Expect The Unexpected!

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My Eagles defeated the previously undefeated Minnesota Vikings 21-10 today in Philly, and it wasn’t that close. It was an ugly start to a wonderful finish for the High Flying Eagles, who improved to 4-2 after dropping two in a row to the Detroit Lions and the Washington Redskins. 

My Eagles started off 3-0, and now, with this huge win, we hope to continue with our (notice I said OUR) winning ways as we head to Big “D” for a mid-season showdown with the Boys at the Jerry Jones Dome in Dallas next Sunday night. It should be a doosey.

Very few expected the Eagles to win today. Including me. The Vikings had a vaunted defense, and their offense was clicking on all cylinders (Did I just pay Sam Bradford a complement?) so there was little to no reason to expect the Eagles to beat the Vikings today. That’s why, in the NFL and in life, we must learn to expect the unexpected.

The Eagles moved out of the doldrums and ended a short but unexpected losing streak and won to keep pace in the ultra-competitive NFC East. They did it by hitting Bradford with everything including the kitchen sink, by being opportunistic and taking the football away four times (one interception, two offensive fumbles and a punt team recovery) and by holding the fort on offense.

Eagles’ rookie sensation QB Carson Wentz overcame his two interceptions and played well enough to win. And that’s what you and I need to do. We need to believe that we can, regardless of what people and pundits say about us (how bad they think we are). We also need to believe that we can regardless of what people say about the competition (how much better than us they think they are), and expect to win even when the odds are against us.

And right now I’m talking to me, myself and I. And you need to talk to yourself too. Give yourself a pep talk! Pump yourself up!  Tell yourself that you can and will make it! So when others don’t expect good and grand and great things to happen in your life, expect the unexpected.

It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish: NFL 2016

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers

Who is the best team in the NFL this year? Or should we say, right now?  Well, the Minnesota Vikings are undefeated at 5-0, and the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys are 5-1. Seven other teams are 4-2, including the Falcons (but do they really count?), the Bills, the Broncos, the Steelers, the Texans, DA Raiders, and the Washington Redskins. Yes, I said it – the Washington Redskins. AND those same Redskins beat my Eagles yesterday, 27-20. Oh yeah, and the Seattle Seahawks are 4-1. And last year’s NFC representative and Super Bowl Runner up, the Carolina Panthers, are 1-5. Go figure. That’s 11 teams with strong resumes, and 12 teams make the playoffs.

This leaves my Eagles who are sitting at 3-2, if you want me to round out the playoff field. So who’s the best team right now? You have to take the Vikings at 5-0, with the Pats and the Boys as runners up, with the (swallow hard) ‘Skins as honorable mentions since they’ve won four in a row and are looking better every week.

But back to my Eagles. We looked bad yesterday because penalties will kill you every time. In sports and in life, when you are called for a foul, it’s not a good thing. And when the yellow flag flies, it’s always a bad thing.  Penalties are a function of a lack of discipline and concentration. So think about it; how many infractions and mistakes and missteps do you make week in and week out?  If the number is high and your self-control is low, then you know what you need to do.

So to be the best, you must beat the best (a quote from Kobe Bryant, to mix my sports metaphors) and the Eagles, in the first few games at least, are only beating the worst teams. In the next few weeks, we’ve got the best teams coming up, starting with the Minnesota Vikes. Yikes!  In actuality, the Eagles are beating themselves, like so many of us tend to sometimes do.

So the real question of this early NFL season is this: Is Dak Prescott for real and are the Vikings for real? Ok, that’s two questions, but it’s a two for one deal. Both Dak and the Boys are impressive and Philly’s former QB Sam Bradford is looking more and more like an MVP candidate every week. Go figure (where was all that last year?).  Nonetheless, it remains to be seen which team can hold on and hold out till the end. And the same goes for us in life too.

Because it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

Eagles Trade Sam Bradford To the Vikings. Really!?  Oh, Well – Come On Carson Wentz!

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Some decisions make all the sense in the world and others make no sense at all. And the Eagles trading Sam Bradford, their starting quarterback, to the Vikings AFTER they went 4-0 in the preseason, is just one of those moves that makes you shake your head and scratch your head and wonder if the Eagles have lost their heads. But not to worry, right? I mean, we’ve got Carson Wentz, right? 

If I didn’t have high hopes for my Eagles for this season, I sure don’t have them now. Not that I was a Sham, I mean Sam,  Bradford fan. Quite the contrary.  It’s just that Wentz has barely touched the ball this pre-season.  Oh well. Let’s see what the new kid can do.

Here’s what the pundits are saying, and even they can’t figure this one out:

“Carson Wentz suffered a hairline rib fracture on August 11th in his first pre-season start, and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson estimated last week that one of Wentz’s ribs was 60 percent healed. That’s sixty percent. So, has it healed that much in the past few days?

In that one preseason game, Wentz completed 12 of 24 passes for 89 yards and a bad interception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s not much work for a quarterback coming from FCS-level college football at North Dakota State, but the Eagles believe he has high-level skills and rare maturity.

Wentz appears mature enough to handle some early bumps in the road. That’s not the biggest concern, really. But another issue that is he hasn’t had much time to mesh with the rest of the offense. Wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has just gotten his feet wet, too, and the offensive line is still coming together as well. That’s a lot of training on the job.

Fortunately, the Eagles’ early-season schedule is not brutal. After the Browns in Week 1, the Eagles travel to Chicago for a Monday nighter, followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3 at home and a Week 4 bye. There’s time for Wentz to develop without facing a menacing defense in the first month of the season.

Still, this is a lot to digest. The Eagles have made wholesale changes and dramatic moves throughout 2016. But even these are surprising developments to be sure.”

God Save Me From Bad Football

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 29: Sam Bradford #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles passes the ball against the Green Bay Packers during the first quarter in a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 29, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

I’m a sports fan. And I watch a lot of sports. In fact, I’m watching my Eagles play right now (or sort of, as I have one eye on the game and both hands on the keyboard.) Anyway, as a sports fan in general and an Eagles fan in specific, I cherish and relish and savor the flavor of a good ball game. Especially a good football game. So that’s why I dislike and despise and detest and deplore bad ball. Don’t you?

Bad ball is when your team just can’t get in gear and can’t get it going and can’t get it right. Bad ball is when your team is lazy and listless and droopy and loopy and just doesn’t’ have it all together. And that sounds like most of us. Because as much I want to throw Sam Bradford under the bus, sometimes the bad football I see in him is the bad living I see in me.

Bad football is like bad living. Slips and slumps and lapses and letdowns and errors and errata and flops and faux-pas make life dodgy and dubious and suspect and abstract. And as long as we have bad football, we’ll have bad living (or is it the other way around?). Yes we all strive for perfection and precision, but that won’t come as long as we are on this side of Glory.

As for God, His Way is perfect. And following His Way is the only way there is to go. We all want predictability and certainty and sureness and consistency. But unfortunately, that won’t happen. It won’t happen outside of faith and confidence and reliance and assurance in God.

So, since God is in the saving business, I’m asking Heaven to help me and God so save me from bad football. That’s right. I need saving and deliverance and rescue and freedom from fumbles and foibles and faults and flaws during the games I watch. And especially the games my Eagles play. Is that too much to ask?

But while I can pray all I want for deliverance from bad football, this prayer won’t make it past my ceiling. The answer to this prayer request just won’t come. On the contrary, my prayer for deliverance from bad living, mine and others, will come as we rely on and trust in and depend upon Him.

Winning In Spite of Yourself

Sam Bradford Head Down

The Eagles are winning in spite of Sam Bradford. And Sam Bradford is winning in spite of himself. And that goes for you and me too. But first, let’s deal with the Eagles sorry excuse for a quarterback. 

By all accounts, the Philadelphia Eagles could be a great NFL Team and Sam Bradford should be and could be a great NFL quarterback. Not a good one, a GREAT one. And he would be a great QB if he stopped throwing to players on the wrong team. He doesn’t seem to get in gear until the third quarter, and the last time I checked, the game had 4, count ‘em, FOUR quarters; so getting a good start is not a bad thing. In fact, getting a first down in the first quarter would be a really good thing.

Confidence is contagious. And Bradford looks anything but confident, on or off the field. Maybe it’s me, but Bradford looks leery and loopy, distant and dubious, hazy and hesitant all at the same time. And that’s not a good thing. It’s like he’s playing in a fog (remember that Thanksgiving Day Game in Philly a few years back when the fog rolled in and you couldn’t see the field?) But surely I digress.

So, lest we bury Bradford (and many would like to), there are times when we all win in spite of ourselves. We don’t warrant a win but we do. We’re not worthy or worthwhile but someone else says we are. We couldn’t do it on our own, but we’re virtually virtuous and victorious anyway. Theologically, we call that grace. Because our confidence is only and wholly and solely in Him.

Sometimes we can’t get out of our own way, and yet somehow we make it across the goal line to score the winning touchdown. We take missteps and make mistakes and yet and still we win. We whiffle and waffle, play bad and play awful, and we still come out with a “W.” Thank God for grace.

Yes thank God for grace. Thank God for mercy and favor and leniency and clemency and every other reprieve we can find. And as for Bradford, let’s just hope he gets rid of that “deer caught in a pair of high-beams look” sooner than later.

My Team Almost Made Me Cuss, a.k.a., Can Chip Right The Ship?

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“Swear not at all.”
Matthew 5:34, KJV

Chip Kelly needs to look for another job. Because today, he and Sam Bradford and that awful, offensive “Offensive” Line almost made me cuss. 

That’s right. Cuss. As in use bad, four letter words. And not under my breath either. My team got beat up and beat down, banged and bumped, thumped and trumped by the Cowboys AT HOME. And I nearly used the few bad words I know to vent my anger.

I know all of you sanctimonious saints out there are judging me right now, and all of you hell raising heathens are saying, “almost cuss?” – what’s wrong with a few four letter words every now and then? But we shouldn’t use curse words at all. Not at all. The Bible says to “swear not at all.” And I believe that includes using regular words like cuss words.  Growing up in Philly, I had a saintly aunt who would get frustrated in her kitchen and say, “Oh Fudge!” And as a little boy I would think, “Wow, that’s awfully close to . . .”   

But today, my team, my Philadelphia Eagles, sure did push me to the limit.

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We, and I do mean we, use bad words because it’s “cool” and politically correct to use a bad word or drop an “F” bomb every now and then to show people that we mean business. A lot of coaches use emotional, expressive epithets at half time and in post-game press conferences to show how upset they are, but is it really necessary? “Studies by psychologist Timothy Jay, of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, have found that swearing can provide both emotional release and relief from pain.” Really?

But that’s the way of the world. “People have a sense of catharsis and they feel better after using this kind of language,” Jay told Discovery News. “Most people look at swearing as a bad thing that you shouldn’t do, without asking what the positive aspects of it are.” Positive aspects? Really?

Cursing is a sign of frustration and a lack of faith. While the psychologists may say cursing is natural and good for your health and all of that jazz, when we are dejected and despondent and dismal and disappointed, we as Christians must have a better way of dealing and handling and responding to living than the world does. I mean, if people of faith react to the vagaries and variations and vicissitudes of life the same way that unbelievers do, then what is the point of having faith?

So, for my part, while it’s not lookin’ good for my Eagles, and while it looks like the season is over and it’s only just begun, we shouldn’t respond the same way that everyone else does. Ok, ok, ok, so I was really upset last week after the Falcons loss. But now, honestly, my hope is that Chip Kelly, some way, somehow, can right the ship.

Because if he doesn’t . . . (need I finish the sentence?)

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Chip Is A Chump

Chip Kelly.Falcons Loss

Chip is a chump. At least for now. And while it’s only the first game of the season, all of Philly is NOT HAPPY.

In Atlanta, it was a disastrous start, followed by an energizing comeback in which the Philadelphia Eagles fought back to claim a brief lead but it turned out not to be enough on Monday Night Football. And I’m not going to blame this on Sam Bradford.

It’s all Chip’s fault.

In the end, their offense and special teams failed them after their defense played a near-flawless second half as the Atlanta Falcons came back to score a 26-24 victory in front of 70,516 fans at the Georgia Dome.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews (81) lay on the field after bobbling the ball and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Ricardo Allen (37) made a late interception during the final minutes of an almost thriller of a comeback. But almost, as we all know, is like kissing your sister.

Eagles place kicker Cody Parkey missed a 44-yard field goal with 2 minutes, 26 seconds remaining, a field goal that would have given the Eagles the lead. And then the Eagles were victimized by Sam Bradford’s second interception after getting the ball back with 1:49 to go, allowing the Falcons to kill the clock and seal the victory.

From the beginning, the Eagles looked like an anemic and apathetic, lethargic, lifeless dead duck. And that, my friends, is the product of corky coaching. The Falcons came out with more energy and precision than the Eagles from the start. They played like the better team, and looked like the better team, and ended up beating the better team. Because the Eagles are better than the Falcons on ANY day of the week. But they didn’t prove it. And that, my friends, is a symptom of callous coaching.

So what was the most egregious offence? The lack of offense! Chip’s catastrophic and cataclysmic play calling had DeMarco Murray, last year’s NFL rushing leader, on the sideline for most of the game. He had eight rushes for a grand total of nine — count ‘em — that’s NINE yards for the game. SERIOUSLY? Nine yards for the game?! The whole game?

I can’t discuss this anymore. I’ll see you at the Dallas game. If Philly fans don’t burn down the Link before then, that is. But then again, let’s not get carried away. Let’s all take a deep breath and calm down.

It’s only one game, right?