardi directed at Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was information he received from Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

If there is one iota of truth in that speculation, it could cause major dissension with the Eagles organization.

Actually, even if the speculation isn’t accurate, if some players believe it’s true, that could be enough to cause dissension.

Lombardi’s comments on the Web site The Ringer included the following quote. “Everybody knows Pederson isn’t a head coach. He might be less qualified to coach a team than anyone I’ve ever seen. When will the Eagles admit their mistake? Will they throw away 2017 by stubbornly sticking to the Pederson Principle?”

How is this connected to Schwartz? When Lombardi was with the Browns, he hired Schwartz for his first NFL coaching job. The two have reportedly remained friends.

Lombardi and Schwartz both downplayed their friendship, but they did so without explicitly denying that they’ve talked about Pederson.

Although Lombardi’s initial criticism of Pederson’s qualifications to be head coach weren’t anything that wasn’t said when Pederson was hired, The Inquirer’s Jeff McLane points out, in an excellent analysis of this situation, that some of Lombardi’s subsequent criticism of Pederson during an appearance on Comcast SportsNet and in an interview with The Inquirer includes judgments that would be difficult to make without having inside knowledge of the team.

McLane cites three players, who chose to remain anonymous, who told him that it’s “well known inside the locker room that Schwartz is waiting to usurp power. McLane quotes another player as saying, “(Schwartz) walks around the building like he thinks he’s the head coach.” McLane cites an “Eagles staffer” as saying that the only coach who doesn’t think Schwartz is trying to undercut Pederson is Pederson.

In Lurie’s public comments late last week, he dismissed Lombardi’s criticism as “click bait” and “hot takes,” implying that Lombardi was trying to create controversy in order to get attention.

However, if, as McLane’s article seems to support, Eagles players and coaches believe Schwartz is trying to undermine Pederson – regardless of whether or not it’s true – the Eagles have a huge problem on their hands.

*****

NFL IS BACK: The start of the NFL season is always a great time. It means that the awful NFL preseason is over, and it means that the best television spectator sport is back. Thursday’s season opener between the Chiefs and Patriots was fun to watch. I can’t remember the last time I watched that much of a non-playoff game involving two professional sports teams that weren’t from Philadelphia. But I can watch an entire NFL game involving two non-Philly teams.

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FORTUNATE TRADE: The shocking news that long snapper Jon Dorenbos was discovered to have an aortic aneurysm by Saints doctors after being acquired from the Eagles makes one wonder if this serious condition would have been discovered if Dorenbos hadn’t been traded. Those who were upset to see the popular Dorenbos traded can now take solace in the fact that this trade may have saved Dorenbos’ life.

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SURPRISING STABILITY: It’s extremely surprising that the Eagles didn’t make any changes to their 53-man roster after the initial deadline. I’m a little concerned that by keeping five running backs and six receivers, the Eagles have three or four roster spots taken by players who don’t figure to play very much. One position where the Eagles seem a little light (not literally) is the offensive line, where they only kept eight players, despite the age and injury history of left tackle Jason Peters and the anxiety issues of right guard Brandon Brooks.

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TEMPLE OF NEAR-DOOM: I cautioned last week that Temple would be wise not to overlook Villanova. The Owls needed a 49-yard field goal by Aaron Moumerhi with one minute remaining in regulation to pull out a 16-13 victory over the Wildcats, who play one competitive level below the Owls (in what was formerly known as Division I and Division I-A).

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PENN STATE VULNERABLE? Penn State avenged last year’s loss to Pittsburgh by posting a 33-14 victory over the visiting Panthers on Saturday. But the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions should be concerned that the Panthers controlled the clock with their running game. That limited the touches for Heisman candidate Saquon Barkley, who scored two touchdown but only amassed 88 yards rushing. Expect future opponents, such as Ohio State, to try to follow Pittsburgh’s example by running right at the Nittany Lions.

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SAME PLACE, SAME TIME: The Eagles and Phillies both had road games against Washington, D.C., teams at the same time Sunday afternoon.

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FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: Sloane Stephens’ U.S. Open Championship, the first grand slam title of her career, is the culmination of an amazing story. Stephens missed 11 months due to a foot injury that required surgery in January. She got the protective boot off her foot in time for Wimbledon, but was unseeded at the U.S. Open.

Stephens, who played for the Philadelphia Freedoms in World Team Tennis, became the first American woman besides Serena and Venus Williams to win the U.S. Open since 1998. She is the first American woman besides the Williams sisters to win a major since 2002. There may be more American major championship on the horizon. The U.S. Open featured an All-American semifinal round, including Stephens’ victory over Venus Williams.

Stephens’ story is one of determination and perseverance. And, if she remains healthy, there may be many more inspiring chapters in her future.

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EARNHARDT FAILS TO QUALIFY: The 16-driver field for NASCAR’s playoffs is set, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn’t a part of it. NASCAR fans, officials and sponsors were certainly rooting for incredibly popular Earnhardt, who is in his final year as a driver, to add some juice to the playoffs, but he hasn’t won a race this year and failed to qualify.

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KNOCK ON WOOD: A goal by late substitute Bobby Wood in the 85th minute helped the United States salvage a 1-1 tie with Honduras on Tuesday, keeping the U.S. in control of its own destiny in the CONCACAF World Cup-qualifying tournament.

The U.S. remains tied with Honduras, one point behind third-place Panama in the standings. If the U.S. doesn’t beat Panama in its next match (Oct. 6), it could need help to qualify for the World Cup.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for 29 years, will be spending a lot of time on his couch during the NFL season.

R.I.P. Bobby "The Brain" Heenan