NFL Week 6 Picks

I think I was .500 last week, hang on a second. OK, I’m back, yeah, .500. My own Eagles went ahead and won to spoil my chance at breaking the Mendoza Line. Can I use a baseball term here? Sure, why not: The Phillies are in the NLCS! Whoot!

Philly.com reports that Kevin Kolb took most of the snaps this week, and it looks like he’s the start vs. Atlanta Sunday. I think he should play the following week, too, at Tennessee. The week after that is the bye week, so that would give Vick a solid 4 weeks to recover. I think missing 2 games to fully heal is the smart move.

1pm

  • ST. LOUIS +8 over San Diego. I don’t like San Diego.
  • HOUSTON -4½ over KC. Houston has to rebound.
  • Baltimore +4 over NE. ESPN really annoys me. I know it’s not really a sports network, but how do they rank the Steelers over the Ravens when the Ravens just beat the Steelers – in Pittsburgh!?
  • TAMPA BAY +4 over New Orleans. I think the Saints will find a way to win, but I think Tampa will hang tough.
  • Atlanta +2½ over PHILADELPHIA. I don’t understand why the Falcons are getting points. I think they are clearly the better team.
  • Detroit +10 over NY GIANTS. Yes, Detroit has to learn to win on the road. But these aren’t the same old Detroit Lions. I think they can keep this close.
  • Seattle +6½ over CHICAGO. Wait, I meant to pick the Bears. Oh, well, I typed it now.
  • Miami +3 over GREEN BAY. Miami is quite healthy. Green Bay is not.
  • Cleveland +13½ over PITTSBURGH. Pittsburgh re-learned to stop worrying and love the run while that Big Doofus was on suspension. I wouldn’t be surprised if 13 points won the game.

4pm

  • NY Jets -3 over DENVER. I will never bet against the Jets ever again.
  • OAKLAND +6½ over San Francisco. I will never bet on the 49ers ever again. How is an 0-5 team that makes an average of 12 mistakes a game a 6½ point favorite? I think Oakland is playing hard for some reason they’ll keep it close.
  • MINNESOTA -1½ over Dallas. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

Sunday Night

  • Indianapolis -3 over WASHINGTON. I think the Colts will be super-ready to play this game, and get a win on the road.

Monday Night

  • JACKSONVILLE +3 over Tennessee. I saw signs of life in Jacksonville last week.

Byes

  • Arizona
  • Buffalo
  • Carolina
  • Cincinnati

NFL Week 4 Picks

Yikes! After an 11-5 week 3 ATS, nearly forgot to post these picks, sure to be 5-11 or worse. Today is Oktoberfest in Smithville, NJ, which I’ll have to race to get back in time for the Eagles game today.

1ET Games

@TENNESSEE -6½ Denver I find nothing to reccommend either team. I’ll take … Titans -6½, under protest.
@PITTSBURGH -2½ Baltimore Charlie Batch. Charlie Batch! Can you imagine? I don’t see a 3TD performance, but the Steelers defense is awfully good, especially at home. Steelers – 2½
Cincinnati -3 @CLEVELAND The Bengals have won all kinds of games against the AFC North. I just don’t like them, their smartass uniforms, wobbly quarterback, ancient loudmother receivers, etc. Cleveland +3.
@GREEN BAY -14 Detroit Packers were the Bears’ best friend last week. 18 Penalties! That’s 152 yards! The Bears only passed for 199! Without a healthy Jahvid Best (he has not practiced this week), I just don’t think the Lions have enough offense to stay in the game. Pack -14.
@NEW ORLEANS -13½ Carolina
Jimmy

I’ll take the Saints.

@ATLANTA -7 San Francisco The Mike Singletary watch begins, just after he gives yet another press conference explaining what the team needs to do, instead of having the team actually do it. I think the Falcons are for real, and the ESPN’s Power Rankings are not only useless but comical. How you can rate the Saints over Atlanta 2 days after the Falcons beat them? You can’t, so stop with the ESPN already, except for Greg Easterbrook. Oh! The pick – I like the Falcons again. And I do think there’s something to this West->East Travel stuff. I’m going to do some research on that.
Seattle -1 @ST. LOUIS Sam Bradford wins again! Seattle had 271 yards of Total Offense last week. Leon Washington had 253 yards in kick returns. That is not happening two weeks in a row.
NY Jets -5½ @BUFFALO Revis is still out, and the Jet Secondary looks suspect. The Bills are woefully short on talent, but they are gamers with Fitzpatrick at QB. Two road division games for the Jets is awfully tought. I think the Bills can keep a home division game close. I’ll take Buffalo with the points, and risk the wrath of the Foosball Wizard for picking against the Jets for a third week in a row, having lost the previous 2. Insanity? Possibly.

4ET Games

Indianapolis -7 @JACKSONVILLE Jacksonville always plays Indianapolis tight. I simply can’t take them though. They really, really stink. Trent Edwards.
Houston -3 @OAKLAND This is a Big Test for the Texans. Coming off a tough loss at home last week, are the Texans good enough to bounce back and win on the road? I think Oakland will be better than last week, and we’ll have a close game. Oakland +3
@SAN DIEGO -8½ Arizona A so-called Super Bowl contender will not sell out – again – and San Diego will be blacked out again. The NFL is headed for trouble. I think the Chargers win going away, though. Unless Leon Washington flies in after his early game and suits up for Arizona.
@PHILADELPHIA -5½ Washington Washington stinks. And they have stunk for a long, long time. But this is a divisional game and goofy stuff happens. I think the Eagles win, though. I could go either way, but I’ll go with my Eagles and lay the 5½

Sunday Night

@NY GIANTS -3½ Chicago How on earth are the Giants favored? Expecting a bounce back? That New Meadowlands stadium induces sleep and nausea. I am counting on the Giants dropping 4 INTs. And the Giants starting center is out. That’s a bigger deal than most people think. Chicago somehow wins this snoozefest and somehow goes 4-0.

Monday Night

New England -1 @MIAMI Miami is going to win this game, because the NFL is, as we all know, fixed, and this keeps the division tight. And the NE pass defense. Phew! This game could be a 56-52 kind of a thing.

Philadelphia Eagles 2010 Schedule

The Kevin Kolb era gets started with a National Game at home against Green Bay. Oh boy, get ready kid! Ray Didinger has commented over at CSNPhilly that the early Eagles schedule appears to break favorably. I agree. Aside from Green Bay, the schedule before the bye seems a lot less difficult than after. And the Birds get a bye sensibly placed – in week 8.

This year, the NFL is stacking divisional games towards the end of the schedule, ostensibly to avoid teams benching their starters late in the season. In the case of the Eagles, this measures out to having 4 of the last 7 against the Cowboys and Giants. In fact, the Eagles will play Dallas on December 12 and again January 2. If the Birds are in the hunt, we could be in for a terrific set of rivalry games for the holidays!

Date Opponent Time TV
September
12 Green Bay 4:15 PM FOX
19 @Detroit 1 PM FOX
26 @Jacksonville 4:05 PM FOX
October
3 Washington 4:15 PM FOX
10 @San Francisco 8:20 PM NBC
17 Atlanta 1 PM FOX
24 @Tennessee 1 PM FOX
31 Bye Week
November
7 Indianapolis 4:15 PM CBS
15 @Washington 8:30 PMmnf ESPN
21 New York Giants 8:20 PM NBC
28 @Chicago 1 PM FOX
December
2 Houston 8:20 PM NFL
12 @Dallas 8:20 PM NBC
19 @New York Giants 1 PM FOX
26 Minnesota 1 PM FOX
January
2 Dallas 1 PM FOX

Note: Except for the home game against the Houston Texans December 2nd, each of the last seven games is subject to “Flex Scheduling.”

Donovan McNabb – By The Numbers

Trade Reaction

Reaction to the recent trade of Dovovan McNabb from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Washington Redskins has been every bit as polarized as the fans’ feelings about McNabb himself. Beloved or hated, a Franchise Savior or an overrated and petulant primadonna.

Eagles fans seem just as divided as to why the Eagles didn’t capture a Super Bowl title during McNabb’s reign as the starting quarterback. Was it McNabb’s inaccuracy and his inability to come up big at crunch time? Or was it Andy Reid’s Ego and Arrogance, inflated to proportions that would make Arachne gasp?

By any statistical measure – other than number of championships – Donovan McNabb is the best quarterback ever to play for the Eagles. I’m inclined to defer to Ray Didinger, who says here that Donovan is second to Norm Van Brocklin in Eagles’ history. Still, he’s been pretty damn good for a long, long time.

The trade was made for myriad reasons; it isn’t simply about McNabb’s skills. It’s a money move, a future move – it’s time to turn the page. It’s difficult to find anyone who – once they set aside their emotions – could disagree. Whether Kevin Kolb is the answer no one can say. I’m cautiously optimistic, but of course I’m an Eagles’ fan.

But in Philadelphia, Donovan’s had 10 seasons as the starter, and we just couldn’t seem to get it done with him.

Crunching The Numbers

One of the more startling numbers that jumped out at me is Donovan McNabb’s winning percentage. The usually reliable Len Pasquarelli argues here that  “[Kolb] will struggle to approximate the .651 winning mark McNabb accomplished in 11 seasons with the Philadelphia franchise.” Donovan won 10 (of 14) games just last year, a mark of .714. (On the misery index, let us consider that the Detroit Lions won just 9 games in the 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons combined.)

But in the NFL, you are either rising or falling. Is Donovan on an upward trajectory? Does he have his 5 best years ahead of him or behind him? Let us marshall the evidence. For this breakdown, I left out the 1999 season. While Donovan did see action, he wasn’t the full year starter, it was his rookie year, and Andy Reid’s rookie year. And also that makes 11 seasons and a weird breakdown. So I used the last 10 seasons, during which he was the Day One Starter.

2000 to 2004: 5’s First 5? Fine!

Donovan’s first five years were awfully good. A gaudy .740 winning percentage and a Super Bowl Appearance. During that span, Donovan missed 6 games due to injury. The Eagles made the playoffs each of those years, reaching the NFC Championship game 4 consecutive years. He ran for 2,146 yards during that time and scored 120 points. He appeared in 13 playoff games, going 8-5.

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 GP W L Pct.
11-5 11-5 7-31 12-4 13-22 73 54 19 .740

Note 1: McNabb missed the final 6 games of the 2002 season, but returned for the playoffs.

Note 2: McNabb was a healthy scratch for the final game of 2004, as the Eagles had wrapped up home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

2005-2009: The Middle Years?

From 2005 through 2009, Donovan missed 17 games due to injury. The Eagles made the playoffs 3 of those 5 years, one of which was not with McNabb (2006). He ran for 790 yards and scored 48 points. He appeared in 4 playoff games, going 2-2.

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 GP W L Pct.
4-5 4-53 8-6 9-6-1 10-4 624 35 27 .564

Note 3: Jeff Garcia went 5-1 to lead the Eagles to the playoffs, and won a Wild Card game.

Note 4: I didn’t include the Tennessee Game. My memory says that game was long lost before McNabb got hurt, but let’s just leave it out, just in case.

“Feeley and Garcia did just as well… McNabb is the Problem!”

I took a look at the seasons where Feeley (2002) and Garcia (2006) took over due to injury. Both of them led the Eagles into the playoffs and both performed reasonably well. After all, the bottom line is: WIN. These guys did and the Eagles didn’t seem to miss a beat.

“Feeley and Garcia did well because they ran more … Reid is the Problem!”

Not so fast. I broke each of those seasons down, and looked at how many pass attempts were made by McNabb prior to injury and attempts made by Feeley and Garcia after the injury. To get an “average,” I divided that by 60, which is pretty close to the NFL average of offensive plays per game (See also: Pro-Football-Reference.com and Advanced NFL Stats ). Again, the comparison was done within the same season only.

Not surprisingly, in 2002, the Eagles threw the ball 46% of the time with Feeley, with McNabb, 60%. Similary in 2006, McNabb was throwing 58% of the time, and Garcia 45% of the time.

The NFL average in both seasons favored the pass: in 2002, 55%-45%, in 2006, 53%-47%. So the Eagles, doing quite the opposite, did quite well.

But what does this say about the play calling? Regardless of who calls the plays, the head coach – especially in Philadelphia – has significant input. Yes, people, it says here that the Eagles need to run more.

Summary

A lot of pundits mention Donovan’s 5 NFC Championship games. What they fail to mention is: only 1 in the last 5 years. It was time. The numbers support it, the performance supports it. Could McNabb have been more successful with a more “balanced” attack? Yes, I think the numbers support that as well. But in the end, in the big games, Donovan has come up short. And his contract expired in 2011, and Reid’s in 2014.

So it was pretty easy to see who was going.

The Eagles have historically been pretty savvy about knowing when to let go of a player. As much as it hurt to see Brian Dawkins leave, he didn’t beat the Eagles in their game last year, and the Broncos only finished 8-8. And with the youth movement clearly under way, it was time to hand the starring role to the youngster. Welcome to the Kolb era: may it be slightly more successful than the McNabb era.

And did I say the Eagles should run more? Can’t hurt to mention it twice.

Post Script: But to a Division Foe?!

The Washington Redskins seem to make a big splash every offseason. Once upon a time it was Steve Spurrier; last year it was Albert Haynesworth. This year, it’s Donovan McNabb.

I don’t think it’s worth worrying about. As Brett Favre proved, if you want to play in division, you’ll find a way. All the Packers got out of that deal was a 6-10 first year with Aaron Rogers and the #83 pick in the 2009 draft. For Brett Favre. A 3rd Round pick, #83 overall. And of note: that pick didn’t come from the Vikings, who still had all their picks – it came from the Jets. So you essentially gave Favre to the Vikings at no cost to the Vikings.

By contrast, the Eagles, also going with the young quarterback this year, got a 2nd (#37 overall), and a conditional 3rd or 4th pick next year. That’s 2 draft picks. And that’s 2 draft picks the Redskins won’t have.

Some camps say never trade in division. I say do what’s best for your own football team, and the rest will take care of itself. Considering the history of the Eagles and Redskins over the past decade or so, I’m willing to give the Eagles the benefit of the doubt here.

Goodbye, Donovan

So Goodbye, Donovan. Thanks for a great ride, a fun time, and for being a damn solid citizen. My family have been big fans – after all, my son’s name is Trent Donovan. Good luck in Washington.

But not too much.