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New York Sports with Mike Lalor
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New York Sports with Mike Lalor

Week 3 Preview:  Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets…and around NY Sports

Coming off a convincing 20-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football, the 2-0 New York Jets will meet the struggling 0-2 Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday at Met Life Stadium.  The Jets moved to 2-0 behind an absolutely superb defensive effort that neutralized Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck, and forced 5 Colts turnovers.  The Eagles fell to 0-2 with a dismal offensive performance at home against the Dallas Cowboys, losing 20-10.  This game will be televised locally in the New York and Philadelphia markets on FOX, and for those with the Sunday NFL Ticket, on DirecTV CH 714.  Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch will serve as the announcers, with Pam Oliver down on the sideline.

Eagles’ overview.  During a busy offseason across the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles were undoubtedly the league’s most talked about team.  Head Coach / Head of Football Operations Chip Kelly continued his overhaul of the Eagles’ personnel, highlighted by several high profile trades at the start of the 2015 league year.  On March 10th, Kelly traded all-time Eagles rushing leader, RB LeSean McCoy, to the Buffalo Bills for LB Kiko Alonso.  Then, later that same day, he traded starting QB Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for QB Sam Bradford, the league’s #1 overall pick in 2010.  In the ensuing days, Kelly signed two high profile RBs in Free Agency, DeMarco Murray (FA – Cowboys) and Ryan Mathews (FA – Chargers).  Murray led the NFL in rushing in 2014, gaining 1,845 yards on the ground, and setting a Cowboys franchise mark in the process.  In his two years at the helm in Philadelphia, Chip Kelly the HC has led the Eagles to consecutive 10-6 seasons, winning the NFC East in 2013 and missing the playoffs in 2014.  Chip Kelly, Head of Football Operations, is one of the most interesting men in sports, and it remains to be seen if he is able to assemble his roster to meet his demanding up-tempo offensive system.

On Monday Night Football in Atlanta to start the season, the Eagles lost to the Falcons 26-24.  Trailing 20-3 at halftime, Philadelphia’s offense came alive in the second half, as QB Bradford (36 of 52, 336 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs) was able to gain large chunks of yardage against the porous Falcon secondary.  With the running game largely ineffective, the Eagles took at 24-23 lead with 6:23 remaining.  However, K Cody Parkey missed a FG wide right in the last 6 minutes, and after a subsequent Falcon FG put Atlanta out front, the Eagles’ night ended on a Bradford INT with 1:11 remaining.

Last week, in their home opener vs. rival Dallas, the Eagle offense could again not generate any semblance of a rushing attack.  Behind an Offensive Line that has yet to find its footing, RB DeMarco Murray rushed 13 times against the Cowboys, gaining only 2 yards.  As a team, the Eagles only gained 7 net yards on 17 carries, their worst output in a game since 1961 (vs. Washington).  In his first 2 games with the Birds, Murray has a grand total of 11 yards on 21 carries.  One year ago, behind the Cowboys’ deep and talented Offensive Line, Murray carried 24.5 times per game for 1,845 yards.  Quite the contrast, and a huge challenge for Philadelphia against the strong Front Seven of the Jets.

The Eagles are already facing injury problems, to include a knee sprain (and rumored partial ACL tear) for their big acquisition, LB Alonso.  Alonso will not play this week.  Starting ILB Mychal Hendricks will also not play, as he is battling a hamstring problem.  RB Murray has also been limited with a slight hamstring pull.  Expect him to play, but if he does not go, the Eagles will shift the workload to RB Mathews and 3rd down specialist, RB Darren Sproles.

Jets in Week 2 on MNF.  Against the Colts, the Jets seized the momentum from the start.  On the Colts’ first drive of the game, S Calvin Pryor intercepted Andrew Luck and returned it to the Colts’ 9-yard line.  Four plays later, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (22 of 34, 224 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT) threw a 6-yard TD pass to WR Eric Decker, and the Jets were ahead to stay.  Decker had 8 catches for 97 yds and the 1 TD, before leaving with a knee injury.  For the remainder of the game, the Jets defense clamped down on Indianapolis, not allowing the Colts on the board until a Luck TD pass to WR Donte Moncrief with 10:07 left in the 4th quarter.  Fitzpatrick and the Jets answered on the next series, culminating with a 15-yard TD pass to WR Brandon Marshall (7 receptions, 101 yds, 1 TD).  S Marcus Gilchrist sealed the game with a late pick of Luck, capping off a terrific game for the Jets’ defense, which was led by CB Darrelle Revis; Revis had his first INT of the season and recovered 2 fumbles.The Jets moved to 2-0 to start a season for the first time since 2011.

Jets Notes.  On Tuesday, HC Todd Bowles announced that QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will remain the team’s starting QB, even when QB Geno Smith returns.  Smith (jaw) is practicing again, and may even be active as Fitzpatrick’s backup against the Eagles.  Through Thursday, WR Eric Decker (knee) and RB Chris Ivory (groin) have not practiced during this short week, although it seems likely that both will play on Sunday.  CB Antonio Cromartie has practiced this week, but is still hampered by a knee.  DT Sheldon Richardson has 2 games remaining on his 4-game, season starting, PED suspension.  All time, in an inter-conference regular season series that dates back to 1973, the Jets are 0-9 all-time vs. Philadelphia.  The Eagles won the last matchup in 2011, 45-19 at Lincoln Financial Field.  The Jets’ starting QB that day was Mark Sanchez, now the #2 QB for the Eagles.

What to look for in Week 3.  The Eagles will be hard-pressed to run the ball effectively against the Jets’ stout Front Seven.  CBs Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie will be matched up against Eagles’ WR Jordan Matthews and the Birds’ 1st round pick, WR Nelson Agholor, further limiting QB Sam Bradford’s available outlets.  Until the Eagles can sustain a rushing attack, opposing defenses – to include the Jets – will continually bring pressure, forcing Philadelphia into 3rd and long situations.  Look for the Eagles to find more ways to get RB Darren Sproles on the field, including 1st and 2nd down situations.  The Eagles’ may be able to single him up against a Safety or LB, creating a favorable matchup.  The Jets did not run the football particularly effectively against the Colts, and the Eagles’ defense, led by DE Fletcher Cox, has only allowed 3.1 yards per carry this season – with no TDs.  The Eagles will likely matchup S Malcolm Jenkins as their slot corner against WR Eric Decker, who has been used in that role throughout the first two games.

Prediction:  The Eagles’ rival for NFC East supremacy, the Dallas Cowboys, have now lost QB Tony Romo (fractured clavicle) and WR Dez Bryant for an extended period of time.  The Eagles are already 0-2 and are desperate to avoid a 0-3 start.  Talented and desperate teams usually find a way to play with urgency and win in these situations.  With a short trip up the New Jersey Turnpike and the Jets already on a short week, look for the Eagles to find a way to get it done at Met Life Stadium, cooling off Gang Green’s hot start.  Eagles, 23-20.

….around NY sports.

  • Farewell and God Speed, Yogi Berra. American and baseball lost one of its icons on Tuesday, when Yogi Berra passed away at the age of 90.  A WWII Navy Veteran who took part in the D-Day invasion at Normandy in June 1944 and later was awarded a Purple Heart following subsequent combat action in Marseilles, France, Yogi first came up to the Yankees in September 1946 – and he never looked back.  Arguably one of the two greatest catchers in baseball history side by side with Johnny Bench, Berra won 3 American League MVPs (’51, ’54, ’55) and earned 10 World Series championship rings, an individual feat that may never be matched.  The greatest individual winner in baseball history, and a fearsome clutch hitter, Yogi still holds World Series records for hits (71), games played (78), doubles, and plate appearances.  Yogi later managed both the Yankees (’64) and Mets (’73) to pennants, piloting both teams to the seventh game of the World Series.  Acultural icon, with 8 of his quotations in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotes, Yogi was quite simply an All-Time Yankee, a Hall of Fame Baseball Player, and a Great American.  We’ll miss him.
  • Matt Harvey – what’s it going to be? Last Sunday night against the Yankees, in front of a nationally televised audience, Mets Manager Terry Collins removed Mets RHP Matt Harvey after five brilliant innings.  Mandated by Mets’ management – after consultation with team physicians and Harvey’s agent Scott Boras – to closely control and constrain Harvey’s innings for the remainder of the season, Collins took Harvey out of a game that the Mets needed, with only 1-0 lead.  Immediately upon his removal, the Yankees pounded the Mets bullpen for 11 runs, coasting to a victory and a series win.  If the Mets limit Harvey in the playoffs like this, and it ultimately results in the loss of a game, or a series – it will be a disaster for him and the Mets organization.  The only person who can change this narrative is Matt Harvey.  It’s his call – it really is.  He can tell the team he’s fine (if he does feel well), and able to give them the innings required to support his team and his teammates.  Other pitchers, like Toronto’s Marcus Stroman (ACL injury) and the Cardinals’ ace, Matt Wainwright (Achilles) fought to regain their health all season, in an effort to get back on the field for their team’s push to the playoffs.  There’s no concrete pitch count or innings limit that has empirically proved beneficial in the recovery or prevention of future “Tommy John”-type elbow injuries…and with that, the onus is really on Matt Harvey to change the narrative for himself, and his team.  He can still make the call, and possibly the difference for the playoff-bound Mets.
  • The Giants. A big win for the Giants on Thursday night, defeating the Washington Redskins 32-21 in front of a nationally televised audience.The Giants got a big punt block from an unexpected source – starting RB Rashad Jennings, which led to a safety and an early Giants’ lead.  The Giants defense played better, and finally generated their first sack of the season in the 4th quarter on Washington starter, QB Kirk Cousins.  QB Eli Manning played well again, and connected with WR Odell Beckham, Jr. on a 30-yard TD early in the 4th, which stretched the Giants’ lead to 25-6 and salted the game away.  The Giants have played well in all 3 of their games this season – but finally closed one out.  With their record now at 1-2, in a potentially wide open NFC East, the Giants will play again in 10 days, on October 4th, in Buffalo.

Mike Lalor can be heard talking NYJ and New York sports on the Spadora on Sports radio program. For more details, please visit www.spadoraonsports.com

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