Ravens – Week Two

Post from our on-site Baltimore beat writer, Gross, who had technical difficulties getting this up and posted. He’s always a good read!


WAKE UP – It’s Week 2 – Ravens Sunday

Stop me if you have heard this one before….the Ravens are dealing with injuries.  It has to be great to be the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Ravens.  What a cushy job.  Just be terrible and you have a job.  In fact, our last S&C coach was so bad, he was being called out by former players on social media.  As a fan, you should never know who the hell the strength and conditioning coach is for your team, unless it’s Jon Gruden’s son.  Not Ravens fans.  Ravens fans had the distinct pleasure of learning Steve Saunders name before he and the Ravens “parted ways.”  Now here we are same story, different year, different S&C guy.

Before we jump all the way into Week Two, let’s recap Week One a little.  Obviously, the biggest news coming out of Week One for us Ravens fans was the injury of JK Dobbins.  Listen, it sucks.  It sucks that a guy we invested that kind of draft capital into (a 2nd round pick for those that forget) cannot escape the injury bug.  That all being said, do I think it is the end of the world?  Not really.  The offense has changed.  Once Lamar got his contract and you bring in a guy like Todd Monken, you are not going to see the traditional run heavy offense that we were used to seeing with Greg Roman.  I actually would not be surprised if Melvin Gordon ends up becoming the guy.  He is a better pass catcher than Gus and a better runner than Hill, so he might be it in the long run.  To start we will for sure, I think, see a combination of all three.

Honestly, outside of the injuries was there much else to talk about?  Oh wait, one more guy.  ZAY FREAKING FLOWERS.  Holy electric city.  FINALLY, a playmaker on offense.  He looked great in his NFL debut, 9 catches on 10 targets for 78 yards.  I will be very curious to see how they continue to utilize him in the offense and see if he starts becoming more vertical.  Time will tell.

Other than that, this game went how I’d imagine most Ravens fans thought it would.  A rookie QB, brand new Head Coach having to come into M&T and attempt to beat the Ravens.  The odds of that were low, no offense to Houston.  I actually think Ryans will end up being a solid NFL Head Coach, the verdict still out on Stroud for me.  This week will look quite different, in my opinion.

Week 2 @ Cincinnati – 1:00 PM Kickoff


This Todd Monken offense will be put to a real test here early in the year.  I’m not necessarily worried about the Bengals defense, they have taken a step back losing the likes of Jesse Bates and Vonn Bell hurts the secondary.  What I am concerned about is what we just talked about, the injuries.  Already down Dobbins, the offensive line should be the biggest story here.  Heading into Week Two we are down not only our starting LT, Ronnie Stanley but our second year C in Tyler Linderbaum.  I don’t care what team you are in the NFL, heading into a week without your starting LT and C is petrifying.  So the question is, how does this offense adjust?  Do we trust that the new guys running the ball can make an impact?  Do we trust that the new line can hold up in pass protection to potentially expose the middle of that field with weaker safeties and get guys like Andrews and whoever is in the slot going?  These are the questions I have.  I’ll be honest, I think we have to stay aggressive.  See what this makeshift line can do and put pressure on this Bengals defense.


We haven’t had to say this since Ray Lewis was drafted and came to town…but the Ravens defense is the weak part of this team.  Again, the injuries don’t necessarily help.  Down our top corner is not the right time to be losing your star safety to a torn pec.  Down Marlon Humphrey, down Marcus Williams is not the recipe you need for a weak pass rush, which is exactly what the Ravens have.  Pretty telling when your GM watches the pre-season play out and goes and signs a guy who had to sacks last season.  Welcome to Baltimore, Jadeveon Clowney.  This game is honestly going to be won in the trenches.  Burrow still looks hurt.  Whether that was the weather from last week or the patch work offensive line that Cincinnati continues to throw in front of their start QB, who knows?  But that is where this game will be decided.  Sounds simple enough but in this game it is truer than most.  Can this young Baltimore pass rush put enough pressure on Burrow to make him uncomfortable.  If they do, this thin secondary has a chance.  And if we don’t….well let’s not talk about that.

Going on the road to a division rival on their home opener is tough, but I think our boys can get it done.  If you are a person of gambling interest, play the under 45 1/2, Ravens win, 17-14.  

Happy a Magical Sunday!


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Just a bit of trolling

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Eagles Week One: It’s Hard to Win in This League

It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t overly encouraging, but the Eagles are 1-0 and they got there with a road win over a team that might be better than many may have thought coming into the season. The Chiefs got beat at home on Thursday; the Bengals scored 3 points at Cleveland; the Seahawks got thumped by the Rams; the much-hyped Steelers got throttled and the promising Giants season began with a 40-0 home loss in the division. It’s hard to win in this league. The Birds are 1-0.

Here are some random thoughts on the game.


The scripted plays looked great. The first two drives were fantastic and then after that…well, not so fantastic.

The running back rotation was strange in that Gainwell had 18 touches to Swift’s 2 and Boston Scott’s 2. It is also interesting that Rashaad Penny was a healthy scratch. (By the way, am I the only one who didn’t realize that Rashaad Penny is the NFL’s ALL-TIME LEADER in yards per carry…huh?!? It’s not like he’s had fumbling issues – how is this guy not a star? Weird…)

I also found it strange that Dallas Goeddert had just one target. He’s one of the best weapons in the league – got to get him the ball.

And, finally, the decision to go for it on 4th-and-2 at the 44. I didn’t hate it. Honestly! Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not really a “go for it” kind of a guy. I think it’s kind of stupid sometimes, especially when they pass up like a 45-yard field goal only to possibly convert the first down which could, easily, just lead to a…field goal. Ya, take the points, guys. But, the times that I would definitely go for it are (1) a short 4th and goal (because success is not a shot at 7, but a definite 7), (2) a 4th down around midfield (because the risk there is only about 20-30 yards of field possession whereas the reward is probably points, and (3) a 4th down that, if converted, leads to a kneel-down victory. This one was definitely #2 and probably #3, so I was actually okay with it, especially up by 5 (a FG game is a different story). However, I didn’t like the play call at all since this offense is built around optionality (shout out to Hinkie) and a short slant to a 160-pound receiver out of shotgun offers no real options.

In all, the offense under a new coordinator (albeit the same head coach who is probably the most important piece of the offensive braintrust) didn’t look a ton different in scheme (at least to my untrained eyes), which is good, but there were a few potentially key differences from last year’s record-setting season. One was simply execution, and I am totally fine chalking that up to it being Week One for a team that did not play a single snap together in the preseason going up against the greatest defensive mind to ever live with an entire offseason to prepare. So, I’m not worried about the talent on this team showing up most weeks. The other difference is more nuanced and a bit esoteric, so take this as just a novice’s feeling from his couch. Shane Steichen’s superpower was not in his scheme or his energy or any real novel concepts (in fact, his famous “push play” on 4th and short failed spectacularly without an elite O-lnie and a QB who can squat 700 pounds…and it cost him his first game as a head coach yesterday). Steichen’s superpower last year was seeming to have such an incredible sense for the gameflow. He sensed the rhythm of the game and when to call which play at the perfect time to either shift the momentum if they had lost it or step on the gas when they had it. We did not see much of that at all yesterday. Again, I am not going to judge it on one game against the GOAT with a rusty contingent, but it is something to keep an eye on. Because that I did see in much of the Indy-Jax game I watched yesterday with Steichen.

The defense, on the other hand, looked a lot different than last year’s, which might be a good thing considering the last time we saw the Jonathan Gannon Defense here in Philly, they were only stopped the Chiefs from scoring a TD once in the second half of the Super Bowl – and that was when we WANTED them to score a TD because it was the only way we’d get the ball back. The Sean Desai Defense definitely showed more aggression in elaborate blitz schemes (using BG as a standup, blitzing linebacker…bringing pressure from the safety and middle linebacker spots…and, a lot of zero-blitzes) as opposed to Gannon’s version of defense in sitting back and always avoiding the big play. Now, I have been loudly on the record as to thinking blitzing in today’s NFL is vastly overrated, so I am going to wait to call this an upgrade, but I would be lying if I said I don’t enjoy seeing unblocked blitzers way more than I enjoy seeing the opposition complete 5-yard passes whenever they want. But, I do also think that, in general, Gannon’s philosophy of never allowing a big play is a better overall approach in 2023 than the old-school, Jim Johnson style. That said, Gannon took it too far (obviously), so maybe Desai is just reining it back in. That’s my hope.

The rotations and personnel choices were interesting. Milton Williams’s usage jumped off the screen yesterday, and I thought he rewarded the trust (more on the individuals in a minute). The safety usage was strange, to me, as Justin Evans not only got the start but played all but 3 snaps at strong safety. I thought we’d see more of Terrell Edmonds, but I guess it’s Evans for now. And, I don’t know what Edmonds would have brought, but the, uh, middle of the field yesterday was kind of a disaster…just sayin’.


So, this wasn’t exactly the best we’ve seen of Mr. Hurts, but some of the things we love the most about him always show up – poise, leadership, heart, accountability. And, I think it’s those things that allow games like this to not slip away (or games where they’re behind to not slip away). He wasn’t his best as a quarterback in this game, but I still think he was a huge part of the W today. That was a good, smart defense, and he did just enough. That fumble was bad, but we’ll let him slide since he only fumbled twice all year while setting records for QB rushing and leading the best offense we have seen here maybe ever.

They have seen better days. Mailata seemed to be an issue in pass protection as there was a ton of pressure from his side. I did think Jurgens held up nicely, though I’m confused as to why he was always looking back at Hurts right up until he was about to snap it. Doesn’t that tip off the line as to the snap count? Why does he have to do that? Isn’t he a natural center who, obviously, can’t be doing that? Or, is he used to looking through his legs at the QB? I have questions…

As I mentioned above, it’s strange about the volume of touches for Gainwell, and he was…fine. But, he’s not a bellcow. We don’t have one – by design! So, if you have designed a rushing offense tailored around multiple change-of-pace, play-the-hot-hand, always-fresh backs, then do that! I would love to see Penny activated on Thursday (maybe even over Scott if they don’t want to use 4 spots) and use the variation of Gainwell, Swift, and Penny. That’s what we were sold, and I want to see it, dammit! That said, there seemed to be some real issues in pass pro, at times, in this game, and that could have been a result of the RB blocking. Maybe they trust Gainwell the most back there to pass protect. I don’t know, I’ll wait for the tape-grinders to tell me.

A.J. Brown is such a beast. This was ho-hum game for the whole offense, but Brown showed his value with several key catches over the middle. And, Smith might be the best #2 receiver in the league and showed it on the TD catch and the amazing toe-tap catch on the sidelines. This group is special. Romo made this point (way too many times, but whatever, that’s him) on the telecast, and I think it’s a good one – this team is so difficult to stop when they’re running the ball, so it forces teams to dedicated resources to it. But, that leaves you with the brutal choice of leaving these two wideouts one-on-one. And, that’s not good. This is a sustainable, repeatable concept that will continue to bear fruit as long as the O-line is in tact, Hurts is healthy, and these two wideouts are on the field. Defensive coordinators are going to have nightmares figuring out how to slow down the multiplicity of the run game while also containing two elite man-beating WRs. And, these other defensive coordinators are not Belichick. Hopefully, he didn’t lay any blueprints, but even so, I feel confident that this offense is going to great again.

One target for Goeddert! That should never happen again. Jack Stoll has turned himself into a borderline-elite blocking tight end and is almost a 6th lineman out there and showed it in this one. Apparently, Craig Calcaterra played in this one, but I didn’t notice him, which isn’t great for a guy known strictly as a “move” tight end.


Dude… No, really…wow! Jalen Carter is an absolute MONSTER! I am notorious in my household for stopping like dozens of times each game and making them watch Fletcher Cox pressures over and over again. Well, there’s a new Fletch in town…and, if you know me, you know that those words are not spoken lightly. This guy is an absolute total game-wrecker. He had 6 hurries and a sack in just 32 snaps! What?!? No rookie DT in the last 5 years has had 6 hurries in a single game…in any game…and, this dude just did it in his FIRST NFL GAME…in just 32 snaps?!? Dude…wow! I didn’t start with this because I thought I’d never get to the rest of the article, and I’m going to stop here. But, please know that I don’t want to.

Anyway, the rest of the D-line showed up again, as usual, and this is where this defense is gonna dominate again this year. Jordan Davis looked a lot better in this game than probably any game all year last year. Josh Sweat has become a real stud. He is so good against the run and has turned into a good pass-rusher, also. Hassan Reddick showed no signs of injury, and my man, Fletch, turned back the clock in that 4th quarter. Also, Milton Williams played a lot of snaps and, I thought, was pretty effective. They lost Hargrave and, at least for now, they seem to have replaced his snaps without a hitch (and that’s saying something).

This, uh, wasn’t good…again. Total overhaul of the linebacking corps has opened the door to Nacoby Dean and Zach Cunningham. Cunningham was non-descript against the run (not a good thing) and somewhat poor in coverage. Dean made some nice plays against the run, but was exposed in coverage, as well. This could be a recurring issue and harkens back to draft night when Dean kept slipping and no one knew why the “best player” on the nation’s best defense slipped to the 3rd Round. There were absolutely no character concerns (actually the exact opposite) and only weird, seemingly stretching injury concerns. It just so happened that, as productive as the dude was, he’s just not that big and not that fast. And, in yesterday’s game, he looked, well, “not that big and not that fast.” I still believe in him and really want to give him every chance because he’s such a good leader and such a smart, smart player to have in the middle of your defense. But, if he just can’t do it physically, that will be exploited in this league. Also, it might not matter for a little anyway, as he was seen in a walking boot after the game. So, we might be looking at a lot of Christian Elliss (who didn’t look so bad in that 4th quarter, honestly) in the next month or so. Tight ends, RBs out of the backfield, and slot receivers might just kill this team all year…

…because of this group also. Justin Evans started and played pretty much every snap at strong safety. And, I am not studying tape, but it seemed like a large part of the Patriots’ offensive success came in spots where a strong safety might otherwise be. The LBs clearly struggled in coverage, but I think Evans wasn’t much better. He will probably go again on Thursday against Minnesota because it’s such a short week, but if he isn’t any better this week, it might be time for Terrell Edmunds. It also stings a little more after watching CJGJ play so well on Thursday night for the Lions and Jesse Bates (who was a highly-publicized Eagles potential target) ball out for the Falcons yesterday. I know that the resources allocated to the safety position for guys like Gardner-Johnson or Bates is not usually worth it, but Evans just didn’t cut it yesterday. Reed Blankenship was decent on the back-end in coverage and he flies to the ball, but he’s still a little slender and/or a touch slow to be a huge force against the run. But, he wasn’t a problem, and I am fine running him out there every week.

No one can catch “Big Play” Slay, not even Father Time. 32 years old is ancient for a cornerback. Patrick Peterson is 33 and has looked like a total shell of himself for 3-4 years now. Darrell Revis didn’t make a Pro Bowl after the age of 28 and was out of the league at 32. Even the great Deion Sanders, who was First-Team All-Pro SIX times and one of the few CBs to ever win Def POY, RETIRED – after being waived by the Washington Redskins – at the age of 32. (NOTE: I totally forgot that Deion, weirdly, came out of retirement 4 years later, at the age of 37, to play for the Ravens…but, that doesn’t fit this narrative here.) Well, Slay’s first game as a 32-year old corner was pretty awesome. It started with an incredible pick-six (the longest of his career and the longest for an Eagles’ DB since the famous Eric Allen Play). He also got beat on a deep pass in the second half, but showed the closing speed of a 22-year old to get back into the play, break it up, and almost pick it off. He’s great! James Bradberry is the less flashy, but possibly more effective corner at the ripe age of 31 on the other side, and he was great again. The Pats got nothing on the outside. Bradberry left with an injury late, but he should be okay. Isaiah Jobe played well in his stead and held down the fort on that critical late drive. Avonte Maddox looked unsurprisingly good in the slot.


If there is an MVP for this game (other than Jalen Carter, obviously, haha), it would be Jake Elliott. A couple of ENORMOUS field goals, including some long ones – and they were the difference. We have a legit weapon as a kicker.

The rest of the special teams are going to take years off of my life this year. Aaron Siposs is still not good, which sucks. They tried to replace him and decided not to, for some reason. The coverage units were pretty bad again to start this year after a year of trouble on that unit. Sydney Brown made a huge play (and has all the makings of a really good coverage guy), so that might be promising. Isaiah Jobe also made a good play, so maybe they just need some experience with this group…maybe…MAYBE?!? I hope so…


Not to repeat the intro, but I think a win is a win is a win, especially on the road in Week One. There are plenty of things to clean up, and they have a very short week on which to do it. But, this team, this coach, and, particularly, this quarterback have done more than enough to earn our trust and belief that they will figure it out more times than not. This wasn’t a 40-0 road divisional win, but the Cowboys are 1-0 and the Eagles are 1-0. There are no style points, boys – just win, baby!

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Phillies Postseason Look-Ahead (with questions for Bry)

On the day the NFL season kicks off and three days before an Eagles season that must be as highly anticipated as any in franchise history, let’s check-in with the state of our Local Nine. 

As of now, ESPN has the Phils chances of making the playoffs at 97.8%. So, at the risk of antagonizing my late grandfathers who had to live through the great collapse of ‘64, let’s assume they will be in the playoffs. The Wild Card Series is less than a month away (October 3-5) and the NLDS will start exactly a month from today. 

That gives the team just a few weeks to answer some big questions, mostly with the pitching staff. So let’s take a look at some of the decisions Rob Thomson and company have to make.

The Rotation

Zack Wheeler has been dominant of late and clearly the Phils best pitcher, so we can rest easy knowing we have a true ace ready to go in a Game 1. Aaron Nola has been a major disappointment in a contract year but we can still assume he’s the Game 2 starter, and Thomson said as much recently. That’s where the questions start to come in.

Since the Michael Lorenzen trade at the deadline, they’ve had six starters. Depending on how these last few weeks ago, all of the other four could be in the mix for the 3 and 4 spots in the playoff rotation. Ranger Suarez was the #3 man in last year’s run and, though he has had a rocky year, it’s hard to see them going with anyone else right now. That being said, Lorenzen was an All-Star this year and Cristopher Sanchez has clearly the best overall stats of the four over the course of the entire season. And the one guy I haven’t mentioned, Taijuan Walker, just happens to have 15 wins, which is one behind the major league leaders. 

It is by no means an ideal rotation as we head into the home stretch. You have a #2 starter who you feel like you can’t count on and a probable #3 who’s been off and on the injured list and just not as effective as the last couple years when he has pitched. At the same time, you have the ace and maybe one or two of these guys gets hot over the next month. There are four days off between Game 1 and 4 of the NLDS, so you would think  Wheeler gets both and then you have Nola for 2 and 5. If this is the Nola we’ve come to know over his career, that’s great. But it’s not hard to imagine going into that Game 5 feeling VERY shaky. And would they consider looking elsewhere for a Game 5 starter?

Bry, do you agree that Ranger will be the #3? Who would you go with to start a playoff game if deciding between Walker, Lorenzen, and Sanchez? On a scale of 1-5, what’s your overall confidence level in this rotation for the playoffs?

BRY: First of all, I love that we’ve gone back to our roots with this site. It started as just a “we’re going to be emailing each other this stuff anyway, why not put it on a blog so our friends can chime in, too?” Anyway, to your questions.

I think you’re spot on with Wheeler as the #1 (obviously) and Nola as the #2 no matter what happens. Say what you will about Aaron Nola (and I sure have…), the best path for postseason success is for Nola as the #2. I wouldn’t argue against a short leash, but he has to be the #2. So, we agree there. Now, to the actual question…

And, it’s one about which I have been thinking a lot, actually. I see an argument for any of the four. And, I would actually feel better about ANY of them than I did about Kyle Gibson last year or past guys we have run out there (with some success) like Jamie Moyer, overcooked Pedro, or undercooked JA Happ. The other wrinkle is that – as much now as ever – playoff series are about using your best pitchers at the exact right spots…which, for a guy like Wheeler is running him out there every 5th day and hoping for 7+. But, for guys like Ranger and Lorenzen, who both have been proven to be highly-effective bullpen pieces, it might be to get key outs in the 7th or 8th…or, even 9th, as we saw last year with Ranger. So, my convoluted answer to your pretty straight-forward answer is…it depends. Haha! I think, in a 7-game series, I would really want to find a reason to start Taijuan or Sanchez and let Ranger and Lorenzen be pretty nice LH/RH options out of the ‘pen either of whom can give you as many as 6-9 outs depending on the situation. However, Taijuan has looked pretty terrible lately (despite the world’s best right-handed pickoff move) and Sanchez is very unproven. The one thing about Sanchez, though, is this might be legit. The only thing keeping him from being a top-tier prospect in the minors is major control issues. And, this year, he has the 4th-lowest walk rate in all of baseball. So, maybe he’s found something (and, maybe the Rays didn’t steal Curtis Mead from us for nothing).

But, to finally answer your questions – YES, I agree that, as it stands now, if I feel confident in Ranger’s health and conditioning, I would run him out there in the third playoff game this year…ESPECIALLY if it’s Game 3 of the Wild Card series because we all know that no moment will be too big for him. I trust him most in high-pressure situations. In the best-of-5 division series, I probably roll with Wheeler, Nola, Ranger, and Lorenzen and let the chips fall where they may. As it goes on, I might reconsider.

Overall confidence level in this rotation: 4. Wheeler is an absolute STUD who looks completely unhittable right now. I still believe in Nola’s stuff (because it’s so tantilizingly good sometimes), and while there are questions marks about the rest, but rare is the team that enters October without question marks about the back end of their rotation. We’ve seen Ranger look eerily similar to Cliff Lee. We’ve seen Lorenzen throw a masterful no-hitter. Taijuan is a proven starter in this league, and Christopher Sanchez has been one of the most effective pitchers in baseball all year. Ya, I feel good.

The Bullpen

What looked like a real strength of the team in the first half has started to look like a potential liability. Still, something that’s been true of the Phillie pennant-winning teams of the past 15 years is that you just need three guys you can really rely on come October, and they do have six options that could emerge: righties Craig Kimbrel, Seranthony Dominguez, and Jeff Hoffman and lefties Jose Alvarado, Gregory Soto, and Matt Strahm. The depth of that rotation could also come into play here, where you very possibly have a Lorenzen or a Sanchez to deploy in your pen.

The most logical options to have high leverage usage would appear to be Kimbrel, Alvarado, and Dominguez. Though worth noting that Kimbrel and Alvarado are both going through some struggles at the moment. Also, Soto has overpowering stuff, Strahm has been very solid all year, and Hoffman has come out of nowhere to become a very important piece. 

(Bit of an aside: Hoffman has never been remotely good in his MLB career but he was a guy who was seen as a possible #1 overall pick in college. Even after needing Tommy John surgery ahead of the 2014 draft, he was still picked 9th overall. 30-years-old now and maybe he’s finally “put it together” and “figured it out”. Or maybe no one will ever hear from him again after this year. Either way, I was surprised to learn about the pedigree.)

Bry, who do you predict will be the three high-leverage guys in the playoffs? On a scale of 1-5, what’s your overall confidence level in the bullpen for the playoffs?

BRY: This is a GREAT question because…who knows at this point, right?!? Kimbrel has been awwwfully shaky lately, which shouldn’t come as a surprise as he’s heading towards a career-high in innings at the age of 35. I still think, given his big-game experience and demeanor, he’s still be the guy I go to for high-leverage spots in the 9th or later, but I don’t think he’s the “use whenever” kind of a leverage closer right now. He’s experienced in the 9th, and I do believe that that inning is different than all the others. (NOTE: I also might try to avoid back-to-backs as possible (haven’t seen any stats either way on him this year, but I imagine his tank is a little low, at this point.)

But, we all now know that the most important spots for relievers are not always in the 9th inning, and I think that this bullpen, however shaky right now, is still set up rather nicely for the postseason. I like what I’ve seen from Alvarado lately, and I have a lot of faith in Soto, so that is really nice left-handed options who aren’t exactly specialists, but nasty on lefties. Late in the game from the right side is a little more tenuous, especially if I’m limiting Kimbrel to the 9th. So, I think maybe the most important development of September is how Seranthony looks down the stretch. If he can get back to anywhere close to what he was at this time last year, then I feel as good about this bullpen as I have about any since we had Madson and Romero setting up Lidge.

As for the middle guys, how good have they been all year? Seriously, though! I heard the same pedigree stuff about Hoffman and had no idea, but I get it – the dude’s got some stuff. I also like his fire. And, then there’s Strahm. Weird dude (some may say “typical lefty”), but the kind of weird that you want out there. He wants the ball every day and has enough guile to get 4-6 outs regardless of handedness. I like that. Andrew Bellatti was solid last year and seems to be regaining his form at the right time. And, I wouldn’t hate to see Yunior Marte recalled from Lehigh to see if he’s still got something after a little time off.

Overall confidence level in the bullpen: 3.5. If Kimbrel doesn’t turn it around, it’s probably more like a 3, but I believe that one of the high-leverage RHs – Kimbrel or Ser – will find it, and I feel pretty good about the high-leverage LHs and the middle guys, for what they’re worth.

The Outfield

With the way this team’s been swinging the bats since the All-Star break, this doesn’t feel remotely as pressing a concern as the pitching ones above. But it’s intriguing because it’s hard to predict how the outfield will look in playoff games. A likely scenario is that Kyle Schwarber will DH, with Nick Castellanos in right, Bryce Harper at first, and Alec Bohm at third. 

That leaves the CF and LF spots as question marks. Against righties, Brandon Marsh will surely be in center. And then it looks like Jake Cave in left?

And what about against lefties? It certainly won’t be Cave, so is it Cristian Pache or Johan Rojas in center? Does Marsh move over to left vs. lefties?

Marsh has not hit lefties this year, but a good possibility he will be in there in left field against them with Pache in center. It’s not many at-bats but Pache has destroyed left-handed pitching this year. Rojas has had a really nice debut in the bigs but he appears destined for a pinch runner/defensive replacement role come October. 

Another possibility to consider vs. lefties is that it’s Schwarber in left, Bohm at first, Edmundo Sosa at third, and Harper DH. The thought of Schwarber out there in a playoff game scares the hell out of me, but you would be upgrading defense at first and third and Sosa has hit lefties well this year. Maybe it comes down to the opponent and stadium and maybe some places you don’t feel as comfortable putting Schwarber out there. In some ways it seems to make the most sense but he’s been such a disaster out there this year. On the other hand, Bohm hasn’t exactly been Mike Schmidt at third and Harper played his first ever game at first base in late July.

Bry, do you agree it’s Cave in left vs. righties? And what do you think the line-up looks like vs. a lefty come October?

BRY: Ya, I think it’s Cave and Marsh against RHs in the playoffs. I like Cave – he gives professional at-bats and is a really good outfielder. He’s also a good, smart baserunner. I am not sure I would want him to face a LH at any point in the playoffs that matters, but I think Topper agrees, so he won’t.

The lineup against LHs is really interesting. And, if it were me, it would definitely be what you laid out in that last paragraph. I would throw Schwarber out there in left and take my chances. Marsh has had a fantastic year, but he really struggles against LHs. While Schwarber is – obviously – a huge downgrade in LF, Sosa is a fantastic infielder, so while the upgrade from Bohm to Sosa isn’t as big as the downgrade from Marsh to Schwarber, the position is a lot more important. And, I think Sosa is a better offensive player than Marsh against LHs, as well. (For the record, Sosa is – by far – the best defensive shortstop on this team, so while it probably won’t happen because of egos and contracts, I think the best late-inning defensive team has Sosa at short and Bohm at third, but shhh…don’t tell Trae, he might start sucking again if he thinks we don’t believe in him…)

You also bring up an interesting point about Rojas. I agree that Pache is simply a better player, but I also agree that Rojas clearly has a role on a postseason roster. Do you think that the late-game defensive outfield might feature Marsh, Pache, AND Rojas? I know that would mean taking Castellanos (and possibly Schwarber) out of the lineup, but if you’re up late, wouldn’t it be really nice to have that ridiculous outfield? I’m assuming Pache would be in RF because of his cannon. Rojas in center because he’s the best of the three. And, then the ridiculous Marsh in LF? It’s gotta be tempting…no?

Now, Mr. Doogan – I’d like to hear your own answers to your questions…

Thanks Bry! Of course we’ll see what the next few weeks bring, but I would go Sanchez in the 4th spot over Walker or Lorenzen right now. No great logic in it. I just trust him more than those other guys right now. I’m lower overall on the rotation than you. I think I’m at a 3 out of 5. If I just look at the names available I could surely be at a 5 but when I look at the seasons Nola and Ranger have had, there is definitely some cause for concern. It’s clear that we only have one guy we can really trust and, that being the case, I can’t above 3/5.

For the bullpen, I’m probably with you at 3.5 though you note you could go down to 3 and I feel more likely to bump to 4. Over the past week they don’t look great but big picture on the season they’ve been good and I just love the power arms and stuff they have down there. It is not hard for me to imagine we’re midway through the NLCS and one of the talking points is “Wow, this Phillies bullpen has like 4-5 flamethrowers they trust that have been great through the postseason.”

I guess you’re right they will put Schwarber in left vs. a lefty. That is gonna be terrifying but the logic is there with bringing Sosa into the lineup and into the field. I’m really not sure if they would go Marsh or Pache in center in that case. I would think it will be Pache, especially if he keeps showing anything close to what he’s already done in his limited time so far. Marsh, Pache, Rojas could happen, yeah. Maybe they feel it’s going a bit far to take Schwarber AND Castellanos out in case the game gets tied up or whatever, but I could see it, especially if you’re playing in a stadium with a big outfield.

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We All We Got, We All We Need

[admin’s note – This classic was written by Bry between the SB 52 and the subsequent parade. Posting now because it belongs here on BSB, despite the phrase “almighty Carson Wentz” haha.]

Great masterpieces are created by great people standing on the shoulders of other great people. Well, the masterpiece on Sunday, February 4, 2018, was no different. And, this celebration is for everyone who shared in this dream. Everyone. As much as it’s for the IMMORTAL Nick Foles, Brandon Graham, and Doug Pederson, it’s also for Steve Van Buren, Concrete Charlie, and Greasy Neale. It’s for the “Philly Special,” the “Fog Bowl,” and a pair of “Miracles at the Meadowlands.”

It’s absolutely for the newly-minted gold jackets of Brian Dawkins and Terrell Owens, the old school gold jackets of Tommy McDonald and “The Reverend” Reggie White, and the future gold jackets of Jason Peters and Fletcher Cox.It’s for the would-be gold jacket and Super Bowl birthday boy, Jerome Brown. –everyone, take a second………okay–

This one is most certainly for Darren Sproles and Jordan Hicks, but, don’t worry because this one, the next one, and the decade of trophies to come will be for and the almighty Carson Wentz.

This one is for the true Eagle veteran on their first ever Eagles Super Bowl team, Brent Celek, but it’s also for his superstar understudy, Zach Ertz. It’s for the newly-drafted Derek Barnett, Rasul Douglas, and Mack Hollins. It’s for the welcome-aboards like Alshon Jeffery, Timmy Jernigan, Jay Ajayi, and Ronald Darby, along with extra sweet welcomes for Chris Long and LaGarrette Blount. Hell, this one can also be for “losers” Patrick Chung, Eric Rowe, and Dion Lewis – boom!

It’s for Corey Clement –the undrafted rookie free agent, who grew up an Eagles fan and then caught a touchdown in the Super Bowl wearing midnight green. It’s for another lifelong Eagles fan and now Super Bowl champion, Vinny Curry. It’s for Jake F’ing Elliott – the 69-inch man who kicked a 61-yard field goal. It’s for the much-maligned 7th-round draft pick, Jalen Mills, the “Human Trade Rumor,” Mychal Kendricks, the guy with the biggest interception in Eagles history, Patrick Robinson, and the only Eagle who has ever thrown a 4th-down TD pass in the Super Bowl, Trey Burton.

It’s for Nigel Bradham, who is very good, and Najeh Goode, who isn’t very good.

It’s for the second-best offensive line in team history – Tra Thomas, John Welbourne, Hank Fraley, Jermane Mayberry, and Jon Runyon. And, of course, for the best offensive line in team history – Halapoulivaati Vitai, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Lane Johnson.

It’s for great men like Connor Barwin, Troy Vincent, and one of the greatest men of all, Malcolm Jenkins.It’s also for not-so-great men, like Josh HuffDonté Stallworth,and maybe the “not-greatest” man of all, Riley Cooper.

It’s for Chris CarterKeith Jackson, and Wes Hopkins. It’s for Brian Mitchell and Brian Westbrook. It’s absolutely for Randall Cunningham, but it’s also for Bubby Brister, Bobby Hoying, Kevin Kolb, Chase Daniel, Matt Cavanaugh, Rodney Peete, a pair of Detmers, a pair of McMahons, and a Super Bowl champion named STUD-feld. And, of course this one is for our enigmatic relationship with a guy named Donovan. After all, Number Five will always love us, so there’s that.

There’s a little piece of this for Jason Babin to complain about like a snotty child and an even smaller piece for good ole Nnamdi to enjoy in his car by himself. 

And, I don’t care what anyone says, this one is for the great and misunderstood Michael Vick and the greatly misunderstood Chip Kelly. This is not for Marcus Mariota, but it is for Sam Bradford’s sleeves, Demarco Murray’s workload, Kiko Alonso’s athleticism, Brandon Boykin’s size, and Demeco Ryans’s ”Mufasa-ness.” And, let’s not forget that this is for all three of Chip’s Matthewses (Ryan, Jordan, and Casey), his Maxwell (Byron), and his Jenkins (Cullen). This is definitely for the “obvious” gang ties of DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy.

It’s for Bryce Brown, Sheldon Brown, Ronnie Brown, and Reggie Brown. It’s for Marcus Smith and Torrey Smith. It’s for Nate Allen, Eric Allen, and Allen Rossum. It’s for Donnie Jones, Dhani Jones, Sidney Jones, and Chris T. Jones. It’s for Shawn Barber and Allen Barbre. It’s for Cary Williams, Charley WilliamsClyde Williams, and Calvin Williams. It’s for 1942 3rd-round pick Ted Williams, 1947 first-round pick Neill Armstrong, 1970 4th-round pick Spike Jones, and 1960 undrafted free agent tackle, Ezra Eugene “Goose” Gossage.

It’s for the greatest kicker ever, David Akers, but it’s also for Gary Anderson, Norm Johnson, Eddie Murray, Matt Bahr, Chris Boniol, Luis Zendejas, Alex Henery, Caleb Sturgis, and Cody Parkey. It’s for Feagles on the Eagles, Sav Rocca, Mitch Berger, Chas Henry, Dirk Johnson, and even Tommy Hutton (though, more for his punting than his holding).

It’s “for who, for what” and for Ricky Watters and his “Lightning” sidekick, Charlie Garner. It’s the awesome Andre “Dirty” Waters –a guy who was born to tackle – and the awesome Asante Samuel – a guy who was born NOT to tackle.

It’s for great leaders like Byron Evans, “The Axman” Jeremiah Trotter, and Takeo Spikes.

It’s for under-appreciated special teams aces like Tim Hauck, Chris Maragos, Colt Anderson, and Bryan Brayman, but it’s also for over-appreciated QB divas like Mark Sanchez, Vince YoungTim Hasselbeck, and “Senator” Trent Edwards

It’s for Mike Ditka, Bill Cowher, and Herman Edwards. It’s for invincible (and overrated…oops) Vince Papale.

It’s even for pass interference penalties from Bradley Fletcher, Leodis McKelvin, and especially the most head-scratching of all pass interferers, Al Harris.

It’s for champions with small, but important roles like Beau Allen, Corey Graham, and Kenjon Barner and for champions with small, unimportant roles like Wendell Smallwood, Isaac Seumalu, Dannell Ellerbee, and Will Beatty. It’s for the young guys like Donnell Pumphrey, Elijah Qualls, Nate Gerry, and Shelton Gibson, who watched and learned how to be champions in their first foray into professional football.

It’s for all the first-round disappointments like workout warriors Mike Mamula, Antone Davis, and Brodrick Bunkley, the injury-riddled Jerome McDougle, the underappreciated Jermaine Mayberry, the over-appreciated Leonard Renfro, the kind-of-crazy Bernard Williams, the probably-crazy Stacy Andrews, his definitely-crazy brother, Shawn Andrews, the on-another-planet-crazy Fred-Ex, andthe guy with the crazy wife, Hank Baskett. But,It’s also for projected “scrubs” like Clyde SimmonsSeth Joyner, and Mike Golic – all parts of the greatest defense in NFL history and all drafted in rounds that no longer exist. It’s for pleasant surprises like Trent Cole and Andy Harmon. But, it’s also for total letdowns like Na Brown, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Winston Justice, and Curtis Marsh. It’s for the 26-year old firefighter, Danny Watkins, and the 24-year old snowboarder, Jeremy Bloom

It’s for Moses Fokou, Roman Gabriel, and the 1958 2nd-round pick, Proverb Jacobs. It’s for Earl Wolff, Dustin Fox, Leon Seals, Brandon Bair and Rabbit Keen. 

It’s for the amazing wide receiving duos of Stinkston & Trash and Small, Johnson. It’s for Arkansas Fred, Toast, Mighty Mouse, and The Freak. It’s for Eric “Sleeping With” Bienemy“Who Framed” Roger Ruzek, and Blaine Bishop, “Old School.”  It’s for “He Hate Me” Rod Smart, and it’s definitely for Super Bowl champion, Steven Means Business! It’s for Juqua Thomas, Juqua Parker, and Juqau Thomas-Parker. It’s for Dorial Green-Beckham, Max Jean-Gilles, and special teams ace turned kickoff-specialist, Kamu Grugier-Hill. It’s for quarterback Adam Joshua “A.J.” Feeley, safety Herbert Lee “J.R.” (???) Reed, defensive end Ndukwe Dike “N.D.” Kalu, andtight end Little John “L.J.” Smith. 

It’s for all the greats for other teams who couldn’t rest peacefully until they wore Eagles green – Tom Dempsey, Herschel Walker, James Lofton, Mark Bavaro, Bill Romanowski, Antonio Freeman, Erik McMillan, Ken O’Brien, Irving Fryar, Kurt Gouveia, Sean Landeta, Mark Ingram, Ken O’Brien, Roy Green, and the one and only William “The Refrigerator” Perry. But, it’s also for those that started here, but went on to greater things (sort of) elsewhere, like Derrick Burgess, Kevin Finneran, Kurt Coleman, and Chris Clemons.

It’s for Vaughn Hebron and Correll BuckhalterRyan Moats and Chris Polk, Amp Lee and Reno Mahe. It’s for Jeremy Maclin and Jason AvantKevin Curtis and Greg Lewis. It’s for the incredibly underrated duos of Stewart Bradley and Carlos Emmons and Damon Moore and Quentin Mikell. But, also for the appropriately lowly-rated duos of Chris Gocong and Mark Simoneau and Joselio Hanson and Quentin Demps. It’s for Corey Simon and Hollis ThomasJerome McDougle and Victor Abiamieri. It’s for the often overlooked career of Mike Pitts. 

It’s for Ike Reese, Jon Ritchie, and Brian Baldinger.It’s for Vai Sikahema punching the goalposts and then anchoring the news.

It’s for Jaws, Wilbert, and Harold. It’s for Bill Bergey and Norm Van Brocklin. It’s for Pete Pihos, Alex Wojchiechowicz, and the half-blind NFL Championship and Pro Bowl QB Tommy Thompson.

This is for the sad life and death of Kevin Turner.

This is for the great WR Mike Quick and it is absolutely 100% for his second-act partner Merrill Reese – the only non-player or coach in this montage, and as deserving as anyone on the planet.

But, in the end, this one is for us. It’s for you and me and everyone that has lived and died with this team from the moment we can remember. This isn’t a collection of talented men from around the country that just happen to be wearing the same jersey colors on Sunday. This is the vein that pulses through our city and through the lives of anyone that understands what Philadelphia is about. This city, this team, these colors, they – for better or worse – are a part of what makes us who we are. Outside observers don’t get it, and I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t get it either if I hadn’t lived it. Watching the Lombardi Trophy march down Broad Street on the warmest 20-degree day in Philadelphia history wasn’t just the coronation of a football team; it was the coronation of an overly-deserving fanbase. A fanbase that has been – and will continue to be – maligned by national observers in what is nothing more than a thinly veiled expression of misunderstood jealousy. People put us down because they want to believe the way we believe. They want to feel the way we feel. We aren’t Yankees fans who have tasted a title enough times to consume every generation with spoiled privilege. We aren’t Lakers fans who only care about the team when they’re good, which is more often than they deserve. We are Eagles fans. We are fans who spend our lives having the final score on Sunday dictate our personal happiness. And, never have we tasted what we tasted on February 4, 2018. And, never will that taste leave our mouths. The downside of being who we are is that we feel every loss to our bones – it rattles us to our core. And, since, by definition, 31 NFL teams will end every season in disappointment, we are set up to suffer. We are set up for heartbreak. We are set up to fail………except when we don’t. And, THIS is why we invest our emotional capital into this team. THIS is why we suffer so badly and pick ourselves up and do it all over again. We do it all for THIS. And, that is why we thank those who delivered it and respect those who came before. THIS is the only rational reason to be how we are. And, I can’t possibly think of a better one. In the words of the great Malcolm Jenkins, “We all we got. We all we need.” Fly, Eagles, Fly!!!

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We are back….again….!

After yet another hiatus, we’re back online. And cloud hosted this time so when my new home desktop breaks like my old one did, we won’t lose all of our data since 2016. But I’m sure Bry and Doogan will work overtime to make up for lost time!

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Euro Cup – Day 12

Group C:
Germany v. N. Ireland
Poland v. Ukraine

Not really much of interest here with these final Group C games.  Northern Ireland could get to the magic number 4 points with a draw vs. Germany.  Even though they were impressive in beating Ukraine 2-0, I just don’t see it happening.  Expect Germany and Poland to move on and the other two to pack it on home.

Germany 2, N. Ireland 0
Poland 1, Ukraine 1

Group D:
Spain v. Croatia
Czech Rep. v. Turkey

Spain/Croatia is a great match-up but tempered somewhat because both teams have already reached the 4 point total, at least.  But there does appear to be a real advantage to winning the group, which Croatia could do by beating Spain.  The group winner here will get a third-place team in their first knock-out game, while the second-place team will get Italy, who will be a tough out, of course.  You could probably argue that finishing third with four points in this group could be a preferable route to seeing Italy in the Round of 16.  Croatia needs to hope its players and its fans can regain their composure after the flare-throwing, protest thing that marred their draw vs. the Czechs, but they are with out Luka Modric for this one, as he’s out with an injury.

Speaking of the Czechs, their tournament appeared all but over when they were down 2-0 in the 2nd half vs. Croatia.  Their equalizer in extra time of that game means all they have to do is knock-off what appears to be a dysfunctional Turkey team to get to the 4-point plateau.

Spain 0, Croatia 0
Czech Rep. 2, Turkey 1

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Euro Cup – Day 11

Wales v. Russia

The magic number in this group stage is really 4 points.  If you get to 4 points, you’re almost certainly through to the knock-out stage.  With three points, it will most likely come down to goal differential.  So, for this game, that means Wales needs a draw and Russia needs a win to feel safe about advancing.  I don’t think it’s in Russia’s nature to chase the game in the way they will need to here, and I’ll say that leaves them exposed to counter-attacks led by the speedy Gareth Bale.  Wales moves on and the Russians and their hooligan fans go home.

Prediction: Wales 2, Russia 1

England v. Slovakia

England is the only team in this group already sitting on those 4 points.  Does that give manager Roy Hodgson the green-light to continue tinkering with his line-up here?

In England’s win over Wales, it was easy to credit Hodgson’s substitutes, as the two goals were scored by subs.  Still, he deserves credit for making a double-switch at halftime, that involved inserting two strikers in Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge.  It would be a shock if he didn’t start this game with two strikers, and with Raheem Sterling as the attacking midfielder left out of the line-up.  The question is, which two strikers?  Obviously, Vardy and Sturridge had great impact, but does Harry Kane get left out?  Sturridge would seem to be the third option of the three, but he was the one that really had the best impact in that last game.  I’m really not sure which two he will go with, but it would be hard for me to leave Sturridge out after what he did against Wales.

For Slovakia, Marek Hamsik has absolutely been one of the best players of the tournament.  Even though he’s 28-years-old and not a young buck, I would be surprised if some big clubs don’t get on the phone to Napoli to try to pry him away in the coming months.  The Slovaks need a draw to get to their four points.

Prediction: England 1, Slovakia 1

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Euro Cup – Day 10

Romania v. Albania

The first of our final group stage games here, as Group A will wrap things up with the only two games of the day, both at 3 PM.  Are these two eastern European countries under-rated, or are France and Switzerland over-rated?  We won’t find out until the knock-out round, I guess, but although these teams come into this with 1 point combined, they’ve both been impressive.  They both took mighty France to the brink, with a tie game until the very late stages in each.  And they both played right with Switzerland, as well.

There was a lot of talk coming into this tournament about how some third-place teams being able to advance would effect the tournament.  As far as I can tell (which might not be totally right), 4 points basically guarantees an advance to the knock-out stage.  Even with just three points and 0 goal differential, you’re probably getting through.  So, for this game?  A Romania win should advance them through.  Albania is probably done no matter what, with 0 points and a -3 differential, but it tells you something that they’re not eliminated already.  They both know they’re going home with a draw, which tends to make for some exciting games.

Prediction: Romania 1, Albania 1

France v. Switzerland

It was an interesting line-up switch by French coach Didier Deschamps to put two of his top-rated players, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, on the bench to start their game vs. Albania.  Of course, when your midfield is as loaded as theirs, there’s always going to be some top players left out of the starting line-up.  But it seems like he was trying to send a message to Pogba about how he wants him to play, and Griezmann was most likely left out because he’s pretty fatigued from a long season at Atletico Madrid that just ended in the Champions League final on Memorial Day weekend.

In any event, it will be interesting to see if they’re back in against Switzerland.  Even though Griezmann came on and scored the game-winner vs. Albania, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the bench to start again, because if you want to get him rest this is a good time, as they’ve already clinched a spot in the knock-out stage.  Whether or not Pogba is back in there is probably more interesting, because if he’s not that might mean Deschamps has decided to go away from him for the remainder of the tournament.

Switzerland has all but locked up a spot in the knock-out stage, as well, with four points through their first two matches.  But both of these teams have failed to impress thus far and could grab some momentum with a strong performance here.

Prediction: France 2, Switzerland 0


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Euro Cup – Day 9

Saturday, June 18th:

Ireland v. Belgium (Group E)

Ireland was actually pretty impressive in their first game, as they outplayed Sweden despite just coming away with one point.  Sweden didn’t have a single shot on goal, with their only goal coming on an own goal.  Fullback Robby Brady had a great game, threatening in attack up the left-side throughout the game, and the “Irish Messi”, Wes Hoolahan, had a beautiful goal and some other good chances.

The Belgians, meanwhile, turned in a performance that would’ve been surprising if we weren’t getting used to their underachieving.  One of the questions of the first group of matches was: are the Belgians actually this inept in attack or are the Italians actually that good defensively?  We’ll start to get some answers here.

The Belgian coach, Marc Wilmots, has taken a lot of criticism for that aforementioned underachieving, and it’s not hard to see why.  The game announcer questioned his line-up decisions, both defensively and in attack.  He suggested that Dries Mertens should probably be starting and I have to agree with that.  Marouane Fellaini, with the big fro, is a good player who can play in different roles.  His size, strength, and skill mean he can play as a striker or as a defensive midfielder.  Wilmots played him in the “#10” role in the middle of the attacking midfield.  I don’t like him there.  He doesn’t move well enough and doesn’t have the ball-control or creativity to make things happen there.  They need to take him out of the line-up, move De Bruyne or Hazard into that role, and put Mertens on the wing.

Prediction: Belgium 2, Ireland 0

Iceland v. Hungary (Group F)

Two lightly-regarded teams here that turned in fairly shocking performances in their first game.  Many considered Hungary to be the worst team in the tournament and now they have a real chance to take 6 points from their first two games.  Both of these teams have the advantage of set rosters that played together a ton over the last two years, if not more.  While some other teams have star players sitting out qualifying matches because they play so many extra games in the Champions League, domestic cups, etc, these players are all there getting used to playing together.  And now either team can all but clinch a spot in the knock-out round with a win here.

Prediction: Iceland 2, Hungary 2

Portugal v. Austria (Group F)

The opposite side of the coin from the Iceland/Hungary game: the two favorites in this group that had bitterly disappointing results.  Austria may have been exposed as fraudulent with their 2-0 defeat by Hungary.  I also haven’t been much of a believer in this Portugal team, and their draw against Iceland didn’t change that.

Austrian attacking midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic is now out with an injury, so it will be interesting to see if they move David Alaba up into an attacking role.  Maybe that change will be good thing for them, as he came closest to scoring for them in the first game, banging a shot off the post in the first minute of the game.

Prediction: Portugal 1, Austria 0


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