NEW YORK – (December 10, 2013) –There’s a lot of brotherly love going around in Philadelphia for Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who appears on the regional cover of this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (12/16/13)—on newsstands NOW— and the feeling is mutual. Foles has been about as close to perfect as one can be since replacing the injured Michael Vick. Not only has he helped spark a 1–3 team to an 8–5 record, but he’s also thrown for 1,970 yards and 20 touchdowns, with just one interception. SI senior writer Michael Bamberger believes Foles has become the new leader in Philly, one that fans have quickly come to believe in. Writes Bamberger, “The 2013 Foles highlight reel includes a handful of successful bombs—nine of them TDs of 25 or more yards—that took away our breath, as well as many, many downs of no-huddle offense that have left opposing defenses sucking for air. It includes the record-tying seven touchdowns he threw against the Raiders in Week 9. It includes the whole of his November, when he had the highest calendar-month passing rating, 152.8, in NFL history. Who knows what other gaudy numbers he’ll put up before December is over, when the Eagles’ regular season concludes in Dallas?” (Page 53)
Philly was supposed to be the place where Michael Vick redeemed himself. Over the past 4-½ years, fans vested deep reservoirs of emotion in Vick, who was trying to rebuild his career and reclaim his standing after serving 19 months in federal prison for running a dog-fighting ring. For a while it looked promising. However, injuries and Father Time have taken their toll on Vick, sidelining him during crucial moments for the franchise and opening the door for Foles. Writes Bamberger, “This whole season could easily have gone another way, and the city’s mood with it. More than the cracked bell, the Phillies, Rocky and all the rest, the football team is the thing that binds Philadelphia. This latest potential franchise quarterback, with his blond hair and XXL hands and earnest manner, is doing more for the city than he could possibly know.” (Page 53)| SI Senior Writer, Michael Bamberger
Since returning to the NFL in 2009 Michael Vick has said and done the right things. But the battering he’s taken from pass rushers – and the changes in his game – cast doubt on his football future. Dating back to 2010, including one playoff game, Vick is a respectable 18–16 as Philadelphia’s starter, but in his last 24 starts he’s gone 10–14 with 25 interceptions and 11 lost fumbles. He’s suffered an array of injuries and missed seven starts since ’10. Now, writes Matt Gagne, it’s possible that he will miss one more, next Sunday at Washington.
One Eagle said of a particularly hard hit on Vick, “Peyton Manning would have seen that coming” (page 65).
NOTE: This player’s poll appears in the Dec. 12, 2011, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now.
Which team’s fans are the toughest to play in front of?
- Philadelphia Eagles….20%
- Pittsburgh Steelers….17%
- Oakland Raiders….13%
- Seattle Seahawks….8%
- New Orleans Saints….6%
[Based on 321 NFL players who responded to SI’s survey]
FAST FACTS: Over the past 10 seasons the Patriots have more home wins (65) than any other team, but they finished just 16th in the voting with 1.6%…. Conversely, the poll-topping Eagles have 48 victories in that period, tied for ninth…. QBs particularly loathed playing in Seattle and Oakland (tied at 26%)…. The NFC East was voted the toughest host division (25% of the total vote); the AFC East was voted the easiest (4%).
SI PLAYERS NFL POLL (as it appears in the Oct. 31 issue)
Who is the fastest player in football?
- Chris Johnson, Titans RB….38%
- DeSean Jackson, Eagles WR….23%
- Mike Wallace, Steelers WR….12%
- Devin Hester, Bears WR/KR….3%
- Jacoby Ford, Raiders WR….3%
[Based on 316 NFL players who responded to SI’s survey]
FAST FACTS: Johnson ran a 4.24-second 40-yard dash at the NFL draft combine in 2008, the fastest mark since times became official, in 1999. Ford’s time at the 2010 combine (4.28) tied him with three other players as the second-fastest…. Michael Vick, who was voted No. 1 the last time SI polled on this subject, in 2006, was No. 6 (2%), even at age 31, and was the only QB to receive more than one vote…. Colts DE Dwight Freeney was the only lineman named more than once.
Also in this week’s Oct. 24 issue: Dan Wheldon in memoriam, Plaxico Burress sounds off on the NFL’s illegal hits, Jaromir Jagr’s return from Siberian exile and the soon-to-be winningest QB in college football historyPosted: October 19, 2011
You’ve seen the two covers for this week’s issue and our World Series prediction as well as details from Gary Smith’s interview with Jerry West, who discussed in great detail the depression that plagued him throughout his Hall of Fame career and most of his life. Here is what else readers will find in this week’s Oct. 24 issue, on newsstands now.
DAN WHELDON: 1978–2011 – LARS ANDERSON (@LarsAndersonSI)
Two-time Indy 500 champ Dan Wheldon’s future seemed bright on Sunday morning, when the 33-year-old signed a contract to race for Andretti Autosport in 2012. Hours later, just 11 laps into the season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Wheldon was dead, killed in a 15-car wreck. Series champion Dario Franchitti said afterward, “One minute you’re joking around at driver intros—the next, Dan’s gone. I’m struggling to get it together.” When the day ended with a low-speed, five-lap tribute to Wheldon, IndyCar’s season came to an end—and the sport had lost one of its most popular, most engaging drivers (page 56).
On the Tablets: A slideshow of highlights from Dan Wheldon’s career on the IndyCar circuit.
SCORECARD: LEARNING TO PLAY NICE – DAMON HACK (@si_damonhack)
From a numbers standpoint, the response to the NFL’s Black Sunday—Oct. 17, 2010, when three players were concussed on violent hits—has been effective. The number of fines for illegal hits is down, and no suspensions have been handed out. But the NFL has not completely gotten through to players. To wit (page 15):
- Jets receiver Plaxico Burress: “If you have a chance to knock me out or break my leg, man, knock me out. That’s missing a game or two, not the whole season. As receivers, we know what we signed up for.”
- Bears safety Brandon Meriweather, who has been fined $95,000 for illegal hits since the start of last season: “They teach you growing up that you’ve got to be violent and put the fear of God in people, but when you get to the league that you’ve been dreaming about your whole life, they tell you to change your game 100 percent or get money taken from you. I try lowering my target zone, but if you have a receiver who’s 5′ 8″, it’s still going to be a helmet-to-helmet collision. How do you avoid that when you’re running full speed?”
- Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop, recalling a clear shot he had on Matt Ryan in Week 5: “I didn’t quite know how to hit him. I didn’t want to hit him too high, when it should be natural to just go hit him. I ended up getting the sack, but I didn’t hit him as hard as I wanted to.”