Derrick Gunn's NFL Week 12 picks: Old man vs. young gun in weekend's best game

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Derrick Gunn's NFL Week 12 picks: Old man vs. young gun in weekend's best game

Derrick Gunn makes his picks for Week 12 of the NFL season.

Bears at Eagles (Sunday 1 p.m. on FOX)
Their record says the Bears are a 3-7 team, but their play on the field shows they can be competitive. The Bears have lost their last three games by eight, seven and three points. Their three wins this season have been against Pittsburgh (in overtime), Baltimore and Carolina. They have an impressive run game that averages 131.8 yards, which is fifth-best in the league, featuring second-year back Jordan Howard, who is third in the league in rushing with 84.1 yards per game, and rookie Tarik Cohen. Both average over four yards per carry. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has shown promise, but he's still a rookie and prone to make mistakes. Chicago's offense averages just 17.4 points. Their defense is ranked 11th and can get after the quarterback with 29 sacks, tied for fourth-best in the league.

Unfortunately for the Bears, they are running into a red-hot Eagles squad that is firing on all cylinders on both sides of the ball. Carson Wentz and his crew are shredding defenses and the Birds’ defense is making Sundays miserable for opposing offenses. 

I look for this to be an entertaining game for maybe the first 30 minutes, then I expect the Birds to send the Bears into hibernation. 

Pick: Eagles 30, Bears 14 

Tampa Bay at Atlanta (Sunday 1 p.m. on FOX)
Don't look now, but it looks like the Falcons are getting their mojo back. The defending NFC champs are coming off wins over Dallas and Seattle, but they're still looking up to New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South. Running back Devonta Freeman is still in concussion protocol and will miss this game, but the Falcons still have more than enough firepower to handle a Bucs squad that's won two in a row, though Tampa Bay’s defense is ranked 29th.

Pick: Falcons

Cleveland at Cincinnati (Sunday 1 p.m. on CBS)
The headline in this battle of Ohio isn't about which team will win this game, but which coach might lose his job first, Hue Jackson or Marvin Lewis. The Browns can't win a game and the Bengals are going nowhere but home at the conclusion of the regular season. Cleveland will lose its 11th straight.

Pick: Bengals

Tennessee at Indianapolis (Sunday 1 p.m. on FOX)
The Titans have playoff aspirations, but they have a lot of work to do. The Colts can't run the ball and can't score. Tennessee should be able to run right through Indy.

Pick: Titans 

Buffalo at Kansas City (Sunday 1 p.m. on CBS)
What in the world has happened to both of these teams? The Bills were 5-2 at one point and the Chiefs were dominating their division. Now Buffalo has lost three straight, can't figure out the QB situation and is fighting to stay above .500. The Chiefs have lost two in a row, but they are still on top of the AFC West. Andy Reid is not a happy man right now and his guys know it. The Chiefs will unleash their frustrations on the Bills.

Pick: Chiefs

Miami at New England (Sunday 1 p.m. on CBS)
Until further notice, the Pats are the best team in the AFC (what else is new). The Dolphins will be without quarterback Jay Cutler, who's still in concussion protocol. Tom Brady is in a zone, leading the league in passing (3,147 yards), with 22 touchdowns and just two interceptions. The Pats should put this one away by halftime.

Pick: Patriots

Carolina at New York Jets (Sunday 1 p.m. on FOX)
The Panthers are hot, winners of three in a row. They have linebacker Luke Kuechly back on the field, and now Cam Newton gets his tight end back. Greg Olsen, who's been out since Week 2 with a broken foot, returns this week. The Jets have lost four of the last five but still have slim postseason hopes. You never know which Jets team will show up week-to-week, but the Panthers will be ready for them.

Pick: Panthers

Seattle at San Francisco (Sunday 4:05 p.m. on FOX)
Last week, Pete Carroll made a bad coaching decision, and it cost the Seahawks a chance to beat Atlanta. Thanks to the Rams losing, Seattle is still within striking distance of the NFC West title. The lowly Niners won't be much of an obstacle this week.

Pick: Seahawks

Denver at Oakland (Sunday 4:25 p.m. on CBS) 
The Broncos and Raiders have been two of the biggest disappointments of the year. The Broncos have QB issues and are now turning to rookie Paxton Lynch. The Raiders fired defensive coordinator Ken Morton Jr. with hopes of shaking up that lethargic unit. The Raiders' offense vs. the Broncos' defense will be interesting to watch. Oakland’s offense wins this matchup.

Pick: Raiders 

New Orleans at Los Angeles Rams (Sunday 4:25 p.m. on CBS)
This is the marquee matchup of the week. The Rams are trying to regroup after their high-flying offense crashed in Minnesota. The Saints are looking to extend an eight-game winning streak. It’s the old man Drew Brees vs. the young gun Jared Goff. In big game situations like this, I like to rely on experience. Brees and the Saints win a shootout.

Pick: Saints

Jacksonville at Arizona (Sunday 4:25 p.m. on CBS)
I still can't get used to calling Jacksonville a division leader, but the times have changed. The Jags' defense is rock solid, first overall (276.6 yards allowed), first in pass defense (162.0) and first in points allowed (14.1). The Cards, just 2-2 at home this year, will lose their third straight overall.

Pick: Jaguars 

Green Bay at Pittsburgh (Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on NBC)
The Packers got embarrassed last week at home vs. Baltimore, and Green Bay QB Brett Hundley appears to be lost. Now to add to the Packers’ woes, they venture into the Steelers’ den to face a team trying to keep pace with New England for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Packers don’t have a prayer in this one.

Pick: Steelers

Houston at Baltimore (Monday 8:30 p.m. on ESPN) 
Right now the Ravens are the sixth seed in the AFC. They haven’t played at home since late October. For a second straight week, the Ravens face a backup QB. They destroyed Hundley in Green Bay. This time Tom Savage is in trouble. 

Pick: Ravens 

Press Taylor was right choice for Eagles' QBs coach

Press Taylor was right choice for Eagles' QBs coach

The Eagles were just a few days away from the Super Bowl and there was a clear indication of just how loose the team really was. 

On Feb. 1, Carson Wentz tweeted out a photo proving it. 

So, what’s the point of this? Why show a photo that Wentz sent out from an escape room well over four months ago?

Well, because it was a little glimpse into the future. Because the five guys in that photo are going to be the five guys in the Eagles’ quarterback room this season. 

Along with Wentz, Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld, the other two are Press Taylor (sitting) and Spencer Phillips. This offseason, after John DeFilippo left Philadelphia to take the offensive coordinator job in Minnesota, the Eagles promoted Taylor to take his position as quarterbacks coach and then promoted Phillips to take Taylor’s spot as the assistant quarterbacks coach. 

It was probably a no-brainer. 

And it’s crazy to think, but just a year after the Eagles blocked DeFilippo from leaving the organization, DeFilippo has left … and the Eagles are going to be just fine. 

At the time, before the 2017 season, it made sense to block DeFilippo. He was seemingly integral to the development of a young Wentz and he certainly deserves plenty of credit for the big jump in Wentz’s play last season. But now, without him, the Eagles are going to keep a finely-tuned machine running. And they’re going to do it with a very young and very promising coach. 

Taylor is just 30 years old, which seems incredibly young for a coach who is supposed to lead the most important position room for the Eagles and possibly the most important position room in the entire league. He’s just one year older than Foles. 

He might be young, but Taylor is uniquely positioned to handle this responsibility. And aside from his football acumen — which has been touted by his superiors — it’s his relationship with the players in the room that made him such a no-brainer replacement for DeFilippo. 

“I feel really close (to Wentz, Foles and Sudfeld),” Taylor said last week. “I know what makes them tick going into it. And then we all had our own relationships. Obviously, I wasn’t their quarterbacks coach at the time, but I was in the room, sat through those conversations, had my own conversations out on the practice field. I feel like I know the things they like, the things they didn’t like. And then was able to learn from the other guys, the other coaches in the room.”

After the Super Bowl, Taylor is probably best known in the city for bringing the Philly Special to the Eagles. In his position last year, it was his job to mine gadget plays from around the league and found that play being used by the Bears the season before (see story). And that’s great. But all the stuff we don’t know about last year is what’s going to make the most difference for the Eagles this season. 

Taylor has been with the Eagles since 2013, when Chip Kelly brought him to town. And then Doug Pederson was smart enough (and without ego) to keep Taylor in 2016. The brother of Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, Press has quickly worked his way up the ladder. 

Last week, Wentz was asked if the team wanted his opinion before promoting Taylor. 

“I think it was pretty much known how we felt about Press beforehand,” Wentz said. “We’ve seen Press behind the scenes the last couple years and how hard he works. A lot of guys have a ton of respect for him as a person and as a coach. I know that’s where I sit. So far, it’s been great. He understands the game extremely well. We’re very like-minded, both on and off the field. The relationship I have with him personally and the relationship he has with all the quarterbacks has been tremendous so far.”

The relationship between Taylor and the QBs is so important. Relationships for this entire coaching staff are so important. Really, that’s what has made Pederson so special. He has that “emotional intelligence” and understands how to deal with his players. 

Taylor seems to have that too. And really, that’s why the Eagles’ QB room won’t miss a beat. 

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Predicting Eagles’ 53-man roster after spring practices

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Predicting Eagles’ 53-man roster after spring practices

The Eagles are now in summer break mode until training camp in late July, when training camp starts. 

That’s obviously when the real practices begin, but we have seen them for several OTAs and then the mandatory minicamp, so we at least have something to work off of. 

It’s too early, but here’s my first crack at the Eagles’ 53-man roster: 

QB (3): Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld
This is easy … for now. There’s always the possibility Foles gets traded during training camp. Remember, this happened a couple years ago when Sam Bradford was shipped to Minnesota after the Teddy Bridgewater trade. But for now, we’ll keep all three of these guys on the list. 

RB (4): Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Matt Jones
The Eagles kept five out of the gate last summer. That included Donnel Pumphrey, who landed on IR shortly after. I have Pump and Wendell Smallwood both missing the cut in favor of Jones. The Eagles signed Jones this offseason and head coach Doug Pederson talked like the veteran is really in their plans. In order to get on the field, he’ll need to cut down on his fumbles, but he’s on the squad for now. 

TE (3): Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers 
Billy Brown didn’t have a great spring, so we can’t give him the nod over Rodgers, who didn’t do anything to lose his spot. Josh Perkins had a decent camp, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll make the team. Rodgers for now, but Brown could sneak in with a great training camp. 

WR (6): Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Markus Wheaton, Shelton Gibson 
Greg Ward and Rashard Davis had good springs, but it’s hard to see either of them beating out these guys and that’s with the Eagles keeping six. I have them with six because the top four are locks, Gibson stuck last year and has improved and Wheaton is coming off an impressive spring. He’s the last guy in. 

OL: (9) Jason Peters, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Chance Warmack, Matt Pryor, Isaac Seumalo
The five starters and Vaitai are no-brainers. I then kept Warmack as a backup guard, Pryor as a backup tackle and Seumalo as a backup everything. Seumalo has struggled early in his career, but that versatility is enough to keep him on the roster. No Jordan Mailata. It’s possible the Aussie makes the team, but there’s no way he can play this year. If he makes the team, it’s just because the Eagles don’t want to chance him going elsewhere. 

DE (6): Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Michael Bennett, Chris Long, Josh Sweat, Steven Means
Really, the top five here are pretty easy. The question is if they keep a sixth, which would be a pretty high number of ends. But it’s just good to have Means around. He’s a great practice player who brings a ton of energy and is also versatile enough to move inside on certain downs. He’s worth keeping in the building. 

DT (4): Fletcher Cox, Haloti Ngata, Destiny Vaeao, Elijah Qualls 
We’re light on defensive tackles, but Bennett and Graham can slide inside sometimes, so we don’t need as many. Until I see Tim Jernigan on the practice field, I’m going to assume that he’ll start the season on the NFI. That keeps a spot open for Qualls. Keep an eye on Aziz Shittu too. He is healthy after a knee injury last year and had a great spring. 

LB (5): Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Corey Nelson, Nate Gerry, Kamu Grugier-Hill 
I left Joe Walker off this list for now, but I think he still has a shot to make the team; he’s just had trouble staying healthy in his short NFL career. Either Nelson, Gerry or Grugier-Hill will win the WILL job left by Mychal Kendricks. The Eagles also have veteran LaRoy Reynolds, but he wasn’t able to practice all spring. We’ll see what he can do in training camp. 

CB (6): Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, De’Vante Bausby
This time last year, we were talking about cornerback as a positional weakness for the Birds. A lot has changed. Darby and Mills will start and I still think Sidney Jones is going to win the nickel job. And then the team still has Bausby, who has come on strong, Douglas, who is a great guy off the bench and a rookie draft pick in Maddox. Maddox might not make the team on merit, but they drafted him and can’t afford to lose him. D.J. Killings is off the roster for now. 

S (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Chris Maragos, Corey Graham
Tre Sullivan is left off this list, which is hard to do based on what the team thinks of him and based on how he looked this spring. But I still can’t see the team being comfortable enough to really give him playing time. I also haven’t seen enough from undrafted Jeremy Reaves. Graham is on the street right now, but he reportedly wants to play and the Eagles still seem interested and have the cap space to get it done. That makes too much sense to me; I think he’ll be back. And as long as Maragos is healthy, I think he’s still a valuable special teamer. 

Specialists (3): Jake Elliott, Rick Lovato, Cameron Johnston
Easy for now. They’re the only ones on the roster. 

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