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Can Chip Kelly fill the shoes of the winningest coach in Philadelphia Eagles history? Andy Reid may have been a soft target for criticism in 2012, but he finished his 14 seasons at the helm with a record of 130-93-1 (.583). Only Earle “Greasy” Neale had a higher winning percentage in Philadelphia (63-43-5, .594) than Reid. So what can Kelly do for the Eagles?
Plenty, as anyone who’s seen the Oregon Ducks over the past four years can tell you. Kelly led the Ducks to a BCS bowl game in each of his four seasons in Eugene, winning the 2012 Rose Bowl and the 2013 Fiesta Bowl. But the NFL betting lines for Kelly’s “professional” debut have the visiting Eagles getting between three and four points against Washington.
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It might be a bit of a stretch to say that Kelly revolutionized the game of football. But his version of the spread offense, known as the Blur Offense, has already been incorporated to varying degrees across the NFL. The idea is to keep the playbook simple, and to operate as quickly as possible, thus wearing down the opposition defense.
Kelly had other coaching options on his plate, but he chose Philadelphia, and it looks like he’s got the right personnel for his program. Michael Vick beat out Nick Foles for the starting QB job during the preseason; Vick has spoken in glowing terms about Kelly’s offense, and at 5.4 yards per carry last year, Vick still has the wheels at age 32 to make the option very blurry indeed.
The Fast Lane
Vick will be smiling even wider now that he has some protection in front of him. If you were following the Eagles last year, you saw their offensive line fall apart at the seams, one injury after another, until noted turnstile Demetress Bell was forced to play significant minutes. Philadelphia finished the regular season at 4-12 SU (3-12-1 ATS) with the No. 25-ranked offensive line in the NFL according to pass protection efficiency – and No. 28 in run blocking.
That won’t happen again in 2013, injuries notwithstanding. All of last year’s fallen starters are back on the line: LT Jason Peters, LG Evan Mathis, center Jason Kelce and RG Todd Herremans. They’ll be joined by first-round draft pick Lane Johnson at right tackle, the No. 4 overall selection out of Oklahoma. Johnson was a quarterback in high school and started his Sooners career at tight end, so he’s got the physical and mental tools to keep up with the Blur Offense.
The football betting odds might be against Philadelphia this Monday night (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN), but that might have more to do with the popularity of the quarterback on the other side. Robert Griffin III (102.4 passer rating, 6.8 yards per carry in 2012) is expected to start for Washington despite being listed as questionable with his surgically repaired knee.
What shape is Griffin really in to play? He didn’t take any of Washington’s snaps during the preseason; back-up Kirk Cousins sprained his right foot in Week 2, so Rex Grossman and Pat White were both kept around after the team announced its final roster cuts. With these red flags waving, the Eagles have moved down from +5 at the open to their current +3.
Watching Griffin put up one of the best quarterback seasons of all-time, as a rookie no less, was both enjoyable and profitable – Washington went 10-6 SU and 11-5 ATS last year to win the NFC West. But for the 2013 season opener, it’s Philadelphia with the room to make big strides and outperform market expectation. For my sports picks, I’ll be going with the non-playoff team versus the playoff team in this one.
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