2017 NFC Predictions

Well its that time of year again where we have to gaze into the crystal ball and see who will make it to this year’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis. A big swing to the NFC pendulum has to do with the pending suspension of Ezekiel Elliott. Will it happen?? When will it begin??

One of the biggest issues with the free agency era in the NFL are how flawed all the teams are. Even at the top every team has a hole they need to fill. Several teams have defenses and running games and struggle at the QB position. Others are centered on $100 million quarterbacks with a good set of receivers, yet have a send in the clowns defense and can’t run for 50 yards as a team on a consistent basis.

This leads to the b.s. misnomer “its a quarterback driven league.” No it is not… the model that has proven to get to the Super Bowl in the last 10 years has been to have a young QB on his 1st contract, a solid running game and above average defense. Even the Super Bowl L champion Broncos won it with running and defense and carried a fading Peyton Manning. I know… wrong conference but you get the gist…. yet I digress

2017 NFC Predictions:

NFC East Champs: New York Giants 12-4*

NFC South Champs: Tampa Bay Bucs 11-5

NFC North Champs: Green Bay Packers 10-6

NFC West Champs: Seattle Seahawks 10-6

Wildcards: Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings

NFC Champions: New York Giants

Most are going to bristle at the choice of the New York Giants but you watched them lose to Dallas with no Odell Beckham. The Giants know they have to work Brandon Marshall into the game and find a running back. New York has two things working for them. They have time and they may field the NFL’s #1 defense.

New York will field the best defense in 2017 barring injuries.

As The Chancellor foretold in the 2017 NFC East Preview: Do you realize the Giants are returning with last year’s 10th ranked defense, which held Dallas to 26 combined points, sweeping them in 2016?? Even though the Giants were 29th in offensive time of possession they were the NFL’s #3 defense against the run. Then they nabbed DT Dalvin Tomlinson in the 2nd round out of Alabama. This was a Giants strength not a statistic manipulated by scheme.

A lot of new energy will come from the NFC South with Cam Newton and the Panthers finding their 2015 rhythm on offense with super rookie Christian McCaffrey providing mismatches against defenses. Tampa Bay will make a move with Jameis Winston, a bounce back year from Doug Martin, and a boost from the NFL’s best 1-2 punch at linebacker with Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David. Tampa might be a year away but each team will overtake the defending NFC Champion Falcons who will stagger through 2017.

Atlanta will be a case study as they decompress from the greatest collapse in Super Bowl history. Their battle in 2017 will be psychological.

The same can be said of the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. As 2016 ended, we knew the weaknesses of both teams and neither addressed them in the offseason. Trying to recreate Marshawn Lynch with overweight Eddie Lacy is a complete mirage. The Seahawks still have a suspect offensive line that suffered a season ending injury to LT George Fant. They are right back to where they were… running by committee, Russell Wilson running for his life and depending upon a good no longer great defense. They’ll win 10 and lose early in the playoffs.

The Green Bay Packers have wasted the prime of Aaron Rodgers by not drafting or acquiring a sturdy dependable back. Or are they believing the mantra about a quarterback driven league?? Here we are in a new year and displaced WR Ty Montgomery is still running the football. Relying on gimmicks and Rodgers to scramble and make plays to save this team is a recipe for playoff flame-out again. They will beat the Detroits, the Chicagos, the Washingtons and NFL bottom feeders. They will be exposed against solid defenses in big games on the road by the divisional round of the playoffs.

Here at Taylor Blitz Times its about defense 1st however you have to bring some offensive continuity. Teams will shift their secondary attention to Beckham and open up the field for Eli and newly acquired wideout Brandon Marshall. New York’s “D” will keep them in games until they figure it out. Once the Giants get Beckham back and either acquire Adrian Peterson or develop their running game, it will be the Giants representing the NFC in Super Bowl LII.

Funny thing about football is all the misnomers most national pundits push through their agendas, they completely misinform the masses. So if it’s a passing league then answer this question: Which Super Bowl winning QB had the most passing yards in the season they won it all?? Try Eli Manning with 4,933 when he won Super Bowl XLVI with the league’s 27th best defense. 

What will he do with one of the league’s best??

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2016 NFC Predictions

As the nation mourns the 15th anniversary of 9/11, we’re kicking off another NFL season. The memorials have made today more sobering than the open giddiness of last week’s kickoff with college football. Yet we move on and remember those lost.

Winston is growing as a signal caller.

Winston is growing as a signal caller.

Here in Phoenix, all the radio shows have been abuzz with a Super Bowl or bust season for the Arizona Cardinals. Of course their flagship station is all pro Cardinals with only one on air personality, John Gambadoro, remembering his awful finish. This echoes The Chancellor of Football’s view that their season begins and ends with the psyche of a 37 yr old quarterback who has never had NFL postseason success. Our NFC West preview still has Seattle as the class of the division.

In Dallas, the Cowboys feel they have found their quarterback for the future in Dak Prescott. With 1st round pick Ezekiel Elliott the offense will benefit from an offensive line that paved the way for 2014 rushing champion DeMarco Murray. The question is how will Prescott perform when he is faced with real exotic NFL regular season defenses?? Will it be enough for the Dallas Cowboys to win the east??

rs_news_photoNFC West Champs: Seattle Seahawks 12-4**

NFC North Champs: Green Bay Packers 12-4

NFC South Champs: Carolina Panthers 10-6

NFC East Champs: New York Giants 9-7

Wildcards – Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The team to reach Super Bowl LI in Houston will be the Seattle Seahawks. Once there they will beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 33-26 to win their 2nd title in a 4 year period.

Russell Wilson will have an MVP season as he matured into a total quarterback last year in Marshawn Lynch’s absence. Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael will be able to maintain a solid rushing attack. Wilson can still take off on runs to supplement his growing prowess as a passer. Keep in mind he has already been to 2 Super Bowls and down the stretch he threw for 24 TDs to only 1 interception in the last 7 games.

The Legion of Boom defense is still formidable and finished 2nd only to the World Champion Denver Broncos. They are still the best team in football and if they force teams to make that long trek to the Pacific Northwest, this team is hoisting the trophy.

In the East, the New York Giants with their offensive weapons will lean on their defense for the first part of this season. Yes you heard that correctly. Eli Manning and the offensive woes of the preseason will take until midseason before they gel late. Coach Jason Garrett’s defense is way too porous for the Cowboys to win this division or even make a playoff push.

The roof will cave in on the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles for different reasons. Kirk Cousins will have it all on his shoulders as the Redskins let Alfred Morris go. NFL Defensive Coordinators now have a year of film on Cousins and he will have a sophomore slump and no proven runner to lean on.

The Eagles are a mess and are about to start a rookie QB in Carson Wentz who missed most of the preseason with a rib injury. Are you serious?? Philadelphia may win less than 4 games this season.

The Chancellor & Super Bowl LI Trophy at the Hall of Fame.

The Chancellor & Super Bowl LI Trophy at the Hall of Fame.

However the Seattle Seahawks are the class of the NFC and the NFL and will win Super Bowl LI.

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NFL Week 8 Predictions

Ray Lewis

Don’t you just love football?? Here we are after a night of thrilling finishes to college football Saturday, heading into NFL’s week 8 with some pivotal match-ups. This week has most of the teams playing against unfamiliar cross conference opponents which should make for an interesting week. We expect some surprises but one thing we want to point out is after an 0-3 start, the Kansas City Chiefs play Monday Night against the San Diego Chargers with first place on the line. In our never ending comparisons we explained they could match the plight of the ’89 Steelers who lost their first two games by a combined 93-10, yet came back to make the playoffs. Well after being outscored 89-10 in their first two games, the Chiefs can be in first place before we hit November. Now that is a turnaround!! Lets get after the games…

Arizona Cardinals @ Baltimore Ravens: After that disaster Monday Night, Joe Flacco needs to make amends with the fans of Baltimore and his teammates. He has to play better and the Cardinals 26th ranked defense could be the tonic he needs. Meanwhile Anquan Boldin will want to win this one badly also against his former team. Ravens on the strength of their defense which overtook Cincinnati as the #1 unit in football.

Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers: The first foray into playing quarterback on the road in the NFL for Christian Ponder. Should be one where Carolina’s defense should rattle the rookie. Yet the Panther’s 29th against the run defense might get scorched by Adrian Peterson. Peterson comes in with 729 yards and 8 TDs and may need a herculian effort to pull this off. We have to go with the Panthers and Cam Newton at home…..barely

Jacksonville Jaguars @Houston Texans: The Texans are coming very close to giving away a season that shaped up to be a special one for them. Of course they couldn’t help the untimely injuries of Mario Williams and Andre Johnson but this team needs to get going. After last week’s 41-7 devestation of Tennessee, this is the game where they need to hammer home the point that they’re the AFC South’s best. All they have to do is stop Maurice Jones-Drew, who has run for 677 yards yet has those two Monday night fumbles dancing in his head. Texans will be going for the football. Rookie QB Blaine Gabbert in his first road start in the NFL shouldn’t be a factor. Texans going away.

Enigmatic Eli

Miami Dolphins @ New York Giants: Where do the Dolphins go after a mind numbing loss to the Broncos?? A mildly cold Gotham. Not good, especially with the psyche of having to relive Tebow’s comeback time after time on NFL Network and ESPN. If only they had quality running backs to exploit the Giants 27th against the run defense they would have a chance. Giants with Eli Manning passing on a suspect Dolphin defense will be enough.

New Orleans Saints @ St Louis Rams: This is going to be a glorified scrimmage for the Saints offense. After getting torched by DeMarco Murray for 253 yards on the ground, the Saints will be licking their chops to take the lead and hand it off to Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas. Right now the NFC’s #1 ranked offense is hot with Drew Brees ahead of his 5,000 yard season pace. Yikes!! Saints

Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans: After a 62-7 collapse on the road on Monday Night and now they travel to Tennessee?? Titans and Matt Hasselbeck should rebound. Paging Chris Johnson!! Paging Chris Johnson!! If you can’t get running here you may have to renegotiate your contract and give some money back.

Fred Jackson powers Buffalo's offense

Washington Redskins @ Buffalo Bills: The “Land of the Misfit Toys” welcomes in a Redskin team that is coming back to Earth after a 2-0 start. They have gone 1-3 since then and lost RB Tim Hightower for the rest of the season and Rex Grossman has started to throw interceptions with 9. Wrong place, wrong time. The Bills enter the week with the most interceptions with 12 and 16 turnovers forced overall. It will be loud in Orchard Park and Grossman should throw some picks today. On the other hand, Fred Jackson is 6th in the NFL in rushing with 601 yards and 6TDs and should make it to 3rd today if he rushes for over 71 yards. The ink is just drying on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s new $59 million extension and he should be on his game after a bye. Buffalo wins over a sliding Redskin team.

Detroit Lions @ Denver Broncos: Want to hear something funny?? A few years removed from setting the record for the most consecutive losses in NFL history, the Lions find comfort away from home now. They are 3-0 at home and take on a Bronco team giddy over a come from behind win. There is a serious chance at an emotional letdown by the Broncos. Tebow will face a potent pass rush this week and if they minimize turnovers they have a chance at home. On defense they won’t have a good time covering Calvin “Megatron” Johnson who has 10 TDs already. Everyone is waiting for Detroit to wake up and be a bad team again…it’s not happening. Detroit on the throwing of a maturing Matthew Stafford (16TDs / 4 ints) will best the Broncos.

New England Patriots @ Pittsburgh Steelers: Here is where the rubber meets the road gang. The #1 offense of the Patriots vs the #3 defense of the Steelers.  So defensive strength belongs to the Steelers right?? Until you inspect and see it’s the Steelers who are 12th at stopping the run to the Patriots ranked 8th. Tom Brady is 4-1 lifetime vs. the Steelers which includes two AFC Championship Games in 2001 and 2004. Somehow the Steelers have to get Mendenhall going early in this one. If the Steelers have to cover Brady’s receivers on a slippery snowy field, Wes Welker is going to have a field day. Roethlisberger may need to make some big plays in this game. Patriots win this one being a more complete team.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Seattle Seahawks:  Cedric Benson is suspended and the Bengals have only RB Bernard Scott to keep Seattle’s defense and crowd noise off of rookie QB Andy Dalton. However the game will turn on the Bengals #2 ranked defense which has forced 9 turnovers and has allowed only 1 team over 100 yards rushing the ball. Bengals

Cleveland Browns @ San Francisco 49ers: One of the surprise teams in the league is out by the bay this week. Yes the 49ers are 5-1 and were the toast of the town for two weeks. However the team I’m talking about is the 3-3 Cleveland Browns who are going into this game with the league’s 4th best defense in all of pro football. Peyton Hillis is sore and a game time decision. Everyone is expressing how poorly Colt McCoy is playing and he does need some improvement. However he has 8 TD throws along with SanFrancisco’s Alex Smith has the same amount of TD passes. This is an upset special… Browns in a tough one.

Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles: The Cowboys discovered a running game in DeMarco Murray last week with a team record 253 yards rushing against the Rams. Yet it was just that…against the Rams. So was it a coming out party or an aberration? For the first time in many weeks Tony Romo wasn’t asked to pass deep into the 4th quarter where he’s had his troubles. Coming into the game, the Dallas Cowboys come in with the #1 defense against the run and face the #1 rushing offense, so what gives?? Vick with a few scrambles should tire out the Cowboys defense and the safeties are still suspect and may allow DeSean Jackson to get deep. With their season on the line we think the Philadelphia Eagles will right the ship after lamenting their fate all through the bye week.  Jason Garrett has some questionable calls late in close games and will do it again tonight. Sorry Hollywood, Romo will throw a late pick.

AFL Lives On!!

Monday Night Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers: The Chargers had the chance to reverse how others, namely the Taylor Blitz Times, views them as perennial underachievers last week and then went out and did so again. This time with the spotlight on them after Rex Ryan’s comments. They viewed that game as a big game and promptly laid an egg. The team that has gone through a crucible is the Kansas City Chiefs. This summer it was thought this was the best team in the AFC West. First came the 0-3 record, lost their 1,400 yard rusher in Jamaal Charles going down, then rededication and a 3 game winning streak has this team confident again. They have found a sound RB replacement in Battle. With a win they go from worst to first in only 4 games and will lead the AFC West again. Will they get it?? Yes on the strength of their ground game with Thomas Jones, Battle, and McCluster leading the way.

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NFL Week 5 Game Predictions

Proposed patch in memory of Al Davis by the Remember The AFL Group in honor of Al Davis' passing.

We are steamrolling into week 5 with a slate of pivotal games today. Now we told you to circle the week 5 Monday Night matchup between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears back in May, so loyal readers shouldn’t be surprised. So we had a bumpy first quarter to this football season predicting games. Week 1 we were 8-8, followed by 12-4, 12-4, and 11-5. So right now for the season Taylor Blitz Times is sitting with a nice 43-21 record. Unlike other groups, we don’t take the 5 easy games to pick and try to look good, call them all and see what you can come up with.

So without further adieu lets get into the games”:

Tennessee Titans @ Pittsburgh Steelers: With the 22nd ranked rushing defense having allowed 2, 100 yard rushers, this is a good time for the Titans to keep playing mistake free football an pulling off an upset. James Harrison is out with an orbital bone break. That’s not a good thing. Roethlisberger will keep the Steelers in it. If you look at the Steelers rushing totals, they’re not as good as years past. Titans

Cincinnati Bengals @ Jacksonville Jaguars:  The Bengals have been protecting Andy Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski with the run and Cedric Benson has rewarded them as the 6th best rusher in football. The flip side of that equation is they now field the #1 defense in all of football. The Jaguars come in with the #2 rusher in Maurice Jones-Drew and the same formula of protecting a rookie quarterback in Blaine Gabbert. They do field a more middle of the road defense and for that reason we’re going Bengals.

Seattle Seahawks @ New York Giants: The Seattle group is foundering under Tavarres Jackson just as we thought and are a junior league NFL team for the forseeable future. If the Giants can’t get up for this team and blow them away in less than 3 quarters, it will say a lot to how far the Giants have slipped since Super Bowl XLII. Giants

Arizona Cardinals @ Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson talk to your offensive line. Here comes the 24th best defense in all of football. What most folks don’ t know is Beanie Wells is averging 5.4 yards per carry and has 5TDs so far. We think the Vikings front seven can slow him down. Vikings

Philadelphia Eagles @ Buffalo Bills: Could two teams arrive at this game so different from one another?? We asked at the beginning of the year if the Eagles were the second coming of the ’94 49ers or ’95 Dolphins?? Early returns are showing have them less than the Dolphins with a 1-3 record. The team isn’t playing with much confidence. The “Land of the Misfit Toys” Buffalo Bills are believing in themselves more and more. Even with last week’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals they led for much of the game before losing 23-20. It was a game they should have been on lookout for a letdown yet still played well….at home in Rich/Ralph Wilson Stadium??? They keep it going today BILLS!

Steve Smith has resurfaced as one of the best receivers in the NFL and is second in receiving yards.

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers: This is going to be a fun game to watch….what is surprising is the Panthers aren’t really running the ball as much as you’d expect. Coming into this game, the Saints rank 2nd and the Panthers 3rd in offense and come in 14th and 15th respectively. Cam Newton is on pace for setting rookie passing records and the reawakening of Steve Smith is frightening. The Saints don’t have an answer for Smith…seriously that defense?? Panthers

Kansas City Chief @ Indianapolis Colts: “The I Cant Believe Its Not Butter Bowl” We have the Chiefs winning this one. The Colts played well for the Monday Night  audience to keep from being embarrassed on national television. Chiefs are better as a team. Chiefs

Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans: In memory of Al Davis, this team will play some hard rugged football. The Texans are out to show they belong with the AFC Heavyweights and Arian Foster will run for more yards than Darren McFadden today. Texans

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ San Francisco 49ers: The NFL is paying for the 10-6 Bucs of last year not making the playoffs. They are playing physical football with a chip on their shoulder. LaGarette Blount is running like a new model of Eddie George where your heart better be in it if you want to tackle him. Josh Freeman and company go in and burst the Niners bubble today. Bucs!

New York Jets @ New England Patriots: After giving up 34 in consecutive games, this is a bad place for the Jets who stole that first game with the Cowboys. At this point you can’t pick against Brady who has thrown for 1,553 yards, 13TDs and 5 interceptions. Wes Welker leads the NFL in receptions and receiving yards and with that much attention on him the Patriots have to find other receivers. Last January they didn’t. However with the Jets unable to run, they just give Tom Brady too many chances. Patriots

Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons: Have to take Aaron Rodgers and the Packers

San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos: Chargers roll to 4-1 start

Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions: Lions kill the Bears Monday Night

2011 Philadelphia Eagles Preview

That Andy Reid can come out smelling like a rose can’t he? First he exiled the franchise’s best ever quarterback for the heir apparent in Kevin Kolb.  Kolb proved ineffective during the preseason and was replaced after injury by a rejuvenated Michael Vick who played some of the most electrifying football seen in years.  Fast forward one year later and Vick wins the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in a landslide and Kevin Kolb is being dangled as trade bait after the 2010 season.  The Eagles fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in the playoffs yet seemed poised to terrorize the NFC East with maybe the division’s most explosive offense ever.  With the Redskins and Cowboys foundering on rocky waters, all that remains is the enigmatic Giants to keep them from reclaiming their division crown.  The question for the Giants is: ” Have they sought help for the nightmares from DeSean Jackson’s punt return that flipped their season on it’s ear?”  So a little over a year removed from rumors that Reid may step down, followed by a press conference and possible wife induced decision to stay on, he comes into the 2011 season retooled and loaded for bear.

Quarterback: The “Michael Vick Experience” hit the City of Brotherly Love like a storm last year.  It was the perfect elixir for an underachieving Kevin Kolb who was outplayed by both Vick and rookie Mike Kafka from Northwestern in the preseason.  With the release of Donovan McNabb, the keys to the kingdom were turned over to Kolb.  So once conventional wisdom had Kolb start the season, with new contract in tow,  his play was marginal and then he went down with an injury.  Enter Michael Vick, who went on to have the best season of his career.  He ranked 4th with a passer rating (100.2), while throwing for 3,018 yards, and the best touchdown to interception ratio of his career 21 to 6.

His ability to supplement the running game with 676 yards and 9 touchdowns, made the Eagle offense the scourge of the league at the midseason point.  His feet have improved as a quarterback, he’s constantly on balance and ready to throw.  He showed a penchant to keep his head up and find receivers when he was evading the rush, and not always running it. Yet its this threat to do so that causes defenses to approach with a caution that is borderline fear.  As showcased when he danced through the New York Giants while leading the miraculous 4th quarter comeback that doomed the Giants season in game 14.  That 38-31 win kept Vick in the hunt for the NFL MVP Award, however it was his transcendent performance against Washington in a 58-29 blowout that started it.  That night was one of the greatest offensive performances ever and was exactly what Vick followers expected him to mature into.

Kevin Kolb came back and played well once Vick came off the field due to injury, yet his fate was sealed. He threw for 1,197  yards, 7 TDs, and 7 ints. which was not the best but he did respond once his job was threatened.  Andy Reid has a quarterback to trade and should get a number one and a second round for him.  He figured it would be Vick until the season began and now they have a quarterback in Kolb who could start for at least 10 other teams.  At quarterback the Eagles are Super Bowl quality at the moment…they have to keep Vick healthy.  Could use a draft pick here to prepare for the imminent departure of Kolb who should be traded by the regular season.

Offensive Backfield: Now statistics show you the Eagles have a strong rushing attack.  They ran 428 times for 2, 324 yards and 18 TDs which ranked 5th in the league for rushing totals. These numbers are skewed because of the Michael Vick factor.  Although he didn’t run as frequent as in year’s past he accounted for half of the teams rushing touchdowns with 9 and his 6.8 yards per attempt on 100 carries swelled the Eagles stat as a team to 5.4 per rush. In fact Vick was second on the team in rushing for 38 first downs to McCoy’s 48.  Yet they can run the ball effectively with LeSean McCoy who accounted for 1080 yds and 7 touchdowns.  Without Vick to contain teams honestly, bootlegs away from the flow of the play, McCoy doesn’t gain that type of  yardage.  Its like the Brian Westbrook saga all over again.  He can catch and run but can only do so in space without resorting to gimmicky plays like shovel passes, draws, and sprint draw plays out of 3 and 4 receiver sets.  Yet he was the Eagle’s leading receiver with 78 receptions for another 592 yards.  Many of which were plays where Vick began to scramble and found him on scat routes once the defense squared up to attack the QB.

This teams goal line offense is bootleg pass options with Vick. The Eagles would do themselves a service if they drafted another half back to provide some power between the tackles at times.  It would prove fruitful in the long run for both the Eagles ability to convert on short yardage and goal line, but also minimize the wear and tear on McCoy over a long season. At running back average at best yet superior totals adding Vick’s ad-libs.

Receiver: These guys are growing by leaps and bounds and should be better with a full pre-season to get accustomed to Vick as the starter.  This will be the Greatest Show on Turf East, with so many explosive weapons on the flank. DeSean Jackson, going into his 4th season, has emerged as one of the best deep threats in the league.  Once out in the open forget catching this lightning bolt from behind.  His 47 catches for 1,056 yards and 6 touchdowns were enough to make the Pro Bowl despite missing a game and a half due to a concussion.  In fact he became the first player in NFL history to earn his way onto a Pro Bowl roster at two different positions in the same year.  He made it as a receiver,and punt returner, while causing 80,000 in the New Meadowlands anguish with a punt return touchdown with no time on the clock.  Over his 3 years in Philadelphia,  Jackson has averaged over 47 yards on 26 career touchdowns including 14 from over 50 yards.  If he gets on top of your safety forget it.  The Redskins found this out on a Monday Night when he scored on a 91 TD on the Eagles first offensive play.  Going to be a deep threat for many years to come.

On the other side is Jeremy Maclin, who provides a similar skill set yet has the bigger body (6’0 and 198 yards) to go over the middle for the intermediate catches. He had 70 receptions for 964 yards and led the Eagles with 10 TDs.  Brent Celek is an emerging tight end who chimed in with 47 receptions.  By the time we put in Jason Avant from Michigan and his 51 receptions, this gives the Eagles 5 receivers with 40 or more receptions.  Who do you game plan for in stopping this passing game?  We feel this is the year that teams over play Jackson’s deep ball and Maclin has his breakout season with a 1,200 yard season and his first Pro Bowl berth.  Receiver is pro bowl caliber in Philadelphia and they should terrorize the NFC East this year as well.  All are in their prime and getting better…just dangerous.

Offensive Line: Hmmm, kind of mixed reviews here and hard to gauge this line in terms of their affectiveness.  Although this team is running a west coast offense where the staple is to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly, Eagle quarterbacks were hammered all year.  You do remember they got Kevin Kolb knocked out of game 1 which got Vick on the field in the first place, right? Even with Vick’s elusiveness, only 3 teams gave up more sacks than the 49 this Eagle line gave up last year….yikes! Couple that with a twin ranking of 29th in Philly QBs being hit 95 times and you see why Vick missed time last year as well as Kevin Kolb.  No wonder this team called a lot of half rolls off play action fakes.  They needed to slow down the opposing defense.

The numbers are better for this unit in the running game but again this comes with an asterisk.  The final stats show the Eagles ranked fifth with 2,324 yards rushing and 18 TDs which is ranked 4th.  Terrific, until you dissect this a little further.  Take away the 676 yards and 9TDs that came from Vick scrambles and the output plummets to  1,648 yards and only 9 TDs which would have ranked 20th and 24th respectively.  The lone offensive lineman that performed with distinction in 2010 was LT Jason Peters who made the Pro Bowl.  It wouldn’t be surprising if the Eagles put a few draft picks here to light fires under several of their lineman.  Another season like this and they could get their quarterback hurt and derail their 2011 season.  With that…this team is below average and needs to have better push on running plays.  They play too upright and need to get their knuckles in the dirt and fire off the ball.  This comes back to the coaches spending 80% of their practice time in passive pass blocking stances.  It shows on 3rd and 2 when you can’t power off tackle with regularity and the Eagles just don’t pass the eyeball test when it comes to running the football traditionally.

Defensive Line: One of the most enigmatic groups among the elite teams in all of football.  You here every NFL coach start off every press conference with stopping the run.  This group can be pushed off the ball and ranked 15th against the run giving up 1,766 yards and over 4.2 yards per carry.  Yet this front finished with 23 of the team’s overall 31 sacks which included 19 from the defensive end position.  Trent Cole accounted for 81 tackles and 10 sacks from the weakside, but can be run on and is smallish at 6’3 , 270lbs by today’s NFL standards.  Lets be honest, these DTs, Mike Patterson, Antonio Dixon, and Broderick Bunkley have to play more stout and quit getting shoved in the face of their linebackers.  They need to come off those blocks better as well…

This team relies on the offense getting a lead and allowing this defensive line to tee off on the opposing quarterback.  If they have to “sit in” and play honest against both the run and the pass this team can be overpowered.  They rely on exotic blitzes to force turnovers and missed blocks to mask their line deficiencies.  The Eagles should grab a DT or two in the draft and free agency since they are below average in holding their ground.  Teams will run at them to keep them off the field.

Linebackers: The Eagles starters are Ernie Sims, Stewart Bradley, and Moise Fokou who are marginal at best. They accounted for 4 sacks and only 1 interception.  Sims is an athletic defender who sometimes lacks instinct and gets gobbled up by blockers once he’s diagnosed the play.  An original 1st round draft pick by the Detroit Lions finished with 68 tackles and 5 passes defensed.  His play has slipped since his 1st two seasons with Detroit where he had 82 and 96 tackles.   Stewart Bradley was second on the team with 88 tackles yet made too many 5 yards down field. The linebackers suffer from the D-Line not holding up.  However this linebacking group is functional and not really instinctive. The Eagles would serve themselves well with a free agent pickup and or a few draft picks here.  The fact that they were running blitzes similar to those of the late Jim Johnson, this crew should have made more splash plays.

Secondary: This is one of the better secondaries in football.  These guys take chances yet have to stay solid with the defense sending blitzes in many situations.  The signing of Asante Samuel at corner has paid off handsomely.   The all time playoff interception TD return leader in NFL history has made several plays since his arrival from New England.  In 2010, he went to his 4th straight Pro Bowl after leading the NFC with 7 interceptions with 8 passes defensed.  Some have been critical of his not being a solid tackler in the running game and he only had 28 tackles….eh there could be something to that.  Yet this guy is a ballhawk and leads the league in interceptions since 2006 with 36 interceptions, which is what the Eagles really signed him for.

The other star in this secondary is S Quentin Mikell from Boise St.  Yes Melinda and Ray that same Boise St.  One of the Eagles that should have made the Pro Bowl after the 2010 season.  In fact he made the Pro Bowl in 2009, and last year still garnered 2nd team All Pro distinction with his play for a 3rd straight year.  Last year he led the Eagles with 111 tackles, defensed 14 passes while intercepting 3 passes.  This is the force member of the secondary on running plays along with the other cornerback in Dimitri Patterson who recorded 55 tackles and 4 interceptions.  Yet this is a solid tackling group.  Secondary is excellent however if we ran an opposing offense:  run sweeps and bubble screens on Samuel and force him to tackle more.  Try to get behind him with double moves afterward for he will gamble on intermediate (10-15 yard) routes where he jumps passes and gets most of his interceptions. The key is to get hits on his legs and make it easy to pass on him later.

Overall: In facing this team the first thing to remember is this team can definitely be run on and they will give up points.  Astoundingly this Eagle team isn’t as strong as defenses in recent years during the Andy Reid era.  Last year they gave up 377 points which ranked 21st in the league which was 3rd from the bottom of all playoff teams.  Although the Colts were missing Bob Sanders and linebacker Gary Brackett, their best players, and the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks who shouldn’t have been there.  This team  almost wins inspite of their statistics whether we look at the offensive line, defensive line, linebackers or defense as a whole which ranked 12th in yardage given up.  Stay to the ground as the Vikings did in defeating them in game 15; 24-14, feeding them Adrian Peterson for over 100 yards.

The key to playing them is to not become impatient and fast-break with them.  Run on this defense and keep Vick and that offense sitting on their hands and take them out of rhythm.  Even in the Giants game where they came from behind to win in the Meadowlands, they were cold for much of the game.  The Giants became deer in the headlights once Vick got going.  If the Eagles get into a rhythm on offense you could be dead in the water.  Keep your rushing attempts high and force a low scoring game and avoid the “Michael Vick Experience”.  How did he not get a single vote for league MVP?  Sigh…another subject for another day.  This team should repeat as NFC East division champion.

Next Up: Indiannapolis Colts