Eagles

Don't count on Packers helping Eagles

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Don't count on Packers helping Eagles

Derrick Gunn makes his Week 16 NFL picks.

Eagles vs. Raiders, Monday, 8:30 p.m. on ESPN
Nick Foles passed his first test, and everyone is breathing easier and feeling satisfied that Foles can keep the offensive efficiency going.

As for the Eagles' defense, for a third straight game, they were on shaky ground. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said he's getting tired of repeating himself about how his defense needs to "get back to playing clean football and stop giving offenses help." 

Enter the Oakland Raiders, whose season turned out to be drastically different from the previous season. Quarterback Derek Carr and his offense can't find consistency and the defense can't make the necessary stops. Big play wide receiver Amari Cooper has been hampered by an ankle injury for several weeks and may have to sit this one out. The Raiders do have a pair of dangerous pass rushers in Pro Bowler Khalil Mack (10.5 sacks) and Bruce Irvin (7.5 sacks). Right tackle Lane Johnson, selected to his first Pro Bowl, has been outstanding against premier edge rushers this season, but the other side of the line has been up and down. Left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai has struggled the past two games and may need some help protecting Foles' blind side.

This game might be the final time we see many of the Birds starters until the playoffs, so they'll want to put on a good show. 

Pick: Eagles 31, Raiders 20

Indianapolis at Baltimore, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. on NFL Network
The Ravens are knocking on the AFC playoff door, they just can't get it open yet. Currently sitting in the seventh spot, Baltimore needs to win out and get a little help along the way to slip into the postseason. The Colts will give it their best shot, but they're no match for Baltimore.

Pick: Ravens

Minnesota at Green Bay, Saturday, 8:30 p.m. on NBC
He was here only for a brief moment and now he's gone again. Aaron Rodgers returned to see if he could give the Pack new playoff life, but it didn't happen. Now Rodgers has been shut down for the season and it’s Brett Hundley’s squad again. The Vikes are trying to keep the heat on the Eagles for that top seed in the NFC. Packers’ nation was hoping A-Rod would help the Pack get revenge on the Vikes. Instead, it will be Minnesota Lambeau leaping to a win.

Pick: Vikings

Cleveland at Chicago, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
This season can't end soon enough for the downtrodden Browns. The Bears will try to rely on their ground game to soften up Cleveland’s defense. This will be the Browns’ last shot at a win because they close the season at Pittsburgh. The Browns will continue on their quest to finish 0-for-2017.

Pick: Bears

Detroit at Cincinnati, Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX
The Bengals have been outscored, 67-14, their last two games and it appears they've quit on head coach Marvin Lewis, who's riding on borrowed time. The Lions need help to crash the postseason party, but they must also keep helping themselves. The Lions will roar in the Bengals’ jungle.

Pick: Lions

Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee, Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX
The Titans can't close out close games against inferior competition, losing their last two to Arizona and San Francisco by a combined total of seven points. The Rams are sky high after putting a smackdown on Seattle. Tennessee will have to put up big points to keep up with the Rams’ high-scoring attack, but it won't happen.

Pick: Rams

Miami at Kansas City, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
Just when we thought the Chiefs were left for dead, they rise up and regain control of the AFC West. Miami has shown it can hang with the big boys, but you just never know which Dolphins team will show up. The Dolphins love warm weather, but with the temperature in K.C. expected to be a high of 36 degrees, look for the Chiefs to put the Fins in a deep freeze.

Pick: Chiefs

Buffalo at New England, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
The catch rule helped bail out the Patriots in Pittsburgh. New England is now in a position to put a lockdown on the top seed in the AFC. The Pats pummeled the Bills back in Week 13. Look for more of the same in the rematch.

Pick: Patriots

Atlanta at New Orleans, Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX
All the Falcons have to do is win out and they win the NFC South, but that's easier said than done. A few weeks ago in Atlanta, Drew Brees threw an interception in the end zone and the Falcons were happy to get off the field with a huge win. This time around in New Orleans, the Saints will be motivated to maintain at least a share of the division lead.

Pick: Saints

Los Angeles Chargers at New York Jets, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
Last week, a division lead was there for the taking for the Chargers and they let it slip away. With Josh McCown, the Jets always had a fighting chance, but now that he's out with an injury, Bryce Petty tries to get the Jets’ offense going. Not gonna happen.

Pick: Chargers

Denver at Washington, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
When this season began, the Broncos and Redskins were viewed as two teams with potential to do great things. Now they are two teams soul searching with nothing to look forward to except a long offseason. The Redskins have the home-field advantage. The 'Skins take the W.

Pick: Redskins

Tampa Bay at Carolina, Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX
The Panthers have won six of their last seven and a win in this one will secure a playoff spot. But they want more. The Panthers are tied with the Saints for first in the NFC South. The Panthers must not get distracted by the chatter of owner Jerry Richardson putting the team up for sale after this season, and linebacker Thomas Davis being suspended for a game. Carolina locks in and the Bucs go down.

Pick: Panthers

Jacksonville at San Francisco, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. on CBS
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is on a roll, winning three straight, but now he's about to run into a buzz saw. Jacksonville has won three straight and the Jags’ defense is ranked third overall, first against the pass (168.9 YPG) and first in points allowed (14.9 PPG). The Jags’ sixth-ranked offense is not too shabby either, leading the league in rushing (149.1 YPG). Jimmy G's win streak stops here.

Pick: Jaguars

Seattle at Dallas, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on FOX
Are we slowly watching the decline of the Seahawks? They’ve lost three of their last five and two in a row. Russell Wilson will go after the 'Boys' young secondary. But Zeke is back! After serving a six-game suspension, star running back Ezekiel Elliott returns to give new life to the Dallas run game. Both teams are 8-6 but because Dallas, winner of three straight, is at home, I’m riding with the 'Boys.

Pick: Cowboys

New York Giants at Arizona, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on FOX
Eli Manning and the G-Men gave the Eagles quite a scare but in the end, just like most of their games, they couldn't finish. The Cards haven’t scored a TD in almost three weeks. Arizona quarterback Drew Stanton is playing with a bum knee. The Giants go out west and come back with a W.

Pick: Giants

Pittsburgh at Houston, Monday, 4:30 p.m. on NBC
Can the Steelers bounce back from that controversial loss to New England? The Texans put up a good fight but their QB situation leaves them handcuffed against a Steelers D that will blitz all day. The Steelers got this one.

Pick: Steelers

Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

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Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

How do you turn being a home underdog into a good thing? Use it as motivation to win a football game.

How do you turn being a home underdog into a great thing? Raise money for Philadelphia schools and win football games. That’s what Lane Johnson is doing.

After the nation doubted the Eagles against the Falcons, Johnson and Chris Long donned dog masks after divisional round win, embracing the role of underdogs. Now, Johnson has his own T-shirt and is raising money. A lot of it, too.

Shirts can be purchased at lj65.shop for just $18 and Johnson tweeted that more than 3,000 have already been sold.

Hopefully, the home dogs continue to eat this weekend against the Vikings.

Game-winning stand just another play for Eagles' defense

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Game-winning stand just another play for Eagles' defense

There were no special instructions. No extraordinary measures taken. Not much was said. Not much needed to be said.

The game was on the line. The season was on the line. For the Eagles' defense, it was just another play. The stakes were just incredibly high.

It was 4th-and-goal for the Falcons at the Eagles' 2-yard-line in the final seconds Saturday.

Give up a touchdown, and the season's over. Stop the Falcons and you're one game closer to the Super Bowl.

"Our guys, we don't do a whole lot," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "Our guys know what to do, and they have downloaded that software enough that it's a little bit automatic for them.

"We also didn't change. We don't surprise the players. What we practiced in our red-zone period is what we played."

The Falcons had already driven from their own 24-yard-line down to the 2-yard-line.

Their quarterback, Matt Ryan, has the fourth-highest passer rating in NFL postseason history, behind Jeff Hostetler and Hall of Famers Kurt Warner and Bart Starr.

That's what the Eagles' defense was up against.

"At that point, you sort of have to trust the players and the players have to trust the scheme," Schwartz said. "I think you saw a combination of both of those. We didn't feel the need to blitz. Played coverage, played good technique."

The clock showed 1:05.

Ryan’s two favorite receivers, Julio Jones and Mohamad Sanu, both lined up on the right side of the formation, Jones outside with Jalen Mills on him and Sanu in the slot with Malcolm Jenkins covering him in a battle of North Jersey natives.

Ryan took the shotgun snap from center Alex Mack at the 7-yard-line and immediately rolled to his right, retreating to the 10 as he neared the sideline.

Nigel Bradham, lined up as the left linebacker, trampled blocking tight end Levine Tollolo, who had his hands full with Brandon Graham, and ran around guard Wes Schweitzer, giving him an angle on Ryan. 

Meanwhile, Vinny Curry, after getting cut blocked to the ground by Falcons running back Tevin Coleman, quickly bounced back up and began pursuing from Ryan’s left. 

Ryan pumped once toward Sanu, who was covered by Jenkins. He quickly looked left but saw only Curry closing in. Thanks to the pressure, he had to quickly backpedal back to the 14-yard-line and finally was forced to unload that lob toward Jones at the right sideline in the end zone.

At that point, it was up to Mills, who had Jones blanketed, and the rest is history.

The ball went through Jones’ hands, his feet came down out of bounds anyway, and after an agonizing moment looking for flags, the play was over.

"A lot gets made of what Jalen did, rightfully so," Schwartz said. "You're talking about a Pro Bowl, All-Pro receiver, 1-on-1. But Malcolm playing the seven route to Sanu and Rodney (McLeod’s) ability to help him leverage that, that was because he's looking for Julio Jones first.

"Julio slips, he's looking for Sanu, nowhere to go and now he has to re-rack that thing and by then, Nigel is closing down on him and everything else.

"If Malcolm doesn't get that route that he covered, if he doesn't get that covered, nobody's talking about Jalen Mills right now."

Mills was physical with Jones but not physical enough to draw a flag. Schwartz said Mills has made huge strides this year with his technique, and on the biggest play of his life, his technique was perfect.

"It's one thing to have confidence, but that's just not the sole requirement for the position," Schwartz said.

"There's a lot of technique that goes along with playing, and I think if you look at that last play, he did a great job of staying square. Meaning his shoulders were perpendicular to the line of scrimmage.

"What the receiver there is trying to do is get you turned so he can come back for the ball. He could never get Jalen turned."

Mills is 23 years old, a second-year pro, a former seventh-round pick, a first-year starter.

To think that he made one of the most historic plays in Eagles postseason history is remarkable.

"I think every player makes a big jump from year one to year two, as far as knowledge of scheme and knowledge of opponents and things like that," Schwartz said.

"(Defensive backs coach Cory) Undlin and Jalen have worked really hard. He's haunted the hallways quite a bit, even on off days this year, just trying to improve his technique. It hasn't been by chance that his technique has gotten better. It's a lot of hard work that's gone into it from a coaching standpoint and from a player's standpoint."

The bottom line is that this defense has played tremendous football all year.

And with the season on the line, everybody simply went out and did their job. Nothing more, nothing less.

"I just think a part of our success is our guys just understand what's asked of them in the schemes," Schwartz said.

"They communicate well. We don't make a lot of mistakes, mental mistakes, and I think that makes it hard to drive the ball on us.

"When you get into those situations where is it's closed quarters and you don't have to defend deep balls, our guys have a good understanding of what opponents are going to do. I was proud of them on that play."