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Sacks in 3 seasons for 2014 1st-round pick Marcus Smith, cut by Eagles on Wednesday

Dez Bryant catches three touchdown passes as the Cowboys take sole possession of first place in the NFC East with a 38-27 victory over the Eagles, who now need help from other teams to qualify for the playoffs.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on Cary Williams’ comments, A.J. Burnett’s ejection Saturday and the deserving trio entering the Flyers Hall of Fame this season.

A repeat of last season’s success, winning 10 games and an NFC East title, won’t be considered progress this season. The Eagles must win a playoff game to have a successful year.

Archive for the ‘NASCAR’ Category

Pocono presents opportunity

Posted by Eric Fisher On July - 28 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Many drivers want to follow the example of seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson. But, for now, they will settle for following the example set by Kasey Kahne. Or Chris Buescher.

Who is Chris Buescher? One year ago, he won a weather-shortened race (heavy fog) at Pocono, notching his first career win and qualifying for the season-ending Chase, which is now referred to simply as the NASCAR playoffs. Without his victory, Buescher would not have qualified for the playoffs.

Kahne pulled off a similar feat last Sunday, qualifying for the playoffs by winning the Brickyard 400, his first victory since 2014, a span of 102 races.

There are only six races left before the playoffs begin, so this Sunday’s Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway is one of the remaining opportunities to automatically qualify by winning a race.

There are 16 playoff berths available. With Kahne’s victory, 12 of those spots are filled. The drivers who have qualified with victories are: points leader Martin Truex Jr. (3 wins); Johnson (3 wins); Kyle Larson (2 wins); Brad Keselowski (2 wins); Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2 wins); Kevin Harvick; Denny Hamlin; Ryan Blaney; Kurt Busch; Ryan Newman; Kahne; and Austin Dillon.

Drivers can qualify for the playoffs without a victory if they are at the top of the points race among winless drivers. But each time there is a new winner, it knocks a winless driver out of the playoff field. When Kahne (383 points), who won at Pocono in 2013, won last Sunday, he knocked Clint Bowyer (533 points) out of the playoff field.

The points leader among winless drives is Kyle Busch (673 points), who is only behind Truex (780) and Larson (732). Unless the next six races include wins by four previously winless drivers, Busch is going to make the playoffs. Of course, he would like to remove any doubt by winning one of those races.

Less secure are Jamie McMurray (599), Chase Elliott (588) and Matt Kenseth (566). All are in danger of being pushed out of the playoffs by drivers picking up their first wins of the season. If McMurray, Elliott and Kenseth can’t reach Victory Lane, their hope is that these races are won by drivers already in the playoff field.

Among the drivers on the outside looking in are Clint Bowyer (533); Joey Logano (515); Erik Jones (440); Daniel Suarez (434); Trevor Bayne (386); Dale Earnhardt Jr. (353); Paul Menard (345); Ty Dillon (340); and Buescher (311).

Only Bowyer, who trails Kenseth for the final playoff berth by 33 points, and Logano, who is struggling this year, have a shot at qualifying for the playoffs on points, although one first-time winner in the next six races would make their mountain a much steeper climb. Barring a complete collapse by either McMurray or Elliott, it would be extremely difficult to overtake them during the next six races.

The fan favorite will be Earnhardt, who is retiring after this season. Earnhardt won twice at Pocono in 2014. He would love to celebrate his final appearance at Pocono with another victory.

Buescher, of course, wants to duplicate last year’s performance at Pocono. Jones, in his first full season in NASCAR’s top circuit, would like to improve upon his third-place finish at Pocono earlier this year. The irony of Jones pushing Kenseth out of playoff position is that Jones will be taking Kenseth’s spot with Joe Gibbs Racing next year.

Not winning at Pocono on Sunday doesn’t mean a driver will miss the playoffs. But time is running out as the opportunities to qualify for the playoffs diminish.

Junior’s last ride(s)

Posted by Eric Fisher On June - 1 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

NASCAR is trying to build itself back up on the strength of young drivers such as Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Joey Logano, all of whom are in the top 10 in the standings. But many of the fans who flock to Dover this Sunday for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism will be rooting for the 23rd-place driver: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt announced that he will retire after this year. That leaves precious few opportunities to see NASCAR’s most popular driver.

Earnhardt made his decision after missing the second half of last season with a concussion. The length of time it took for his symptoms to dissipate likely influenced Junior’s decision.

Dover International Speedway hasn’t been particularly kind to Junior. He only has one career victory there, a memorable win on Sept. 23, 2001, in NASCAR’s first race after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. His only strong showing at the Monster Mile the past several years was a third-place finish in 2015.

If past history is an indication of future success, Earnhardt has a better chance to win the following Sunday at Axalta presents the Pocono 400. Junior won both races there in 2014.

Although we’re not quite halfway through the segment of the NASCAR season in which drivers qualify for the playoffs (it’s not called The Chase any longer), Earnhardt is far enough off the pace that it appears he will need a victory to make the playoff field. In addition to being winless, Junior has not accumulated any stage wins or playoff points. And he is far enough back in the standings that it will take a tremendous turnaround during the next few months for Earnhardt to qualify for the playoffs without winning a race.

Martin Truex Jr., with two victories and six stage wins, is in the driver’s seat, so to speak. Larson is just five points behind Truex, and there is a 77-point gap to third place, occupied by Brad Keselowski. Between Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson, each of whom have two victories, there are winless drivers Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray and Elliott. They are all in pretty good shape, but they would like to take the suspense out of making the playoffs by winning a race.

Another driver who is winless is Matt Kenseth, the defending AAA Drive for Autism 400 champion. Kenseth is in 15th place in the standings, which puts him pretty close to the playoff bubble.

Kenseth is also part of the old guard that is trying to compete with the younger drivers. That old guard is gradually driving off into the sunset, with Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon having retired during the past few years.

Earnhardt is next. Dover fans would love to see him reach Victory Lane at the Monster Mile one more time before he’s done.

 

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