1, By now you have likely heard the Pittsburgh Steelers’ coaching staff had trouble hearing each other during the early part of last night’s NFL opener at New England. Yes, New England. The very last place the league needed to have a sidelines communications incident after seven months of cheating accusations against the Patriots. Many writers have correctly noted each game New England wins between now and say…the end of days…will be scrutinized and analyzed by conspiracy theorists world-wide. So be it. Each of us can choose to ignore or investigate. The only thing that annoys me at this point is the defense of some of the current and former Patriots who claim with success comes this kind of scrutiny. “People are just jealous when you’re as good as us.” Bull. There have been dynasties in football as well as other sports and I can’t recall the main focus of hating on them being cheating. Sure there’s jealousy. But because the teams were good. Period. This line of defense only serves to make the New England organization and its fans look worse. Maybe…MAYBE…you’d buy yourselves a hair less scrutiny if you were not so damn defensive and also kept throwing out this tired “we’re just so good it comes with the territory” line.
2. It really didn’t matter if Pittsburgh had issues with their communications during the game because they clearly had communication issues before the game. A couple of Steelers indicated earlier in the week they would “get hands” on Rob Gronkowski. Based on what I saw last night they meant shaking hands with him post-game after he torched them time and again. Rob wasn’t just open, he was uncovered. I don’t know what Pittsburgh’s plan was on defense but covering Gronkowski was not part of it. Five catches, 94 yards, three TD’s. Patriots, 28-21.
3. Fans here in Philadelphia are so crazed about the upcoming season it has reached epidemic proportions. If you cover the team and don’t predict at least ten wins torches and pitchforks are headed your way. The local media has capitulated but there are so many asterisks and disclaimers within. Locals are always fired up for the start of football here and the fire of optimism is always white-hot. But this is truly like nothing I’ve seen if you look at all the what could be’s ratio to the what if’s. John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News offered every offseason somebody in the NFL replaces a starting QB, others their star runner…and others their lead receiver. Who does that all at once when the goal is – the very next year – the Super Bowl? The new QB is coming off consecutive acronym tears…so shaky St. Louis wasn’t willing to roll the dice with him anymore. The new RB is coming off a great, workhorse season with the Eagles’ main division rival but also has an injury history. The receiving corps is now headed up by a second-year player and a rookie. Two vets on the offensive line were sent packing. The defense is in some ways more of an unknown than the offense. The front line is stout but the linebackers feature injury and wear-tear questions. It is the secondary that will likely be only as good as that front line getting to the QB. The nickel DB some thought was the best at his position last year was inexplicably sent away in the pre-season apparently because he wanted to play every down. You would think you’d want that kind of want. What you probably don’t want is a career corner learning how to play safety on the job…but that’s part of the plan here. Cautious optimism I have for the Eagles. Cheer I will.
4. Chip Kelly has – as noted above – played his hand not only on the 2015 Eagles season but future ones. He was given the ability to bet the future of the franchise after deciding winning twenty games in two seasons was not making progress. Indeed it now isn’t enough to win another ten games this year. We’re championship-driven in this town and starving for a Super Bowl. All of these changes certainly mean that is Kelly’s lone goal also. Chip pushing so many chips to the center of the table at once is indeed as high-risk, high-reward as it gets in the NFL.
I try to stay out of the prediction biz but I can’t help myself here…call it 10-6 with an NFC East championship and a playoff win.