As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #13: Cardinals at Eagles

The Eagles bye week came and went (thank god there is only one a year) and while we could not watch our beloved Birds, there were still a plethora of games played last Sunday that had an impact on the Eagles playoff chances.

With five weeks to go in the NFL season, the NFC East race is pretty clear – basically a two-team race between the Eagles and the Cowboys  with the Giants still in the picture, albeit barely.

But if the Eagles were not to secure the NFC East title, they are still in line for a possible wild-card berth, and only a game behind the Cardinals and 49ers, who are currently tied for the 2nd wild-card spot at 7-4.  Unfortunately, the picture here gets much more muddled, with seven teams vying for only two spots.

Last week’s outcomes brought about the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly.  The good (losses by both the Lions and the Bears), the bad (wins by the Panthers, Cardinals, Niners, and most importantly, the Cowboys), and the ugly being a 26-26 tie between the Packers and the Vikings.  And as we all know, a tie in football is the equivalent of kissing your sister (no offense Neelj).

This week brings us the four F’s (feast, family, friends, and football) which are always a staple of Thanksgiving, and with it, the annual trifecta of Thanksgiving NFL games, which not only help to keep us entertained at grandma’s, but also keeps us aloof from partaking in more “serious” discussions like the Obamacare health exchanges, Black Friday sales, and Uncle Louie’s new hairpiece.

And while none of the Thanksgiving day games could be classified as marquee matchups, two of the three (Packers at Lions, Raiders at Cowboys) will have an impact on the Eagles playoff picture, while the night game features the Steelers at the Ravens in the “Mediocre Bowl”, sponsored by the 1) turkey leftovers in your refrigerator and 2) La-Z-Boy recliners.

To get you set for Thanksgiving and for Week #13 of the NFL season, below is a “cheat sheet” of who Eagles fans need to root for this weekend. Feel free to print out and place on the living room center table right next to the Macy’s and Best Buy holiday circulars…

Lions over the Packers (why you ask? Lions have an inside track to their division while the Packers could be battling the Birds for a wild-card spot)

Raiders over Cowboys (DUH!)

Bucs over the Panthers

Vikings over the Bears

Rams over the Niners

Redskins over the Giants

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week (all times in EST and on Sunday unless otherwise noted):

Cardinals at Eagles  1:00 PM  FOX  – The Eagles are a marquee matchup for the first time since October 2012, and face what could be their toughest test of the remaining five games against a Cardinals team that has won four straight and could present a major headache for the Birds defense with wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald & Michael Floyd, coupled with the improved play of quarterback Carson Palmer, who will be making his first ever visit to play the Eagles in Philadelphia.

I’d like to say that the Eagles will prevail over the Cardinals simply because eagles are “large, powerfully built birds of prey” (at least that’s what Wikipedia says) while a Cardinal keeps trying to come through my office window being too dumb to realize that there is glass there.

But unfortunately, this is a very tough game to predict.  While the Eagles defense will be tested, there is also the factor of teams from the West Coast not winning very often in games played at 1 PM on the East Coast.  In that respect, it was a good thing that this game did not get “flexed” to Sunday night football.

In addition, the Cards are generally a dome team, and will be playing outdoors in the elements of temperatures in the high 40’s.  For that reason, I see the Birds winning 30-24, and extending their winning streak to four games.  A win will also give the Eagles the tie-breaker should these two teams end up tied at the end of the season for a playoff spot.

Broncos at Chiefs  4:25 PM  CBS – Both teams sit at 9-2 and the winner will have the inside track to home-field advantage in the AFC.

Saints at Seahawks  8:40 PM  ESPN – Much like the Broncos-Chiefs, this game will go a long way to determining the #1 seed in the NFC.

The Last Word – Rumor has it that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro will be spending Thanksgiving Day visiting 1) 55+ communities, 2) assisted living centers and 3) nursing homes.  No, he won’t be there to visit family or friends, but to look for potential free agents to sign for the 2014 Phillies season.  Perhaps 86-year old Oscar in the long-term care center could challenge John Mayberry Jr. for an outfield spot?


As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #12: Eagles Bye Week

In a game that followed a similar trend to their first meeting of the season, the Eagles jumped out to a big lead and then held on in the 4th quarter, as the Redskins tried to come back from a 24-point deficit, only to fall short with less than a minute left, 24-16.

At the start of the 4th quarter, Birds fans, having sung their team’s fight song three times during the game (to match their three touchdowns), were content with the knowledge that the Eagles would finally break their 10-game losing streak at home with a convincing win that would be over long before the final gun sounded.  And then, just like that, the Redskins, fresh off two unanswered touchdowns, were  driving for the tying score with the faithful suddenly on pins and needles with Washington at the Eagles 18-yd line with less than a minute left.

But this time, heartbreak and an 11th straight loss at home would be avoided thanks to Brandon Boykin’s interception in the end zone, made possible by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox’s pressure on Robert Griffin, forcing him into a feeble attempt to throw the ball away.

With the victory, the Eagles find themselves at 6-5 and in the lead in the NFC East heading into their bye week.  And for the 1st time in three years, they will head into the final month of the season with the knowledge that they will be playing meaningful games in the month of December.

Sure, we all know that the Eagles lead what is a weak field in the NFC East and haven’t beaten anyone that would be considered a quality team.  And even if they earn a division championship and a possible 1st round playoff victory, the Birds will probably become roadkill  for the Seahawks or the Saints at some point.  But after the last two years of mediocre to just plain awful football, does it really matter?

Making the playoffs in Chip Kelly’s first year, even if it does result in a 2nd round exit, would surpass the expectations of most.  And fans would be content going into the offseason that they have a team on the “up and up”, a legitimate NFL coach who has made great strides in his first year, and a smart and accurate quarterback in the humble Nick Foles.  It also doesn’t hurt that the defense is actually looking better than we thought they were.

This week is the Eagles bye week, which also happens to be the last week for byes in the NFL season.  And with only two marquee matchups on the docket this weekend, and none in the early games, this Sunday is a fruitful one for picking up that Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings (or heading out in the woods for some turkey hunting if you’re the rugged outdoorsy type).  And while the Cowboys-Giants matchup is not a marquee game in my opinion, there should be no doubt that those of us that are Eagles fans need to root for the G-Men to defeat the Cowgirls.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week (all times in EST and on Sunday unless otherwise noted):

Colts at Cardinals  4:05 PM CBS – The surprising Cardinals are 6-4 and playing well under former Colts assistant coach (and former Temple coach) Bruce Arians.

Broncos at Patriots  8:30 PM NBC – Manning vs. Brady again….’nuff said.

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #11: Redskins at Eagles

The Nick Foles “magic carpet ride” continued last Sunday, and while Foles did not match his record breaking performance from the previous week, he still went 12 for 18 on the day and threw three touchdown passes, as the Birds defeated the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers, 27-13.

On the season, Foles now has 16 touchdowns without an interception, which is tied for 2nd in NFL history when it comes to touchdowns thrown to start a season without throwing an interception (some guy named Milt Plum did it back in 1960) and only four behind Peyton Manning’s record of 20, accomplished last season.

But while Foles’ numbers have been eye-popping, Eagles fans still have their doubts as to whether he is the answer and the future at quarterback.  It’s almost as if we are waiting for the day when he comes crashing back to earth and has a serious of awful games similar to the Cowboys game at home.

Why is it that in “Foles we do NOT trust”?  Here are my five theories:

1. Michael Vick dazzled us for 11 games in 2010 until he came back down to earth for good.

2.  Donovan McNabb, while the best quarterback in modern Eagles history, generally fell short in conference championships and his one Super Bowl appearance.

3.  Bobby Hoying had three gangbuster games to start his NFL career in 1997 before he became just an “average Joe” and disappeared into the crowd of working stiffs.

4.  Randall Cunningham was a human highlight reel, but looked like Clark Kent in the playoffs, going 1-4 during his time with the Eagles.

5. Ron Jaworski, while a solid NFL quarterback with the Birds, chose Super Bowl XV against the Raiders to have one of his worst games, much to the delight of Raiders linebacker Rod Martin.

The quarterback in Philadelphia is like the woman whom you get a great vibe from when you’re being aloof.  But start showing interest in her and boom…you’ve got no shot.

So perhaps that’s it…perhaps, as Eagles fans, we find it hard to trust, to BELIEVE, that maybe, just maybe, Nick Foles is not just another quarterback riding the magic chariot before the stroke of midnight arrives, and he turns into a pumpkin (a.k.a clipboard holding backup).

Perhaps the thought of having a mid to late round draft pick who becomes the next Russell Wilson or even the next (gulp) Tom Brady is something that we feel is never meant to happen in Philadelphia?  Perhaps it’s our recent sports history that creates a lack of confidence in our teams?

We are usually the ones that give up on talent in error or can’t seem to get the lucky lottery pick.  There’s Nic Vucevic’s success with the Orlando Magic, the inability of the Flyers to draft Patrick Kane, or giving up on young players such as JVR, Jeff Carter or Mike Richards (in hindsight too early).  Surely, if anyone can screw it up, it’s our “four for four”( to borrow an Anthony Gargano phrase) sports teams right??

If only the Eagles had chosen to go 4-12 in 2011 instead of 2012, maybe we would have acquired Andrew Luck or RG3.  And if only the Phillies had never traded a guy named Ryne Sandberg…

Being sandwiched between New York and DC, we as Philadelphians already have an inferiority complex.  But add to that only one championship in a span of thirty years, while the New Englanders and their clam “chowda” have celebrated eight just in this decade doesn’t help matters any.

But maybe this time will be different.  Just as the curse of Billy Penn was broken in 2008 because of a six-week magic carpet ride by the Fightin’ Phils, perhaps Nick Foles will turn out to be a real “franchise” quarterback, and not just a quarterback who advertises for a franchise on Broad Street but can’t bring a parade down it.

But first things first, there is still the matter of the “elephant in the room” known as the Eagles losing streak at home, which must be overcome.

The Redskins come into Lincoln Financial Field this weekend at 3-6, which was exactly their record last year at this point before they ran off seven straight victories and won the NFC East (ironically, they started that streak by beating the Eagles at home).  Robert Griffin (RG3) is healthier than he was in the Monday night opener, but the Eagles defense is also an improved bunch from that first game as well.

If the Eagles are to make a run at the NFC East, the home losing streak has to end this week.   And it will – Birds finally prevail at home, 27-20, and Eagles chants once again prevail on the Broad Street line heading home…

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week (all times in EST and on Sunday unless otherwise noted):

Niners at Saints  4:25 PM FOX – The Niners laid an egg last week at home against the upstart Carolina Panthers and must now travel to the Big Easy, where this game will be anything but.  The good news?   Po-Boy sandwiches and Hurricanes to wash them down are in walking distance…

Chiefs at Broncos  8:30 PM NBC – “Whoa Nelly…this one’s gonna be a dandy” (as former ABC college football announcer Keith Jackson used to say) as this game features two teams with a combined record of 17-1.  But while the Chiefs, at 9-0, are the only remaining undefeated team left, truth is, they haven’t beaten a single team with a winning record.   This game will be a good benchmark for “Big Red” and his squad, not only because of the quality of the opponent, but because of 80,000 screaming Broncos fans in the light air of Mile High.

Patriots at Panthers  8:40 PM  ESPN – What looked like a “dud” a few weeks back is now a Monday night marquee matchup, featuring the Panthers defense against a potent Patriots offense.  Anyone know the over/under on compliments that Jon Gruden will throw out to both teams?

The Last Word – They needed to go shopping for a monster at the plate and a cheetah on the basepaths.  Instead, the Phils brought home an aging Byrd???


As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #10: Eagles at Packers

If legendary broadcaster and NFL films narrator John Facenda was still alive,  he would probably describe the Oakland Raiders situation (with horns blazing in the background) as ” a team that was once a team for the decades now meanders through a desolate wasteland, unable to achieve success both to the detriment of the organization and its loyal fans”.

The Raiders did look like a team on the rise sitting at 3-4 before last Sunday’s game, but Nick Foles and the Birds had a day for the ages, as Foles threw seven touchdown passes en-route to a blowout 49-20 win over the silver and black.

Part of the success of the offense was due to Foles’ accuracy, with the other part attributable to some questionable defensive schemes being employed by the Raiders defense.  But whatever the reason, the result is that the Eagles find themselves at 4-5 and still on the Cowboys coattails for the NFC East lead.

After spending a few days in the Bay Area last weekend, and more specifically, at the Oakland Coliseum for last Sunday’s game, two items of note stuck out about Raiders fans:

1)  Their not as bad as we thought they were.  I attended the Green Legion pre-game tailgate and the game with some initial reservations about donning the midnight or kelly green for fear that some random Raiders fan wearing a Darth Vader costume would come out of the Black Hole section of the Coliseum and slash us all to nothingness with a lightsaber that actually worked like in the movies.   But while walking through the stadium concourse or the parking lot, neither an obscenity, a food item, or any dangerous objects were ever hurled at us.

2) Raiders fans are a lot like Eagles fans.  They come out to support their team, which has unfortunately fallen on hard times, and respect Eagles fans because they travel and come out to show their support, unlike many of their AFC West counterparts ( Chargers, Chiefs, Broncos) who, as one hardcore Raiders fan told me, were patsies because they came to the stadium without wearing their team colors (he actually used another word that starts with “P” but hey, I’m trying to keep this blog to a PG rating).

This week, the Birds move from the wine to the cheese portion of their schedule, when they face the Packers this Sunday up in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  And while the cheeseheads will be in full force at iconic Lambeau Field, this game may have shifted to a “softer” portion of the Eagles schedule when the Packers head cheese,  QB Aaron Rodgers, suffered a collarbone injury that will sideline him for at least a few weeks.

And while backup Seneca Wallace is no Rodgers, the Eagles could be in danger of becoming too complacent in thinking this will be an easy win.  To diffuse that theory, one just needs to refer back to 2o10 and the name “Joe Webb”.

Webb, as you may recall, was the Vikings backup QB when the Birds faced the Vikings at home in late 2010 in a game that the Eagles were supposed to win handily.  Instead, the Eagles came out flat, losing to Webb and the Vikings in a game that eventually cost them a 1st round bye in the playoffs (they went on to lose that 1st round playoff game at home to the Packers, who became the eventual Super Bowl champions).

The Birds will win this Sunday, 24-13, though it won’t be as easy as we would like it to be.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week (all times in EST and on Sunday unless otherwise noted):

Lions at Bears  1:00 PM – The Bears, after defeating the Pack last week, look to take control of the NFC North but the Lions will have other plans and will come out victorious.

Panthers at Niners 4 :05 PM –  The Panthers are  winners of four straight but face a tough test on the road this week as their winning streak will come to an end.  The conductor on the San Francisco cable car told me that she was going to “kaepernick” me when she found out that I was an Eagles fan.  And I thought the Niners fans only got upset when there wasn’t any sushi at the tailgate.

Cowboys at Saints  8:30 PM – In a game that Eagles fans will surely be watching, the ‘Boys and Saints battle in the Dome in a Sundayyyyy night football affair.  No way the Saints lose at home  after losing to the Jets last week.   The Birds and the Cowgirls will be tied for the NFC East lead by the stroke of midnight Sunday night.

The Last Word – For all of their coaching changes and line changes, the Flyers still can’t score.  Perhaps someone in the organization just needs to accept that they’re really not that good.

A wise person once said that “patience is a virtue”, but the Flyers lack of patience when it came to their former young players is what has gotten them in this predicament….one that will take time to correct.