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7 silly predictions based on the Sixers' schedule

7 silly predictions based on the Sixers' schedule

It's officially the "off" part of the NBA off-season, which means that in a total absence of genuine Philadelphia 76ers basketball activity, we must turn to the league's schedule-makers to keep the summer's momentum going. Luckily, they've mostly obliged: News percolated through Sixers Twitter yesterday that the Liberty Ballers would be participating in a staggering 23 nationally televised games this season (14 ESPN/TNT, 9 NBA TV); pretty good when you consider that they only won five games more than that all last year. 

That's cool, but it's not enough: With the preseason still nearly two months away, we need to be able to suss out more about the season to come by staring at the slate of empty canvases they'll be painting on this year. So, in that spirit, let's take a shot at answering seven questions concerning the Philadelphia 76ers in their first season with quasi-legit expectations since Year 2 of Doug Collins, just based on a glimpse of their work calendar for the next 82 games. We'll instantly disregard the seriousness of these predictions as soon as they're proven wrong, but spend till next offseason gloating about the ones that were proved even vaguely right.

1. When will the Sixers win their first game of the season?

Upon first glimpse of the Sixers' early schedule, you'll notice that there aren't a lot of gimmes to be found: At Washington, home to Boston, at Toronto, at Detroit, home to Houston. Even if you think the Sixers will mostly be good this year, with a lineup built around rookies, dudes returning from injury and both, you'd have to trust the process like Nick Young trusts his pull-up jumper to think they'll come storming out of the gate. A rough October once again seems all but destined for the Ballers, and the first W will come as a huge sigh of relief whenever it arrives. 

The most obvious bet would probably be at Detroit, against a team who spent most of last year falling apart in front of a fanbase that hasn't given a damn since they traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson. Still, I'll go a little further on a limb and say they get it north of the border against Toronto in game three, in a feel-good win that doubles as a feel-terrible loss for a Raps team that may struggle a little to find its identity at season's outset. You can already see the controversy as Drake shows up on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons' Instagrams after the game, can't you? 

2. What will be the Sixers' first close loss that proves the young guys don't know how to win yet?

Oh, you thought we were done with this storyline this season, did you? Nahhhhhhh, until you're officially Old and Winning, you're still the kids too dumb not to lose, and any slim-margined L in which you coulda won but didn't will be blamed on some combination of the coach, the immature team leadership and the lack of old heads on the bench. (Yes, even with JJ Redick, Amir Johnson and the ghost of Andrew Bogut all in tow.) 

So when'll it happen for the first time this season? Let's say Nov. 7 at Utah, a team whose well-established defensive-minded discipline and lack of offensive firepower seems custom-made to win games in frustrating fashion. Not hard to picture a scoreless final 2:30 built around a handful of Embiid turnovers and Fultz bricks, followed by a bunch of post-game columns lamenting the Sixers' lack of "their own Joe Johnson," birthing one if not several future Retweet Armageddons in the process. 

3. What's the first game that Embiid will dominate in hilarious fashion?

This should quickly become the season where Embiid starts to rival Draymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo as King of the Funny-Good Stat Line -- games where his brilliance shines through despite himself, where he goes 4 for 15 but still scores 30, or has a triple-double with 12 turnovers. I'll say the first truly great one comes on Nov. 25 against Orlando against our old friend Nik Vucevic, where JoJo goes for 44 points and at least six blocks but grabs only four rebounds and is limited to 28 minutes due to foul trouble. Plausible, no? Just about every box score combo will be for King Process this season. 

4. What's the first game where JJ Redick goes absolutely nuts?

Regardless of how his first and potentially only season for the Sixers goes on the whole, I think we can all agree that there will be, at an absolute minimum, one game this season where Jonathan Clay Redick hits seven triples in a half while JoJo does a one-man Electric Slide on the Sixers bench. Best to go with history on this one and say Dec. 19 against the Sacramento Kings, with Buddy Hield playing the role of Nik Stauskas to JJ's Klay Thompson. Maybe Nik'll even get off the bench to put the Sauce on 'em in the fourth quarter once Redick's cooled off a smidge. 

5. When does the Sixers' first major win streak come?

If you thought last year's 10-5 month of January was fun -- and boy howdy, was it ever -- just wait until the Sixers rip off eight straight once they really get humming this season. Let's look at late January to early February this year, where the Sixers can take advantage of a home-leaning, East-heavy stretch to build a little forward progress and go about two weeks without losing -- before the Heat get revenge on Dario & Co. for ending their 14-game heater last season with a Valentine's Day Massacre in Philly at the end of our homestand. 

6. What game does Joel Embiid tweak something, insist he's OK, go back in and end up missing the next eight weeks with some kind of vaguely termed ligament inflammation? 

I WILL NOT VALIDATE THIS NAUSEATINGLY TERRIFYING QUESTION WITH A RESPONSE. 

(Actual) 6. What game does Markelle look like he's finally getting his swag under him?

I do expect Fultz to go through some Evan Turner-like growing pains as he learns to adjust to the size and speed of the NBA game and figure out which of his junk legit works against pro-level competition, and which should be saved for end-of-shot-clock desperation alone. But I also expect Fultz to have some very un-ET-like breakout games partway through the Sixers' schedule, a couple nonstop highlight reels of gorgeous jumpers and did-he-just-did that moves to the basket that get Kevin Durant going extra ballistic on Twitter. 

Against Boston or L.A. would be a little too poetic, so let's say it comes against Phoenix: On New Year's Eve when only the truest of Process Phaithful are even tuned in, and they end up rewarded with memories sweeter than any combination of mistletoe and Kenny G could ever provide.

7. When do the Sixers clinch a playoff spot?

April 6, at home against a largely resting Cavaliers squad. Win No. 41, on the way to 43-39 and the sixth seed. Don't be afraid to catch feels.

How the Eagles and Redskins have changed since their first meeting

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USA Today Images

How the Eagles and Redskins have changed since their first meeting

Back in Week 1, the Eagles and Redskins looked like two evenly matched teams, and they wound up playing a very evenly matched game. It took Brandon Graham's stripping the ball from Kirk Cousins and Fletcher Cox's returning it 20 yards with 1:29 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Eagles a 30-17 lead. Otherwise, the game was close.

But this is Week 7. A lot can change in the NFL in 43 days — and it has. The Eagles are on a four-game winning streak and their confidence only appears to be growing. And while Washington has won three of its last four, the injury report reads like a short story these days. These teams are not remotely the same, the Redskins in particular.

It’s worth looking at position-by-position because the differences are rather striking in several cases.

QUARTERBACKS
Do we still think Cousins is a better quarterback than Carson Wentz? If nothing else, Wentz is closing any perceived gap between the two. Cousins is completing a higher percentage of his passes for more yards per attempt, and it’s not particularly close — 66.5 percent and an 8.4 average, compared to 60.9 percent and 7.7 for Wentz. But Wentz has also led the Eagles to a 5-1 record, while Washington enters this week at 3-2. I know who I’d take, and it’s certainly close regardless — although, technically, Cousins is still the more efficient and prolific passer of the two.

Marginal edge: Washington

RUNNING BACKS
It’s almost as if Darren Sproles switched uniforms. Sproles is out for the year, depriving the Eagles of one of the most unique weapons in the NFL. Or so we thought, anyway, because Chris Thompson is doing a lot of Sproles-like things in Washington. Thompson has become the focal point of that offense, leading the team in rushing (175 yards), receiving (340 yards) and touchdowns (4). Conversely, the Eagles have shifted to a power running game led by LeGarrette Blount, who entered the week ranked third in the NFL with 5.57 yards per carry. With the statuses of Robert Kelley and Wendell Smallwood up in the air, both backfields could be incomplete.

Edge: Even

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS
Zach Ertz has 405 yards receiving and four touchdowns. Nelson Agholor has 321 yards and four scores, while Alshon Jeffery has 317 with two trips to the end zone. After Thompson, Washington’s leading receiver is Vernon Davis with 225 and one touchdown. Even Torrey Smith has 210 and a score. The Eagles have played one more game than the Redskins, but still. Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have proven unable to replace the production left behind by DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon when the duo chose to leave as free agents. Jamison Crowder has oddly gone missing as well, and Jordan Reed just looks like a shell of his former self.

Distinct edge: Eagles

OFFENSIVE LINES
For my money, the Eagles have the best offensive line in the NFL right now. They replaced Isaac Seumalo at left guard, mostly with Stefen Wisniewski, and the rest of the unit has been playing at or above expectations ever since. Washington’s O-line is pretty good, too, when everybody is healthy — but that won’t be the case on Monday night. Left tackle Trent Williams is delaying knee surgery, so he won’t be 100 percent if he suits up at all. Meanwhile, Williams’ backup, Ty Neskhe, was already ruled out for this game. This situation has the potential to take a turn for disastrous for the Redskins.

Edge: Eagles

DEFENSIVE FRONT SEVEN
First-round draft pick Jonathan Allen landed on injured reserve for Washington this week, joining outside linebacker Trent Murphy, who also missed the opener. Those are some of the more disruptive players up front for Washington, though defensive tackle Matthew Ioannidis has emerged as an interior pass-rusher and is tied with Ryan Kerrigan for second on the team with 3½ sacks. The Eagles have remained pretty much the same up front, boasting the No. 1 run defense in the NFL so far this season. Cox and company have been as advertised.

Slight edge: Eagles

DEFENSIVE BACKS
The Redskins’ offensive line could devolve into a mess but their secondary already looks like a disaster. All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman is out, and the other half of that tandem, Bashaud Breeland, is hobbled by a knee injury and is questionable to play. Starting safety Deshazor Everett is questionable, too, so that’s three-quarters of the secondary that either isn’t playing or won’t be 100 percent. The Eagles, on the other hand, are only getting healthier. Rodney McLeod and Corey Graham have been back after missing some time, and Ronald Darby could return to the lineup on Monday. Plus, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and Malcolm Jenkins are all playing at a high level.

Very distinct edge: Eagles

SPECIAL TEAMS
Both teams suffered key losses this week, with kicker Dustin Hopkins going on IR for Washington and Chris Maragos down for the Eagles. The Eagles were also hit with the losses of Caleb Sturgis and Sproles, but Jake Elliott has since nailed down the kicking duties, while Kenjon Barner is a capable fill-in returning punts. The Redskins didn’t have great special teams before losing Hopkins and they surely aren’t going to be better off now.

Edge: Eagles

OVERALL
The last time these two teams met, the Eagles looked slightly superior on paper and wound up winning a game that was determined in the final two minutes. This time, the Eagles appear to have a rather sizable advantage, not to mention they're playing at home, so you would think the margin of victory would be greater. Granted, this is a game between two NFC East opponents and division games are usually tough, so it might not turn out that way. But given the state the Redskins are in entering this contest, there’s a reason the expectations are a convincing win for the Eagles this time around.

Edge: Eagles

ESPN disrespects Philly by thinking a cheesesteak is a fajita on a roll

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ESPN Twitter

ESPN disrespects Philly by thinking a cheesesteak is a fajita on a roll

Here's a promo ESPN used to promote tonight's Monday Night Football contest between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins.

Because the game takes place in the city of Philadelphia, a land known for its cheesesteaks, the friendly people at ESPN seem to believe viewers need a recipe for a cheesesteak.

Only watch the recipe they give... for a cheesesteak. This awful tweet hit the web on Saturday:

Looks like they're making fajita's right up until they put a couple of slices of cheese on top.

I don't know about you but that doesn't look like any cheesesteak I've ever eaten in Philadelphia. A cheesesteak is made with chip steak or any other piece of thin, flat steak that's then chopped up to varrying degree while being cooked. Not some pre-sliced up ribeye.

Twitter was not on board either, via Foobooz:

Here's a hot take: the people at ESPN aren't as dumb as this video would make you think. IN FACT, they purposefully butchered this cheesesteak in order to send a cheesesteak-loving city into a frenzy, thus getting their promo for a football game in front of more eyeballs.