Rob's Rants: Hey Philly, don't take the bait and feed the trolls

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Rob's Rants: Hey Philly, don't take the bait and feed the trolls

This week’s Rob’s Rants has a sole focus — or should I say a troll focus. It’s more of a public service announcement, if you will. I am imploring all Philadelphia sports fans: Don’t take the bait!

Trolling was around long before the advent of social media. Contrarians have been going against the grain and saying things they don’t even believe to invoke a reaction since the beginning of time. Or as far back as Jaromir Jagr’s rookie season. Same thing. 

Just six weeks into the NFL season, we’ve already heard from some of the usual suspects, who will go nameless in this post. I refuse to give them the attention and ratings they are so desperately begging for. You know who they are, I know who they are, don’t give them the satisfaction. Don’t continue to line their pockets. Don’t let yourself walk into their trap. A reply on Twitter or some other social platform, a tune in, a reaction, is a win for them.

So brace yourself for the inevitable national talking head contrarian with the hot take of, “Carson Wentz looks like a deer in headlights.” Or, “besides the Panthers, who have the Eagles played? Or, “they haven’t even won a playoff game since 2008 and the fans have them in the Super Bowl.”

The trolling won’t be reserved exclusively for Eagles fans either. Prepare yourselves, Sixers fans. As we embark on the start of the NBA season, the anti-process truthers are just lying in wait with pithy Joel Embiid barbs about minute restrictions or injuries or tanking. It’s only a matter of time before we get something like, “see what another year of tanking gets you? Markelle Fultz isn’t even good enough to start.” It’s coming.

There’s a fine line between trolling and having a strong, thought-provoking, independent point of view. The goal of any good columnist, radio host, television host or analyst is to make you think or react. Whether you agree or disagree. But there is a cottage industry now of blowhards who don’t have an original, creative or sincere thought of their own. They are either told by a producer or boss or decide on their own to go after a city, player, or team ... one typically with a fan base that will be reactive. You don’t see a lot of shade thrown at the Atlanta Hawks. You know why? No one cares. Not even their fans. Say something about Carson Wentz or snowballs at Santa and loyal Philadelphia fans will go bonkers. Mission accomplished for the troll.

So revel in the Eagles' early season success. Be excited for the infusion of youth for the Flyers. And what could be if Embiid, Ben Simmons, Fultz and Dario Saric can actually stay on the court.

Soak it in. We appear to be exiting out of the dark days. Just be prepared for it and don’t allow yourself to be lured into the troll trap.

Eagles experience the best possible Sunday off in Week 6

Eagles experience the best possible Sunday off in Week 6

This was a very beneficial weekend for the Birds. 

While the Eagles' players and coaches enjoyed some well-earned rest, Week 6 was one of the stranger NFL cards we've seen in while and a lot of the wackiness aided the guys in midnight green.  

Let's start with the biggest news to come out of this weekend: Aaron Rodgers broke his right collarbone in the Packers' loss to the Vikings. It goes without saying that you never want to see anyone get injured, but this is especially the case with one of the all-time greats. The league is better with Rodgers playing, plain and simple. But from a practical standpoint, his loss affects the Eagles and their NFC conference chances greatly. With Rodgers' weekly magic acts now disappearing, Green Bay becomes just another team, at best.

Staying in the conference, the Redskins squeaked by a winless 49ers team at home. Granted, San Fran plays everyone tight. The Niners are the first team in NFL history to lose five straight games by three points or less. Washington barely escaped against a C.J. Beathard-led team. Kirk Cousins tried mightily to give the game away. Not the kind of performance you build off as you head to take on an Eagles that already beat you, on Monday night.

The defending NFC champs, the Falcons, lost a game at home Sunday to the Dolphins that they led 17-0 at the half. Atlanta is now 3-2 overall and 1-2 at home. Can you say Super Bowl hangover? 

The Buccaneers, another team thought by some to be a contender in the NFC, lost to the same Cardinals team the Eagles smoked in Week 5.

The Cowboys had a bye week, but the specter of Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension and how negatively that will impact them continues to loom. Dallas has as many losses through five games as it had all of last season. And not having Elliott to lean on to chew clock and keep the other team's offense off the field will expose their defense. 

The Birds own the best record in the NFC at 5-1, and now with Kansas City's loss to the Steelers, there are no longer any undefeated teams in the NFL. Granted, this is an "any given Sunday" type of league, as witnessed by underdogs' 10-2 record against the spread this weekend. 

You don't want to get too crazy just six games in, but it's hard to not feel optimistic about the way things are set up for the Eagles (see Super Bowl odds). They've been able to overcome injuries, mostly on the defensive side, and while teams like Green Bay and the Giants have suffered catastrophic casualties, the Eagles have not. In fact, they appear to be getting some serious firepower back, like Lane Johnson and Ronald Darby.

It's not false hope or viewing things through green-colored glasses to think the Eagles are one of the better teams in the league. They are. Do they need the requisite breaks like staying healthy to win a playoff game for the first time since 2008? Yes. But that applies to every team. The Birds are strong in the trenches on both sides. Their run defense makes opposing teams one-dimensional, and they have a budding star quarterback who gets better every week. 

It was indeed a nice Sunday off.

Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham deserve equal credit for Eagles' hot start

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Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham deserve equal credit for Eagles' hot start

A lot of accolades are being distributed after the Eagles' gutsy road win over the Panthers. And there is a multitude of worthy recipients.

There’s Carson Wentz, whose skill and rapid understanding of the NFL game may be overridden only by his toughness.

Or the return of Fletcher Cox and the immediate impact he made from a calf injury that held him out the previous two games.

How about Doug Pederson, who continues to quiet the critics while he out-schemes opposing coaches on a weekly basis? 

Maybe you’re more inclined toward the rookie kicker who was plucked off the Bengals' practice squad and has gone 10 for 10 since his big left tackle threatened him?

When you start a season 5-1 with four of those games on the road, there is a lot of credit to be divvied up.

But how about a little love for those Eagles' linebackers? Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks were everywhere against Carolina. The duo combined to register a whopping 17 tackles, including two for losses and two passes defended. This was despite, or perhaps because of losing Jordan Hicks in the first half of the game (see injury update).

The numbers alone don’t tell the story. Both players made game-altering tackles. The kind that stops the opposition from scoring a touchdown, like Bradham’s takedown of Christian McCaffrey just shy of the end zone on a 3rd-and-Goal in the third quarter. Instead of an 18-17 game, the Panthers settled for three points to make it 18-13. There were countless form tackles that prevented third-down conversions and forced punts. Game-changing plays.   

This really has been the case all season with this unit. Kendricks seemed destined for a ticket out of town after a couple of lackluster seasons in which his playing time had dwindled. But since training camp, he has been a man possessed and mirrors the playmaker the Eagles gave big bucks to in 2015. Bradham had a good year last season — his first with the Eagles — and despite a bit of a slow start this year, has come on strong of late. The two lead the Eagles in tackles this season. Not far behind on the list is Hicks, whose skill and versatility have never been in question, only his ability to stay on the field. This is a strong group.

Finding yourself near the end of the receiving line when it comes to praise — because there are so many other positive developments through six games — is a good problem to have. The kind of first-world problems Eagles fans would have signed up for on the spot prior to the season.