As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #17: Eagles at Giants

There are certain omens that occur during a football game, mostly involving the placekicker, that provide an accurate reading of whether it is going to be your team’s day or not.

When the kicker “doinks” a field goal off the uprights, but it still manages to go through, it’s a safe bet that it’s your team’s day to win.   Conversely, when that “doink” results in preventing that kick from going through, it’s likely a bad omen of things to come.

Another bad omen is when your kicker, who has been reliable for the whole season, not only misses two field goals in the game but misses one from a very makable 36 yards out, which is precisely what happened last week to Cody Parkey.

Even after the Eagles managed to claw their way back to tie the game, had the ball with 2:36 remaining, and managed to drive from their own 15 to the Redskins 48-yard line, I couldn’t help but think back to those two missed field goals and the gnawing thought that this was not to be the Eagles day.  And then it happened…

Mark Sanchez, who hasn’t done much to prove to any future employer that he’s worthy of being a starting quarterback in this league, dropped back and, under a blitz, threw an ill-advised, off the mark pass that was intercepted by Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland.

The interception didn’t guarantee the Redskins anything, as they were only at the 50, but any hope of stopping Washington ended for the Birds on the next play, when Pierre Garcon caught a pass and faked out Cary “toast” Williams, going 23 yards to the Eagles 35.  Add 15 yards for a Vinny Curry roughing-the-passer penalty and that was the game.  The Redskins at the Eagles 20 and, much like last year’s playoff game against the Saints, only needing to run down the clock and hit a chip shot field goal to win it, thereby putting a dagger in Chip Kelly’s sophomore season and leading to more questions than answers about which direction this team is going.

What’s remaining after all the carcass has been removed from what was a 9-3 record and a division lead is the Eagles first meaningless game in two seasons.  And while I’m okay with playing the starters, one would have hoped that Matt Barkley would have gotten the chance to start at quarterback, if only to see what he could do in a regular season game that won’t make a difference…win or lose.

Chip Kelly, in his weekly news conference, scoffed at that idea, stating that all of his starters, including Mark Sanchez, will start the final game.  Perhaps Chip thinks that he’s still coaching in college and that ten wins instead of nine will help the team receive an invite to a better named, but still meaningless, bowl game.  Perhaps Chip thinks he’s going on a recruiting trip where he can boast that his team had double-digit wins two years in a row, making it more likely that he can snag a blue-“chip” recruit (no pun intended).

Unfortunately, Chip now has all the constraints of the NFL draft when it comes to acquiring “prospects”, and nine wins instead of ten would help that cause.  However, four straight losses would leave a bad taste in the mouth of the players and extend their losing streak into next year, something the current players would probably like to extinguish before catching the next plane out of town and exiting what will surely be the “City of Sports Discontent” for possibly the next eight months and even longer.

No, the Eagles need a win if for nothing else than their psyche, but facing a Giants team that has won three straight, there is no guarantee they will get it.  I’m actually neutral either way…a win would look better, but so would a better draft pick.

Unfortunately, I think Sanchez continues his mediocre play, the Eagles continue to turn the ball over, and the secondary continues to give up big plays.  Eagles lose 30-17 and end one of the most disappointing seasons in recent history.

Amit’s Top 5 Power Rankings:

1. Patriots (2)

2. Seahawks (3)

3. Broncos (1)

4. Cardinals (4)

5. Cowboys (new)

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

Chargers at Chiefs 1:00 PM CBS

Lions at Packers 4:25 PM FOX

Bengals at Steelers 8:30 PM NBC – Game of the Week

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As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #16: Eagles at Redskins

After the Eagles pummeled the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day to commence the tough 3-game stretch that would supposedly define their season, many Eagles fans were having visions of a Super Bowl appearance dancing in their heads.

But after back-to-back losses against the Seahawks and Cowboys (two teams that are vying with the Birds for a playoff spot and preferable seeding), Eagles fans could find themselves with only a stack of coal in their football stocking come Christmas morning.

Last Sunday, they were repeatedly fed a stack of “Dez”, as in Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, who ran roughshot down the field multiple times and basically treated Birds cornerback Bradley Fletcher as if he was a harmless ragdoll standing in his way.

Dallas made up for its lopsided loss at the hands of the Birds down in Dallas and let it be known that if they are to partake in another December swoon, it would not be occurring this easily or quickly.  Unlike the Eagles win down in Dallas, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo looked healthier, had ten days to prepare as opposed to three, and showed that given time, he can tear up the Eagles secondary, which is the major component that will likely keep the Birds from obtaining any kind of elite status this season.

And of course, there is the matter of the quarterback situation, which neither the ghosts of Christmas present or Christmas future really seem to have an answer for.

While Mark Sanchez’s mobility adds another element to the passing game (an element that Nick Foles does not possess), both quarterbacks were turning the ball over more than needed to win in this league.  But to Nick’s credit, when he wasn’t turning the ball over once or twice a game, he was actually making accurate throws, a trait that Sanchez displayed in his first few starts but has now been lost over the last few weeks.

The Eagles didn’t lose last Sunday because the Cowboys possess a great defense and there was nowhere to throw.  On many occasions, Sanchez had receivers open throughout the game and simply was off target or just didn’t see them.  More and more, it is becoming evident that his tenure with the Eagles will be a short one, as he is not the kind of player who can consistently play to a high level week after week.  When Sanchez’s playing career does eventually come to an end though, he could probably become a public relations “guru” for any NFL team, as he handles the media like an all-pro quarterback should.  If only he could play like one too…

This week, the Birds get somewhat of a respite, as after facing the Cowboys-Seahawks-Cowboys over the last three weeks, they now face the lowly Washington Redskins, who seem to display more gridlock and turmoil than their capital counterparts over in the halls of Congress.  If you think our quarterback situation is uncertain for the future, the Redskins drafted two young quarterbacks in 2012 (Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins) with the 2nd and the 102nd overall pick, respectively, and neither of them seem to be primed to hold the job for the long term.  The Redskins also acquired Colt McCoy, who was a 3rd round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2010, but he isn’t the answer either.

At this point, the ‘Skins are probably looking just to finish off their season and make plans for New Years Eve in a few weeks, so this game SHOULD be an easy one, as long as the Eagles aren’t thinking about last minute Christmas shopping deals while running around on the field.

With last week’s loss, the Eagles find themselves no longer in control of their destiny, and will need help from other teams if they are to be invited to the NFL’s playoff party which begins Jan. 3rd.  So without further ado, here are the various playoff possibilities for the team (have your abacus and calculus calculator ready):

1) Birds need to win one more game than the Cowboys the rest of the regular season.  Problem is, there are only two games remaining.  Should that happen (which could occur this week with Dallas facing the Colts), the Eagles would still win their division and host a 1st round playoff game.  This is the easiest and best case scenario.

2) If the Eagles don’t win their division, they can still get in as a wildcard team, but would need to win both of their remaining games against the ‘Skins and Giants, while one of the following three teams (Seahawks, Packers, Lions) need to lose BOTH of their last two games.

Which of these is the most likely?  The Lions and Packers face each other in the last game of the season in Green Bay, so one of them will definitely have one loss (barring a tie).  The Lions face the Bears, who will be starting Jimmy Clausen instead of Jay Cutler, on the road this Sunday, while the Packers will be facing Tampa on the road and looking to rebound after last week’s loss to the Bills.

Assuming the Packers beat the Lions in their last game of the season, we should be rooting heavily for the Bears this Sunday, but they are about as done as the Redskins, and probably have a better chance with Jimmy Dean at quarterback.

The Seahawks face the Cardinals on the road this week, but even if they lose that game to a backup quarterback, they end the season at home against the Rams, a probable win.  All said, the wildcard is a long shot, but then again, stranger things have happened before (for reference, see Eagles entrance to the playoffs in 2008).

Birds win this Saturday, 35-14, and then we sit back on Sunday and become Bears, Buccaneers, Cardinals, and most importantly, Colts fans…

Amit’s Top 5 Power Rankings:

1. Broncos (1)

2. Patriots (2)

3. Seahawks (4)

4. Cardinals (3)

5. Packers (5)

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

Chiefs at Steelers 1:00 PM CBS

Colts at Cowboys 4:25 PM CBS

Seahawks at Cardinals 8:30 PM NBC – Game of the Week

Broncos at Bengals 8:30 PM ESPN

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #15: Eagles vs. Cowboys

The holiday season is now in full effect, and with it, all of the various Christmas specials have started to air on television, the first of which took place last Sunday at the Linc.

Unfortunately for Eagles fans, it was appropriately titled “The Grinch that Stole a Playoff Bye”, starring Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.  Wilson, playing the role of the Grinch, ducked and weaved his way around all night, maneuvering his way around Eagle defenders before finding an open receiver or running for a first down.   And while the Birds D-line did an admirable job of keeping him in check at times, doing so for long stretches is quite difficult against a talent like Wilson, especially when the Eagles offense just couldn’t do enough to stay on the field and maintain any sustained drives.

Another item of note that became painfully clear is that the Eagles situation at quarterback is still a murky one almost two years into the Chip Kelly era.  While Mark Sanchez might be fine as a stopgap or backup, he is not much more than just another one of the reindeers and not the “marquee” reindeer (like Rudolph) that the Eagles are still looking for.

While Chip’s offense can be high octane at times, Sanchez has the ability to play great like he did against Dallas a couple weeks back or just be plain mediocre as he was against a tough defense like Seattle’s.

Sunday’s loss also displayed the unfortunate truth that while this team is trending upward quicker than anyone thought they would after Andy Reid left, they are still not “ready for primetime” and struggle when they face an elite team.

But even with last week’s loss, the Birds remain in control of their destiny for a division title, and a win at home against the Cowboys this Sunday night will be the catalyst to win their 2nd straight division title.   And while a bye is still possible, last week’s loss only means that more help is needed from other teams to jump into that 2nd seed which affords a week off and a 2nd round playoff game at home.

While many in the Delaware Valley were hoping that the Cowboys would began their December swoon once the calendar changed months, Dallas rebounded nicely from a defeat to the Birds on Thanksgiving to take their frustrations out on the lowly Bears on the road in a game that wasn’t even as close as the score indicated.

Dallas will be looking to exact revenge for the beating they suffered at the hands of their division rival, and a repeat of that game is not likely.  However, the Eagles are still more talented on offense than the Cowboys defense can probably handle, and the Birds should do just enough to get Tony Romo hearing footsteps from the likes of Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Cedric Thornton, and the Broad Street line’s most famous Monthly “Trailpass” holder, Connor Barwin.

While it won’t be as easy as last time, Birds win 30-20, and get a step closer to the playoffs with the football nation looking on on Sundayyyyyy Night Football…..

The Last Word:

The Phillies must have been seriously wheeling and dealing at the baseball winter meetings, as they just traded longtime shortstop Jimmy Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  And while it is still officially unclear as to what we are getting back, my sources tell me it is ten giant inflated beach balls.

While that might seem like an unfair trade for a player who still has a higher than average defensive prowess, if you’ve ever been to Dodger Stadium, you know those beach balls are a highly desired commodity.

I speak from experience – wear your Phillies gear to “Chavez Ravine” (where Dodger stadium is located) and you will be perfectly fine.  But take the air out of one of the beach balls being thrown around at the game and you will be treated like a Cowboys fan sitting in the 700 level at the Vet.

The Phillies didn’t stop there, continuing their clearance sale (or “cleaning house” sale depending on how you look at it) by sending lefthanded reliever Antonio Bastardo to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a box of used “Terrible Towels” from the Pirates NFL counterpart, the Steelers.

Phils GM Ruben Amaro had initially asked for a box of NEW Terrible Towels in order to help the team stay below their “self-imposed” spring training salary cap for towels, but the Pirates determined that that was just too high of an asking price for Bastardo.  They did, however, throw in a sandwich from Pittsburgh’s famous “Primanti Brothers” as a gesture of good faith.

Rumor has it that it was a grilled, and overcooked, Reuben…

Amit’s Top 5 Power Rankings:

1. Broncos (1)

2. Patriots (2)

3. Cardinals (3)

4. Seahawks (5)

5. Packers (4)

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

Dolphins at Patriots 1:00 PM CBS

Texans at Colts 1:00 PM CBS

Bengals at Browns 1:00 PM FOX

Packers at Bills 1:00 PM FOX

Broncos at Chargers 4:05 PM CBS – Game of the Week

49ers at Seahawks 4:25 PM FOX

Cowboys at Eagles 8:30 PM NBC

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #14: Eagles vs. Seahawks

After this past Thanksgiving, I am all in favor of one rule change for the NFL – have the Eagles and Cowboys face off EVERY Thanksgiving.

Sure, the desired result may not always be as favorable as it was this year, which could result in the carcass of a turkey being thrown at your cousin Lou, who happens to be a Cowboys fan even though neither he nor his immediate family members ever lived in or around Texas (one can only presume that such “misguided” thinking must be attributable to lack of “family values”).

But watching the Eagles “cook” the Cowboys only made the turkey taste that much better.  Watching the Cowboys on the sidelines gasping for breath with Chip Kelly’s high octane offense at full steam during their first two drives only made the pumpkin pie taste that much sweeter.

The Eagles got off to a quick 14-0 lead and never looked back, and their defense surprisingly played very well, putting constant pressure on Tony Romo.  But while I am not usually a “Debbie Downer” type, the lack of effectiveness in the red zone is a cause for concern.

During Mark Sanchez’s first few weeks as the Eagles quarterback, the Eagles were 7 for 7 in the red zone, but against Dallas last Thursday, the Birds could only manage to go 1 for 5 in the red zone, and while that did not come back to haunt them against the Cowboys, it is something that will need much improvement if the Eagles are to go far in the playoffs.

On the season, the team is ranked 29th in converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns, with a success rate of less than 44%.  The good news is that while Seattle has one of the best defenses in the league, they are somehow one of the worst when it comes to allowing their opponents to score touchdowns in the red zone (64.5%).  So something has to give.

Now that we find ourselves in December, another factor that could come into play is the weather.  And while skies should be clear, the winds could be whipping, which could have an effect on the kicking game.

While I still have the Seahawks ranked higher than the Eagles due to their tougher schedule and more quality wins, the homefield advantage will aid the Birds this week, as they go to 10-3 on the season, winning 27-14.

The Last Word:

If you were to walk into the Phillies corporate offices these days, you will most likely find David Bowie’s “Changes” playing over the intercom.

– Cole Hamels is likely to be traded (along with a pound cake from Stock’s Bakery) for a package of prospects from most likely either the Dodgers or Red Sox.

–  A “deeply discounted” Ryan Howard will be available for less than that 60-inch television on December 26th.

– Rumor has it that Jonathan Papelbon was offered as a charitable donation to the 1) Salvation Army, 2) Goodwill and 3) Purple Heart, but they all politely declined.

If anything, changes with the Phillies are long overdo.  Longtime part owner John Middleton desires to be the majority owner, and will become so in time.  Middleton, who made billions in the cigar business, will put the right people in place and light a fire under them (no pun intended) to turn the Phillies back into a winner, something that never seemed to be a priority with David Montgomery as president.

While the Phillies will probably not become winners for at least a few years, just watching new and young players will be a welcome change from the old and standard “over the hill” gang, which the team trotted out over the last few years.

Ch-ch-changes….turn and face the strange….

Amit’s Top 5 Power Rankings:

1. Broncos (2)

2. Patriots (3)

3. Cardinals (1)

4. Packers (5)

5. Seahawks (new)

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

Steelers at Bengals 1:00 PM CBS

Ravens at Dolphins 1:00 PM CBS

Colts at Browns 1:00 PM FOX

Bills at Broncos 4:05 PM CBS

Chiefs at Cardinals 4:05 PM – Game of the Week

Seahawks at Eagles 4:25 PM

Patriots at Chargers 8:30 PM