Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Philadelphia Eagles have now lost
their starting quarterback, top running back and No. 1 receiver over the past
DeSean Jackson joined the concussed Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy on the
sidelines Monday night when the diminutive receiver fractured a couple of
ribs. Before Philly's triumvirate of playmakers hit the bench, 80 percent of
the team's projected offensive line was already there.
That's a quick synopsis of why the once highly-regarded Eagles are currently
sitting at 3-8 and Andy Reid is winding down his 14-year tenure as the Big
Cheese in the City of Brotherly Love.
It's been a miserable season at Lincoln Financial Field but all is not lost.
While Vick's tenure is likely over in South Philadelphia, McCoy and D-Jax will
be back and Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans will all get
healthy again, meaning the cupboard is hardly bare for any coach who agrees to
take on the challenge of America's toughest sports town.
The Eagles also now have an extended period of time to look at young players
in hopes of finding a contributor or two for 2013 and beyond.
The jury is still more than out on rookie quarterback Nick Foles, who
completed 16-of-21 passes but managed just 119 yards in a 30-22 loss to
Carolina on Monday night as Philadelphia lost a seventh straight game for the
first time since losing the final seven during the 1994 season.
The good news?
Rookie running back Bryce Brown made his first start since high school in
place of the injured McCoy and set a franchise rookie record by exploding for
178 yards on 19 carries, including an electrifying 65-yard touchdown run off
right tackle in the second quarter.
"I just wanted to play our style of football," Brown said. "We knew we were
going to run the ball coming into the game and I was prepared for it. The
coaches told me we were going to run the ball to help Nick out, so I was up
for the challenge. I anticipated it happening and it did."
Few know it but Brown has always been special.
A high school prodigy in Wichita, Kansas, who once clocked a 4.32 40-yard
dash, the 5-foot-11, 220-pound Brown rushed for an amazing 1,472 yards and 12
touchdowns as a freshman before trumping that with an encore of 2,039 yards
and 26 TDs as a sophomore.
That's when the offers came piling in. More than 50 in fact as Brown was named
the EA Sports National Sophomore of the Year.
The hype machine hardly slowed from there after a 1,825-yard season convinced
USA Today to tab Brown as the only junior on its annual Prep All-American
Team. By the end of his senior season in high school Brown has amassed 7,209
rushing yards, was named to the USA Today All-USA First Team for the second
consecutive time, and was considered the best running back prospect coming out
of Kansas since Barry Sanders.
His downfall or at least the start of it can probably be traced to an
unscrupulous hanger-on named Brian Butler, who once described himself as
Brown's trainer and handler through the college recruiting process.
Looking to cash in on Brown's enormous athletic talent, Butler sold updates of
Brown's recruitment on a website, something that caught the eye of the NCAA,
whose amateurism certification staff launched an investigation to determine
whether anything had been done to jeopardize Brown's amateur status.
In a rare moment of clarity, the NCAA eventually cleared Brown to play and the
speedster orally committed to joining his brother Arthur at the University of
Brown never did sign a letter of intent, however, and again sought the
limelight by setting up a press conference on National Signing Day in 2009,
naming Miami and five other schools as "finalists:" LSU, Tennessee, Oregon,
USC, and Kansas State.
"If I was Randy Shannon and the Miami staff, I would tell the kid and Brian
Butler to go jump in a lake," ESPN recruiting guru Tom Luginbill said at the
time. "I got to imagine that deep down, Miami's coaches have to be thinking,
'This is getting ridiculous.'"
Miami did in fact bail on Brown, Butler and all the games forcing the star to
shift gears toward the SEC and Tennessee. Things changed at Rocky Top and
Brown wasn't the guy from the get go, spending his rookie campaign at the
school as backup to senior Montario Hardesty.
Whether it was a lack of maturity or just a case of homesickness, Brown
announced his decision to leave the program on the first day of Tennessee's
2010 spring practice. He and his brother Arthur were moving to Kansas State.
You can make the requisite Dorothy reference here and talk about there being
no place like home but both Brown brothers got caught up in the Nevin Shapiro
Miami scandal, accused of receiving impermissible benefits from the ex-
In what has become a troubling pattern in Brown's life, he turned tail and
left the Wildcats football team "at least temporarily," before entering the
2012 NFL Draft as an early entry.
By April the bloom was off the rose and Brown was no longer a can't miss
prospect, downgraded as much for his off the field exploits as anything else.
Through it all, however, the incredible physical gifts remained and Brown was
going to be given a chance by someone, somewhere. That someone turned out to
be the Eagles, who drafted Brown in the seventh round with the 229th overall
"We took a chance here with Bryce Brown," Reid said after selecting him. "He's
had kind of a wild ride here through college football since being the number
one running back coming out of high school into college. You're talking about
a kid who is an inch under six foot and is 220 pounds who runs a 4.4
forty. You're talking tremendous, tremendous skill here."
It's hard to believe there were 228 better football players than Brown but
there were probably that many better fits. In a league where personal behavior
is a problem, red flags are taken very seriously and likely took Brown totally
off a number of team's draft boards.
These days Brown is no longer a big man on campus. He was an afterthought on a
high-profile team, which possess one of the better running backs in all of the
The Philly-area media was barely interested in him until he turned that corner
and did his best Adrian Peterson impression on Monday night.
There is still plenty of work to be done, however,
Brown remains as green as the grass he was running on against the Panthers and
had a a pair of fumbles in the third quarter that had a profound effect on the
outcome of the game.
"My performance doesn't matter to me at all," Brown said. "The important thing
is us getting the win and that didn't happen tonight. Like I said, I think a
lot of that had to do with my two turnovers. I think that really, really cost
That said, in an Eagles season which has been defined by Murphy's Law, Brown
gave the city an early Christmas present -- hope.
"Bryce really did what we thought he could do coming into the game," Reid
said. "He's a talented kid, and it's a shame that he had those two fumbles --
particularly the last one, because he was on a roll. Those things cost you,
and he'll learn from it. He's a smart kid and he's very, very talented. He has
got a great future."
NFL POWER POLL
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can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/2cjp9l8
THE GAMES (All Times Eastern) - Overall record against the spread (82-88-6
.483). Last week (10-4-2).
New Orleans (5-6) at Atlanta (10-1), Thursday, 8:20 p.m.
LINE: Falcons by 3
THE SKINNY: The New Orleans Saints are fresh out of mulligans. New Orleans put
itself squarely behind the 8-ball with a disastrous 0-4 start before
rebounding by winning five of six. That momentum was halted, however, by a
Week 12 hiccup against the NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers in the Big
Easy. Things don't get any easier this week for the Saints, who must travel to
10-1 Atlanta on short notice for an important NFC South matchup.
The Saints may be far more desperate but Atlanta has plenty to play for also.
The Falcons could deliver the death blow to New Orleans' faint playoff hopes
this week while inching closer to the NFC South title. The short week and the
lack of preparation also trends toward the home team. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan is
the only quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win 31 of his first 35 starts at
PREDICTION: Falcons 27, Saints 24.
Seattle (6-5) at Chicago (8-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Bears by 4 1/2
THE SKINNY: Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson is 5-0 at home with 11
touchdowns and no interceptions but just 1-5 on the road with six TDs and
eight picks. This one is in the Second City, so you do the math.
PREDICTION: Bears 23, Seahawks 14
Jacksonville (2-9) at Buffalo (4-7), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Bills by 6
THE SKINNY: Mike Mularkey, who spent two seasons as Bills head coach
(2004-05), returns to Buffalo with a new quarterback who has given the
moribund Jaguars life. Chad Henne has passed for 615 yards with six touchdowns
and just one interception since taking over for the injured Blaine Gabbert.
The Bills hope to ride the dynamic C.J. Spiller, who has 100-plus yards from
scrimmage in six straight games and averages 6.7 yards per rush, tops in the
PREDICTION: Bills 24, Jaguars 20
Indianapolis (7-4) at Detroit (4-7), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Lions by 4 1/2
THE SKINNY: Andrew Luck will try to keep steering the Colts toward the
postseason and become the first No. 1 overall pick to record eight wins as a
starter since the 1970 merger. The Stanford product has already thrown for
3,205 yards, the most by a rookie QB in NFL history through his team's first
11 games and has five 300-yard passing games, most ever by a first-year
player. The Lions, meanwhile, will be aiming to bounce back from a tough
Thanksgiving Day overtime loss to Houston behind their own signal-caller,
Matthew Stafford, who is 5-2 versus AFC teams with 17 TDs versus just one
INT over the past two seasons.
PREDICTION: Lions 21, Colts 20
Minnesota (6-5) at Green Bay (7-4), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Packers by 9
THE SKINNY: Things don't look good for Minnesota here. The Packers have won
four straight over the Vikings and nine consecutive games overall in NFC North
play while Aaron Rodgers has 18 touchdowns passes and a 116.5 passer rating in
eight career starts against Minnesota. The Vikes only hope is Adrian Peterson,
who has rushed for 737 yards (147.4 per game) and five TDs over his past five
games, although he did fumble twice in Chicago last Sunday.
PREDICTION: Packers 34, Vikings 14
Carolina (3-8) at Kansas City (1-10), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Panthers by 3
THE SKINNY: Kansas City's push toward the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL
draft continues against the Panthers, who recorded a rare win last Monday
night in Philly. Cam Newton, immersed in a sophomore slump for most of the
season, awoke against the lowly Eagles, throwing for 306 yards with two TDs
through the air and two more on the ground. The Chiefs' hopes generally rest
on running back Jamaal Charles, who has averaged 98 rush yards per game over
his past three games.
PREDICTION: Panthers 20, Chiefs 14
New England (8-3) at Miami (5-6), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Patriots by 7 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Patriots, who average an NFL-best 37 points per game and 435.8
yards per game, can clinch their latest AFC East division crown with a win
here. The Dolphins are swimming up stream since New England has won 11
straight in December and has averaged 44 points per game in its last four
wins in South Florida.
PREDICTION: Patriots 31, Dolphins 17
Arizona (4-7) at NY Jets (4-7), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Jets by 4 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Cardinals haven't won since September and are starting
overmatched rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley. Conversely the Jets are having a
miserable season but are 5-0 against Arizona dating back to the 1978 season.
PREDICTION: Jets 23, Cardinals 13
San Francisco (8-2-1) at St. Louis (4-6-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: 49ers by 7
THE SKINNY: The 49ers and Rams meet again after playing to a 24-24 tie in
the Bay Area back on Nov. 11. Niners quarterback Alex Smith suffered a
concussion in that game and second-year man Colin Kaepernick has laid claim to
the job after going 2-0 as the starter since, and flashing the big play
ability Smith lacks. The Rams hope to build on a win over Arizona last Sunday
and their QB, Sam Bradford, is unbeaten in his last four NFC West starts
PREDICTION: 49ers 27, Rams 17
Houston (10-1) at Tennessee (4-7), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Texans by 5 1/2
THE SKINNY: Houston, which is a perfect 5-0 on the road this season, is on the
verge of setting the single-season franchise record for most wins (10 in 2011
and 2012) and capturing the AFC South. The Texans can set a new franchise
record and take the division with a win over the Titans, who are out of the
playoff conversation after a devastating loss in Jacksonville last Sunday.
PREDICTION: Texans 30, Titans 20
Tampa Bay (6-5) at Denver (8-3), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
LINE: Broncos by 7
THE SKINNY: The Broncos, who have won an NFL-best six straight, can clinch the
AFC West with a win, while the Buccaneers remain in the middle of the NFC
playoff hunt despite having a four-game run halted by Atlanta last Sunday.
Denver has outscored its opponents 183-107 during its winning streak,
averaging 30.5 points per game during that span. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, leads
the NFC with 228 points (32.6 per game) since Week 6.
PREDICTION: Broncos 31, Buccaneers 28
Pittsburgh (6-5) at Baltimore (9-2), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: No Line
THE SKINNY: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Charlie Batch will most likely
remain his starting quarterback for Sunday's game against Baltimore, but
didn't rule the injured Ben Roethlisberger out just yet. "Big Ben," who is
extremely unlikely to play, is almost a necessity for the slumping Steelers
considering the Ravens have won 15 straight home games, the longest active
streak in the NFL. Baltimore is also shooting for its third consecutive season
with at least 10 wins.
PREDICTION: Ravens 24, Steelers 13
Cleveland (3-8) at Oakland (3-8), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Pick 'em
THE SKINNY: The Raiders will be aiming to snap a four-game skid, the longest
losing streak for Oakland since the 2008 season, in the first of three
straight at home for the Silver and Black. Cleveland enters the contest after
a rare win over Pittsburgh but may not have rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden,
who suffered a concussion against the Steelers. If Weeden can't go backup
Colt McCoy, who replaced Weeden for the final two series against Pittsburgh,
will be in line to start.
PREDICTION: Raiders 24, Browns 21
Cincinnati (6-5) at San Diego (4-7), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Bengals by 1 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Bengals head to Southern California this week with a three-
game winning streak under their belt and "playoffs" back in their vocabulary.
Of course the last time Cincinnati won three straight it followed that up with
four consecutive losses. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has picked up his
play recently, throwing for 639 yards with nine TDs and no interceptions
during the team's winning streak. The Chargers on the other hand have lost
three straight and will be fighting for their playoff lives.
PREDICTION: Bengals 21, Chargers 20
Philadelphia (3-8) at Dallas (5-6), Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
LINE: Cowboys by 9
THE SKINNY: The banged-up Birds will try to ride Brown against a desperate
Dallas team coming off a Thanksgiving Day loss to the Redskins.
PREDICTION: Cowboys 27, Eagles 14
NY Giants (7-4) at Washington (5-6), Monday, 8:30 p.m.
LINE: Giants by 2 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Giants lead the NFC East by two games over Dallas and
Washington but the Redskins can close the gap on Monday night. The two teams
met earlier this season in Week 7 with the Giants winning 27-23 when Victor
Cruz got behind the Washington defense for a game-winning 77-yard touchdown
pass with 1:13 remaining.
The Redskins, however, have won two in a row -- both against NFC East
opponents (Philadelphia and Dallas) -- and have been led by rookie quarterback
Robert Griffin III. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft has thrown eight
touchdowns over the past two games and is the only rookie in NFL history with
four passing touchdowns in back-to-back games.
PREDICTION: Redskins 23, Giants 20
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