Hello, Philly sports fans. Welcome back! We took a bit of a break over an extended holiday weekend. The most recent sports daily newsletter published Dec. 24, and a lot has happened since. Here’s a quick list of all the most recent happenings:
It looks like the Eagles will make the playoffs after a 34-10 blowout win over the New York Giants. Now if they win out, they will be in the postseason. If they don’t, another team could control their fate.
The 76ers trounced the depleted Washington Wizards, 117-96, on the road, with Joel Embiid posting 36 points and 13 rebounds en route to a Sixers record. Embiid became the second player in team history to score 7,000 points in his first 300 games, joining Allen Iverson. The big man followed that up with another 36-point effort Tuesday night as the Sixers held off Toronto, 114-109.
The Flyers remained on break after the NHL decided to take a pause because of an increase in COVID-19 cases as the omicron variant spread through North America and the globe. In that time, Kevin Hayes and Morgan Frost were removed from COVID-19 protocols, and Carter Hart, Sean Couturier, Ryan Ellis, Scott Laughton, and Derick Brassard were added to the COVID-19 list.
— Inquirer Sports Staff, @phillysport
Tell us: What do you expect from the rest of the Eagles’ season? Will they win out and make the playoffs? Or fall short of the postseason for a second straight season? firstname.lastname@example.org
No Eagles player is more polarizing than Jalen Hurts. He plays a part in that, obviously. Hurts has been inconsistent at times and usually starts games poorly before rallying to either complete a win or make games competitive, creating a seesaw experience for fans.
But he still has the Eagles in position to contend for the playoffs late in the season. And he gave a nod to other players who have put the Eagles in that position in the past, giving a shout-out to Randall Cunningham by wearing his jersey as he walked into the Linc and later at the postgame podium.
Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski made the observation that part of what makes Hurts so polarizing is the comparisons to players in Philly who were more successful using a similar style, such as Cunningham, Donovan McNabb, and Michael Vick. But, Sielski notes, Hurts doesn’t need to be like those other quarterbacks. He simply needs to be himself — and win.
Next: The Eagles play the Washington Football Team at 1 p.m. Sunday on the road at FedEx Field.
Off the Dribble
The entire NBA has been hit by COVID-19, and the 76ers were among the first franchises to deal with the virus’ effects this season. That reality shifted for the Sixers briefly, but it has reemerged. They have Andre Drummond, Shake Milton, and Danny Green in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Coach Doc Rivers expects that to change soon. While Green will remain in protocols, Rivers expects Milton and Drummond to be available by Thursday. He was clear that they might not be game-ready upon return.
Next: The Sixers play the Brooklyn Nets at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn (NBCSP).
On the Fly
It has been 11 days since the Flyers played a hockey game, but (fingers crossed) that will finally change tonight.
The Flyers are set to play the Seattle Kraken but will be without five players — Sean Couturier, Ryan Ellis, Carter Hart, Scott Laughton, and Derick Brassard — who were added to the COVID-19 protocol list over the break. The pause wasn’t all bad, though, as it allowed Morgan Frost, Max Willman, and Kevin Hayes to recover from bouts with the coronavirus and return to the lineup.
Speaking of Hayes, the illness was just the latest in a season of setbacks for the 29-year-old center. Hayes has played in just 11 of the Flyers’ 29 games due to injury and illness, but as Sam Carchidi writes, the Flyers’ playoff hopes largely hinge on him being healthy and productive over the remaining 53 games.
Next: The Flyers will be in action on back-to-back nights as, after tonight, they play the second of a four-game West Coast swing Thursday in San Jose against the Sharks at 10:30 p.m. (NBCSP).
Worth a look
Out of the Outback: Star Penn State defensive end Arnold Ebiketie has become the latest Nittany Lion to opt out of Saturday’s Outback Bowl against Arkansas. The Big Ten leader in tackles for losses (17), Ebiketie, who transferred in from Temple, will instead start preparing for the 2022 NFL draft.
Passing of the torch: When Penn State’s defense hits the field Saturday, Ji’Ayir Brown will take over as the quarterback of the secondary for the first time. That is because Brown’s close friend, fifth-year senior safety Jaquan Brisker, will not play as he begins preparing for the draft. The handoff is fitting given that Brown and Brisker’s relationship extends beyond their time at Penn State.
Big 5 bragging rights on hold: Villanova would have had a chance to clinch yet another Big 5 title with a win over Temple on Wednesday night, but because of a number of COVID-19 cases within the Owls program, that game has been postponed. Temple can still clinch a share of the title by upsetting the Wildcats when/if the game is made up. No makeup date has been announced.
In honor of the late, great John Madden, who are the three former Eagles to have appeared on the cover of one of the Madden NFL video games?
We compiled today’s newsletter using reporting from Mike Sielski, Gina Mizell, Sam Carchidi, Olivia Reiner, Giana Han, and Joe Juliano.