Saturday, September 26, 2009

Four aces : the QB dilemma

At the bookstore party last night, we talked sports. I didn't write last week after the Eagles loss to the Saints for a few reasons. Perhaps the most obvious one is that the Eagles were annihilated and embarrassed by the New Orleans offense. This is not the worst of things. Had our offense under second string QB Kevin Kolb (pronounced "Cobb") been able to hang onto the ball for anything more than a few three and outs after the half, perhaps the Saints would not have had the endless opportunities they had to score 44 points. Give, the Saints offense is excellent and putting up points like that is to be expected from Drew Brees, but the Eagles turned the ball over to them three times. That is sloppy athleticism, and it lost us the game. Give, Kolb threw 31-for-51 for 391 yards, but we still lost, and big time.

Kolb looked confident in the first half of the game, but he deflated after the half. Once the Saints picked him off to score, his confidence never recovered. This is where we talk about why I need to send Andy Reid a text msg: "wtf, andy." We picked up Jeff Garcia between week one and two, who after a McNabb injury in 2006, led us to the playoffs. Give, we had TO that season, but nonetheless, we know Garcia works well with our West Coast offense and has one us games before. Why even pick up Garcia only to allow Kolb to continue to look like the hatchling he is? What is Reid trying to prove? Perhaps Reid should have noticed Kolb's frustration and given him a break. Would that have only broken his confidence worse? If we would have been able to turn the game around, maybe not. Football is not a choose-your-own-adventure book. If you lose 44-22 to the Saints, you can't retrace your steps back to halftime and throw Jeff Garcia in there just to see how it would have turned out.

Perhaps, though, Kolb has got the stuff. He threw, as mentioned, for over three hundred yards last week. But much of that yardage was interrupted by turnovers, adding points to the already-hard-to-beat Saints' score. Kolb could easily, with more real game time experience and a confidence boost, become the big time quarterback he's got hiding in there. But this isn't trial and error, this isn't show and tell. This is Week 3. This is 1-1. The Eagles have on their squad three (count them) former Pro-bowl quarterbacks, and Kolb is not one of them. McNabb is injured, Vick is a recovering ex-con and Garcia is just being re-orientated to the franchise. However, we know these guys have got the stuff to win games for us. If Kevin Kolb does indeed possess the "stuff", should we really be taking chances with him on the field and two healthy former Pro-Bowl QBs watching from the sidelines? Perhaps. Perhaps this is what Kolb needs to prove to us and himself that he can make it in the big leagues. But if we lose again on him, that confidence is going to be diminished a rather unhealthy amount.

With the Kansas City Chiefs starting QB out this week due to an injury, and also the fact that they're the Kansas City Chiefs, the Eagles strong, healthy defense shouldn't have a difficult time stopping them, but the Eagles need to score points. Let's all hope that Vick's reintroduction to the league this week will turn the McNabb-less game from farce to circus this week, and the Eagles will be flying trapeze-like into the endzone with a baffled Kansas City defense looking on like elephant-dazed spectators. Wildcat, wildcat, wildcat.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fantasy Football, week 1 :: no unicorns, only dragons

I listen to NPR (WNYC in New York) practically all day. Perhaps this highly skews my perspective on, well, everything. But it is rare that I hear anything on this station that I don't at least want to continue to listen to (except the Writer's Almanac every night around 8pm. I don't know why I dislike that so much. Maybe because it interrupts my music with words.) HOWEVER: on a program a few days ago, I believe it was This American Life, they talked about how Fantasy Football has more recently become popular with women. Their reasons for this were a) it's become easier to maintain b) women like to be involved in things that their husbands are involved in and c) their husbands like when women are involved with sports because it makes them feel less guilty when they watch them.

HOLD ON A SECOND. NPR. Seriously?! I never thought I would hear such blatant, blasphemous sexism on my FM radio dial! I was livid. There were a few redeeming moments in the short broadcast. One that said that women were less likely to trade the players that they originally pick, and also that they were more likely to pick players on the teams they remain faithful to. Considering that they probably have gathered more data than I can regarding this, and considering that, well, yes, I do have Brian Westbrook as one of my starting running backs, I kept listening.

I continued to be offended when the announcer said that men don't mind losing to their female counterparts in fantasy football as much as they do to their friends.

I vow, in order to prove NPR's ridiculous broadcast wrong, not only to pay enough attention to my team to know when to switch the players on my bench to my starting line-up, but also to look for free agents and trades that might benefit my team. I decided that I wanted to play in a fantasy league this year because the only place where my football knowledge falters is in knowing the players' names. I can tell you the big shots in the league (such as Tom Brady, Brett Farve, TO) and my opinion on them (good-looking but cocky, omg retire already and DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA.) I can tell you the names of players on my team, the positions they play, and whether or not they deserve their jobs. But I can't tell you the name or position of anyone who isn't in the news more than three or four times per season. I vowed that by getting involved in fantasy this year, I would change this, improving my football knowledge.

I wouldn't say, though, that by improving this knowledge I would be reaching the level of a "guy" and his dedication to the sport. Never would I make this about gender. Though I know I am in a minority, a die-hard female football fan, I would say I know more about football than the average person. Say, a penalty flag is thrown: I bet I could tell you why before the guy sitting next to me could. Or what the cost of committing the foul would be. I could tell you the last time my team won the Superbowl, who won the last few and why I like my franchise more than any other. I'm not challenging anyone's manhood or knowledge of the sport, I'm just saying I can hold my own. And for the football fans of my gender, I am saying we are not what the NPR broadcast made us out to be: compliant, submissive women giddily lining up the hottest guys in the league expecting them to earn us points in our fantasy leagues. Really, NPR?

This being said, I won my fantasy gamble this week. We only gamble pride, and I didn't switch my original starting line-up with anyone on my bench. But I won. I beat my cousin by quite a few points. My male cousin. My brother beat another cousin of ours. Perhaps it has less to do with gender than the infuriating NPR broadcast wanted its listeners to think. Perhaps winning is in our blood. Look at Eli and Peyton Manning. Blood. Yes.

I have a bye on week two for fantasy because there are 9 players in our league. But I'll be back week three to let you know my further plans for fantasy domination.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sunday NYT article on injuries :: recommended

[ Click here to read the nyt article. ]

In the sports section of the New York Times on Sunday, I read an article about the mathematics of injuries in relation to the winningness of a team. Often, teams don't think of injuries as something that makes them win less or more, but this article uses math, everyone's favorite subject until, oh, seventh grade? to discuss the impact that players' injuries (whether it's your QB or Defensive Lineman) have on their teams' records.

I found it immensely interesting, even when the playing-with-numbers turned out-of-my-league. Read it!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Victory, Injury

There are a few things that I always say about the Philadelphia Eagles. They are phrases that seem to apply, year after year, despite which new wide receivers we have or who we are playing against. Week One inspires me to resurrect this one: They Never Make it Look Easy.

To start the game, the Carolina Panthers drove for over-seven minutes and scored. The Eagles offense did not fair as well, were forced to punt, and Quintin Demps ran into the Panthers punt returner who had called for a fair catch, acquiring a penalty (and an exclamation from me: "who is that guy? He's fired.")

However, the game turned around after a fantastic interception by Sheldon Brown, ball inches near the ground when we scooped it from the air. This catch led to a David Akers' field goal, which left the birds still behind, 7-3, but motivated. After this shift in momentum, the Eagles defense and special teams units dominated the second quarter. Sacks, fumble recoveries, interceptions and an inspirational DeSean Jackson punt-return-for-a-touchdown (85 years, I believe) left the score at halftime much improved for any Eagles fan. At one point, within five minutes, the Eagles had managed to earn three touchdowns.

Just when it seemed that our offense wasn't going to get a chance to score points, the defense doing a majority of the work of intercepting balls and maintaining superb field position to put McNabb and his squad in position to score, the offense drove down the field honestly. Getting to ball to seasoned players like Brian Westbrook and Brent Celek, to DeSean Jackson who was new last year but looked yesterday as though he had been playing for the franchise for years, and a true rookie, LeSean McCoy, who has begun to prove himself a good choice for the birds' second round draft pick, the offense scored the next points. McNabb ran into the endzone to earn the points himself, doing what fans love to see him do and taking the opportunity to run a few yards when none of his receivers were open. However, he suffered for those six points, crunched underneath a Panthers defender. The Eagles lost him for the rest of the game, perhaps for the next few weeks. The question of his availability in the near future is still uncertain, but it is known that he has a fractured rib.

Kevin Kolb filled in as quartback for the rest of the game. While the defense managed to hold the Panthers score to ten points, the offense suffered under Kolb's sophomoric hesitance in the position. To appear in place of an injured McNabb most likely was not something Kolb expected in the first week of the regular season, definitely not something fans or the rest of the franchise anticipated. With training this week, though, giving Kolb a chance to work closer with his teammates, fans can only hope if he must play as our quarterback Week Two that he looks better than he did during the end of this first game.

The time clock winding down, the Panthers attempted to score on fourth and goal, rather than kicking a field goal for some guaranteed points. Even with the clock drifted down to seconds left, impossible for Carolina to catch up, I wanted nothing more than our defense, whose efficiency through the entire game in thwarting Carolina was thrilling, to succeed in holding the line. Irrational as such a stand could be, the defense shared my desire and held them back. For this, and for their stamina and athletic prowess throughout the game, Jim Johnson would indeed be proud.

Perhaps, as I've heard elsewhere, the Eagles should consider picking up a free agent quarterback, such as Jeff Garcia or A.J. Feeley, who both have worked for Philadelphia in the past and proved to be good matches with the team. Meanwhile, the team should work on preparing Kolb for Week Two and praying for McNabb's wounds to heal. Though McNabb is a strong quarterback even when he isn't giving 100%, the last thing, as a fan, I would like to see is for him to play the hero and play next week's game when perhaps he should sit it out and allow his injury to recover more completely.

38-10 was the final score. I look forward to seeing our defense against New Orleans' offense next week, reports of Donovan's recovery process and also what Andy Reid plans to do with Vick in Week Three once he is reactivated.

Note: Yesterday was a fine day for Philadelphia sports. Not only did the Eagles defeat the Panthers, but the Phillies won both games of their double header, reinvigorating baseball fans who have seen them not play their best most recently.