Introduction To 7 Card Stud: Starting Hands & Betting
7 Card Stud Poker Rules For Betting
Will the Philadelphia Eagles win OVER/UNDER 9.5 games? By University Stats Prof!
The Eagles have been a good model of consistency. Over the past 20 years, they have had just four losing seasons. It wasn’t always pretty, but Philly managed to secure the NFC East title with a 9-7 record last year. They closed out the regular season with a four-game winning streak to edge the Cowboys atop the division. Unfortunately, Carson Wentz exited the wildcard playoff game early and the team couldn’t overcome his absence in a 17-9 home loss to the Seahawks.
2. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
2.1 Quarterbacks (QBs) Carson Wentz needs to be applauded for his 2019 performance. He had to deal with numerous injuries to his receiving corps and yet, he led the team to a playoff spot and he finished with a career-high in passing yards with 4,039. He threw 27 TD passes versus 7 interceptions, while playing all 16 games for the first time since his rookie season in 2016. In the season finale, his top targets were Boston Scott, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins, Deontay Burnett and Greg Ward. Outside of Goedert, none is an established starter in the NFL. The Eagles still secured the NFC East title with a 34-17 road win in New York. Philadelphia selected Jalen Hurts late in the second round of this year’s draft. He transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma for his senior year since Tua Tagovailoa was projected to be the starter. Hurst was actually replacing Kyler Murray who had just been taken as the number one overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft by the Cards. Hurts did not disappoint in his lone season with the Sooners. He completed 237-of-340 passes (69.7%) with 3,851 passing yards, along with 32 TD passes and eight interceptions. He also rushed for 1,298 yards with 20 TDs on the ground! His weaknesses are an average accuracy, inconsistent decision-making and a tendency to take off as a runner too often (sometimes when a receiver was open). He is likely to be used as a gadget player by Doug Pederson this year. Nate Sudfeld will compete for the backup job. He missed the entire 2019 season due to a wrist injury he suffered during preseason. He was a sixth-round pick out of Indiana in the 2016 draft. He has attempted just 25 passes in the NFL in four years, so it’s hard to tell what to expect from him. 2.2 Running Backs (RBs) Miles Sanders’ rookie season was a resounding success. He led all rookies with 1,327 yards from scrimmage. He carried a heavier workload as the season went on. During the first eight games, he averaged 8.3 carries per game, as opposed to 14.1 over the last nine contests (including the playoff loss to the Seahawks). Jordan Howard’s injury at midseason contributed to the increased usage of Sanders in the backfield. With Howard gone to Miami, the sky’s the limit for second-round pick out of Penn State. Darren Sproles retired and Jay Ajayi was waived. That leaves the door wide open for third-year man Boston Scott. He flashed big time last year and unquestionably passed my eye test. The 5’6’’ back is very explosive. Scott made a name for himself in Week #17 as he had to step in for Sanders who sprained an ankle in the first quarter against the Giants. Scott went on to rack up 138 total yards and three touchdowns. 2.3 Wide Receivers (WRs) This unit was decimated by injuries last year. DeSean Jackson pretty much played just one game, while Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor missed six and five games, respectively. Despite playing under his age-32 campaign, Jackson showed he still has field-stretching abilities in his lone meeting last year. He was spectacular with 8 catches for 154 yards and a couple of scores. He hasn’t played a full 16-game season very often in his career though. Jeffery is another aging receiver coming off a significant injury. He underwent Lisfranc surgery, which requires a long rehab period. He’s questionable for the start of training camp. Since two outstanding seasons in 2013 and 2014 with the Bears, Jeffery has missed four games per year on average, while showing signs of slowing down on the field as well. His 11.4 yards-per-catch average last year was a career low. To be honest, I feel like Jeffery’s time in the league is coming to an end soon. Lisfranc injuries can be tricky for wide receivers, and full recovery is even more difficult for guys above 30 years of age. Nelson Agholor was a younger WR who could have provided adequate depth, but he signed with the Raiders. The former first-rounder has not lived up to expectations, but he was still a decent pass catcher, albeit his drops were a big issue last year. Maybe a change of scenery will help rejuvenate his career. Philly drafted Jalen Reagor with the #21 pick overall last April. He’s a smallish deep threat who is at his best on straight routes. He was good with contested catches, but will it still be the case in the NFL given his size? That’s a big question mark. Reagor opened a lot of eyes by scoring eight touchdowns as a freshman with TCU after being a high recruit out of high school. He followed up with a great 72-1061-9 receiving line as a sophomore. Reagor’s numbers dropped quite a bit as a junior (43-611-5), but you can attribute that to having a freshman QB at the helm. He’s an electrifying player who can take it to the house every time he touches the ball. The competition for the number three role is also likely to involve Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. These two guys have had completely different paths before making it to the NFL. Ward went undrafted before joining the AAF. He eventually was added to the Eagles’ practice squad, and later on promoted to the 53-man roster until a depleted receiving corps forced him onto the field. Meanwhile, Arcega-Whiteside had more of a “conventional” journey by being drafted in the second-round of the 2019 draft. Such resumes would suggest Arcega-Whiteside would be the superior wideout, but that’s not what we saw on the field. He only caught 10-of-22 targets for a disappointing 45% catch rate. He was rarely targeted down the stretch, despite the numerous injuries at the position. On the other hand, Ward filled in admirably late in the season. Over the final four meetings, including the playoff game, he caught 20-of-25 targets (an 80% catch rate). He clearly deserves a shot as a top reserve for the upcoming season. 2.4 Tight Ends (TEs) The Eagles have a nice duo at the tight end position with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Ertz is a true warrior. He hasn’t missed more than two games in each of his first seven season in the league. Last year, he played with two rib fractures one week after lacerating his kidney. Talk about a tough guy. His numbers are also staggering. His lowest figures in terms of receptions and receiving yards over the past five years are 74 and 816. That’s truly remarkable! Please note that he’ll be turning 30 years old during the season. Just like Ertz, Goedert is also a former second-rounder. However, he is four years younger. He caught 58 passes for 607 yards and 5 TDs, all career-highs. He was targeted 4 times per game on average before the team’s bye week versus an average of 7.9 for the remainder of the year. Granted, injuries to other targets probably boosted his numbers, but he still developed nice chemistry with Wentz. 2.5 Offensive Line (OL) The Eagles have a heck of an offensive line. You cannot blame Jason Kelce for anything over the past five years. He hasn’t missed any start, while consistently being one of the top centers in the league. As a matter of fact, he was rated as the #1 center in the NFL according to PFF grades last year. He’s now 32 years old. Left tackle Jason Peters has been just as good as Kelce. He was nominated to nine Pro Bowls in his career and he finished as the number 6 tackle in the league with his 83.4 PFF mark. Unfortunately, the team decided to let the 38-year old hit the free agency market. EDIT: he was re-signed three days ago (this article was written several weeks ago). He is projected to play guard instead of tackle. Peters will be replaced with 2019 first-round pick, Andre Dillard. Is he ready to take on the full-time job? It remains to be seen, but it will be difficult to fill Peters’ shoes. As for Lane Johnson, the right tackle finished as the 3rd-best tackle in the league based on the PFF grading system. He’s been very good throughout his seven-year career; the former #4 overall pick has not disappointed at all! Brandon Brooks also had a huge 2019 season! He ended the year as the top guard in the NFL with a jaw-dropping 92.9 PFF mark. Much like Lane Johnson, Brooks is another player above 30 years old who’s been reliable his entire career. Left guard Isaac Seumalo started all 16 games for the first time of his career. He’s the one that received the lowest grades on this OL, but finishing 17th out of 81 guards is nothing to be ashamed of! The former third-round pick from the 2016 draft is not as talented as his colleagues, but you could do worse than having him as one of your starters. The team lost good depth with the departure of Halapoulivaati Vaitai to Detroit. The 2019 season was clearly his best year; it would have been nice to retain him but he signed a huge contract with the Lions. 2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE When comparing the upcoming 2020 season with last year, there are some positives and some negatives. Let’s discuss the negative stuff first. I do expect a downgrade on the offensive line. They played at an extremely high level last year with four guys finishing among the 6 players at their respective position (based on PFF rankings). That’s unlikely to happen again, especially with three linemen aged 30 years or above. Also, second-year man Andre Dillard has good potential, but it will be difficult to match Jason Peters’ 2019 performance. I do expect a drop-off here. At quarterback and tight end, the situation remains stable. At the running back position, losing Jordan Howard to free agency won’t hurt too much with the emergence of electrifying Boston Scott. Also, Miles Sanders is expected to take a leap in his sophomore season. Finally, how could you not expect better production from the WR group? They were hit by the injury bug a lot last year. Agholor’s departure is a moderate blow; getting DeSean Jackson back is a bonus! Hopefully, speedy rookie Jalen Reagor can provide a spark to an offense that sorely missed game breakers last year. The Eagles offense scored the 12th-highest number of points last year. My final conclusion, based on the arguments above, is that I expect similar production in 2020. Final call (2020 vs 2019): Stable
3. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
3.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs) Fletcher Cox is an animal. Plain and simple. Despite posting his second-lowest sack output of his illustrious eight-year career, he still graded as the 4th-best interior defenders in the NFL based on PFF rankings. On average, he has recorded 6 sacks per year (he only got 3.5 last year) He has also been very durable; he’s missed just three games out 128. He still has good years to come at age 29. Tim Jernigan was a decent starter next to Cox, but he clearly wasn’t needed on the team anymore after the Eagles signed stud DT Javon Hargrave. The former Steeler showed steady improvement in each of his first four years in the NFL. His 83.4 PFF mark last year put him in the 8th spot out of 114 DLs. With Hargrave entering his prime years and Fletcher Cox being a perennial beast, good luck running the ball inside the tackles against the Eagles in 2020. After playing three years in Indy, Hassan Ridgeway had a below-average season in his first year with the Eagles. He’s more of a rotational player, whom you hope won’t be needed as a starter. 3.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED) Brandon Graham is 32 years old, but he refuses to slow down. He led the team with 8.5 sacks last year, and he has averaged six sacks over an eight-year period! The guy also finds a way to stay on the field. Can you believe he has missed a single game in eight years! He’s been consistently good and remains a force, both against the run and rushing the passer. Derek Barnett is a former first-rounder coming off a career-high in sacks with 6.5. However, his 2019 PFF grade was the lowest of his three-year stint in the NFL and he finished as the number 83 edge defender out of 107 qualifiers. He’s an “okay” player. Vinny Curry played 38% of the snaps last year, but it does not appear like he will be back with the team. At the time of writing, he was still a free agent. He did pick up five sacks last year, but teams seem reluctant to sign him because he’ll be playing his age-32 campaign. He actually played pretty well when called upon. With Curry gone, the team must hope Josh Sweat will elevate his game. The 2018 fourth-round selection posted his first four sacks of his career last year, but his 62.5 overall PFF mark ranked him as the 76th-best edge defender out of 107 guys. 3.3 Linebackers (LBs) After playing four years in Buffalo and four years in Philly, Nigel Bradham was cut by the Eagles, mainly for cap reasons. He provided average play at the LB position; he was good in coverage, but he was a liability defending the run. The team also lost Kamu Grugier-Hill, who signed with the Dolphins. You could characterize him as a decent player, albeit far from being great. That leaves the team pretty thin at the position. Nathan Gerry is the lone 2019 starter that is still with the team. He ranked as the 34th-best linebacker out of 89 players. He does not offer much upside, though. It would be stunning to see him crack the top 25 someday. Can Duke Riley and/or T.J Edwards crack the starting lineup? Neither seem to be an up-and-coming star. Riley was acquired for peanuts prior to last year and he played 35 snaps. As for Edwards, he was an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin that did well in limited time last year. He proved to be stout against the run. 3.4 Cornerbacks (CBs) Philly’s back end has been revamped for the upcoming 2020 season. The Eagles signed one of the best slot corners in the league: Nickell Robey-Coleman. He has received consistently good grades from ProFootballFocus over the past four years. At 5’8’’ he is pretty small, but you couldn’t tell from the quality of his game. He’s a nice addition. Philly also acquired Darius “Big Play” Slay, who played the first seven years of his career with the Lions. He had a down year in 2019, but I’m not worried he can rebound in a new environment. He’s been covering opponent’s top receivers for a while in this league, and he’s done a good job at it. He has 19 career interceptions. Ronald Darby’s career has been plagued with injuries recently and he was let go during the offseason. His PFF grade took an enormous drop last year, all the way from a respectable 70.6 in 2018 down to an abysmal 44.8 last year. He signed a one-year deal with the Redskins. Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox are still on the team, but neither has proven to be an impactful contributor. Both graded as very below-average corners in 2019. 3.5 Safeties (S) Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod both played the entire 2019 season. They ranked as the 32nd- and 52nd-best out of a bunch of 87 safeties. The organization and Jenkins couldn’t agree on a deal, so the Eagles had to let him go after six very successful seasons. He picked off 11 passes during his six-year stint in Philly. He signed with the Saints, with which he spent the first five seasons of his career. Even though he wasn’t getting any younger, his present will be missed. McLeod’s 2019 PFF grade was the lowest he had obtained over the past five years, but he still did a decent job. Jalen Mills will be one piece of the puzzle in replacing Jenkins. But let’s face the reality: he has been pretty awful throughout his four-year career, except 2017 where he did better. Another option will be newly acquired Will Parks, who is coming over from Denver. However, he’s clearly not a long-term solution either. He’s pretty versatile, but he’s a below-average player. 2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE This unit was upgraded quite a bit during the offseason at two positions, but it also suffered a severe downgrade at a couple others. First, acquiring Javon Hargrave to team up with Fletcher Cox on the interior of the line was big! At CB, getting Darius Slay and Nickell Robey-Coleman will provide much needed help at a position that has caused headaches for years in Philly. Unfortunately, the defense lost its best safety when Malcolm Jenkins signed with the Saints. Also, even though none of them was a true difference maker, losing linebackers Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill creates a hole. Since the team acquired some big time players while losing good/average players, I envision a small improvement. In 2019, the Eagles finished in the middle of the pack in terms of points allowed per game (15th out of 32 teams). I envision Philly finishing around the #10-#13 spot this year. Final call (2020 vs 2019): Small upgrade
4. Regular Season Wins
According to sportsbooks, the Eagles are expected to win 9.5 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”? Here is the methodology I used in order to answer this vital question:
Use BetOnline.ag’s point spreads on all 256 regular season games.
Convert those point spreads into win probabilities.
Simulate each of the 256 games, according to those win probabilities, via the R statistical software.
Repeat the previous step one million times (you get 1M simulated seasons).
Count the proportion of seasons where the Eagles won more or less than 9.5 games.
Here are the results:
OVER 9.5 WINS
UNDER 9.5 WINS
Tip: Bet UNDER 9.5 wins Return On Investment (ROI): +13.7% Rank: 19th-highest ROI out of 32 teams Minimum odds required to bet (i.e. ROI = 0%): -136 Here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Eagles’ 16 regular season games:
HOME: +2 vs BAL, -10 vs CIN, -2.5 vs DAL, -4 vs LAR, 0 vs NO, -5 vs NYG, -2 vs SEA, -10.5 vs WAS.
Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020. I invite you to take a look at my other 31 NFL team previews! Good information if you are involved in fantasy football and/or if you want to be up-to-date on player movement and teams' strengths and weaknesses (for betting purposes)! Cheers, Professor MJ
Will the Arizona Cardinals win OVER/UNDER 7 games? 2020 season predictions by University Stats Prof!
From 2013 to 2015, the Cardinals won at least 10 games in each of those seasons. They followed up with a couple of years where they finished close to a .500 record. Things got even worse in the past two seasons, during which the franchise compiled an 8-23-1 record. Now in year #2 of head coach Kliff Kingsbury and QB Kyler Murray, it’s time for Arizona to make a leap forward.
2. Regular Season Wins
According to sportsbooks, the Arizona Cardinals are expected to win 7 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”? Here is the methodology I used in order to answer this vital question:
Use BetOnline.ag’s point spreads on all 256 regular season games.
Convert those point spreads into win probabilities.
Simulate each of the 256 games, according to those win probabilities, via the R statistical software.
Repeat the previous step one million times (you get 1M simulated seasons).
Count the proportion of seasons where the Cards won more or less than 7 games.
Here are the results (excluding simulated seasons where they won exactly 7 games, in which case the bet ties):
OVER 7 wins
UNDER 7 wins
Tip: Bet OVER 7 wins
Return On Investment (ROI): +1.4%
Rank: 32nd-highest ROI out of 32 teams
Minimum odds required to bet (i.e. ROI = 0%): -113 (i.e. 1.88 in decimal format)
Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020.
3. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
3.1 Quarterbacks (QBs)
Kyler Murray had a very successful rookie campaign as Arizona’s new franchise quarterback. Despite a suspect surrounding cast, he posted very respectable numbers with 3,722 passing yards, 20 TDs and 12 interceptions. He was also dangerous as a runner, as shown by his 544 rushing yards. Murray was the victim of 48 sacks, but he was hard to catch. Indeed, he finished in 2nd place in terms of average time from snap-to-sack among all QBs in the NFL. Now with one full year of experience under his belt, you can expect Murray to take a nice leap and improve his game even more in 2020. Brett Hundley will once again back up Murray this season. The Cards must hope they won’t need him because he has never shown he could lead a team to success. The former Packer is clearly no more than a #2 QB in this league.
3.2 Running Backs (RBs)
The Cards got a nice bargain last year by trading a sixth-round pick in exchange for Kenyan Drake. He was nothing short of spectacular in his eight appearances in the desert by racking up 643 rushing yards over eight games. He also scored eight touchdowns during that short period. During the offseason, the Cards re-signed him to a one-year, $8.5 million contract. The team also traded David Johnson to Houston, which clearly puts Drake as the starter. Chase Edmonds will be the main backup runner. He showed some flashes with a nice 5.1 yards per rush average. The third-year pro is good insurance in case Drake gets hurt.
3.3 Wide Receivers (WRs)
Kyler Murray probably popped a bottle of champagne when he heard about the acquisition of stud wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Texans. Losing David Johnson in the trade isn’t that big of a deal for the Cards, who already had good depth at the running back position. However, acquiring a big-time WR like Hopkins is HUGE! Hopkins has played either 15 or 16 games in each of his first seven years in the NFL. He has averaged 1,229 receiving yards and 7.7 TDs during that time span. He consistently ranks among the top receivers year in and year out. In 2019, he finished with an 87.8 grade from PFF, which had him ranked as the 5th best WR. Unbelievable: Larry Fitzgerald is coming back for a 17th season! He did better than expected last season by catching 75 passes and finishing 53rd out of 122 qualified wide receivers in the league based on PFF. Fitzgerald claimed he loved the culture under new head coach Kliff Kingsbury and he wants to help the team both as a player and as a mentor for the younger guys. Christian Kirk, a former second-round pick in the 2018 draft, had an okay year. His 62.5 grade by PFF had him ranked as the #91 WR (out of 122). With Hopkins drawing a lot of attention from opposing defenses, Kirk must make a leap in 2020. It remains to be seen if he can do it or not. Arizona lost some depth at the position after seeing Damiere Byrd leave for New England, while Pharoh Cooper signed with Carolina. It’s not a huge blow to the team, but worth mentioning.
3.4 Tight Ends (TEs)
A young QB like Kyler Murray would certainly welcome some help at the tight end position, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. The top target last year was Charles Clay. He only caught 18 passes and is now a free agent. All signs point toward Maxx Williams assuming the number one role. You’ll be surprised to hear he ranked as the 7th best tight end in the league according to PFF. His nice 79.1 grade was obtained via outstanding run and pass blocking. In summary, the team is pretty thin at this position.
3.5 Offensive Line (OL)
One of the team’s biggest weaknesses in 2019 was certainly its offensive line. They allowed the 5th highest number of sacks a year ago, despite Murray being a mobile quarterback. The only guy who finished above average based on PFF rankings was Justin Pugh (22nd out of 81 among guards). The other four starters were either average or quite bad. The bad news? The team has not addressed the position in free agency. They did select Josh Jones in the third round of this year’s draft, though. He has a high chance of becoming the team’s starting right guard right away, despite many experts calling him a developmental project who needs work. I can’t believe D.J. Humphries is going to be the third-highest paid left tackle in the league after signing a hefty contract this offseason. His paycheck is clearly not in line with his production on the field. In five years, he has played 43 games and missed 37 due to numerous injuries. He finally played through a full 16-game season last year, but he PFF gave him the 47th-best grade out of 81 tackles.
2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE
Overall, I expect a nice progression from this unit. Kyler Murray is clearly more likely to improve than to regress based on his young age. The running back position is set. The receiving corps got a gigantic boost with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins. The tight end and offensive line positions remain problematic. However, if you compare with last year, it can’t get much worse. Building the line should be one of the top priorities for Arizona in the upcoming years. Final call (2020 vs 2019): Big downgrade-Moderate downgrade-Small downgrade-Stable-Small upgrade-Moderate upgrade-Big upgrade
4. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
4.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs)
This was not a position of strength for Arizona last year. Out of 114 DLs, here’s the final PFF ranking of the four guys who got the most playing time: Corey Peters 65th, Rodney Gunter 61st, Zach Kerr 42nd and Jonathan Bullard 94th. Ouch. Now, Gunter and Kerr are both gone. Meanwhile, the team acquired Jordan Phillips from the Bills. He probably won’t be a savior as he finished in 104th place.
4.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED)
Chandler Jones had an exceptional years with 19 sacks! Only Shaquil Barrett from the Bucs recorded more sacks. Outside of Jones, Terrell Suggs played 13 games before being released by the Cards. He still managed to record 5.5 sacks. Cassius Marsh played 38% of the defensive snaps and finished 70th out of 107 edge defenders. He signed with the Jaguars during the offseason. In order to compensate for those losses, Arizona signed Devon Kennard, formerly of the Detroit Lions. He played 82% of the snaps in Detroit and finished 44th (out of 107) at the position. He obtained 7 sacks last year (7 more the year before).
4.3 Linebackers (LBs)
Jordan Hicks was a tackling machine with 150; only Bobby Wagner (Seattle) and Blake Martinez (Green Bay) had more in 2019. However, Hicks didn’t grade particularly well. He finished 43rd out of 89 linebackers. Haason Reddick and Joe Walker both finished in the bottom: 86th and 79th. Walker left for San Francisco, which is not a big loss. Arizona signed De’Vondre Campbell who played 89% of the snaps with the Falcons. Can he improve the linebacker play in 2020? I doubt it. His poor 50.1 grade gave him the 70th rank. Here are his grades the previous three seasons: 57.4, 69.1 and 55.7. He is a durable guy, but far from a great player. DC Vance Joseph declared #8 overall pick Isaiah Simmons would primarily play at linebacker. Simmons was super versatile in college, playing many positions. He will provide good coverage against TEs and pass-catching RBs, while also defending the run efficiently. He clearly has Pro Bowl talent.
4.4 Cornerbacks (CBs)
Patrick Peterson is clearly the leader of this group. He was having a decent season, and was brilliant in the final few games. He finished as the number 39 cornerback out of 112 guys. He missed the first six games of the season because of a suspension. There is not much depth behind Peterson, though. Byron Murphy played 98% of the snaps, but finished with an awful 48.8 grade. The 2019 second-round pick will need to elevate his game A LOT this season.
4.5 Safeties (S)
Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson provide an adequate duo of safeties. These two guys are still young and we can expect some improvement in 2020. They finished last year as #28 and #57 out of 87 qualified safeties. Baker accumulated 147 tackles, 4th in the NFL.
2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE
No major changes for this unit. Given they’ve allowed the 5th highest number of points last year, that’s not good news. The lone position where the Cards have improved this offseason is linebacker because of the acquisition of Isaiah Simmons via the draft and De’Vondre Campbell as a free agent from Atlanta. Or perhaps the couple of young safeties can take a leap? Maybe, maybe not. It may be wishful thinking. To summarize, the team added Jordan Phillips, Devon Kennard, Isaiah Simmons and De’Vondre Campbell. They lost Rodney Gunter, Zach Kerr, Terrell Suggs, Cassius Marsh and Joe Walker. To me, those changes offset. Perhaps it will turn out to be a small upgrade. Final call (2020 vs 2019): Big downgrade-Moderate downgrade-Small downgrade-Stable-Small upgrade-Moderate upgrade-Big upgrade Thanks for reading! Professor MJ
Previous | First | Next ----- A/N: Please consider supporting my writing efforts on Patreon. You can follow this story and be alerted when new chapters release via fanfiction.net. Special thanks to Tobi from the discord server for a double visual accompaniment today as well! They are not perfect representations of in chapter events, but they set a great scene nevertheless! ----- “Well, what do you think?!” Houston asked gaily, taking Fredrick by the hand and leading him aboard her mint condition hull. Modifications had clearly been made in the absence of a physical crew, leaving the ship sleeker and more evasive while maintaining its substantial firepower. The three triple 203mm batteries aboard the vessel were mimicked by the girl’s rigging, a complex system of hydraulics and tubes connecting her miniature guns to her waist. They sat aboard large steel-gray and red stabilizing fins that would help her maintain balance in open ocean combat, and were completed by a small, grinning Cheshire cat decal above the letters USN. She carried a pistol in her hand, a replica of one of her 40mm Bofors batteries. “I think the smile on your face says it all,” the young cook replied, tilting his head to steal a glance at the exposed skin between her shoulder blades. Just below her collar, a vibrant rigging mark in the shape of Texas’ lone star still glowed, fading slowly in the wake of the ship’s new construction. As soon as they were aboard Houston activated her engines, pulling the cruiser out of dock so that Minneapolis could begin work on her own hull. “Hmm, you’re rather sweet, Frederick. I’m glad you’re back safe and sound too,” Houston told him kindly, walking around her deck as she inspected her guns and fittings with pride. Many parts of the ship came to life under her touch, pivoting and changing elevation as if partaking in a firing exercise. “I could say the same, Miss Houston.” “Oh come on, all I did was laze around and help look after the kids!” “Doesn’t mean something couldn’t have happened. It’s war, after all,” Miles reminded her, though it certainly wasn’t necessary. She spun on her heel to face him, her large Union Navy tattoo plainly visible on her upper right thigh. “Be safe tomorrow too, Miss Houston. It would be a shame to come home all this way just to…” The young man could not quite bring himself to say ‘lose you’, but Houston seemed to understand his meaning all the same. As her rigging shimmered and vanished, she reached out and took his hands in hers. “You cut yourself. Be careful in the kitchens,” she observed, fingering a tender wound that would surely leave a bright pink scar atop one of his knuckles. “And Lord willing, that's all the action I’ll see in this war,” Miles replied, taking a deep breath and squeezing her fingers tightly. “The way the Commander spoke, it sounded like the largest fleet ever assembled is coming for us.” “And you’re worried about me,” Houston finished quietly. It was not a question. “I’m worried about Hatsuharu and Yuugure and all the rest too, but at least they’ll be on the island. I can do something if it comes down to it. You’ll be very far away,” he worried as Houston found herself a suitable location in the bay just north of the base and dropped anchor next to the California. “But I’ll be thinking of you!” She promised happily, though those words only served to draw Fredrick’s face tight in a frown. “Fredrick-” “Just be careful,” he insisted. “It’s a beautiful ship; it would be a shame to lose it again.” “Yeah it would, wouldn’t it?” Houston agreed thoughtfully as a pair of gulls settled on the top of her aft crow’s nest. “But Fredrick, I’m already on borrowed time. I can feel it in my cube, in my bones. I was supposed to die at Java, without having ever met you.” “Miss Houston?” Fredrick whispered, feeling a small pit of fear worm its way into his guts. The air about her had changed significantly, revealing a sober and almost world-weary woman underneath her metallic cat ears and vibrant pink hair. “Fredrick, have you ever lain with a white woman?” Houston asked before seeming to remember herself. She tittered at his shocked expression. “No, I didn’t think so given you are barely allowed to speak with them. What about any woman?” No more adequate an answer was forthcoming from the young man as he found himself rooted to the spot, Pacific breezes ruffling his uniform. Houston took his hands again and stepped close to him. “Second chances shouldn’t be wasted, don’t you think, Fredrick?” “I uh, but aren’t you… what I mean to say is the Commander-” “Is an exceptional and handsome man!” Houston agreed readily. “He’s kind, reserved, and saved my life. He’s competent too, and I think he’ll see us through the battle tomorrow. That doesn’t mean I want to go to bed with him. Not every girl in this fleet has dreams of glory. I just want to live this life I’ve been given. I’m happy to take you back to the docks right now, Fredrick, but I don’t want to leave you tomorrow with just a peck on the lips. Come live a little with me, ravel up my ball of yarn?” she suggested with a cute swipe of her fingers against his uniform. When he leaned closer, Houston sealed her request with a brush of her thin, soft lips against his own. The boy’s mind may not have known how to respond to her, but his body needed no such training or consideration. He allowed his lips to part in invitation, one she greedily but gently accepted. The two fumbling lovers embraced, with Houston gasping against his mouth and pulling back as his left hand brushed against her rigging mark. “Did I hurt you?” Fredrick asked quickly, swallowing heavily as he noted the growing flush in Houston’s cheeks. The girls back home, the ones he was allowed to long and lust after, did not blush like that. “No, not at all. It was just intense!” Houston gasped, gathering herself and reaching over her shoulder. She took his hand and returned it to her back. “Be gentle, please.” Miles was more than happy to oblige, experimenting with feathery brushes of his fingers and the comforting cover of his large palm over the area, sheltering it from the wind and warming it with his own body heat which was steadily rising thanks to their ongoing kiss. When the sensations from her rigging mark simply could not be withstood any longer, the electric shocks turning to warm pulses of longing thanks to his easy touch and unassuming manner, Houston took his cheeks in her hands. She could feel the slight beginnings of stubble under her palms. Bright green eyes met dark brown and delightful laughter bubbled up from her chest. “Fredrick, I didn’t want to do this so soon but it seems Akagi and Kaga decided not to wait around. Would you make love to me; show an unordinary girl an ordinary life?” Houston’s second proposition was no more answerable than her first, but again the young man’s body knew the correct reply. He had no way, no words to explain to her just how unordinary their union would be. But he considered the coming battle, considered the fact that she might be lost. There was only one course of action to be taken. Without a word he shrugged off his jacket and shirt, laying them down on the deck for her. Houston laid herself down graciously, throwing him a coy yet innocent smile that beckoned him to oblivion. He was powerless to stop it as she freely bared herself to him, save her choker. As the base prepared for war and a New Orleans class hull came to life at dock, no one took the time or effort to glance out to sea as Houston felt herself come alive again. ----- “Don’t you want to be down there with her?” West Virginia asked Javelin. The two of them were seated near one of the base’s fixed AA batteries, about halfway up the slope to the dorms and radio tower. Mountains of shells were ready and waiting to be fired, courtesy of the bulins and Akashi. “I feel like I’ve done nothing but remain at her side since she arrived here,” Javelin replied sadly, recalling Zed’s desperate flight from her own faction. “She’s one of my best friends. I can’t let this be anything but her decision. Sometimes it feels like she and Laffey are my sisters, even though I love Jupiter and the others dearly as well.” “Mmm,” the stoic battleship agreed, fingers resting on the neck of her guitar. “So your focus is evasion?” “Yep yep!” Javelin affirmed, playing with her blueish-purple hood and adjusting the small crown atop her head. “Don’t count me out when it comes to submarine warfare or gun battles either. I wish I could do something about my torpedoes though. Those new girls from the Sakura have such amazing armaments.” “Yeah, but their guns couldn’t even tickle me if they tried,” West Virginia countered. “Based on what happened with Downes and Laffey, at least what I understand of it, keep training and keep focused. When the Commander grants you that power, or when you feel the need to claim it for yourself, I think you’ll acquire the strength you need.” “You make it sound like magic,” Javelin replied with a smile. West Virginia’s eyes softened slightly. “Not sure what else to call it. Not even Commander Thorson or the minty kitty really understand those cubes. They know how they work to an extent but the rest might as well be magic. But that’s good. If they’re shooting at you and missing, that gives me an opening. You’ll find that us Colorado’s aren’t the fastest or most maneuverable. And I don’t have as many barrels as Pennsylvania or Tennessee. But…” “But?” Javelin prompted. “Woe to any ship that tries to face me woman to woman, even a carrier if I can see her. Did you know I used to have torpedo tubes?” “No! Really?!” the Royal destroyer demanded excitedly, tapping her namesake weapon against the ground. The battleship gave her a full smile that time. “Yeah, really. When I was injured at Pearl Harbor and they wanted to rebuild me, I told them to get rid of them. A fast little demon like you is perfect for that sort of thing. Me? It would take so long to turn and fire the other tubes it would be pointless, to say nothing of my main battery rotation speed. But don’t worry. I’ve made up for it.” “Uh huh, how so?” Javelin was eager to learn more about her battle buddy, having never seen a Colorado-class hull before their arrival at Thorson’s base. “You won’t tell Tennessee?” “Why would I do that?” “Because we were redesigned to be better than her,” the battleship replied neutrally. Javelin shrugged. “She doesn’t care. No offense, but I’d still bet on her in a fight with you. She’s merciless!” The destroyer’s tone was one of approval. “No arguments there, at least not right now. But she’s only got sixteen 28mm guns and fourteen Oerlikons.” “Right. And you?” Javelin tapped the AA battery with the tip of her spear to accentuate the point. West Virginia struck a chord on her guitar. “Forty 40mm Bofors, forty three Oerlikons, and of course the eight 406mm guns. Just focus on the seaborne threats when we fight. My sisters and I know how to provide a protective AA envelope. With Cleveland on our side our odds are even better. Maybe it’s because she’s a cruiser but I just can’t beat her precision.” “With so many guns you won’t have to! But do you really think we can win? It sounds like the enemy has as many aircraft as they want.” For the first time, true worry crept into the young woman’s voice. West Virginia placed a hand on her shoulder. “We have unending firepower and resolve too. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty over in the Atlantic, but don’t underestimate the will of those who lived through Pearl Harbor. I remember the smoke and the flames, the screams of dying men. Oklahoma and Nevada didn’t make it. Downes and Cassin were torn to pieces. But in the end they failed. Even if they destroy Enterprise and her sisters tomorrow they will have failed if they can’t kill us.” The conviction in West Virginia’s words, especially given her typically mild manner, gave Javelin pause. She remained silent as a squadron of P-40’s flew by overhead, now a sight on the base almost as common as the flocks of seagulls. Far out to sea she could see Yamashiro and Fusou’s float planes returning from a scouting mission. The battleship continued. “Those of us who didn’t perish in those fires are now stronger than they could possibly imagine. I went all the way across the country and back, met the people I’m defending. Colorado dismissed her entire crew in the wake of the attack and rebuilt herself with her own hands. Maryland hasn’t ceased sharpening her skills since that day. If she ever finds the ones who killed Oklahoma they’ll wish they were already dead. And I know I don’t need to speak for Pennsylvania and Tennessee.” As a group of three Fulmars rocketed out to sea to join in the scouting mission, West Virginia struck a harsh chord on her guitar. Javelin’s foot was tapping soon after. Send them over the waves, her sentinels.They’re reporting the news, position of our foes.This battlefield’s been chosen, Thorson orders advance!Time to alert our sisters, they’re soon in range. “Midway! We meet at Midway!” Javelin added happily, bobbing her head from side to side. The battleship threw her a favorable look and continued. A passing bulin stopped to sit and listen. Call all women to deck, keep the fortress strong.Head out into the sun, descending on our foes.This is the crucial battle, in the heat of our war.To sail and sink our targets, out in the waves. “Midway!” Display our might, order and chaos, battleships at war. “We meet at Midway!” We’ll win the fight, tactics are crucial. “Naval war!” Cleveland cut in from the stairs as she and the Portland class sisters headed to the Sakura dorms to spend some time in the onsen. Far from shore a Pacific war,Shells are raining from the skies.It’s a Dreadnought day, it’s our naval way,A blood-red sun is on the rise. West Virginia wailed on her guitar for a few chords, allowing some of her pent up frustration and battle energy to seep into her music before transitioning to working her fingers along the strings individually. By the time she and Javelin repeated the chorus another couple of times and struck the final note, they’d garnered a small audience, including several manjuu, who dispersed or hopped away after polite applause. When they were alone again the battle partners looked at one another. The USS Minneapolis sounded her horn from the docks below, another weapon in Thorson’s arsenal. “I think this is the beginning of something beautiful,” Javelin declared. West Virginia smiled thinly behind her collar. “You’re my favorite tea-drinking Royal, that’s for sure.” ----- “Come on, sis. Tomorrow’s going to be a big day. Live just a little bit?” California insisted as she and Tennessee strolled along the beaches to the east of the docks. Since arriving at the base, the beach had become, unsurprisingly, California’s stomping ground. She strode through the shallows, kicking up the seafoam remnants of waves with her bare feet, her body clad in a dark blue bikini with gold trim. From her feminine hips hung a sheer shawl designed after her state’s flag, the bear and golden star accenting her behind. “Easy for you to say. Tennessee doesn’t exactly have any beaches,” the elder sister replied. “And since when did you care about your home state?” “Never.” “Then you have no excuse! Come on, Tenn; the water’s great!” “We’re boats, of course it is,” she sighed, nevertheless caving and joining her sister, if only to stem the tide of good-mannered nagging. Her uniform vanished and was quickly replaced by PT shorts and her black sports bra. California groaned. “You have absolutely no fashion sense, sis, you know that?” “I’m a machine of war, Cali. I don’t need fashion sense.” “Mhm, your partner doesn’t seem to mind admitting she’s more than a boat,” California countered coyly, pointing with discretion towards the dry sand of the beach and the tropical tree line just beyond. There sat Downes and Ooshio, the former having long discarded her jacket and oversized t-shirt. “I’m going to have to talk to her about that,” Tennessee said quietly, seeing that Downes had managed to connect her studded leather collar to a bra in similar black material, complete with metallic studs along the straps and over her nipples. The battleship didn’t bother looking close enough to see if she’d changed her underwear to a similar material, or if she was just indulging in rank hedonism on some sort of brave whim. Regardless of her own thoughts on the matter, the ensemble was having the desired effect on its intended recipient. Tennessee watched with a hardened expression and clenched jaw as a flushed Ooshio ran her fingers tenderly over Downes’ exposed musculature, the Union destroyer leaning against a palm tree and her new girlfriend resting among the sand and grass. Despite the lewd situation the two of them were deep in discussion, with Downes waving her hands about animatedly. No doubt she was in the middle of one tale or another. Catching Tennessee’s eye, the ashen-haired girl waved from the shade, prompting Ooshio to look their way as well before promptly turning red again and burying her head in the crook of Downes’ neck. “Aww, she’s so cute! And she was looking straight at your abs by the way,” California laughed. She didn’t know Downes well, but the young woman had always struck her as a dominant and protective type. “It’s a good match, don’t you think?” “I think I need a new sparring partner,” Tennessee growled. “That’s not fair, sis! She can have her fun and still train with you.” “And what about you?” The elder sister pulled her cap over her eyes. “You have yourself someone to watch your back?” “Other than you, you mean?” California smiled as a wave lapped at their bare ankles. “Yes, other than me.” “Yep, brand new ships too!” California insisted, pointing at the Houston and Minneapolis far out in the bay. Tennessee nodded. “Good.” “When are you going to talk to him, Tenn, seriously?” California’s tone grew worried. “If the worst happens-” “There’s nothing to talk about, Cali!” Tennessee insisted sternly. “You can lie to the others but not to me. I see right through you. I’m your sister,” the younger replied, holding Tennessee’s gaze. “Look,” the battleships gaze out to the northern ocean. “If both of us survive tomorrow, there will be nothing that needs to be said.” “Your state may not have beaches, but you’re more stubborn than a Tennessee mule,” California relented, throwing her hands up. “Oh well, I’ll just have to make sure you two hardheads live to tell the tale!” “Just stay behind me, sis. Everything will be fine.” Tennessee wrapped her arm around California’s shoulder and pulled her closer. The sisters continued along the shoreline, silence supplemented by the song of gulls, the rustling of palm fronds, and the roll of the surf. California smiled as she rested her head on Tennessee’s shoulder. “Yeah, we’ll be fine.” ----- As Z23 stumbled out of the conductive matrix, gasping for breath, a rush of relief and weakness washed over her. Her collapse was forestalled by Thorson’s arms. When the waters had risen above her head and her world went dark, horrific flashes of the past returned. His warmth banished them. “Zed, you alright?” he demanded quietly. Their corner of the labs was deserted and quiet, with bulins occasionally entering through the main doors far at the other end to pick up ammunition or oil for the ships ready to sortie. “It is done, mein Kommandant.” “Shall we go see her?” Thorson suggested, relieved and pleased to feel the give of her body against his arms. The girl of skin and bones who he’d bathed weeks before was gone. Her cheeks were rosy, her hair had grown flaxen and lustrous, and her chest finally looked at home on her slim, fit frame. “In a moment, Kommandant. I am still weak,” she explained as the Iron Cross of her rigging mark still glowed almost angrily with a bright blue light. “No problem,” he smiled, pushing up quickly with his legs into a standing, bridal carry. Zed gasped and held on tight, finding her arms wrapped around his neck and her lips brushing against his fabric-covered clavicle. He could feel her exhale against his pulse point. Her lips followed after. When he glanced down at her, she craned her neck and offered him another kiss, which he accepted willingly. “I would be loath to head into battle knowing Laffey and Javelin had received your affections in such a way without me,” she whispered as he carried her to the nearest door that led to the docks outside. Her words saw him halt and give her another, longer kiss. This one she was strong enough to receive and relish. Downes’ bravery had broken his resolve with regards to his more mature destroyers. The looming specter of death by kitsune was also a factor, if he was honest with himself. “Mein gott, Kommandant… I did not know you felt such-” “I remember when you first came to us,” was all he said as he turned and pushed his back against the door and carried them out into the sunlight. A gleaming, sleek hull of Germanic make sat in the waters before them, devoid of any hint of siren taint. She was narrow enough to fire her torpedoes to starboard or port from two fixed quad torpedo batteries in the middle of her hull. To her stern sat depth charge launchers and other anti-submarine armaments common in the Atlantic, and her four 5.9 inch cannons completed the look. Placing Z23 on the docks, Thorson stood back as she activated her rigging and placed her hand against the cool steel. Atop her mast appeared an ancient flag, one Thorson only knew from his studies of the wars of the European continent, the North German War Ensign. “How long since that flag has flown?” he couldn’t help but wonder. “1919, mein Kommandant,” she replied sadly. “That was the year my people’s spirit was broken. They still believe the Fuhrer commands them… we would never recover if they knew the truth.” “About the sirens?” “Ja, Kommandant. If it is too much I can-” “I think it suits you far better than Akashi and Fusou’s splinter faction colors, Zed,” Thorson assured her. “It is a shame that the Ironblood and Union were never allies. Such a force would be unstoppable,” Zed insisted quietly, her expression one of contemplation as opposed to practical conquest. “Maybe that’s for the best then, at least until we face the sirens directly. I know we have to fight this battle first, but I haven’t forgotten what they did to you and the others. I’ll help them if I can, Lord willing.” Zed took his hand. “Danke, for standing by me until I was ready to stand on my own again, Kommandant. You should go and be seen among the rest of your fleet. I will take her to sea and begin maintenance drills at once.” “Don’t be late for dinner Zed, that’s an order,” Thorson commanded, removing her beret and ruffling her hair softly. She smiled and took her headgear from him before turning back to her reforged vessel. “You may call me N-Nimi, if you wish. I would never deny your orders, Kommandant. I will be alright, I promise.” “That’s what I’m counting on out there!” Maryland shouted, walking along the narrow strip of cement dock that separated the lab’s dry-dock from the building itself. She laughed at the expression on Thorson’s face. “Don’t worry, I didn’t hear anything. Two of you look cute together though. Commander, I’m going to spend some time getting to know my battle partner one on one. Do as she says and run along now?” “You big seven are something else,” Thorson laughed, straightening his cap. “And tomorrow you’ll be happy you have us, sir. See you for dinner. Let’s go, little one.” “Of course, Maryland. Allow me to show you around my armaments, radar, and sonar,” Zed agreed with pride in her voice that could only be described as German, leading the battleship onward. Thorson was left behind to appreciate the ship as it let out a blast on its horn and took to the sea, the dry-dock filling itself thanks to the prompt action of the bulin crews. He didn’t know how to describe the worry in his chest, but he thought it might be something close to the sorrow of a father sending his son off to war. “Godspeed, Nimi.” ----- “Tono-sama, it is good to see you,” Fusou said quietly from her seat atop one of the cushions on the sheltered deck that oversaw the rest of the onsen. She was quickly drowned out by Yuudachi and company, who reacted quite strongly to Thorson’s state of dress. The three destroyers were doing their nails along with their battleship counterparts. “Yamashiro-san, I can smell him all over you, you know? And please stay still. Shikikan, can you not walk around with your chest out like that. It makes this difficult!” Shigure insisted as Yamashiro moved her fingers in an effort to turn at the waist and catch a glimpse of Thorson’s towel-clad figure. He nodded to his battleships. “Just following Akashi’s rules, no shirt no shoes for me at least. Can’t just snap my fingers and summon a pair of swim trunks like you lot. This looks fun.” “Arizona-san, not you too nanoda!” Yukikaze groaned, watching the Union battleship’s face soften and eyes sparkle as she let her gaze run over Thorson’s war-forged body. “Oh my sweet little Yukikaze, when you’re grown and you find the right man you’ll understand too. Would you like a bow in white, red, or black? We have plenty of colors to choose from,” Arizona asked caringly. She brushed Yukikaze’s short, snowy hair as the Sakura destroyer sat between her legs, looking over silk ribbons to accentuate her look. “Yukikaze the Great does not need a man, nanoda! But she would like this black ribbon please,” the kitten requested, holding out a black strip of fabric trimmed with white lace. Arizona leaned over and pecked the girl on her head, the teardrop hairpin she’d received from Yamashiro months before glinting brightly in the late afternoon sun. “He he heeee~” Yukikaze tittered, closing her eyes and relenting against the onslaught of Arizona’s kind attentions. Nearby, Yuudachi and Pennsylvania had no such compunctions. “You thinking what I’m thinking, pup?” “Meat. Tasty looking meat, wan~!” Yuudachi replied immediately, licking her chops as she and Penny looked at Thorson. Fusou couldn’t help a giggle as Thorson proved more adept at handling open affection from his ships than when he’d first opened up to the idea. “I like the green. It matches your eyes,” he said to Pennsylvania before turning to Yuudachi. “And that’s quite the colorful ensemble you have there.” “Do you like it, Shikikan?” The snow white inu asked happily, almost flashing the entire crew as she hopped up quickly, her breasts bouncing as she held out her nails for him to examine. They were a mix of pink and baby blue. On another girl they’d be gaudy, but they seemed to fit Yuudachi quite well. He gave her a firm pat between the ears. “I do. It’s perfect for you. Glad to see you’re all making the most of this time. Now why don’t you finish up with Penny, yeah? She deserves to look good too, right?” “Wan~! Pennsylvania-san, can we take him to bed together tonight?” “Nope. If I’m spending a night with him he’s mine and mine alone. You work up the courage yourself if that’s what you want. Now get back here and paint my left hand, would you?” “Okay! Maybe later, Shikikan!” Yuudachi told him, returning to her cushion and nail polish as Thorson allowed himself a relieved laugh and sat next to Fusou. She readily leaned against him and inhaled. “Shigure is right, tono-sama. I can smell my sister all over you. It will take days to come off.” “N-Nee-san!” Yamashiro squeaked as Shigure wiggled her armored ears. “You should not have taken him so many times if you were going to be embarrassed about it,” Fusou replied serenely. “Though somehow I doubt he minded?” “Way to put me on the spot, Fusou,” Thorson said quietly, wrapping an arm around her plush waist and making sure she knew he’d absolutely not had his fill of Fusou-class battleships in his bedroom. “For now I just want to make sure everyone’s alright.” “See for yourself,” the shrine maiden insisted, gesturing to the pools beyond. The kitchen staff and other Asashio class sisters were clustered together in the water having a polite conversation. Ark Royal could be seen in a one piece suit, taking each of the flavored kittens for their turn at swimming. Mutsuki and Mikazuki were sitting at the side of the pool, splashing their feet in the warm water as Ark supported Kisaragi’s belly and instructed her in freestyle. “She’s really good with them,” Thorson said quietly, unable to help but consider shipgirls as mothers. He’d already taken many as lovers; it was the natural progression of things. “She is indeed. Tomorrow will be trying for them,” Fusou observed sadly. “We won’t let them hit the island,” he promised, earning nods of approval from destroyers and battleships alike. “Someone has to put Akagi and Kaga in their place,” Shigure insisted. “Their aims were noble, but they sacrificed too much, and were too willing to sacrifice others.” Following that surprisingly mature proclamation from the black dog morph, Yamashiro hugged her tightly. “Have faith in tono-sama. He will see us through.” “Not like I have much of a choice at this point. I defected to come find you, remember? With Yuudachi and Yuki gone that Sanctuary was awful. Now stay still please, so I can finally finish your fingers and we can move onto your toes. Oh don’t blush so much! I’m sure he saw your toes and a whole lot more when you two were breeding like cats!” “Quiet with the little ones around,” Fusou insisted sternly with a whip of her thin, black tail. “Haha, baka-inu,” Yukikaze teased, only to have Arizona pinch her cheek just hard enough to be uncomfortable. “Bad kitty,” she chided softly. When Yukikaze’s lower lip began to quiver, Arizona took her into a surrounding embrace and kissed her ears. “There there, I still love you, little one. It’s just good to be polite to our friends. Here, let’s get this bow on so you can look your best for the battle tomorrow. There we go!” Thorson gave them all a broad smile as order and peace was restored, with Yuudachi standing up to brush Penny’s hair. Even the usually stoic battleship seemed happy to indulge in her feminine side around him and her friends. He couldn’t help but point it out. “We’ve come a long way since that night you arrived here,” he told her. She nodded. “And the journey has only begun, sir.” “Hey Michishio, can we have meat for dinner?” Yuudachi wondered loudly. The shrine maiden’s manjuu chirped happily and she nodded. “Hooray! Wan~!” “Yeah, would be a shame to have it all end now,” Thorson agreed. ----- Following a wonderful spread at dinner, testament to hard work by Fredrick and the girls, the base finally descended into peaceful tension. The afternoon’s frolicking gave way to training and meditation, with Downes, Tennessee, and many others sparring hand to hand around the Union dorm’s annex. Fusou, Yamashiro, and many other Sakura left for the shrine to pray to the gods for victory. Some shipgirls, like Minneapolis, simply headed out to their hulls, wanting to settle in before the battle. Knowing he was very unlikely to find sleep that night, Thorson headed back to the onsen. While the view of his girls in towels and bathing suits was certainly easy on the eyes, the sound of running water, the view of steam and lanterns in the night, and the softness of the cushions Akashi had provided all recommended the onsen as more than just a place to see and be seen. When he emerged from the men’s room he found a pair of white rabbit ears popping out from behind the rocks that lined parts of the onsen’s border. “Hey Laffey,” he called quietly, smiling as they twitched and she turned to face him. She hummed and stood, completely unfazed as he looked at her naked body, glistening with water and moonlight. “Commander has come to spend the night with his first love, yes yes,” Laffey declared, collecting her towel and flask. She tied it around her chest and concealed her matured form from him once more, proof of her retrofit. Silently she followed him up to the lounge area and promptly sat in his lap. After a swig, she offered him the flask. “How could I ever forget my first ship,” he whispered, feeling the burn of warm bourbon slip down his throat. “This is it for tonight. We can’t be drunk tomorrow morning, or hungover.” “Laffey understands well, yes yes. Commander yearns to defeat the evil foxes and their fleets. Laffey will assist.” “Thanks,” he murmured, kissing the back of her head and leaning back against one of the pillars that held up the structure. Laffey took the opportunity to press herself back against him. “Does Commander ever wonder why Laffey has not sought him out at night?” she asked, displaying a maturity he was unaware she possessed. “No.” “Why, Commander?” “That’s why,” he said quietly pointing to two figures that had just entered the onsen from the women’s showers. Javelin was gleefully leading Zed by the hand towards the warm water. As they approached, the former allowed her towel to fall away from her lithe, evasive body freely. She hopped into the water and sighed happily as it enveloped and soothed her. Zed was left standing nearby, holding her towel tightly to her figure. Thorson smiled thinly. “She’s come a long way.” “Laffey loves Zed and Javey. She is afraid we will face Ayanami tomorrow, yes she is.” The bunny took another swig as Zed finally stepped into the pool, quickly removed her towel and dropped the rest of the way so as to not expose herself. Javelin laughed anew and hugged her, complimenting her on her bravery and figure before pointing to Thorson and Laffey. The Ironblood almost fainted on the spot. “If we can avoid her, we will. You know I don’t want to kill them… not her at least,” Thorson promised. Laffey nodded. “But she may try to kill Commander, and Laffey cannot have that, no no. This cannot be the last night Laffey sleeps together with Commander and her friends.” “And who decided that?” he wondered, taking another swig. Without warning Laffey turned and kissed him hard, claiming her share of the alcohol before pulling away to look at him with sleepy, red eyes. “Laffey decided when Zed decided to fight again, yes yes.” “Mission accomplished,” Thorson sighed with relief, resting his head back against the wooden beam. Laffey nodded in agreement before returning to her position and taking another sip. “Mission accomplished, yes yes. Laffey and her Commander have a new mission now. Laffey is stronger. Laffey is wiser. Laffey is drunker. Laffey is ready, yes she is.” “Then I’ll be taking that,” Thorson declared, snatching the flask away, capping it, and tossing it towards a nearby kotatsu. Laffey didn’t have time to protest before both his arms wrapped around her. The trade was adequate, and by the time Javelin and Zed finished their soak and joined them she was fast asleep. A quick rearranging of cushions later, the three girls were snuggled soundly under a kotatsu along with Thorson. Though his nerves mounted and grew with each passing moment, the sounds of the island at night and the soft breathing of the girls who trusted him lulled his eyelids closed with the help of the bourbon. And so on the eve of Midway, even Andrew Thorson found sleep. ----- “Hey, nee-san?” “What is it, Hiryuu?” “Is it wrong that tonight feels… beautiful?” “You aren’t often known for sentimentality, little sister.” “Can’t help it. Tomorrow, no, it’s surely long after midnight. Today there will be fire, blood, and chaos. Today we finish what we started back in December. But for now, the moon is beautiful. Watching it set in the west as the sky begins to turn red in the east? There’s nowhere I’d rather be right now.” “The world has seemed… brighter, these last few days. But do not allow it to cloud your focus. Ready your talismans and cards. This will be the greatest game of hanafuda we ever play.” “I’m as ready as I’ve ever been, Soryuu-nee. We’ll secure victory for the Sakura today. We’ll fulfill our destiny!” “Yes… yes we will.” “The time for preparation is over. This is Akagi of the first carrier division! All carriers ready your aircraft. All ships prepare for battle! Our first target is the airfields at Midway.” ----- Previous | First | Next
Will the Jacksonville Jaguars win OVER/UNDER 5 games? By University Stats Prof!
This franchise has been struggling quite a bit since 2008, except for the 2017 season where they rode a stout defense all the way to the AFC Championship Game. During this 12-year time span, the Jaguars have compiled a 63-129 record, which equates to a mediocre 32.8% winning percentage. What puzzling is the team does not seem to have a sound plan in place. From looking at their roster, there does not seem to be much hope for short-term, nor long-term success.
2. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
2.1 Quarterbacks (QBs) The million-dollar question is whether Gardner Minshew is a starting NFL-caliber quarterback or not. Minshew clearly exceeded expectations that you would normally have for a rookie sixth-round pick. He threw 21 TD passes versus just six interceptions, while racking up 3,271 passing yards and 344 more yards on the ground. His 60.6% completion rate wasn’t great, though. All in all, he showed nice flashes, but was inconsistent at times. He did develop a nice rapport with second-year receiver D.J. Chark. You can tell that the organization is not 100% sold on him. There were strong rumors that the franchise had a lot of interest in Andy Dalton when the Bengals released him. However, he signed with the Cowboys. The backup QB role will be settled through a battle in training camp between Joshua Dobbs and Jake Luton. Dobbs was acquired via a trade with the Steelers after Nick Foles went down to an injury in the season opener. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 draft out of Tennessee. He has attempted 12 passes in three years. As for Luton, the Jags took him in the sixth round in this year’s draft. He played his college ball at Oregon State, where he mostly played the role of a game manager. He repeatedly completed short passes and he completed a very low percentage of his throws under pressure. 2.2 Running Backs (RBs) Leonard Fournette was on the trading block, but the Jags weren’t able to find any suitors. His career got off to a fast start with 1,040 rushing yards, 302 receiving yards and 10 total TDs as a rookie in 2017. However, things didn’t go too well for him as a sophomore. His 2018 season was shortened due to an injury and he averaged a dreadful 3.3 yards per rush. Last year, he had season-highs in rushing yards (1,152), yards-per-rush average (4.3) and receptions (76). The only problem was that he reached the end zone on only three occasions. For the first time of his career, he stayed relatively healthy by playing 15 games. Fournette does not seem like a good three-down back. He is probably best suited as a power back in a committee-approach in the backfield. The number two runner last year was Ryquell Armstead. He was a rookie fifth-rounder who had received just 34 touches prior to the season finale. He filled in as the starting RB in Week #17, a game in which he rushed 10 times for 33 yards, while catching 5 passes for 52 yards. He finished the season with a mediocre 3.1 yards per carry average. I really like how the team addressed the lack of depth at the position by signing free agent Chris Thompson, who played the first seven years of his pro career with the Reskins. I really liked him early in his career, as he showed great flashes and big-play ability both as a runner and as a receiver. He was a great change-of-pace back. However, his production on the ground has dipped many years in a row. Take a look at his yards per carry average since 2015: 6.2, 5.2, 4.6, 4.1 and 3.7. At least his pass catching output has remained consistent, hauling in between 35 and 49 passes in each of those seasons. In my own humble opinion, he’s an underrated player who has a chance to revive his career. He’s 29 years old, but he has plenty of gas left in the tank considering the relatively small number of career touches. He has a good burst and nice playing experience. He will be reuniting with OC Jay Gruden who was his head coach in Washington. 2.3 Wide Receivers (WRs) D.J. Chark was the go-to guy in the passing game last year. He really blossomed in his second year after catching just 14 passes as a rookie. In 2019, he posted a nice 73-1008-8 receiving line. He is pretty fast for a 6’4’’ guy. He stumbled a little bit down the stretch, but he was slowed by an ankle injury. Starting opposite Chark was Chris Conley. It’s unclear yet whether he can be a good No. 2 WR, but he had a good first season in Jacksonville after spending four years with the Chiefs. He set career marks in receptions (47), receiving yards (775) and 5 TD catches. His 16.5 yards per catch average was very solid. Conley is likely to fight with rookie Laviska Shenault for some playing time. Shenault was used in a variety of fashions with the Buffalos. Head coach Doug Marrone said he might also use him in the backfield or as the F tight end. Shenault has been plagued with injuries, so we’ll see how the team uses him if he can stay on the field. The starting slot receiver, Dede Westbrook, underwhelmed a little bit last year. His receiving yards and TDs regressed. His 10.0 yards per catch average was fairly disappointing as well. He is still a decent weapon, though. Keelan Cole’s time in the NFL could very well be running out. He burst onto the scene as a rookie undrafted free agent in 2017 with 42 catches for 748 yards and 3 TDs. Things have gone in a downward spiral since then. He reeled in just 24 grabs last year and finds himself on the outside looking in, especially after the team drafted Shenault. 2.4 Tight Ends (TEs) James O’Shaughnessy led all Jags tight ends with 14 receptions, despite playing just five games. It seems fair to affirm the position underperformed in 2019. If you project O’Shaughnessy’s numbers into a full 16-game season, you would obtain a 45-490-6.4 receiving line, which isn’t bad. He was on pace for his best season before tearing his ACL. Can he really become a starting TE in this league, considering he has never caught more than 24 passes in any of his first five years? The most likely starter is Tyler Eifert, who signed a two-year contract with Jacksonville after a seven-year career that has been marred with injuries in Cincinnati. He showed great flashes, especially in 2015 where he scored 13 TDs on 52 grabs. In the following three years, he has played 14 games and he has missed 34 of them. Unreal! For the very first time of his career, he played all 16 bouts last year. His workload was reduced, though. He is a big question mark that could either be a boom or a bust in 2020. Seth DeValve and Nick O’Leary both left via free agency, but they didn’t play a big role last year anyway. How does second-year man Josh Olivier fit in? He was taken early in the 3rd round of the 2019 draft out of San Jose State. He only caught three passes in four games and struggled to make his mark in limited time. 2.5 Offensive Line (OL) Brandon Linder is a much underrated center in this league. He does not get much publicity playing in a small market like Jacksonville, but he has done a phenomenal job at the pivot for six consecutive years for the Jags. Last year’s 75.3 PFF grade was his worst of the past four seasons, and yet he graded as the fifth-best center in the league! Minshew’s blindside protector is Cam Robinson. That’s not necessarily good news for the signal caller. Robinson has been among the most terrible tackles in the NFL since he was drafted in the second round of the 2017 draft. At the other end of the offensive line, at right tackle, the starter is Jawaan Taylor. He enjoyed a respectable rookie season by finishing 50th out of 81 tackles last year. He slid out of the first round and was a good value pick for the Jaguars during the 2019 draft. Left guard Andrew Norwell came out of nowhere and played great in four seasons with the Panthers as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State. Indeed, his PFF marks during this time frame lied between 73.6 and 81.1, which is well above average. He then signed a hefty contract with the Jags, and his PFF grades dropped to 69.3 in 2018 and 65.5 last year. His pass blocking is very efficient, but he has more trouble opening holes for the running game. Right guard A.J. Cann is another guy whose career is going south. He showed promise in his first two seasons as a pro, but has regressed big time in the last three years. Last year, he graded out as the number 60 guard out of 81 qualifiers. Will Richardson is ready to step in if an offensive lineman gets hurt. He missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury and was horrendous in spot duties last year. 2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE The Jags scored the 26th most points in the league last year. Can we expect an improvement in the upcoming season? The starters remain the same, except at tight end where the team upgraded with the acquisition of Tyler Eifert. Can the often-injured big fellow stay healthy for the second year in a row? The team added depth with running back Chris Thompson and rookie WR Laviska Shenault. Both could provide a boost to a suspect offense. The whole receiving corps is pretty young and likely to improve. The entire OL is back, which is good for continuity reasons. Some studies have shown that continuity is a key factor to an offensive line’s success. LT Cam Robinson and RG A.J. Cann are a source of concern, though. An offense often goes as far as his quarterback takes them. In Jacksonville, that’s a big question mark. Will Gardner Minshew grow in his second year? As a former sixth-round pick, that’s not a gimme. The depth at the position is worrisome as well after Nick Foles left for Chicago, leaving Joshua Dobbs and Jake Luton as the lone alternatives (unless GM Dave Caldwell signs a veteran before the season kicks off). On paper, I would normally tag this group as a small upgrade over 2019. However, I find it difficult to project them to finish much higher than last year’s 26th rank. If Minshew goes down, things will get even uglier (again, unless the Jags add another QB). Final call (2020 vs 2019): Stable
3. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
3.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs) Abry Jones played the most snaps on the interior of the line last year, and he wasn’t great. He graded out as the 82nd DL out of 114 qualifiers based on PFF rankings. He had a subpar season, receiving a 60.1 mark after getting over 70 in each of his previous three seasons. The undrafted alumni from the Georgia Bulldogs has spent his entire seven-year career with the Jags. Taven Bryan was pretty solid against the run last year. The 2018 first-rounder has only picked up three sacks in his two years as a pro, but he’s an efficient run-plugger. Marcell Dareus played just six games last year; he underwent core muscle surgery during the offseason. He has yet to sign with any team; Jacksonville GM Dave Caldwell is open to bringing him back if they can agree on a deal. Dareus posted 28.5 sacks in his first four seasons in the NFL compared to just nine over the last five years! He has always been a very good run-stopping force, but even this aspect of the game dipped last year. He would be playing his age-31 campaign. The team signed former Cardinal Rodney Gunter to a three year deal. His PFF grades have been very consistent year-over-year; he regularly finishes in the middle of the pack among all interior defenders. The Cards also acquired Al Woods via free agency. The 33-year-old is an above average player defending the run, but only has 4.5 sacks in 10 years. He is projected to be a rotational player in this defense. Another guy who is likely to be a reserve player is rookie Davon Hamilton, who was taken early in the third round last April. He will be groomed for a starting defensive tackle job in 2021. He is extremely strong, but needs to improve his burst in order to become a disruptive force in the big league. 3.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED) Ouch. This group took a big hit during the offseason. First, stud DE Calais Campbell was traded to Baltimore in return of a fifth-round pick (!!!). This was clearly a cap-clearing move since Campbell finished as the second-best edge defender in the whole league last year, based on the PFF rating system. He has averaged 8 sacks in the last 11 years, which is quite impressive. He is known for his pass rushing skills, but he was an awesome run defender. A big loss for the Jags. Yannick Ngakoue has demanded a trade and has been fighting publicly via Twitter with co-owner Tony Khan. No deal has been done yet. It seems unlikely he will be in a Jaguars uniform again. Ngakoue is in his prime years and has recorded 37.5 sacks in four years as a pro. Another big blow to this defense. Josh Allen’s rookie season was a success. He led the team with 10.5 sacks. He could improve against the running game and in coverage, though. Overall, he obtained the number 48 rank out of 107 edge defenders. Things weren’t as pretty for Dawuane Smoot last year. Sure, he racked up six sacks, but he graded out as the worst edge defender in the NFL. One of the main reasons was his abysmal run defense performance. With the 20th overall pick, the Jags selected K’Lavon Chaisson out of LSU. He’s a great pass rusher with elite burst. He still needs development due to his young age, but his raw talent is impressive. A good get for Jacksonville. The team also acquired Cassius Marsh, formerly of the Cardinals. Don’t hold your breath hoping he’ll be a star. This is his fifth team in seven years and he has never received very good PFF grades in his career. 3.3 Linebackers (LBs) The Jaguars had a putrid linebacking corps last year, and it does not bode very well for 2020 either. Sure, they signed Joe Schobert away from Cleveland, who has stuffed the score sheet with at last 100 tackles in each of the past three years. He also plays all downs, but his run defense is suspect. He grades out as an average LB in the NFL. Myles Jack’s career is not going in the right direction. His PFF grades have deteriorated in each of the past three seasons, going from 79.2 in 2017, down to 68.1 in 2018 before plummeting to 46.1 last year. Following the signing of Schobert, he will slide to outside linebacker, a move that he is excited about. The young former second-rounder is primed for a bounce back year. Quincy Williams had an awful rookie season. The 2019 third-round pick was amongt the worst LBs in the league. So was his teammate Donald Payne. 31-year-old Najee Goode isn’t a viable solution either. Jacksonville claimed Preston Brown off waivers late last year after getting depleted by injuries at the position. He has not been good in any of his six years in the NFL, so why would it change in 2020? Perhaps Leon Jacobs can provide adequate play? He was taken in the 7th round of the 2018 draft, but he has surprised with strong play as a tackler in limited time. He played just 31% of the snaps last year, but we’ll see if the team gives him a heavier workload in 2020. 3.4 Cornerbacks (CBs) Jacksonville made another cap-related trade by getting rid of their No. 1 corner, A.J. Bouye. He had a surprisingly bad 2019 season and he will be looking to rejuvenate his career in Denver. In order to compensate for the loss, the Jags took C.J. Henderson with the 8th overall pick in this year’s draft. He is at his best when shadowing the opposing team’s top receiver. He has outstanding athleticism, but his play took a step backward last year. A potential starter opposite Henderson is newly acquired Rashaan Melvin, formerly of the Lions. He played every down in the 13 games he played last year. He is great against the run, but struggles in coverage. Overall, he is clearly a below average corner who is joining a 6th team in seven years. Let’s not discard Tre Herndon too soon. He played 86% of the snaps last year and picked off three passes last year. He received equally poor PFF grades as Melvin, though. D.J. Hayden is the favorite to land starting slot corner duties. After five very ordinary seasons in Oakland and Detroit, he has elevated his game a lot since suiting up with the Jaguars. PFF rated him the 11th-best CB in the league last year, his second straight solid season. Fourth-round rookie Josiah Scott might push Hayden for the slot man job, but he is unlikely to supplant him at the moment. He could become the starter next year if Hayden leaves via free agency. 3.5 Safeties (S) This is the lone position on defense where no changes were made during the offseason. Finally some stability! Jarrod Wilson was undrafted coming out of Michigan. His snap count increased big time last year; after playing 30 snaps in 2016, 89 snaps in 2017 and 222 snaps in 2018, he saw the field on over 1,000 snaps last season. He responded very well by grading out as the number 25 safety out of 87 players. A very nice story. He has done a nice job in coverage throughout his career. The other starting safety is Ronnie Harrison. The 2018 third-round pick out of Alabama received a 61.1 PFF grade as a rookie before receiving a 60.9 mark last year. That put him as the 67th-best safety. There is not much hope he will develop into an upper tier safety in this league. Harrison missed two games due to injuries; in those contests, Andrew Wingard stepped in to replace him, but he wasn’t very effective. The undrafted prospect out of Wyoming is more of a reserve player. 2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE The linebacking corps received an upgrade after signing Joe Schobert; he will become the team’s MLB right away. The interior of the line was slightly improved by adding Al Woods and Rodney Gunter, while losing Marcell Dareus who only played six games last year anyway. The defense suffered a big hit with the departures of three star players: Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye and most likely Yannick Ngakoue (although his situation is still up in the air). Drafting K’Lavon Chaisson and C.J. Henderson was smart, but you cannot ask them to fill such big shoes in their rookie season. At safety, Ronnie Harrison is a perennial below average player, while Jarrod Wilson did a very fine job last year. He’s an unproven guy and I’m worried he might regress significantly this season. For these reasons, I expect a moderate downgrade for the Jaguars defense in 2020. Final call (2020 vs 2019): Moderate downgrade
4. Regular Season Wins
According to sportsbooks, the Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to win 5 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”? I'll answer this question via two different methods. 4.1 Professor MJ's Prediction I won't go into the mathematical details, but here is a summary of my own personal pick (based on my analysis above and my estimated spreads for the Jags' 16 games):
OVER 5 WINS
UNDER 5 WINS
Tip: Bet UNDER 5 wins 4.2 Based on BetOnline's Point Spreads Here is the methodology I used here:
Use BetOnline.ag’s point spreads on all 256 regular season games.
Convert those point spreads into win probabilities.
Simulate each of the 256 games, according to those win probabilities, via the R statistical software.
Repeat the previous step one million times (you get 1M simulated seasons).
Count the proportion of seasons where the Jaguars won more or less than 5 games.
Here are the results:
OVER 5 WINS
UNDER 5 WINS
Tip: Bet UNDER 5 wins (18th-highest ROI out of 32 teams) For your information, here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Jags’ 16 regular season games: HOME: -1 vs CHI, -1 vs CLE, +1.5 vs DET, +3 vs HOU, +6.5 vs IND, 0 vs MIA, +6 vs PIT, +3.5 vs TEN. ROAD: +16.5 @ BAL, +3.5 @ CIN, +11.5 @ GB, +9 @ HOU, +10.5 @ IND, +7 @ LAC, +11.5 @ MIN, +11 @ TEN. Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020. Thanks for reading my 32 NFL team previews! Professor MJ
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I will be speaking in broad generalities which are consistent wherever where you live, but you should realize geography plays an important role in venue selection. Gambling laws vary from one locale to another, so please research the laws in your area and play within those laws. With that caveat in place, lets' examine online poker first. Online Poker Without a doubt, online pokers' popularity has exploded in recent years; so much so, the Federal government has placed limits on the ability of US players to move money to and from the poker sites. These restraints pose a real problem for poker players, and several player associations are trying to fight these restrictions. The future of online poker laws is uncertain at this time. A full discussion of the legalities of online poker is beyond the scope of this article, but I encourage all poker players to do their research before you jump into online play. Pros of Online Poker: - The best thing about playing poker online is the ability to play from the comfort of your own home any time you wish. Sites such as Poker Stars, Full-Tilt, Ultimate Bet, etc. will literally have tens of thousands of eager players online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whenever you are ready to play, you will have no problem finding an available game. - Online play allows the player to play a wide variety of games. If you would like to take a break from Texas Hold'em and have the urge to play Omaha, Stud, Razz, Horse, or virtually any other game you can think of, the online sites will accommodate you. - Another benefit to playing online is that you can play any stakes you are comfortable with. If you are conservative, or just starting out, you can play for as little as a few pennies a hand. If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, you can play for as much as several thousands of dollars. The sites will offer a wide variety stakes in between these two extremes as well. - Finally, because the online sites keep the games moving quickly, you can improve your game by playing a high volume of hands in a relatively short period of time. More experienced players may play multiple games at the same time. These players are seeing an extraordinary number of hands per hour. Cons of Online Poker: - Online poker can quickly become addictive. Online poker addiction can have severe negative consequences for the players' physical, emotional, professional, and financial well-being. An addicted player will often start staying up all night playing while ignoring his need for sleep. This may lead to emotional problems and ultimately lead to a strain on the players' home and professional life. A player must be vigilant to remember poker is not as important as family, friends, or your career away from poker. - The online player may also become a victim of cheating while playing online. The poker sites try to catch cheaters through the use of sophisticated software that monitors play and looks for irregularities, and I believe they are partially successful in these efforts; however, it cannot be denied some cheating goes on without be caught. The problem for the individual poker player is that he can never be certain he is not being cheated. The poker world was a buzz last year when the media reported the scandal involving Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker. Some cheating occurs between the players themselves when two or more players gang up on an unsuspecting player through the use of telephone communication while the hands are being played out. If your opponent has more information about the hole cards than you do, you are at a significant disadvantage. - Because poker is played quickly online, the less skillful player will likely lose more of his bankroll online than if he played elsewhere. If a losing player plays more, he will naturally lose more over the long run. Casino Poker For this discussion, I will consider full service casinos (which you are likely to encounter in Las Vegas or Atlantic City) and local Poker Rooms (commonly found at Kennel Clubs, Horse Racetracks, or other Pari-Mutual facilities) to be one in the same. The size and degree of sophistication may be greater at a full service casino, but Poker Rooms have come far in recent years and can offer similar services to a poker player. Each facility provides the tables, chips, dealers, and pit bosses to manage play, and each provides a comfortable atmosphere for the players to enjoy. In exchange for providing these services, the 'house' will rake the pots or charge you an hourly fee to play (more on this later). Pros of Casino Poker: - Casinos/Poker Rooms typically do a good job at offering the player a comfortable environment to play. As more and more card rooms spring up, they realize they must compete for your business; therefore, you are likely to be treated well because the casino would like you to become a regular player at their facility. - A player can be relatively confident the games will be run by professionals. The entire staff from the dealers to drink servers know their jobs (and their tips) depend on providing the players with excellent service. - Casinos and card rooms are generally conveniently located within a community, and they are open 12 or more hours a day seven days a week. On short notice, a player can head off to the casino and expect to find plenty of action. Texas Hold'em is king at casinos, but other games are offered when enough players are available to fill a table. Cons of Casino Poker - Playing at a casino can be an expensive experience. A casino has considerable expenses, and must recoup these expenses through a 'rake'. Some card rooms charge an hourly fee to play, say $10-12 per hour per seat. Others will take a percentage of each pot, or a percentage of the total tournament entry fees. A house rake of 10-20% is not unusual and must be overcome to be a long-term winner. A player must also be mindful that good etiquette dictates the player should tip the dealers and servers for the service they provide. These tips will add to the cost of playing at a casino. - Another pitfall to playing at a poker room is that you may be the victim of a couple of 'regulars' who team up to soak the new fish that sits down at their table. Players can communicate their holdings through subtle hand signals which puts the unsuspecting player at a disadvantage. Home Poker Games Every night in America there are thousands of home poker games underway between families and friends. Poker requires very few supplies to host a game, and these items are readily available through many internet sites. You can start playing at the kitchen table and eventually move up to a true poker table complete with drink holders, padded rails, and a felt playing surface. The next thing you will need is a good case of poker chips, a 500 count set of 11.5 gram (or higher) chips will be adequate for up to 9 players. The final and most important item you need for the home poker game is a setup (two decks) of 100% plastic playing cards. Expect to invest between $15-25 per setup for quality cards. Pros of Home Poker Games - The one big advantage home poker has over venues of play is that you can pick and choose the players you play with. Typically, a group of 3 or 4 hard core players will decide to start a home game and they will invite their friends and family to play. This selection process nearly assures a group of players that get along well with each other. Chances of a loud or obnoxious player being invited to the game are minimal. The more harmonious the game is, the more you will enjoy playing there. - A home game fosters social networking which may lead to new professional relationships as well. You may make a helpful contact with a lawyer, accountant, contractor, etc. through poker. - Home games are great opportunities for husbands and wives, fathers and sons, etc. to share some quality time while playing poker. - Generally speaking, little (if any) 'rake' is taken from a home game which means the money stays where it belongs, with the players! Cons of Home Poker Games - Do not fool yourself, organizing and hosting a home game can be a lot of work. If you are the host, you must be prepared to make calls, provide a place to park and play, provide the snacks and drinks, as well as the cleanup afterwords. - A potential problem with home game poker is that in some localities, it may be against the law to wager money while playing. You must research and abide by the laws in your community. - In a worst case scenario, a disagreement make break out in the card game which ultimately leads to a dissolved friendship or hurt feelings. All the players must be respectful of each other and sensitive to each others needs. Charity/Fund Raising Poker - In these turbulent economic times, some well known charitable organizations have turned to hosting poker tournaments to bring in much needed funds. Some private schools are even hosting poker games to supplement their scholarship funds. A poker player can give back to his community by supporting these events. Pros of Charity/Fund Raising Poker - Charity tournaments can be great social events which bring together large number of poker layers to support the cause. Somehow, it is more palatable to pay an 'entry fee' than it is to write a donation check! - The skill level of the players that show up to these events is poor. Playing good poker is secondary in the minds of many players to having a good time while supporting a good cause. This mentality presents an opportunity for the skillful player to "clean up' at the expense of the social players. Depending on the size of the tournaments, the payouts can be significant. You may be able to parlay a $60 entry fee into a $1,000 pay day for winning. Cons of Charity/Fund raising Poker - The biggest problem with these type of poker games is the lack of professional management by the event organizers. A serious player can quickly become irritated when a tournament starts a half hour late, or he gets seated at a table with an inexperienced dealer, etc. Violations of the rules and etiquette of the game are commonplace at fund raisers. - The 'rake' can be quite high at these events. Remember, the primary reason the charity organization hosting the game in the first place is their desire to raise money. A rake of 25-40% is not unusual at these games which is unacceptably high to a player trying to boost his bankroll. - A word of caution regarding the legality of these games, the charities often believe they are immune from compliance with local laws regarding gambling, but the sheriff does not always agree! Do your homework before deciding to play in fund raisers so you can make an informed decision.
I wrote a fight-by-fight breakdown of tonight's card. Let me know what you think.
Sharper MMA returns this weekend with picks and analysis for every fight on Saturday’s UFC card. UFC on ESPN: Poirier vs. Hooker is a top-heavy card, with the main event by far the most anticipated fight of the show. But there is plenty of betting value to be found throughout the event, including a few upset picks. Check out our selections below for the full card, including the two best bets on the menu. Saturday’s card is the last of five events this past month at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas. After tonight, the promotion moves on to the star-studded UFC 251 and its three championship bouts on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi two weeks from now. Enjoy the fights.
UFC on ESPN: Poirier vs. Hooker
Saturday, June 27, 2020
Las Vegas, Nev., UFC Apex
Prelims: 5 p.m. EDT, ESPN / ESPN+
Featherweight: Jordan Griffin (+110) vs. Youssef Zalal (-120)
The pick: Youssef Zalal (-120).
Zalal was super-impressive in shutting out Austin Lingo at UFC 247 in February. “The Moroccan Devil” has a far higher ceiling than Griffin, and should be priced a lot higher than -120. Strawweight: Kay Hansen (-165) vs. Jinh Yu Frey (+155)
The pick: Jinh Yu Frey (+155).
At 35, Frey is 15 years older than her opponent, but both fighters are making their UFC debut. Frey, a former Invicta atomweight champion, is by far the better striker in this contest, and is not facing much of a size disadvantage either at the higher weight class. The price of +155 is a gift here; grab it while you can. Welterweight: Takashi Sato (-255) vs. Jason Witt (+235)
The pick: Takashi Sato (-255).
Witt takes this fight on about a day’s notice for his UFC debut. At age 33, he is hardly an up-and-coming prospect, despite his decent regional run the last decade. Sato simply outclasses Vitt as the Japanese fighter has a higher floor and higher ceiling. Lightweight: Luis Pena (-220) vs. Khama Worthy (+200)
The pick: Luis Pena (-220).
It’s another lightweight showcase in the featured preliminary bout, and this one is surprisingly tough to call. Worthy comes in on a six-fight win streak, his first event since his upset-of-the-year against Devonte Smith. Worthy is tough, but Pena is just the better all-around fighter and has more ways to win, especially if they get to the ground. Look for “the Violent Bob Ross” to add another impressive victory to his canvass.
Main Card: 8 p.m. EDT, ESPN / ESPN+
Catchweight (150 lbs): Sean Woodson (-480) vs. Julian Erosa (+423)
The pick: Sean Woodson (-480).
Woodson cruised to a unanimous decision in his UFC debut against Kyle Bochniak six months ago to maintain his undefeated record. “The Sniper” will look to continue his winning ways against the late-replacement Erosa — “replacement” being the key term, as “Juicy J” is firmly established as a journeyman-level fighter on the fringes of the promotion. Erosa begins his third stint in the UFC with this fight, and neither should last long as Woodson will put him away early. Book “The Sniper” to win more than the 83 percent of the time needed to make a profit at this price. Heavyweight: Philipe Lins (-105) vs. Tanner Boser (-105)
The pick: Tanner Boser (-105).
It’s a coinflip matchup at heavyweight, and each fighter is coming off a loss. The difference is that Boser was beaten by Ciryl Gane, a potential future heavyweight champion. Lins dropped his last fight to Andrei Arlovski, who is on the wrong side of 40 and on his way out of the UFC with nine losses in his last 13 (with one no contest.) The Canadian “Bulldozer” is six years younger than Lins, and seems to be the more accurate striker. Lins may have a small edge in power, but neither of these guys is very good at finishing fights, so look for Boser to get the nod in a decision. Heavyweight: Gian Villante (+200) vs. Maurice Greene (-220)
The pick: Maurice Greene (-220).
Greene was putting together a decent run at heavyweight before running into two very talented combatants in Sergey Pavlovich and Gian Villante. While no one will mistake Greene for a championship contender, he’s got a much better resume and is five inches taller than his opponent. Villante is an atrocious 17-11 as a pro and is clearly on the downswing of his career. More important, a Sharper MMA axiom applies here: never bet on anyone who has lost to Sam Alvey. Take Greene and lay the 220 with confidence. Middleweight: Brendan Allen (-300) vs. Kyle Daukaus (+270)
The pick: Brendan Allen (-300) * BEST BET.
This is the fight that the savvy UFC fans are buzzing about, and you will see why once these two set foot in the Octagon. “All In” Allen is on a monster run through the UFC, winning his last six with five finishes. The Louisianan has knockout power, elite grappling and the submission skills to put his opponents to sleep regularly. At age 24, Allen is quickly moving his way up the middleweight ranks to become a championship contender. It’s hard to find anything bad to say about Daukaus. He’s a similarly young prospect at 27, and has an undefeated record coming into his UFC debut tonight. Like Allen, Daukaus has a knack for finding finishes. Just one of his nine career fights has gone to the judges’ scorecards. Ultimately, it’s Allen that has the more versatile game, higher ceiling and better experience. It’s out of respect for his undefeated opponent that Allen’s price is as low as -300, but we think “All In” gets the win way more than three times out of four, making Allen one of the best bets on the card. Welterweight: Mike Perry (-290) vs. Mickey Gall (+260)
The pick: Mickey Gall (+260).
We’ll come right out and say it: neither of these guys is very good, and the previous fight should have been the co-main event. But Perry has a big name with a loud and controversial personality. And about two or three years ago, “Platinum” Mike also had a fight game worth betting on. That’s no longer the case. Perry has lost five out of his last seven bouts, and the only impressive win during that stretch was a split decision over Paul Felder. We last saw Perry getting embarrassed by Geoff Neal in December in Las Vegas, where the fight was over in 90 seconds. Gall, meanwhile, is probably the more talented fighter right now. He is an accomplished grappler, with five out of his six MMA wins coming by submission. He clearly has a lower ceiling than you’d like, evidenced by his knockout loss to Diego Sanchez, who is not exactly a world beater. This fight will come down to Perry’s punching power vs. Gall’s grappling. Perry is the favorite, but he will not win anywhere close to 27 percent of the time, and that’s all we need for Gall to be a profitable bet at this generous price. Lightweight: Dustin Poirier (-225) vs. Dan Hooker (+205)
The pick: Dustin Poirier (-225) * BEST BET.
This clash of top-five lightweights is by far the best fight of the card, and probably also the most interesting matchup of the UFC’s five-event homestand at its Apex facility. The bout should tide over fight fans nicely until the UFC anchors on “Fight Island” in two weeks; it may also have serious championship implications, depending on what happens in the lightweight unification bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje, which is tentatively slated for September. Hooker is on a phenomenal run after moving up to lightweight in 2017, winning seven out of eight, all in the UFC. His victims include some impressive names, like Gilbert Burns, who will challenge for the UFC welterweight championship in Abu Dhabi. Hooker last notched a controversial split-decision win over Paul Felder in an absolute war of a fight in “The Hangman’s” home of New Zealand in February. Hooker will bring his elite kickboxing, sturdy chin and effective pressure in hopes of scoring another signature win to pad his case for a title shot. Dustin Poirier is on a similar hot streak in the lightweight class, winning five straight (with one no contest) against a murderer’s row of 155-lb talents before running into the inevitable mauling by Nurmagomedov in their title fight last year. Poirier, long known as a go-for-broke knockout artist, added nuance to his game in the lead-up to that championship fight. He showed patience to win vs. Gathje in what seemed like a match of equals, and Gaethje has gone on to destroy everyone in his path since. Poirier has the pressure-fighting skills to match Hooker, and is definitely the more powerful puncher. Poirier also has the faster set of hands. Hooker will have the height and reach advantage, and will do better to keep this fight at range. But that’s not Hooker’s style, and in a battle of pressure against pressure, Poirier has a big advantage. Poirier’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu belt is black compared to Hooker’s blue, so the American should have the edge if the fight goes to the floor. It’s a fascinating stylistic matchup with strength-vs.-strength, but Poirier is a level above Hooker talent-wise, and is a bargain at this price of -225. Who are you picking in this banger of a main event? Let us know in the comments. Be sure to hit the subscribe button below to receive free emails, so you never miss a Sharper MMA post.
[Game Preview] Week 9 - Philadelphia Eagles(4-4) vs. Chicago Bears (3-4)
Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) vs Chicago Bears(3-4)
The Eagles return to the friendly confines of Lincoln Financial Field Sunday after salvaging one win on their 3 game road trip taking care of business against the Buffalo Bills last week. They welcome the Chicago Bears to town in a rematch of last years NFC wildcard round and the second matchup of the Battle of Reid’s Bastards. where the Eagles squeaked out a win after the double doink missed field goal by Cody Parkey. The Eagles offense has struggled this season, but found a rhythm last week against a tough Bills defense by pounded it on the ground. They will need to do the same this week to slow out the always disruptive Khalil Mack. Part of that ground attack will be former Bear Jordan Howard who will look for some revenge on his former team after he was traded to Philadelphia in the offseason. In the passing game, the Eagles may get a boost with the return of the speedy Desaen Jackson who hasn’t played since week 1 where he put up 152 yards and 2 TDs in the season opener. Jackson was a limited participant this week, and is listed as questionable, but if he returns to the lineup it will be an immediate upgrade in the receiving corp giving Wentz a speedy deep threat and a guy with excellent hands who is always dangerous in space. On the defensive side, the Eagles will try to limit the Bears ground game and force Mitchell Trubkisky to beat him with his arm, something he has struggled with this season. Cox and Graham seemed to find their grove last week against the Bills and new Eagle Genard Avery will look to make and impact as well. Avonte Maddox will also resume his duties in the slot after missing the last three games with a neck injury. If the Eagles can get their offense going and get some turnovers on defense it should lead to an Eagle victory at the Linc.
Calling the game on 94WIP and the Eagles Radio Network will be Merrill Reese, the NFL’s longest-tenured play-by-play announcer (42nd season). Joining Reese in the radio booth will be former Eagles All-Pro wide receiver Mike Quick, while Howard Eskin will report from the sidelines.
94.1 FM and 610 AM
Atlantic City/South Jersey
Salisbury/Ocean City, MD
Salisbury/Ocean City, MD
Salisbury/Ocean City, MD
Salisbury/Ocean City, MD
Philadelphia Spanish Radio
Rickie Ricardo, Macu Berral and Gus Salazar will handle the broadcast in Spanish on Mega 105.7 FM in Philadelphia and the Eagles Spanish Radio Network.
Atlantic City, NJ
1020 AM; 101.3 FM
Chicago Bears Network Jeff Joniak (play-by-play) and Tom Thayer (analyst) will call the game with Zach Zaidman on the sidelines.
ESPN Radio will broadcast the game to a national audience with Adam Amin on play-by-play and Shaun O’Hara providing analysis and Sal Paolantonio reporting from the sidelines.
November 12th, 1933 at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, PA. Chicago Bears 3 - Philadelphia Eagles 3
The Chicago Bears lead the Philadelphia Eagles (992-726)
Doug Pederson: 3-0 against the Bears
Matt Nagy: 0-1 against Eagles
Coaches Head to Head
Doug Pederson vs Matt Nagy: Pederson leads 1-0
Carson Wentz: Against Bears: 2-0
Mitch Trubisky: Against Eagles 0-2
Quarterbacks Head to Head
Carson Wentz vs Mitch Trubisky: Wentz leads 1-0
Records per Stadium
Record @ Lincoln Financial Field: Series tied: 2-2
Record @ Soldier Field: Bears lead Eagles: 8-7
Rankings and Last Meeting Information
AP Pro 32 Ranking
Eagles No. 14 - Bears No. 20
Sunday, January 6th, 2019
Eagles 16 - Bears 15
In the battle of Reid’s Bastards, Pederson’s team struck first as the Eagles scored on a Jake Elliott field goal on the opening possession. The scoring went silent until a Nick Foles INT set up a FG for the Bears to bring the score to a tie, the Bears added another field to take the Bears into halftime up 6-3. The Eagles took the lead on their first possession of the second half with a Dallas Goedert TD before the Bears answered with a TD and FG of their own to take a 15-10 lead. The Philadelphia Eagles needed help to get into the playoffs, and Chicago provided it. The Eagles repaid them by knocking off the number defense for the second year in a row in the playoffs to send the Bears home. Foles lead the Eagles offense down field and scored a Golden Tate TD with under a minute to go in the game. The Bears marched down the field with a chance to answer and come away with the win on a last second field. Pederson iced Parkey on his first attempt when he lined up for his second shot. He lined up and kicked it with a slightly low trajectory, just low enough for the pinky of Trayvon Hester alter the flight and cause a double doink off the upright and crossbar. The Philadelphia Eagles needed help to get into the playoffs, and Chicago provided it. The Eagles repaid them by sending them home in the wildcard round as Pederson came out victorious in the Battle of Reid’s bastards.
Bears HC Matt Nagy got his first coaching job with the Eagles in 2008 working as in intern and moving up to a coaching assistant in 2010 and offensive quality control coach in 2011-12.
Eagles HC Doug Pederson and Bears Hc Matt Nagy are both part of the Andy Reid coaching tree and the two worked together with the Eagles and Chiefs from 2009-2015.
Bears OL Coach Harry Hiestand was born in Malvern, PA and attended East Stroudsburg University which is where his coaching career began.
Trey Burton was signed as an undrafted FA in 2014 and played 4 seasons with the Eagles from 2014-2017 winning a Super Bowl with them in 2017 and was part of the magical "Philly Special" throwing the TD pass to Nick Foles.
Bears backup QB Chase Daniel played 1 season with the Eagles in 2016.
Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery was drafted by the Bears in 2nd round of the 2012 draft and played 5 seasons with them from 2012-2016.
Bears Senior offensive assistant Brad Childress joined the Eagles in 1999 as his first NFL position under Andy Reid’s staff as QB coach where he coached Eagles HC Doug Pederson. Childress spent 7 years with the Eagles as their QB coach and OC from 1999-2005
Eagles CB Cre'Von LeBlanc played 2 seasons with the Bears from 2016-2017.
Eagles LS Rick Lavato (Husband to Demi Lavato per Tony Romo) was signed as an undrafted FA by the Bears in 2015, but waived at the end of training camp.
Eagles OC Mike Groh worked as the Bears WR Coach from 2013-2015.
Eagles DL Coach Phillip Daniels played four seasons for the Bears from 2000-2003.
Eagles RB Jordan Howard was drafted in the 5th round of the 2016 NFL Draft and played 3 seasons for the Bears before being traded to the Eagles this offseason.
Bears safeties coach Sean Desai got his first coaching job at Temple University in Philadelphia has their defense and special teams coach
Bears defensive assistant Chris Jackson is from Bristol, PA and played one season for the Philadelphia Soul in 2008.
Recap from Last Week’s Games.
Video Have spending a week churning on 37-10 loss to the Cowboys, the Eagles responded with a 31-13 win over the Bills. The Eagles defense set the tone and the Eagles pounded the ball on the ground on the windy New York afternoon. The Eagles took control by scoring touchdowns 83 seconds apart spanning halftime to build a 17-7 lead. Graham's forced fumble of quarterback Josh Allen at Buffalo's 24 led to Carson Wentz hitting Dallas Goedert for a 5-yard touchdown catch with 25 seconds left in the second quarter. On the second snap from scrimmage in the third quarter, Sanders followed Howard's block of linebacker Matt Milano in bursting up the left sideline. The second-round draft pick celebrated his touchdown by leaping into a group of Eagles fans in the northeast corner of the endzone's stands. After the Bills answered with a Devin Singletary score on a 28-yard catch on Buffalo's next possession, the Eagles responded with Wentz overseeing a six-play, 68-yard touchdown drive capped by Boston Scott's 4-yard touchdown run. The Eagles finished with 218 yards on the ground their highest total in a game since 2014.
Video Three straight punts preceded Piñeiro's 33-yard field goal hitting the right upright. On the Chargers' ensuing drive, Fuller intercepted Philip Rivers and returned it to the Chargers' four-yard line, but the offense struggled to gain a yard, leading to Piñeiro making a 27-yard kick. Chicago reached Los Angeles' nine-yard line but only reached their seven; Piñeiro kicked a 25-yard field goal. The Chargers answered with a four-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Melvin Gordon's four-yard touchdown run. Down by one, the Bears reached the Chargers' five-yard line with help from Montgomery's 55-yard run, but further red zone woes persisted, leading to Piñeiro giving his team the 9–7 lead on a 19-yard kick. To start the second half, the Bears mounted an 11-play, 75-yard series that included eight rushes as Montgomery recorded a four-yard score. Chase McLaughlin made a 20-yard field goal to end the third quarter. Early in the final period, Trubisky was intercepted by Casey Hayward, but McLaughlin's 42-yard kick was wide right; the Chargers regained possession on the next series after Trubisky lost a fumble on his 26-yard line. The takeaway led to Rivers' go-ahead score to Austin Ekeler. After two drives ending with punts, the Bears got the ball back on their 35 with 1:33 remaining in the game. Although Trubisky led the Bears to the Chargers' 21, Nagy called to kneel to run down the clock and set up Piñeiro's potential game-winning 41-yard kick. The kick went wide left as time expired,] marking the Bears' first three-game losing streak under Nagy.
2019 Pro Bowlers
DT Fletcher Cox (Starter)
OLB Khalil Mack (starter)
OG Brandon Brooks (Starter)
FS Eddit Jackson (starter)
TE Zach Ertz (Starter)
CB Kyle Fuller (starter)
SS Malcom Jenkings (1st Alt)
RS Tarik Cohen (starter)
OT Lane Johnson (1st Alt)
DT Akiem Hicks
C Cody Whitehair (1st alt)
QB Mitchell Trubisky (2nd alt)
OT Charles Leno Jr. (2nd alt)
Referee: John Hussey
Including playoffs, Philadelphia has won 10 of its last 14 (.714) games vs. Chicago (3-0 under Doug Pederson), as well as each of the last 2 games at Lincoln Financial Field
The Eagles last played the Bears in the 2018 NFC Wild Card Round at Soldier Field on 1/6/19, when they captured a 16-15 victory to advance to the Divisional Round
Including playoffs, Philadelphia is tied with Minnesota for the 2nd-best home winning percentage (.759, 22-7) in the NFL since 2016, trailing only New England (.879, 29-4)
The Eagles have won 7 of their last 11 contests (.636) at Lincoln Financial Field, as well as 16 of their last 21 home games (.762) overall (including playoffs
Philadelphia owns the No. 8-ranked rushing defense (90.5) in the NFL. The Eagles also rank 1st in that category since 2016 (including playoffs), allowing 92.9 rushing yards per game
Philadelphia has produced the 2nd best third-down offense (49.1%) in the NFL, trailing only Dallas (51.9%)
Brandon Graham leads the Eagles defense with 5.0 sacks, all of which have come in the last 4 games. Graham ranks 6th in team history with 47.5 career sacks.
Carson Wentz has thrown a touchdown pass in 11 straight games, tied for the longest active streak in the NFL with Russell Wilson.
Since 2016, Jordan Howard ranks 2nd in rushing yards (3,813), 3rd in rushing attempts (878) and 5th in rushing TDs (29).
OT Andre Dillard
RB David Montgomery
RB Miles Sanders
WR Riley Ridley
WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside
CB Duke Shelley
WR Shareff Miller
RB Kerrith Whyte Jr.
QB Clayton Thorson
CB Stephen Denmark
Notable Off-season Additions
WR Desean Jackson
RB Mike Davis
DT Malik Jackson
WR Cordarelle Patterson
DE Vinny Curry
CB Buster Skrine
S Andrew Sendejo
OL Ted Larsen
DT Hassan Ridgeway
S Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
QB Josh McCown
WR Marvin Hall
LB Kevin Pierre-Louis
K Eddy Piñeiro
Notable Off-season Departures
QB “Big Dick” Nick Foles
TSS Adrian Amos
DE Michael Bennett
WR Josh Bellamy
DE Chris Long
TE Daniel Brown
S Chris Maragos
FB Michael Burton
RB Jay Ajayi
CB Bryce Callahan
RB Josh Adams
OL Eric Kush
RB Wendell Smallwood
OL Bryan Witzmann
WR Jordan Matthews
RB Jordan Howard
DT Haloti Ngata
K Cody Parkey
Eagles TE Zach Ertz (30) needs 1 TD to move up to 11th on the Eagles all-time receiving TD list all-time tying WR Jack Ferrante and Brent Celek and he needs two TDs to move up to 10th all-time tying WR Ben Hawkins.
Eagles TE Zach Ertz (5251) needs 113 yards to most up to 7th on the Eagles all-time receiving yards list passing Eagles TE/HB Bobby Watson.
Eagles WR Desean Jackson (34) needs 2 TDs to move into a tie for 7th on the Eagles all-time receiving TD list tying Jeremy Maclin.
Eagles WR Desean Jackson (6271) needs 194 yards to move up to 3rd on the Eagles all-time receiving yard list to moving ahead of Mike Quick.
Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins's (4) needs 1 more Interception for a TD to tie CB Eric Allen (5) for most Interceptions for a TD by an Eagles player.
Bears DE Akiem Hicks (24) needs 2 sacks to move up into a tie for 15th on the Bears all-time sack list tying DE Wille Young and LB Roosevelt Coleman
Pro Football Focus Matchup Charts courtesy of PFF Edge (join.profootballfocus.com/edge/)
In 2019, Mitchell Trubisky is averaging a higher Yards Per Attempt and slightly higher Completion % via Play Action than not (6.0 vs. 5.5 & 65.6% vs. 64.4%). Trubisky is only using Play Action 16.7% of dropbacks, which is 2nd-lowest of all QBs. It’s kind-of tough to threaten a team with Play Action when your running game is playing so relatively poorly (no Bears RB is better than 71st in RB Yards After Contact or 62nd in Yards Per Attempt. The best a Bears RB fares in overall Offensive PFF Grade is 58th.
Matchups to Watch
Bears Defensive Line vs Eagles Offensive Line… or Andre Dillard
Everyone who covers the Eagles is quick to point out the likely matchup between Khalil Mack and Andre Dillard for good reason. While the Bears will move Mack all over the defensive front, he will likely get the bulk of his snaps across from the Eagles rookie tackle. Dillard has shown steady improvement since taking over for the injured Jason Peters. He is a great athlete at the position and moves very well for a man his size. Additionally, he’s pretty good in the run game despite the common criticism of him in that area in the pre-draft process. One area of his game that Dillard must improve, which will take his game to greater heights, his is ability to handle power rushes and to anchor. Right now, that ability is somewhat limited, likely due to his college coaching and competition. In the PAC-12, Dillard didn’t face the quality of rushers a lot of other prospects get to face in the Power 5 conferences; additionally, he wasn’t asked to do a variety of pass blocking sets in the scheme Washington State runs. Khalil Mack makes life difficult for All-Pro Offensive Linemen putting Dillard under the microscope on Sunday. Mack isn’t the only good player on this defensive front. The Eagles will catch a break with stud IDL Akiem Hicks on IR but the Bears still have Eddie Goldman with other effective rotational linemen behind him. Leonard Floyd has also emerged as a quality EDGE opposite Mack. Chuck Pagano isn’t afraid to bring the athletic linebackers they have on blitzes either. While this Bears defense isn’t producing turnovers at the insane rate they did last year, this is still a stout defensive front that has kept the team in games. They haven’t let the team down this year. This is a significant matchup for the Eagles given the quality of the opposition and their own offensive struggles. Can Dillard quickly rise to the occasion? How do the Eagles game plan, or alter what they’ve done, to account for Mack?
Bears Defense vs. Eagles Newly Dated Offensive Game Plan
Listen, running 40 times per game and averaging 5 YPC in the process is great to watch since we get to see the soul taken from our opponent. This happened last week against the Bills, especially on the 8 minute drive the Eagles had to effectively end the game. The issue with the philosophy is it’s normally an inefficient and ineffective way to win football games. Since the Eagles Super Bowl season, they have become more run oriented, with that shift occurring sharply this year. Part of the reason is due to injury; Desean Jackson figured to be a large part of the Eagles attack and can’t when he is injured. Another reason is due to players underperforming expectations. Alshon Jeffery is a solid receiver, but Nelson Agholor has remained the general liability he’s always been while somehow regressing and Mack Hollins is basically useless. Don’t even get my started with whatever is going on with JJAW. The Eagles are getting nothing from their WRs and the offensive coaching staff isn’t doing a good enough job scheming an offensive attack while suffering from roster construction issues. The Eagles are currently the 17th best offense by DVOA – 19th rushing, 14th passing. That’s not going to get it done for this team. The Eagles problems from 2018 have continued into 2019 while getting slightly worse. This is a Bears defense that is 7th in DVOA. This is a perfectly winnable game for the Eagles but their offensive struggles could keep this game too close for comfort. This is a long term problem for the Eagles this season and one that could have ramifications Sunday. Against a tough Bills defense, on the road, and in poor weather conditions, the coaches had a good game plan on offense that lead to the win. That’s not something the Eagles have consistently had this year. Part of the turnaround the Eagles need to have rests on the offenses ability to improve; improving the struggling passing game would work wonders for this team. The Eagles will likely have Desean Jackson back on Sunday. How effective he’ll be and what that means for the Eagles offense is huge. Ultimately, it’s a coaching and player execution problem above all else. Wentz hasn’t been the problem this year, which will aid in the turn around.
Bears Offensive Line vs Eagles Defensive Front
It has been slow-going for the Eagles defensive front on the season but it appears that this unit is starting to become a more effective group. The Bears offensive line is decent but isn’t playing at the level it has previously. Furthermore, their best offensive lineman, Kyle Long, is done for the season with injury. Fletcher Cox is fresh off a strong performance and appears to be rounding into form; the effectiveness of the Eagles pass rush rests on Cox given his dynamic ability. Brandon Graham also appears to be returning to a move effective form after notching a sack and forcing a key fumble last week in Buffalo. Derek Barnett has put together consecutive good performances which the Eagles really need. Prior to the trade deadline, the Eagles added Genard Avery via trade with the Browns. While Avery has been a healthy scratch this season, his play last year has shown him to be a more effective day 3 rusher than Shareef Miller has been for the Eagles in 2019 – not great. Avery is a pure pass rusher, though undersized. In Gregg Williams scheme, Avery was a good rotational rusher, which is where he thrives. Avery was a bit miscast under Steve Wilks this season since Avery isn’t effective dropping into coverage and playing in space. I don’t understand why coaches like Wilks don’t adapt their scheme to fit their personnel but what do I know? Either way, the Eagles still have issues in pass coverage. What is the best way to hide that? That’s right, pass rush. The Eagles still have a good defensive line that is slowly getting better each week. They face a QB that is a mess all around and an offensive line that isn’t as good as it needs to be to make up the difference. Pressure can force QBs into making mistakes; this is huge against Trubisky, who makes mistakes when he isn’t under pressure.
Bears Passing Offense vs Eagles Passing Defense
For the second consecutive week, the Eagles will face a QB that is a better RB than he is QB. The Eagles secondary has made fewer mistakes with the return of the swag-tastic Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby but “fewer” is deceiving. Simply put, the Eagles are up against another middling to bad offense and a passing attack this week that they need to take advantage of. The biggest issue they face this week are the Bears receiving options. Allen Robinson is a very good receiver and easily the best receiver Philly has seen since Amari Cooper. Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, and Tarik Cohen are all playmakers in their own right. This is a deeper group of weapons the Bears have to work with than Josh Allen has. It’s just the QB is considerably worse with an offensive scheme that has regressed mightily. The Bears offense is ranked 28th by DVOA – 21st passing, 27th rushing – and it shows when you watch them. Allen Robinson is really the only player Trubisky can seem to get the ball to and he regularly struggles with that. The Eagles secondary was “better” against the Bills… but not really. Allen had issues locating open receivers for various reasons (pressure, general inability) that left points on the field for their offense. The Eagles still haven’t cleaned up a lot of the mistakes that regularly plague them. Their opponent this week may afford them the opportunity to skirt disaster again but all it takes is one mistake to cost them the game. The Eagles aren’t in a position to give up games against teams they should beat so every possession matters. The defense, while struggling, should be able to handle what the Bears will throw their way. More consistent execution from the players and coaches would work wonders here. Keep the Bears in a hole – force their offense to chase. Play and coach smart.
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