The NFC Least

NFC NFL

Last season, the NFC East wasn’t exactly a powerhouse division.

The Redskins, lead by Kirk Cousins, finished atop the division with a 9-7 record. They were the only team in the division with a record better than .500. And this year, it might not get any better.

In fact, it will more than likely get a whole lot worse. There is no one team that stands out as outstanding in the division–no team that will likely run away with the title and go on to dominate the postseason.

The Skins are coming off a season in which they barely squeaked into the postseason, but whether he likes it or not, Kirk Cousins has yet to establish himself as an elite NFL QB. Keep in mind that, just two seasons ago, Washington finished 4-12 with a whopping -132 point differential. While many positions have been shored up since then, Cousins under center, Matt Jones (if he’s healthy) at running back and a so-so receiving corps doesn’t spell a successful season in Washington.

A good number of people had the Cowboys winning the division last season, coming back from an abysmal 4-12 record to top one of the weakest divisions in football.

NRC NFL

Tony Romo’s recent injury has left fans wondering if he will return for another season.

After all, Tony Romo would be back, finally healthy, and Zeke Elliot would be lined up behind him to take the brunt of the work at running back with a formidable backup in Alfred Morris there just in case. What many people forgot, though, was about Tony Romo’s glass bones and the Cowboy signal caller’s penchant for shattering one or two every season, leaving him on the sidelines. And, almost on cue, Tony Romo went down with an injury–this time to his back–that will sideline him for 6-10 weeks, according to the Cowboys. This leaves rookie Dak Prescott to step into the starting roll, and leaves a huge hole in the Cowboy’s plan to win the division.

The Eagles are, in and of themselves, a question mark. Will Bradford or Wentz be starting by the end of the season? Will Ryan Matthews stay healthy? Will Nelson Agholor learn how to catch the football when it’s thrown in his general direction? Will Dorial Green-Beckham live up to the potential that many thought he had when he was drafted by the Titans?

After a fairly mediocre season last year, the Eagles haven’t done all that much to improve their chances this year. They didn’t sign any big-name offensive free agents. They (arguably) downgraded at running back by getting rid of Murray. Lane Johnson and Dennis Kelly, two members of one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season, are gone.

And the Giants are hard to have faith in on any given day. Some days, Eli Manning plays like a Hall of Fame QB, while others he plays like the backup to a Junior Varsity QB thrust into the NFL spotlight. Luckily, he’s got a solid receiving corps around him to throw to, namely in Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham Jr. However, it may be hard to find openings if defenses are dropping back into coverage constantly, not particularly afraid of the G-Men rushing attack.

None of the teams in the NFC east stand out as the clear frontrunner–it’s almost as if it’s an entire division full of teams you’d expect to finish 2nd or 3rd in any given year. But maybe that will make this season all the more exciting.

The Rise and Fall of the 2016 Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies

To view this post as a video, visit Peter Bubel’s YouTube.

The Philadelphia Phillies were not supposed to be good this season. They were coming off of a 63-99 2015 season, good for dead last in Major League Baseball. Preseason projections had them hovering around 100 losses and universally finishing last in the National League East.

But, for a period of time, there was hope on the horizon. Through the troves of Tweets from Phillies fans around the country came the hashtag #HighHopes, a reference to the song popularized in Philadelphia sports by late broadcaster Harry Kalas. The hashtag acted as a sort of “we may be the laughingstock of baseball right now, but look who’s playing not-too-terribly after all.”

The high hopes were, predictably, short lived. After a brief run that saw them climb to within a game of first place early in the season, the Phils have returned to preseason form, compiling a 7-19 record so far in the month of June and an 8-26 record in their last 34 games played.

So what was the cause of the Phillies meteoric rise in the standings, and subsequent hurtle back towards Earth where they crashed into a ditch on the side of I-76 and were left for dead?

The One-Run Conundrum

There was a point of time this season during which the Phillies, baseball’s [second] worst team, owned a 13-3 record in one-run games. Yes, games that were decided by one run were almost universally won when Philadelphia was involved. It was incredible and, according to statisticians and baseball writers, unsustainable. But some Phillies fans took the offensive, claiming they had high hopes the Phils could continue winning one-run games at a prolific clip.

Turns out, the statisticians were right. After losing just three of their first 16, the Phillies have dropped six of their last 10 one-run games, bringing their record in those contests to a (still very good, and very unsustainable) 17-9.

Their Run Differential Caught Up to Them

As it stands right now, the Phillies run differential is an uncomfortably bad -160. To put that into perspective, the league-best Cubs sport a +258 run differential–meaning they’ve scored 258 runs more than their opponents to this point in the season.

Unlike their record or Freddy Galvis’ batting average, the Phillies run differential hasn’t fluctuated, remaining last in the league (or close to it) for the better part of the season. A low run-differential means a team is consistently getting outscored by its opponents by large margins. The 13-3 record in one-run games pointed to the huge regression that was incoming–the Phils were winning games, yes, but they were doing it by one run. Then, they were turning around and dropping other games by 8 or 9 regularly.

Aaron Nola

Phillies’ pitcher Aaron Nola has struggled lately. Photo courtesy of Arturo Pardavila III.

The Starting Pitching

Aaron Nola was supposed to be our savior. He was going to be our lone All-Star, the next Cole Hamels and the one piece of the team that Phillies fans could proudly boast “well, at least we’ve got him.”

Lately, it’s looked like Nola is going to need more time to adjust to the big-leagues. After compiling a 3.55 ERA in April and a 2.31 ERA in May, the wheels have fallen off the Nola train to the tune of a 10.42 ERA in June. He hasn’t made it out of the fourth inning since June 5, allowing 32 hits, 22 runs and walking 7 in his last 16 innings.

Nola is not the only pitcher who has struggled–Vince Velasquez has had problems pitching deep into games, and his high pitch counts have given him arm troubles lately–but he is the prime example of the Phil’s late SP struggles.

The Bullpen

We all knew that the Phillies bullpen would more closely resemble a trashcan engulfed in flames than it would the pristine 2008 World Series Champions’ pen. But a few weeks into the season, the pen looked strong. Jenmar Gomez was closing out games at an absurd pace and Hector Neris was nearly untouchable. And then, they weren’t.

Gomez, who typically pitches to contact, is not the prototypical closer. We’re used to seeing the Brad Lidges, the Billy Wagners–more recently the Ken Giles–the hard-throwing, bat-missing, intimidation-above-all-else back of the bullpen options. Jenmar Gomez doesn’t fit that bill.

And after Neris’ unblemished start to the season, he’s struggled a bit lately, as he’s striking out significantly fewer batters, walking more, and allowing more hard-hit balls.

Preseason projections had Nationals right-fielder Bryce Harper outperforming the entire Phillies team. Photo courtesy of Johnmaxmena2.

Preseason projections had Nationals right-fielder Bryce Harper outperforming the entire Phillies team. Photo courtesy of Johnmaxmena2.

The Offense 

Before the season started, projections put the Phillies starting offense–that is, hitters one through eight in the lineup–as being roughly as productive as Bryce Harper. That means that eight hitters for the Phils were supposed to create the same amount of offensive give and take as one 23-year-old outfielder from Washington.

If you need evidence that the Phillies are struggling offensively, allow me to direct you back up this blog a bit to the -160 run differential.

Or the second-worst 269 runs scored.

Or the second-worst .235 batting average.

Or the league-worst .289 on-base percentage.

I could go on, but I won’t.
The Phillies have struggled this year. And despite playing significantly better earlier in the season, they’ve regressed towards the mean pretty quickly in recent weeks. While some Phillies fans may have deluded themselves into thinking a playoff berth (or above-average season) was in the works, most saw this coming.

Travel Hacks and Tips

Traveling can be exciting and stressful all at the same time. You just want to get to your destination but you inevitably have to go through the airport. That means security, long lines, electronics dying, sitting next to strangers and so much more. With these hacks and tips you can make your traveling experience much better:

Some of the Best Restaurants in Reading, PA

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Reading is Pennsylvania’s fifth-largest city, and it is brimming with amazing attractions. From the culture to the metropolitan appeal, Reading has it all. If you’re going to visit Reading, Pennsylvania, chances are you’ll want to find some delicious restaurants. And luckily, there’s no shortage. If you want to immerse yourself into Reading’s incredible cuisine, here are a few restaurants you have to try.

1. Vietnamese Delights

If you love Vietnamese cuisine, you have to check this place out! This delicious and affordable restaurant is located in the Fairgrounds Farmers Market and is open from Thursday to Saturday. If you’re visiting the market on one of these days, this is the eatery you need to try. With only four or five tables, this restaurant is small, but it is not to be overlooked. When you visit you need to try their pho, a soup with a delicious broth and tender delicious sliced beef. Other recommended dishes include their pork hoagie, their shredded pork rolls, and their vermicelli.

2) Screpesi’s Sandwich Shop

This eatery is one of the best places in Reading to get a sandwich. All of their ingredients are fresh and delicious. The rolls that the sandwiches are made with are incredible every time. Customers typically recommend the Italian Sandwich, the Ham Sandwich and the Tuna Sandwich. This historical restaurant has built up a well-deserved reputation as an exemplary sandwich shop. If you’re in Reading and you don’t eat here, you’re missing out!

3) Brewer’s Bar and Grill

If you’re looking for a sports bar that serves delicious food in a laidback setting, look no further than Brewer’s. This bar and grill is decorated with memorabilia from the decades before and after prohibition in order to give a casual yet historic feel. Brewer’s serves delicious brisket and barbecue boneless wings, but the best dish by far is the burger. The burgers at Brewer’s are juicy and delicious, making Brewer’s stand out from your average Bar and Grill. Brewer’s is also unique in that it features 13 revolving craft beer taps. Last but not least, the service is always warm and friendly.

4) Winedown Cafe and Wine Bar

If you’re looking for a more upscale dining experience for relatively affordable prices, Winedown is just the place. The attentive servers show a clear knowledge of the restaurant’s exquisite array of wines and cheeses. The cozy and sophisticated ambiance makes for a perfect night with a significant other, a friend, or a few family members. The menu is tapas style, and includes a number of flavorful dishes. From the relaxing ambiance to the incredible cheeses and wines, Winedown is a must-visit.

Reading Pennsylvania is home to a number of top notch restaurants that are sure to satisfy your tastebuds. When you want to take a break from exploring the beauty of Reading’s history and culture, make sure to grab some delicious food at these superb restaurants.

Travel to St. Lucia

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St. Lucia is located in the eastern Caribbean Sea. It is a beautiful island filled with nature, friendly people, delicious food, and incredible beaches. If you’re looking for an escape to paradise then this should be the first place on your list to head to. Below are some of the places that you can’t miss when in St. Lucia.

Pigeon Island

A 44-acre island located in Gros Islet in northern St. Lucia, Pigeon Island has been artificially connected to the mainland. There are two peaks on the island that are great for hiking and offer amazing 360 degree views from the top. Throughout the island there are many historic forts such as an 18th century British Fort that was used to spy on the French. Pigeon Island is also a great place to relax at the beach or have a picnic.

Rodney Bay

The perfect place to relax on the beach. Whether you just want to lie in the sun, go sailing or enjoy a day snorkeling in the crystal clear water with the fishes, or eat some traditional Caribbean food Rodney Bay has it all. At night it transforms into a fun place to go out and have a drink. While it is a beach town, know that Rodney is a full modern, yet touristy, city.

Sulphur Springs

The world’s only drive in volcano, Sulphur Springs is a volcano on the southwestern side of the island. You are able to drive up right next to the springs and look down into the Earth or you can stand on a platform right next to it. Regardless of which way you decide to experience it, Sulphur Springs is definitely a site to see. There is also a mud bath that you can go in that leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, which is a really cool experience.

Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens are a great way to enjoy and experience the natural beauty of St. Lucia. The grounds are beautifully kept, and offer a wide variety of plants, trees, and flowers to see. Within the gardens there is a beautiful waterfall that can’t be missed.

Laborie Beach

If you’re looking to escape from the touristy beaches and enjoy the island like the locals then head over to Laborie Beach in the south of the island. The water is crystal clear and warm, as you’d expect the water to be in the Caribbean. It is a beautiful bay filled with reefs and palm trees. Since it’s not a very touristy place there aren’t facilities and beach chairs to rent so you need to come prepared. However, it’s worth it though in order to experience the true beauty of the Caribbean Sea without being surrounded by many other people.

5 Great Cultural Activities in Reading, PA

Peter Bubel

Reading, Pennsylvania is a great hub for cultural activities. Visitors can enjoy one of the multiple museums and cultural centers present in the city: there will always be an activity available to broaden your mind and horizons. Here are the top five cultural activities that you and your family can enjoy:

GoggleWorks Center for the Arts

GoggleWorks is a five-story community art center featuring six large teaching studios (in ceramic, hot and warm glass, jewelry, photography, and wood), 35 artists’ studios, exhibitions galleries, and the offices of many cultural organizations. It also houses a theatre which presents art house films daily, a café, and a store.

The space is filled with talented people and beautiful artwork. It offers many classes and expositions. It’s great for adults and children alike, and will be sure to offer a compelling and fulfilling cultural experience. Take a look at their 2016 class offerings!

Reading Public Museum

The Reading Public Museum is a dynamic center of learning and discovery located in a beautiful setting. It features changing exhibitions, a planetarium, and an arboretum. Its mission is to provide rich, tactile experiences in order to spark curiosity for visitors of all ages. It currently features exhibitions on Awkward Family Photos (all ages), Fat Dogs and Talking Horses (for kids), the Tsar’s Cabinet, and much more. It’s a great place to visit with your family and learn something new!

The Pagoda

The Pagoda, located on top of Reading’s Mount Penn, is an iconic landmark of Japanese influence which offers stunning views of the city and beyond. It stands seven stories high and 866 feet above sea level, and was built over one hundred years ago. It is owned by the city and citizens of Reading, PA and is an extraordinary symbol of the city.

Mid-Atlantic Air Museum

The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, located on the property of the Reading Airport, is a small community organization maintained by volunteers which holds an impressive collection of vintage aircrafts (none of which are roped off–you can get as close as you’d like). The museum also holds several events, including its famous World War II Weekend, which is definitely worth the trip.

Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center

The Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center is great place to go on hikes, picnics, and cross-country skiing in the winter. It boasts 10 miles of hiking trails and a wide range of wildlife. The Education Center provides a variety of education-oriented programs for students, teachers, adult groups and individuals in order to help people develop a strong environmental ethic. It is definitely a must-see, in the summer and winter alike.

Philadelphia Eagles

Peter Bubel

Philadelphia has a long and proud history of professional sports teams, but unfortunately this past Thanksgiving holiday, Philly’s very own Eagles continued their ongoing losing streak when they lost to the Detroit Lions 45-14. This marked the team’s third consecutive loss following their brutal game against Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a score of 45-17, and before that their close call with the Miami Dolphins 20-19. Following their defeat, Philadelphia Eagles running back and fan favorite DeMarco Murray expressed his frustration towards the team’s current situation, “I’ve never been a part of anything like this. We’re not doing what we’re supposed to do on the field and it’s hurtful, it’s painful to sit back and play the way we’ve played the last two weeks and all you can do is learn from it and try to work hard and bust your tail and try to go from there.”

Even though the Philadephia Eagles may seem to be going through some bad luck, Philly fans should not be discouraged at all. We should not forget that prior to these last three games, the Eagles were actually doing pretty well. Prior to the Miami Dolphins game, the Eagles beat the New York Giants 7-27. And who can forget when Murray faced his past team, the Dallas Cowboys, and won 33-27? So let’s not fret, the Eagles are in good hands, especially after drafting the NFL’s 2014 Offensive Player of the Year, DeMarco Murray.

DeMarco Murray is a fighter. He fought for the Dallas Cowboys and he will fight for his new team the Philadelphia Eagles. Not only was this guy awarded offensive player of the year, he is known for having one of the highest records of rushing attempts in a year, “DeMarco Murray had 392 rushing attempts in 2014, a total that has been met or exceeded only eight times. In the history of the NFL, only Terrell Davis and Jamal Anderson had at least that many carries and more rushing yards than Murray.” So even though Thanksgiving may have not ended up being what the Eagles wanted, we should have no doubt that just as Murray said, the team will take the good with the bad and in the end persevere. Mark my words and watch the Eagles come back even stronger in their upcoming game against the New England Patriots this Sunday December 6th, 2015.