There’s one page left on the calendar and things are in flux when it comes to our Philadelphia teams. All three teams in play are in different situations.
The struggling Eagles are staring down the stretch run of the NFL season, while the Sixers and Flyers look great as the get into the meat of their schedules.
Let’s take a look at where each team is as December begins.
Can the Eagles Avoid Crashing?
Philadelphia is watching the team that dominated the NFL two years ago and win their first Super Bowl struggle through a fairly easy schedule. With four games to go, the Eagles are 5-7 and bafflingly inconsistent.
The team has survived a rash of injuries to get to the last quarter of the season somehow still in contention to win the division and make the playoffs. Some in town would rather they not run the tables and take the East.
Games have ranged from dominant wins on the road against playoff-caliber teams to atrocious losses against bad teams. The offense looked helpless in losses at home to New England and Seattle, while the defense couldn’t stop teams like Detroit and Miami.
Yet here we are, with four division games remaining on the schedule, and this dysfunctional bunch still controls their own destiny. The games are winnable, starting with a Monday night tilt against an old friend, Eli Manning.
The younger Manning has lost 20 games in his career against Philly to eight different QBs (great party game for the holidays: name all 8 Eagles QB to defeat Eli Manning).
This team has done their best to work with their backs to the wall. Well, the brass ring is in their grasp. Beat the Giants twice, the Redskins once more, but most importantly the Cowboys in Week 16 in Philly, and it’s theirs.
Can they do it?
The oddsmakers aren’t sold. Philly is the second choice to Dallas to win the division, with prices ranging from +140 to +170.
Learning to Fly
Hockey is perhaps the hardest team sport to analyze and predict without understanding one major concept: every player on the bench has a stake in the team’s success.
The Philadelphia Flyers have started to get contributions from all 20 men in their lineups. Stars like Claude Giroux certainly matter but if all four lines and three defensive pairings aren’t clicking, victory isn’t certain.
The Flyers are playing as a unit. Unlike previous years, the team has certainty in the most important position in North American sports besides quarterback. Second-year goaltender Carter Hart is playing with calm and poise in the back, which gives tremendous confidence to the skaters who play in front of him.
Under new coach Alain Vigneault, the Flyers look like a team with players in position to succeed. They’re doing so with the one thing the franchise hasn’t had since they played in the Spectrum: a lot of team speed.
Young forwards like Joel Farabee and Morgan Frost have adapted well to the NHL pace and are making plays. The younger defensemen have backchecked well and can join the rush.
Philadelphia has won 10 games in November and is third place in the division but fifth overall in the league. The special teams that plagued them under Dave Hakstol look to be righted. Sean Couturier has added a scoring touch and is in the Selke Trophy conversation. Hart has survived an early slump and looks at ease between the pipes.
If they can continue in good health and their positive momentum, this will be a very tough team to face in the playoffs.
Right now, the Flyers are a tempting value on the futures market, at +2700 to +3500 on the Stanley Cup champs list.
Sixers Showing Depth
The Philadelphia 76ers entered their season with the same championship aspiration as the Eagles. So far, the Sixers look like they’ve got a better chance to have the next parade down Broad Street.
Philadelphia is a great basketball town with the Big 5 but the scene is best when the Sixers don’t suck. Four seasons after they won 10 games of 82, they make The Process look like not such a terrible idea.
The starting lineup can match up with any five across the NBA. However, between injuries, “load management”, and a dubious suspension to Joel Embiid, the Richardson-Simmons-Horford-Harris-Embiid combination have only made it to nine tipoffs.
Here’s where the star-studded Sixers stand out this year:
The bench is making a bigger impact. Young players like Furkan Korkmaz and rookie Mathysse Thybulle have shot well and contributed on defense.
Veterans like James Ennis and Mike Scott have increased their roles from previous seasons. For the second year in a row, the team is 10-0 to start their home schedule.
If there’s one knock against Philly, it’s they’re maddeningly inconsistent. Some games they start well but struggle to close. More often, they trail an inferior team early and have to come back.
Luckily, it’s the NBA and that’s not so hard with multiple All-Stars on your side. However, it doesn’t mean they won’t give fans agita while getting it done.
Can they keep this up?
Probably. The team is a tremendous match-up challenge. Teams need a presence inside to neutralize Embiid and Al Horford, along with length on the perimeter to challenge the three-point shooters.
Oh, and make sure you can dribble well cuz Ben Simmons looks to become Defensive Player of the Year.
Philly entered the season as a favorite among the experts and the books. While they’re fifth in the East right now, three games behind Milwaukee with a tougher division in the Atlantic than the Central.
However, the oddsmakers still have the Sixers among the top teams in the futures markets, with their championship prices between +650 and +750.