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NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles keep creeping toward top spot

NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles keep creeping toward top spot

After defeating a winless Los Angeles Chargers team in Week 4 by using a strong rushing attack to run out the clock in a “home” game in Carson, California, the Eagles traveled back to Lincoln Financial Field for a matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. The Birds used a brilliant performance from Carson Wentz to blow out the Cardinals, 34-7.

Wentz finished with 304 passing yards and four touchdowns — his best performance of the season so far.

A victory over the Cardinals puts the Birds' record at 4-1. They hold the top spot in the division with a 1.5-game lead over the Redskins, who are coming off of a bye at 2-2.

Now the Eagles shift their attention to another 4-1 team in the Panthers, who are coming off of a 27-24 victory over the Lions.

Before the Eagles travel to Carolina on Thursday night, here's a roundup of where they landed in this week's national power rankings:

ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio: Up four spots to No. 5
Florio wrote, “Get used to the Eagles getting off to great starts to the season.”

It’s true — the Birds are a combined 7-3 in their first five games in 2016 and 2017. Last year’s 3-0 start didn’t turn out well as the Eagles lost nine of their last 13. The Eagles must continue to trust the run game and let Wentz be Wentz to continue their success thus far.

NFL.com's Elliot HarrisonUp one spot to No. 2
Harrison wrote, “About the only thing that didn't come to fruition in the Eagles' most impressive win of the season was the huge outing predicted for Corey Clement, who was mostly a non-factor.”

Clement was supposed to see an uptick in production with Wendell Smallwood out because of a knee injury. All in all, he registered only seven carries for 17 yards. This week may also be tough for Clement with a Panthers team ranked ninth in the NFL in rushing defense.

The No. 2 ranking may be a little ambitious considering what happened last season. I just don’t see them being better than the Packers and Panthers at this point. Aaron Rodgers is playing his best football and Cam Newton, aside from all of his attention in the media for the wrong reasons, has beaten the Patriots in Foxborough and found his rhythm after a slow start. Thursday night is a big game in that aspect.

USA TODAYUp three spots to No. 5
USA TODAY wrote, “Carson Wentz deserves accolades coming his way. But credit offense that holds ball nearly 36 minutes per game, 2 minutes more than any other team.”

Last week, USA TODAY dropped the Eagles down three spots after a victory over the Giants. This week, they have realized that error and made the proper correction. Now the Eagles are ranked among the top five teams in the league.

One game at a time should be Doug Pederson’s motto moving forward. If this team gets ahead of itself, the Eagles could find themselves in the same position as last year when the playoffs start.

Yahoo! Sports' Frank Schwab: Up two spots to No. 4
Schwab was very impressed with the Eagles and wrote, “They’re even getting big contributions from players like Nelson Agholor, who looked like a sure bust before this season. This is the best team in the NFC East.”

Agholor has proved to Eagles fans that he belongs in the league after a horrid year of drops in 2016. This shows the confidence Howie Roseman and staff had in him to trade Jordan Matthews in the offseason for Ronald Darby.

CBS Sports' Pete PriscoStayed at No. 3
Prisco wrote, “They've won three straight heading to a big NFC battle with the hot Panthers in Carolina Thursday night. They still need more consistency from Carson Wentz, despite his good start.”

Thursday night will be the biggest test of the season for the Birds. Yes, playing Kansas City in Arrowhead was a huge challenge but I don’t think many Eagles fans thought they would win that game. Thursday night, the offensive line will be tested with the possibility of Lane Johnson being out because of a concussion. Julius Peppers looks to have been reborn in his second stint with the Panthers and poses a threat on the edge.

The Washington Post's Mark MaskeUp two spots to No. 3
Maske wrote that the Eagles’ schedule will get tougher but, “Win or lose against the Panthers, the Eagles have shown enough to prove they should have staying power. Carson Wentz is legitimate, making the Eagles a factor in the division chase all season.”

Look at the next five games for the Eagles — at Carolina, vs. Washington, vs. San Francisco, vs. Denver and at Dallas. Four of those games on paper will be tough. Washington walloped Oakland and should have beaten the Chiefs in Arrowhead. The 49ers should be no problem. Denver’s defense is scary regardless of whether it's on the road or at home, and Dallas could have Ezekiel Elliott or not depending on an official ruling on his suspension. We will know who the Birds really are after this key stretch. 

ESPN: Up four spots to No. 4
ESPN wrote the Eagles have the best odds to make the playoffs in the NFC with an 86 percent chance and, “What has the Eagles soaring? Ball control. They've converted a league-best 53 percent of third downs, and they've averaged a league-best 35 minutes, 32 seconds of possession this season.”

It is no secret — the Eagles are at their best when they are running the football effectively. LeGarrette Blount has found his footing in Philadelphia and the best way to keep pressure off of Wentz is a solid rushing attack.

No excuse for how Sixers handled draft night trade of Mikal Bridges

No excuse for how Sixers handled draft night trade of Mikal Bridges

To be perfectly honest, I can’t tell you a whole lot about Mikal Bridges, other than he’s a Villanova product and two-time national champion. I can’t tell you a thing about Zhaire Smith. And an unprotected first-round pick in 2021 is so far away, it could really be anything, or change hands three more times until then.

I don’t know if the Sixers were winners or losers at the NBA draft after trading Bridges to Phoenix for Smith and the Miami pick. Nobody knows that. We all have our opinions, but we don’t know.

The only thing anybody can say for certain is the organization should be embarrassed, no matter how this plays out on a basketball court.

The Sixers should be embarrassed, but not because the front office took a risk or made an unpopular decision. Love it or hate it, the trade was made with a clear vision, and it took courage for Brett Brown the interim general manager to give his OK, realizing it wasn’t necessarily the best move for Brett Brown the head coach in the immediate. Fortune sometimes favors the bold.

No, the Sixers should be embarrassed for pulling a bait-and-switch on Bridges, a 21-year-old kid and Philadelphia hero, while he was on live TV talking about how ecstatic his mom was he would be playing pro basketball in his hometown. Draft night trades are the norm in the NBA, so why would an NBA team put a young man and his family in that position less than 30 minutes after the selection was made?

Especially when, all the while, Brown was still fielding offers for Bridges.

“The phones were active and we knocked back an incredible deal where we would lose him,” Brown said after the conclusion of the first round. “We didn’t rate it to be a godfather type of deal, something that would impact the franchise to the level that it would have to in order to trade Mikal, who we valued very much.

“Then Phoenix came in and offered a 2021 unprotected [first-round pick], plus our 1B in Zhaire, who we valued very highly, and you’re in a position that you’re on the clock and you have a decision to make.”

The Sixers should be embarrassed by the latest in an increasingly long line of public relations blunders. If this were the only example of the organization’s ineptitude, it would be unfortunate, but forgivable. Instead, it was par for the course.

This is the same organization that took its sweet time ousting Bryan Colangelo amid a bizarre social media scandal mere weeks ago; that never convincingly explained the mysterious circumstances that led to Markelle Fultz sitting out most of his rookie season; that has frequently and publicly feuded with Joel Embiid over playing time; that was previously caught hiding major Embiid injury information from fans; that has a medical team constantly under fire for its inability to quickly and accurately diagnose injuries; that just endured years of bad PR for tanking, until it finally reached a point where the league allegedly stepped in and had to force Sam Hinkie out. Did we miss anything? Probably.

No, I don’t think we’re making too much about a press conference. Too often for far too long, the Sixers have come off as dysfunctional in far too many arenas, and it can't be endearing to the likes of LeBron James, other top-tier free agents and available veteran players or even the organization's own stars.

At least one person in the building seemed to understand how sensitive a situation this was.

“I live in this city with you all,” said Brown. “I watch Villanova. I love (Bridges’) mom. I love his college coach. There’s a human side of this that’s really kind of hard to explain.

“The emotion of what we have all been through has been painful, but what’s best for the organization and how do you win a championship? And since I’ve looked at you all, I haven’t pivoted out of that once. So, the torment of trying to do my job in the very limited role in the moment I have as general manager versus the role that I have as head coach of this program, it’s a toggle, and this is where we arrived.”

Too bad Brown apparently didn’t have a chance to convey that to members of the Sixers' staff before they prematurely started the victory parade.

“All of those emotions and all of those facts happened in a 20-, 25-minute window,” Brown said.

A 20-, 25-minute window is all the Sixers need to make an awkward situation worse. Brown, the fans and, most of all, Bridges and his family all deserved better on Thursday night.

More on the Sixers

The Sixers and the Suns trade ... barbs on Twitter

The Sixers and the Suns trade ... barbs on Twitter

Joel Embiid wasn't the only one throwing shade at the Phoenix Suns on Thursday evening.

The Philadelphia 76ers' official Twitter account got in on the action after the Suns tossed some shade in their direction.

It all started with a tweet while Mikal Bridges was still a member of the 76ers' squad. @Sixers posted some highlights of Bridges from his Villanova days. Harmless enough.

Then Bridges got traded to the Suns for Zhaire Smith and an unprotected first round pick in 2021. It appears as if the original highlights tweet was deleted but the @Suns had receipts.

That's when the @Suns tossed a jab.

The Sixers didn't take it lying down.

Who you got in the battle of the hoops nerds behind the team Twitter accounts?

Just remember: don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever.

More on the Sixers