Dan Roche

Week 10 made things tougher on top-seeded Eagles

Week 10 made things tougher on top-seeded Eagles

The Eagles got to sit back this week, get healthy and watch Week 10 of the NFL season play out. What happened was a best-case scenario and a handful of not-so-great things.
NFC East
From a divisional standpoint, Sunday could not have gone better. The Cowboys, playing without suspended RB Ezekiel Elliott and injured left tackle Tyron Smith, were blown out by the Falcons, 27-7. The Redskins and Giants also lost, so the Eagles now hold a three-game lead in the division with seven games remaining.
A win next week over the Cowboys would just about close the door on the division race for the Eagles. Beating Dallas would give the Eagles a magic number of three with six games left. That means any combination of three Eagles wins and/or Cowboys (or Redskins) losses would clinch the NFC East for the Birds.
That's the good news.
Conference contenders
While the NFC East came up snake-eyes, the teams immediately behind the Eagles in the race for the conference's top seed all won their games in Week 10. In fact, the teams ranked 2 through 9 in the current NFC standings all posted victories this week. That includes the Vikings, Saints, and Rams, all of whom are now 7-2, just a game behind your conference leaders.

So while this past weekend was another step toward NFC East supremacy, it also virtually eliminated the Eagles' room for error in their pursuit of the  No. 1 seed in the conference. They're still in the driver's seat with seven games to go, though.

Let's enjoy the ride.

Baseball Hall of Fame should expedite Roy Halladay's induction

Baseball Hall of Fame should expedite Roy Halladay's induction

Roy Halladay is a Hall of Fame pitcher. I don't think that can be disputed. But I think Halladay should get special dispensation to become a 2018 Hall of Fame pitcher.
As of right now, Halladay is not yet eligible for induction. The current rules for eligibility were set in 1954. Players must be retired for five full seasons to be eligible for induction. If a player passes away before becoming eligible, he must be dead for six months before appearing on a ballot. 

Only once since 1954 was an exception made: Roberto Clemente was inducted in 1973, after dying in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972.
When the balloting takes place later this month, I believe that exception should be made again, for Halladay.
Halladay's death earlier this week hit the Philadelphia sports community hard, myself included. As someone who remembers watching Steve Carlton pitch at the Vet as a child, I was excited when the Phillies traded for Doc before the 2010 season, and bought a partial season ticket plan for the first time. Every time he pitched was appointment viewing, and he delivered, night after night.
Although Phillies fans saw only two seasons of Halladay's excellence on the mound, his prime lasted a decade — the 2002 through 2011 seasons. Here are Halladay's ranks among all MLB pitchers during that span:
• 170 wins (1st)

• .694 win percentage (1st)

• 63 complete games (1st - by 30!)

• 18 shutouts (1st)

• 4.57 K/BB ratio (1st)

• 2.97 ERA (2nd)

• 148 ERA+ (2nd) — this means his ERA over that span was 48 percent better than league-average

• 2194⅔ innings (2nd)
He also made eight All-Star teams, won two Cy Young Awards, and he finished in the top 5 in Cy Young voting seven times in that 10-year span.
From 1995-2017, Halladay has more complete games that any pitcher (67). Here's the thing: Halladay only pitched from 1998 through 2013.
Being the best pitcher in baseball for a season is a feat. Being the best pitcher in baseball for an entire decade is something that is truly special. We all remember how great Tim Lincecum was at the start of his career. He also won two Cy Youngs. He didn't even make it to 10 full seasons in the big leagues before a degenerative hip injury derailed his career.
The end of Roy Halladay's baseball career, and his life, occurred far, far too soon. Voting him into the Baseball Hall of Fame later this month would not be.

Why the Eagles will (and why they won't) finish as NFC's top seed

Why the Eagles will (and why they won't) finish as NFC's top seed

All of you who predicted before the season that the Eagles would open with five wins in six games, raise your hand.
Put your hands down, liars.
If you made that prediction and acted on it, you're likely not reading this. You're probably taping the next episode of Island Hunters.
The Eagles haven't finished the regular season as the No. 1 seed in the NFC since 2004. The landscape can change any one of thousands of ways over the next 11 weeks. While I'm confident the Birds will return to the postseason for the first time since 2013, they're gunning for that No. 1 spot. Here are the reasons why they will, and why they won't, be atop the NFC standings after Week 17.
1. Carson Wentz

A little more than 13 months ago, we had no idea what we had in the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft. Since then, he's shown that not only can he lead an offense, but he has also grown as an NFL passer by leaps and bounds. He's the best QB in the game on third down this season (130.5 rating), and it's no coincidence he's the favorite to win NFL MVP.
2. Lane Johnson
Wentz's performance, both last year and this year, can be directly linked to whether or not Johnson is protecting him. During Johnson's 10-game suspension for a second PED violation in 2016, the Eagles went 2-8. With him, they were 5-1 last year, 4-1 this year. It's impossible to undersell his role in the offense's efficiency.
3. Doug Pederson
If there are 70,000 fans who signed a petition to ban NFL referee Pete Morelli from working Eagles games, there should be at least three times that many that should write apology letters to the Eagles' head coach. So many wanted to run him out of town for going for it on 4th-and-8 against the Giants, but did you applaud him for calling the perfect play — a 19-yard out-route to Alshon Jeffery with seven seconds left — a play that took exactly six seconds. Since then, how many times have you screamed at your big screen over a Pederson mistake? I'm guessing not many. Give the guy some props.
4. The NFC is garbage
Who is going to beat them out for the No. 1 seed? The Giants are done. The Packers are done. The Eagles are two games in front of nearly half of the conference with 10 games left. The way I see it, there aren't many teams that can catch them. Who's gonna do it ... Case Keenum? Jared Goff?
5. You guys
If Carson Wentz has been the most pleasant surprise of the 2017 season, Eagles fans are a close second. The team opened the season with four road games in the first six weeks, but thanks to #EaglesNation, the more recent two away from the Linc sounded like home games. I defy you to name a fanbase that travels better than this one.
1. The cornerbacks
For a position group held together by chewing gum and chicken wire, they've been all right. But for every big play the corners have made, it seems like they've allowed two. They had better hope Ronald Darby returns to 100 percent sooner rather than later and that Patrick Robinson continues to find his footing in this secondary, or they'll face an uphill climb.
2. Doug Pederson
Yes, I mentioned he's been impressive as a play-caller, as well as the glue that holds the team together. But am I the only one waiting for the other shoe to drop in a close game? He's starting to win me over, but I can't be alone among those not completely sold on Doug.
3. The new receivers
Last year, Nelson Agholor couldn't catch. This year, Torrey Smith can't catch. And for all that Wentz has done this season, it doesn't seem like the chemistry is there with Jeffery quite yet. Jeffery and Smith have been thrown to 73 times through six games. They have 38 catches (52.1 percent). That percentage must go up.
4. The schedule
To get to 5-1, the Eagles fought through some tough games. But December awaits. (Insert Game of Thrones reference.) They'll play three straight road games, including back-to-back west coast games against the Seahawks and Rams. Throw in a Christmas night tilt with the Raiders and a New Year's Eve against a Cowboys team that could really need a win and the season's final month will be anything but a cakewalk.
5. Chaos theory
The same thing that got us here could be a big reason it ends here. No one predicted the Eagles' 5-1 start. No one predicted the Giants' 0-5 start or the Cowboys' 2-3 start. One thing we know is that there's quite a bit we don't know. What I do know is that I'm here for all of it. Eleven weeks to go ... hold on to your butts.