As you may know, a new Miss America will be crowned Sunday night in Atlantic City. The question for pro football fans in this area, however, is: Will Chip Kelly hold onto his new King of Philadelphia crown after the Eagles battle the Chargers in the Birds’ home opener Sunday afternoon?
There are plenty of reasons to think the Eagles will improve to 2-0.
The Eagles’ hurry-up offense rolled up 443 yards in a season-opening 33-27 win over the host Washington Redskins last Monday night, and their defense played better than most of us expected – for three quarters, anyway, until the Skins put a little fear into Eagles fans with a late rally. LeSean McCoy ran for 184 yards and seems poised for a huge season. And, except for that I’m-still-not-sure-the-officials-got-it-right backwards pass, Michael Vick didn’t turn the ball over.
Meanwhile, San Diego – playing at home later that night – used a similar script to that of the Eagles. The Chargers (who also have a new head coach, Mike McCoy) jumped out a surprising 28-7 lead over the favored Houston Texans and then tried to stave off a comeback. Unlike the Eagles, though, the Chargers let an upset victory slip away, with Houston pulling out a 31-28 win on a field goal in the closing seconds. Now, the Chargers are coming East after a demoralizing Monday night loss on the West Coast, which is always a challenge. And, to be honest, the Chargers aren’t a real good team; they’re expected to battle the Raiders for the bottom spot in the AFC West this year.
Even the Las Vegas oddsmakers seem to think the Eagles may be the real deal. The Birds are 7 1/2 point favorites to defeat the Chargers, and – on the back of that Game One victory – the odds for the Eagles to win the Super Bowl improved from a 50-to-1 longshot to a more respectable 28-to-1.
So, no problem Sunday afternoon, right? Not so fast. Here are just a few reasons that the Eagles might come up short.
No. 1 would be #17, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. The 31-year-old Rivers may not be the superstar some had thought he would become, but when he’s on, he can be really, really good, and his 70-43 career record as a starter is pretty impressive. He was inconsistent in Monday’s loss to the Texans, but he did throw four touchdown passes, and San Diego was 4-for-4 in the red zone.
No. 2, there are lots of questions about the Eagles’ secondary, which looked shaky once RGIII knocked some of his rust off Monday night, and which will likely be without cornerback Bradley Fletcher Sunday.
Plus, there’s history. The last time these two teams met, in 2009 in San Diego, the Chargers notched a 31-23 victory, with Rivers completing 20-of-25 passes and two touchdowns in his lone meeting against the Eagles. Also, the Chargers lead the all-time series, 6-4.
So, what should we expect Sunday afternoon? Well, probably a lot of points and a close game. As Vegas Vic pointed out in Friday’s Philadelphia Daily News, the Bolts are 7-0-1 against the spread over the last 10 years when they’re an underdog of at least seven points. (As noted earlier, the Eagles are favored by 7 1/2 in this one.)
This writer looks for the Chargers to keep that record intact by covering the spread, but for the Eagles to hang on – again – for a second-straight victory. Think along the lines of 34-31.
And, wouldn’t it be exciting if that happened, and we could then start talking about a Thursday night game against old friend Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs? But let’s take these games one at a time!