Week 14 NFC power rankings: The Eagles are moving on up

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Week 14 NFC power rankings: The Eagles are moving on up

The Eagles (6-6) were able to take down Washington, 28-13, on Monday night to set up a huge game in Dallas this weekend. 

Here’s an updated look at our NFC power rankings: 

1. Rams (11-1) Last week: 2 
Sure, L.A.’s only loss this season came to the Saints, but they’re now the only one-loss team left in the entire NFL. They came off their bye week and took care of the Lions 30-16 on Sunday. Big game coming in Chicago. 

2. Saints (10-2) Last week: 1
The high-flying Saints offense was able to score just 10 points last Thursday night in Dallas. That Cowboys’ defense just absolutely stifled them. It seemed like the Saints were trying to play uphill all night. 

3. Bears (8-4) Last week: 3
Chicago thought they could sneak another win out of Chase Daniel and it backfired in a 30-27 overtime loss to the Giants. They made a great comeback, but then the Giants were able to win in OT. Mitchell Trubisky should be back this week for the big game vs. the Saints. 

4. Seahawks (7-5) Last week: 5
Since the Rams already clinched the NFC West, the Seahawks are going to need to get to the playoffs as the top wild card team. That doesn’t look like a problem right now. They demolished the 49ers on Sunday but will have to host the Vikings on MNF this week. 

5. Cowboys (7-5) Last week: 7 
Dallas put together an outstanding defensive performance to beat the Saints. Their two young linebackers look like absolute studs and that whole unit is playing great right now. Offensively, they haven’t gotten much going, but with a defense like that, they’re going to be in every game. Tough test for the Eagles this week. 

6. Vikings (6-5-1) Last week: 4
The Patriots took care of the Vikings pretty easily Sunday, 24-10, and now the Vikings have to travel to play in Seattle. As of now, they are in the second wild-card spot, but they’re hanging on by a thread. 

7. Eagles (6-6) Last week: 9
The Eagles took care of a Washington team that was down to its third-string quarterback in Mark Sanchez. Still, a nice win by the Eagles and it looks like they might be turning a corner, especially offensively. That offense will have a tough test in Dallas against a team that shut down the highest-powered offense in the league just a week ago.

8. Panthers (6-6) Last week: 6
Complete free fall. Firing assistant coaches during the season. The Panthers lost to the Bucs, 24-17, and have now dropped four in a row. Remember, they were 6-2 in early November. Now, they’re going to have to get back on track if they want to make the playoffs and two of their final four games are against the Saints. 

9. Redskins (6-6) Last week: 8
Similarly, Washington was 6-3 after they beat Tampa Bay on Nov. 11, but they’ve dropped three games since then and have lost their top two quarterbacks to broken legs. Is there much hope that the Sanchize will keep things afloat? Probably not. 

10. Buccaneers (5-7) Last week: 13
After dropping seven of eight, the Bucs have now won two in a row and aren’t that far out of a wild-card spot. Let’s face it: that’s not going to happen, but at least as little bit of life out of them as they beat Carolina 24-17. 

11. Packers (4-7-1) Last week: 10
Mike McCarthy didn’t make it through the season. The Packers fired their head coach and the whole season has been a mess. This time, they lost to the Cardinals, who absolutely stink. They still have Aaron Rodgers, but not much else. 

12. Giants (4-8) Last week: 14
Since their bye week, the Giants have won three of four. Good for them and Pat Shurmur, who will at least get out of his first season. The problem is, these wins are taking them out of prime draft pick territory and they need that high pick. 

13. Falcons (4-8) Last week: 12
Remember when the Falcons were supposed to be a Super Bowl contender? What a mess this season has been. They’ve now lost their last four games, including a 26-16 loss to Baltimore at home Sunday. They have a beautiful new stadium and they’ve been stinking it up all year. 

14. Lions (4-8) Last week: 11
No surprise that they lost to the Rams, but the Lions have been a weird team all year. They’ve lost games they should win and won games they had no right to be in. Ultimately, they’re not a very good team and are going to finish in the basement of the NFC North. 

15. Cardinals (3-9) Last week: 15
Nice win for the Cardinals over the Packers, but it’s probably not a great sign when immediately after you beat a team, they fire their head coach. 

16. 49ers (2-10) Last week: 16 
The beat Oakland earlier in the season, which means the 49ers are simply the second-worst team in the NFL.

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Are the 2019 Eagles better or worse at linebacker?

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Are the 2019 Eagles better or worse at linebacker?

The Eagles let a promising-yet-oft-injured potential star walk in the offseason, though the team was not idle, adding two quality players to mix. Will the linebackers be better off as a result in 2019?

Key additions: L.J. Fort (free agent, Steelers), Zach Brown (free agent, Redskins) 

Key departures: Jordan Hicks (free agent, Cardinals)

Why they could be better: Depth

Last summer, the battle for the Eagles’ third linebacker job was between Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry, neither of whom played much up to that point, and Corey Nelson, who didn’t even make the team. Grugier-Hill and Gerry are still in the mix here, though the competition for spots two through seven behind Nigel Bradham will be much stiffer.

Jordan Hicks’ departure does create another hole in the starting lineup, one likely to be filled by either L.J. Fort, Zach Brown or Grugier-Hill. But that trio all bring experience to the table — Brown has been to a Pro Bowl — plus Paul Worrilow returns from a torn ACL, offering another veteran presence. Gerry got some opportunities last year, and even he’ll be pushed by CFL star Alex Singleton and undrafted rookie/ All-American T.J. Edwards. How much deeper is this group? In 2018, the guys behind LB4 Gerry were all exclusively special teamers.

Why they could be worse: Down a playmaker

How much will the Eagles miss Hicks? Hard to say. They won a Super Bowl without him in 2017, and after missing more time last season, he eventually returned to find Bradham had taken over as the defense’s No. 1 linebacker. Can’t blame the club for its unwillingness to match $36 million over four years for somebody who’s injured so frequently.

That being said, there’s no denying Hicks seemingly has a nose for the football. He played only 43 games over four seasons, yet managed to amass 19 pass breakups, 7 interceptions, 5.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble, six fumble recoveries and 12 tackles for loss. Only a small handful of players even come close to matching that big play production during the same span – none with at least as many of each, and all in at least 10 more games. When he’s on the field, Hicks is a difference-maker, an ability as difficult to replace as it can be to quantify.

The X-factor: Who takes Hicks’ spot?

It was kind of surprising Brown was still on the street in May. Sure, he turns 30 this year, coming off a season in which he lost his starting job in Washington and is nowhere near the impact player he was earlier in his career. He still posted over 200 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 22 tackles for loss over the last two years.

Brown may be best suited for LB3 snaps in the Eagles’ defense. There’s not a lot of blitzing, minimizing one of his best attributes of rushing the passer, and as he’s aged, his coverage ability has seemingly diminished. Yet, he’s still stout against the run, and who else is it going to be? This could wind up becoming more of a platoon role, with Brown seeing first- and second-down snaps, then either Fort or Grugier-Hill in the nickel. There’s potential in such an arrangement. The question is whether opponents will be able to attack the shortcomings of Hicks’ part-time replacements.

Are the Eagles’ linebackers better or worse?

There’s a chance the Eagles let a special one go in Hicks, but the bottom line is he’s seldom available anyway — an issue that issue dates back to college, by the way. On paper, you probably take Hicks over the field, including Bradham. However, in reality, having a bunch of competent, experienced players who will actually be in uniform might be the safer route at this point. BETTER

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The real reason this Kansas City radio host's attack on Andy Reid was out of line

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The real reason this Kansas City radio host's attack on Andy Reid was out of line

I get why people are so outraged by the comments made Monday by a Kansas City radio host who linked Tyreek Hill’s off-the-field issues with the death seven years ago of Andy Reid’s son Garrett.

The guy tried to make a case that Big Red’s inability to be a strict disciplinarian as both a parent and a coach was responsible for both. 

“It did not work out particularly well in his family life,“ is what Kevin Kietzman of Sports Radio 810 WHB said. “He’s had a lot of things go bad on him, family and players. He is not good at fixing people. He is not good at discipline.”

Of course, these sort of remarks are irresponsible, hurtful and off-base. But you consider the source and they're probably not all that surprising.

And let's be honest. We all understand you don’t record the eighth-most wins of any NFL head coach in history and the seventh-most playoff wins without being able to discipline players when it’s necessary. We’ve all seen coaches who truly are bad at this stuff, and they don’t have three losing seasons in 20 years. They don’t last three years.

So yeah, this isn’t about that. Andy doesn’t need to be defended. Not about this.

And outrage distracts us from the real point. The real shame of Kietzman’s comments is that he connects a lack of discipline with heroin addiction.

Garrett Reid, Andy’s oldest son, died during training camp in Bethlehem seven years ago from a heroin overdose after a long battle with addiction, and the notion that his death somehow was the result of his father not disciplining him enough shows such a lack of understanding of addiction and substance abuse.

Addiction is a mental health disorder. It’s a disease.

It’s not a weakness. It’s not a character flaw. It’s not a lack of discipline.

Treatment can help, but it’s a long and difficult process. The changes substance abuse cause in a person’s brain, the addictive traits of heroin and other opioids, make recovery difficult and in some cases impossible.

Garrett was a good kid, a smart kid, and he and his family battled his addiction for years.

Here’s part of Andy’s statement the evening Garrett died:

“We understood that Garrett's long-standing battle with addiction was going to be difficult. He will, however, always have our family's love and respect for the courage he showed in trying to overcome it.”

This guy doesn’t know Andy and the battle he and his family fought to try and help Garrett through that battle.

Addiction and substance abuse have become such an epidemic in our communities. Big city. Small town. Everywhere. All of us know someone who’s lost a family member. All of us have either directly or indirectly felt that pain.

What Kietzman said is wrong in so many ways, but worst of all is how he trivializes addiction by implying that a little parental discipline would have saved Garrett Reid’s life.

This was a horrible thing to say for a lot of reasons, and it’s been nice to see so many of Andy’s former players rallying behind him on social media.

No parents should have to go through what Andy and his family went through seven summers ago at Lehigh. No parents should have to go through this either.

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