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October 17, 2017

Philly’s winter forecast: It looks like reign

Winter is coming, and for the first time in a very long time, this could be a winter wonderland for sports fans in Philadelphia.

No fear of White Walkers here.

As the calendar heads quickly toward Halloween, the Philadelphia sports fans are getting ready for an Eagles team to literally run toward the playoffs, a Sixers team among the most talked about in the NBA, and a Flyers team that has bolted out of the blocks far quicker than expected.

The Sixers open their season tomorrow night, and aside from another maddening declaration that Joel Embiid will again be on a minutes restriction, there is a great atmosphere of optimism around the team.

Unlike past seasons, when the Sixers play in Philadelphia, the place will be jumpin’. Suddenly, the place to be this season will be the Wells Fargo Center when the Sixers are in the building.

Long gone, are the days of buying a row of seats for a few dollars, and a whole section for a few dollars more. Instead, the season ticket base has ballooned to ensure a packed building every night, and the team should feed off that energy.

All eyes will be on the Sixers, and we’re not just talking about the eyes of Philadelphia. The Sixers have been tapped as one of the best shows in the NBA, and they will be a regular participant in national games, including Christmas Day.

Christmas Day?

Not to start wrapping presents before its time, but Christmas Day has potential to be something very special in Philadelphia with the Sixers on national TV against the New York Knicks, and then the Eagles hosting the Dallas Cowboys.

The Sixers will again start their season against the Wizards in Washington with a ton of optimism, but the usual question marks around Embiid. Sixers coach Brett Brown said on Tuesday that Embiid’s minutes will again be closely monitored.

He was expanding on comments the previous day, and he made it very clear that he was being told what to do by the medical staff, and the doctors are going to basically give him a minutes total.

“Ultimately,” said Brown, the end game is to have him playing significant minutes.” And it also means playing Embiid at significant times, so that Embiid’s minutes aren’t all evaporated as the team heads to crunch time late in a game, or even overtime.

The thinking here is that Embiid will live within the minutes restrictions early, but as time goes on those minutes will increase – and it won’t take long. Even with the restrictions, the Sixers will get a boost from Ben Simmons as a regular, and the addition of Fultz.

“This year, you can point at things that make you more excited. I feel that we have a team,” said Brown, “We’ve gone through 90 or so players and 19 point guards, and for the first time we have a continuity . . . We have a chance to do some special things.”

The Sixers will also have the benefit of a crowd in full throat at home, which should elevate everybody. “I want to have fun,” said Brown, “and I hope that equals winning."

The other team that shares that building got off to its home schedule on Saturday night when the Flyers totally dominated the Washington Capitals, 8-2.

The Flyers have been a surprise in terms of the immediate impact of a redefined first line with captain Claude Giroux moved to wing and Sean Couturier at center. No doubt, Couturier does not appear to have the wheels and offensive skill set of a first-line center, but nobody can argue with his early production, and if he continues to produce offense from the high danger zones in the offensive zone, the Flyers are in pretty good shape.

The Flyers will also benefit from the scaled back of talent in Washington and Pittsburgh, and especially what should be the struggles of the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens in the conference.


Why not playoffs for both? But that is long in the distance of spring.

In the meantime, as the fall season heads quickly toward winter, the hopes are high for the Sixers and Flyers, but not nearly as the suddenly skyrocketed hopes for the Eagles. Fully rested and coming off a hugely impressive win at Carolina, the Birds are now nestled at home for the next three weeks and riding high in the NFC.

Misfortune in Green Bay has cost them Aaron Rodgers, and it did not take long for the Vegas oddsmakers to figure out the Eagles were as good a choice as any to wind up playing in the Super Bowl.

With Carson Wentz quickly developing into the type of quarterback to be at the head of the class when the days of Rodgers and Tom Brady are over, the Eagles are in terrific shape for a long time – and also for THIS winter.

Yep, it’s not hard to look at your sports calendar and look past the autumn and be encouraged that winter is coming – and for the first time in a long time, that’s a good thing.

A very good thing.