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Week (at least) that Joel Embiid is expected to miss due to left knee soreness

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the Eagles’ receivers, Doug Pederson’s decisions about events on and off the field, and the success of Temple, Penn and Penn State in college football.

The Phillies have acquired many pitchers, such as Vince Velasquez (pictured), the past few years, but it’s not clear that they’ve brought in quality pitchers who can anchor thea rotation or bullpen for at least several years. Eric Fisher also reminds you that Carlos Ruiz returns this week, says Tommy Joseph may have started hitting in the nick of time, and praises Aaron Altherr.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the Soul trying to repeat as Arena Football League champions, the Mayweather-McGregor fight and a ridiculous decision by ESPN.

Archive for the ‘Fish ‘n Chips’ Category

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On January - 19 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

Looking at the local schedule on PhillyPhanatics.com and seeing “No games scheduled” for Sunday provokes an empty feeling.

The Eagles were so close to beating the Saints. If Alshon Jeffery, with the best hands on the team, had caught Nick Foles’ pass with two minutes remaining instead of letting the ball slip through his grasp and into the waiting arms of Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, the Eagles might be preparing for the NFC Championship Game.

But the 20-14 loss to the Saints didn’t come down to one play. If the Eagles had stopped the Saints’ fake punt, they would have taken possession within field goal range. If Brandon Graham had recovered Drew Brees’ fumble and fallen to the ground instead of trying to run with it, which allowed the Saints to retain possession and punt, the Eagles might have won. If Foles hadn’t thrown an earlier interception, the Eagles might have won.

But it’s time to put away the “what ifs” and look at reality. It’s likely that the Eagles will have to bid goodbye to some players who have played significant roles in their success.

Let’s start with Foles. Although there’s a chance he could return next season, Foles would probably prefer an opportunity to be a starter. Besides, the Eagles would have to pay Foles significant money to keep him around next season. Whether by trade or free agency (via a buyout), Foles probably will be wearing another team’s uniform next season.

Left tackle Jason Peters may also have played his last game as an Eagle. Peters is a potential Hall of Famer at left tackle and developed into an important leader, but injuries made it difficult for him to complete games this season. Peters, who will turn 37 on Tuesday, might be at the end of the road in terms of his playing career.

Defensive end Brandon Graham could also be finding a new home this offseason. Now that he’s north of 30, Graham might not get the contract he’d like from the Eagles. Other teams, however, may be willing to pay for a pass rusher like Graham. He would like to stay, but money is always a factor.

Darren Sproles may also retire. If he doesn’t retire, the Eagles will have to decide whether to bring him back. Sproles, who will turn 36 in June, was effective during the latter part of this season. On the other hand, he’s only played a handful of games the past two seasons due to injuries. The Eagles need help in the backfield, but can they count on Sproles to be available to play?

Injuries may also play a role in the decisions regarding linebacker Jordan Hicks and cornerback Ronald Darby. Hicks hasn’t been able to stay healthy for a full season. That may lower his price for re-signing to something the Eagles can’t pass up, or they might decide to pursue other options at linebacker. Darby’s season-ending injury could bring his price down to a level that the Eagles are willing to pay, but other teams my offer Darby more money than the Eagles are willing to spend.

One of the saddest aspects of the Eagles not returning to the Super Bowl is that players such as Peters, Hicks and Sproles, all of whom missed Super Bowl LII – and much of the journey there – due to injuries won’t get the opportunity to play in a Super Bowl as Eagles.

The sentiment, however, must be put aside. It’s time for the Eagles to move on.

It would have been awesome, though, if the Eagles season would have lasted two more games.

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THE WAITING: We are barely three weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, yet the two elite free agents have yet to make their decisions regarding which team to join.

The Phillies, of course, are prime contenders in the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sweepstakes. Some people believe they could sign both of them. Meanwhile, Harper and Machado have dragged out the process, either waiting for better offers or waiting for the other guy to sign in order to make sure that they are paid even more money.

If the Phillies sign either Harper or Machado, nobody will about the length of the process. If the Phillies get neither player, though, there will be little time for contingency plans. That’s the downside to having this process take so long.

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FOLES’ DESTINATION: If Foles leaves the Eagles, where could he end up? Jacksonville seems a likely destination. The Jaguars are moving on from quarterback Blake Bortles. Furthermore, they recently hired former Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo as their offensive coordinator. If the Jaguars can smooth over rough feelings with running back Leonard Fournette, they will have a running game and defense in place. The addition of Foles could bring them back to the playoffs.

Miami might be another possible destination. There are signs that the Dolphins are ready to move on from quarterback Ryan Tannehill as their starter. Foles would be a nice replacement.

The Broncos aren’t pleased with Case Keenum, but the Foles-Keenum pairing might bring back suppressed memories. Foles and Keenum were with the Rams during Foles’ worst season, during which Keenum replaced him as the starter, leading to Foles’ release.

One semi-dark horse candidate is Washington. Alex Smith’s leg injury is severe enough that he won’t be ready for the start of next season. If it becomes clear that Smith won’t play at all next season, the Redskins may try to convince Foles he could be their starter for more than one season.

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OFFENSE MATTERS: How important is scoring points in the NFL? The top four teams in points are the four teams in the conference championship games. The Chiefs led the NFL with 565 points during the regular season, followed by the Rams (527), the Saints (504) and the Patriots (436).

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BYE THE NUMBERS: How important is the first-round bye? This is the sixth straight season in which the Super Bowl participants will have had a first-round bye in the playoffs.

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DEJA VU: The AFC Championship Game, with a coaching matchup of Andy Reid vs. Bill Belichick, serves as an unwelcome reminder of Super Bowl XXXIX.

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HALLADAY TO HALL: Expect to hear former Phillie Roy Halladay’s name Tuesday when the Hall of Fame balloting results are announced. Expect an emotional Hall of Fame ceremony when Halladay, who died on Nov. 7, 2017, when the plane he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.

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PLAYING HURT: In an era when players skip bowl games to avoid injury, Trace McSorley stands out. Not only did Penn State’s quarterback play in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day, but he re-entered the game after injuring his right foot.

McSorley is slated to participate in Senior Bowl practices, which start on Monday, but that wasn’t his concern when he lobbied to get back into the game after Kentucky pulled away in the third quarter. McSorley felt a responsibility to his teammates to get back on the field.

McSorley is an undersized quarterback who needs to demonstrate his skills to NFL coaches in order to improve his draft position. But success, particularly for quarterbacks, isn’t all about size and arm strength. Character and leadership is much more difficult to discern. But not with McSorley.

If I were an NFL coach or scout, one thing I would already know is that McSorley possesses the toughness and leadership ability to be an NFL quarterback. He proved that throughout his entire Penn State career, including the Citrus Bowl.

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AWARDS NIGHT: Aaron Nola will be honored as the Outstanding Pro Athlete by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association on Monday at their annual banquet in Cherry Hill. Sonny Hill will receive the Ed Snider Lifetime Humanitarian Award for his commitment to the community through basketball leagues and other activities. The Eagles and Villanova men’s basketball will be honored as the pro and college teams of the year after winning championships. Former Villanova guard Jalen Brunson will be honored as Amateur Athlete of the Year.

Former Eagles receiver Mike Quick, currently part of the team’s radio broadcast, will receive the Living Legend Award. Temple head coach Fran Dunphy, former Temple football standout Paul Palmer and former Flyers forward Brian Propp are among the other honorees. Jayson Stark will be honored for his selection to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame as the winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award. Flyers broadcaster Jim Jackson and Hall of Fame writer Ray Didinger will receive media awards.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 30 years, thanks Nick Foles for leading the Eagles to their only Super Bowl victory and for his wonderful efforts this season.

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On December - 5 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Despite a season of ups and downs, with the scale seemingly tipped in favor of “downs,” the Eagles find themselves in control of their own destiny with one-fourth of the season remaining.

Monday’s 28-13 victory over the Redskins improved the Eagles’ record to 6-6, pulling them within one game of the first-place Cowboys (7-5). The Eagles, who have won two straight games for the first time this season, can gain a share of first place by stretching that winning streak to three games Sunday (4:25 p.m.) against the Cowboys.

Not only would a road win over the Cowboys elevate the Eagles into a first-place tie in the NFC East, but it would give the Eagles the edge over the Cowboys against NFC East opponents. With the Eagles and Cowboys splitting their two games against each other, an edge in the second tiebreaker, which the Eagles could wrap up by beating the Redskins in their season finale, is extremely important.

A victory over the Cowboys, however, shouldn’t be equated with a division-clinching triumph. The following week the Eagles hit the road to take on the Rams, who have the best record in the NFL and have already clinched the NFC West title. The Eagles return home on Dec. 23 to battle the AFC South-leading Texans, who have won nine straight games since starting the season 0-3. In other words, even if the Eagles win Sunday, they would still have a difficult road to travel to capture the NFC East.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys face the Colts (6-6), Buccaneers (5-7) and Giants (4-8) after hosting the Eagles. That’s a much more favorable schedule than what the Eagles have in front of them. And while the Redskins (6-6) seem to be sliding toward oblivion, especially with Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback, their schedule (Giants, Jaguars, Titans) before finishing the regular season against the Eagles, isn’t overly difficult.

The Eagles also are back in the wild card hunt, but there are too many variables there beyond their control. By contrast, the Eagles can control their fate in the NFC East.

And, although a victory Sunday doesn’t come close to guaranteeing a division crown, an NFC East title is nearly impossible without a win over the Cowboys this Sunday.

*****

MAJOR MOVE: The Phillies made a major move by trading for Mariners shortstop Jean Segura. The two-time all-star is a contact hitter, which the Phillies desperately need in their strikeout-heavy lineup.

In addition to acquiring Segura, the Phillies rid themselves of Carlos Santan’s contract, which had two more years at $20 million per season remaining. If he had returned, Santana would have either continued to block Rhys Hoskins at first base, which was unlikely, or been a defensive liability at third base. The other possibility is that Santana would have become an extremely expensive bench player.

Accompanying Santana to Seattle is shortstop J.P. Crawford, who couldn’t seem to stay healthy or hit with consistency. Now we have to wait to see if the Phillies can land a big fish – Manny Machado or Bryce Harper – in free agency.

The acquisition of Segura should convince free agents that the Phillies are committed to winning. However, Machado prefers to play shortstop over third base, so it’s possible that Segura’s presence makes the Phillies a less appealing destination for Machado.

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FORMER EAGLES: This was a bad week for former Eagles quarterbacks. After Colt McCoy broke the fibula in his right leg, Mark Sanchez, signed a few weeks earlier when starter Alex Smith broke his leg, was pressed into action, his first appearance since the final week of the 2016 season, when he started for the Cowboys against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Sanchez completed a respectable 13 of 21 passes for 100 yards, but he threw one interception and nearly threw another one while looking skittish against the Eagles’ pass rush.

Another former Eagles quarterback, Chase Daniel struggled during a 30-27 overtime loss to the Giants. One week after completing 27 of 37 passes, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, during a 23-16 win over the Lions, Daniel threw two interceptions while completing 26 of 39 passes against the Giants. The Bears expect quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to return from injury this week, so, unlike Sanchez, Daniel’s return to the spotlight may already be over.

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BARKLEY’S MAGIC: If anyone is still questioning Saquon Barkley’s value, they need to watch his play before halftime of Sunday’s Giants-Bears game. Trailing 14-7 and facing thrd-and-23 with time running out in the first half, the Giants decided to hand the ball to Barkley for a run up the middle, forcing the Bears to use their final timeout. But Barkley had other ideas.

The Giants had given up on the first half, but the rookie from Penn State had not given up. Barkley changed direction several times, juking his way in and out of blockers and defenders until he picked up 22 yards. The Giants then changed strategies, throwing a complete 9-yard pass on fourth down to set up a field goal as time expired in the first half. They then used that momentum to defeat the Bears in overtime, 30-27. But it never would have happened if not for Barkley’s remarkable 22-yard run. The Giants had give

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OWLS OVERCOME ADVERSITY: When Temple opened the season with losses to Villanova and Buffalo, few would have believed that the Owls would be headed to a bowl game. Even after five games, following a loss at Boston College, the Owls’ postseason hopes looked slim. But the Owls overcame their poor start to post an 8-4 record, with one of their remaining losses coming against undefeated Central Florida, to earn a bowl berth for the fourth straight season.

Temple will take on Duke (7-5) in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 27 (1:30 p.m.) in Shreveport, La. The Owls could be hindered in that game. Quarterback Anthony Russo had a cast on his hand while sitting out the regular-season finale against Connecticut. Running back Ryquell Armstead left the UConn game with an injury. The status of each player for the Independence Bowl is uncertain, but, even if the team’s top running back and quarterback can’t play, nobody should count out the Owls.

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LIONS’ PRIDE: Penn State isn’t going to one of the top bowls, but the 12th-ranked Nittany Lions (9-3) should be pleased that they’re going to be playing on New Year’s Day. Penn State will meet 14th-ranked Kentucky on Jan. 1 in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

If not for narrow losses at home to Ohio State and Michigan State in back-to-back games, the Nittany Lions would have gone to a higher profile game, and may even have qualified for the national championship playoffs, but Penn State should be satisfied with a New Year’s sendoff for quarterback and team leader Trace McSorley.

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IT HURTS SO GOOD: Hollywood can’t improve upon real life. That’s the only way to explain what happened in the SEC Championship Game between Alabama and Georgia. This was a rematch of last season’s national championship game. In that game, Alabama head coach replaced starter Jalen Hurts with Tua Tagovailoa, who led the Crimson Tide to the national championship.

Instead of transferring, Hurts remained at Alabama instead of transferring. Hurts played the good soldier all season while Tagovailoa led the Tited to an undefeated record. But when Taovailoa was injured in the SEC Championship Game, Hurts came off the bench  to help Alabama overcome a 14-point deficit. Hurts provided the winning score with a 15-yard run with 1:04 remaining to boost ‘Bama to a 35-28 triumph. You couldn’t write a better ending to this story – unless it happens again in this season’s national championship game.

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TRADITION: The Army-Navy game, one of the best rivalries in college football, takes place Saturday (3 p.m.) at Lincoln Financial Field. This wonderful tradition is always one of the highlights of the college football season.

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WING BOWL: The Philadelphia Wings, the new lacrosse franchise whose name evokes memories of the old lacrosse franchise, opens its season on Sat., Dec. 15 (1 p.m.) against Buffalo at Wells Fargo Center.

                                 *****                               

WINTER SPORT? Yes, they’re still playing soccer. Portland and Atlanta square off for the MLS Cup on Saturday (8 p.m.). Can you imagine a soccer game at night this weekend in Philadelphia, New York, Boston or Chicago? The MLS season is much too long.

Eric Fisher, who has been writing about sports for 30 years, actually feels bad for the Redskins after watching them lose to the Eagles with a third-string quarterback and a pair of third-string guards.

Side angle of Cody Parkey's missed field goal