As Broad & Pattison Turns 2015 Week #7: Eagles at Panthers

Through six weeks, the 2015 version of the Philadelphia Eagles can best be described as the equivalent of a bad internet dating experience.

When we first saw Sam Bradford’s “profile pictures” (his initial play in the preseason), there was reason for optimism, but after the third preseason game against Green Bay, expectations of him became heightened and we became enamored with how much of a “perfect fit” he looked to be in this offense.

Unfortunately, once the preseason ended and we saw the “real deal” (Bradford’s play in the regular season), it turns out that all those profile pictures were actually professionally done pictures…pictures that Sam looks nothing like in real life.

Naturally, we shouldn’t expect perfection, nor anything close to it, but Bradford just doesn’t look to be “compatible” in this offense, an observation that surfaced once again last Monday night when the Eagles managed to defeat the Giants in spite of the play of their quarterback.

‘Tis a rarity when your team wins by 20 points over a division opponent and the fans exit the stadium feeling more perturbed than excited, but that’s precisely the feeling that Birds fans had after Monday’s night shellacking of the Giants. Such a wide margin of victory was due to the defense, which was considered a huge question mark before the season began, but has started to jell quite well under defensive coordinator Billy Davis.

Unfortunately, the offense, which was considered to be a strong point of the team in the preseason, has been wholly ineffective at times, and inconsistent at best, mostly due to the play of their quarterback.

On the plus side, the offensive line has started to play better and open more holes for the running game, but Bradford’s three interceptions all but negated any positive vibes the offense was starting to generate.  The general consensus of the fans seems to be that if we had played an opponent like a Green Bay or New England, both teams that the Eagles hoped to emulate before the season began, we would have been the ones to be blown out by 20 or more points.

As the warmth of summer has turned to the chill of fall, the excuse that the quarterback is just “rusty” or is still getting acclimated to this offense will hold less and less water as each week goes by.  It could turn out to be that Bradford is just not compatible for this team.

But even after highlighting the struggles at the quarterback position, the Eagles find themselves at 3-3, which is a pretty good place to be when you were once 0-2 and 1-3.  With what seems to be a weak division and a number of games coming up against less than stellar opponents, the Birds have an opportunity to still make their season interesting by going on a winning streak.

That mission begins this Sunday night, when the Eagles head down to Charlotte to play the Carolina Panthers.  The Panthers are a surprising 5-0, but in this watered down NFL which seeks to reach the pinnacle of parity, they are definitely beatable.  The Panthers first five opponents have a combined record of 10-20 (tied for 3rd worst in the league), and even if you take out the five losses their opponents suffered to Carolina (under the guise that they lost to a superior team), their opponents record is still only 10-15, which translates to a winning percentage of only 40%.

This Panthers team is probably overconfident after a win at Seattle last week, and is definitely due for a loss. The Eagles will face them at just the right time in my opinion, and while it will be a close, low scoring game that will still be in doubt at the start of the 4th quarter, I see the Birds prevailing, 20-14.

Meanwhile, the “courtship” between the Eagles and their quarterback still seems to be in doubt for the long-term.  Only time will tell…

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

Jets at Patriots 1:00 PM CBS – Game of the Week

EAGLES at Panthers 8:30 PM NBC

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As Broad & Pattison Turns 2015 Week #6: Eagles vs. Giants

The uneasy feeling that I had while sitting at my seat during last Sunday’s Eagles-Saints game was not due to being out the night before.  No, that uneasy feeling was due to watching one Samuel Jacob Bradford, supposed savior of the Eagles football franchise, try to lead his team into the end zone.

The Eagles offense actually showed signs of life for a change in the first quarter, as Sam led the Eagles on two long drives. He then culminated those drives by throwing two bad interceptions in the end zone.

Both of Sam’s errant throws were the kind that Nick Foles usually makes, but keeping Foles around was not the answer either, as evidenced by Foles throwing four interceptions for the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

Luckily for Sam, and the rest of the offense, the Birds showed signs of life in the 2nd half and handily defeated the Saints 39-17, with yours truly leaving the game with over eight minutes left.

But while the Eagles temporarily saved their season and sit at 2-3 in the NFC “Least”, how many times can they continue to struggle in the first half?  It’s as if this offense, mentally, is in the parking lot tailgating with the faithful in the 1st quarter and recovering from a headache in the 2nd.

Sam’s two 1st half INT’s would have cost the Birds if they were actually playing against a more formidable opponent, but against the Saints, who’s best days with Drew Brees are behind them, they were able to recover and come back.

After five games, this team is still an enigma.  At times, they have shown flashes of brilliance and can move the ball at will. Other times, this offense looks like it is saddled in traffic on the Schuylkill.

Luckily, if the rule of “what goes around comes around” holds true, it might actually benefit the Eagles this season.

Last year, the Eagles won ten games but still failed to make the playoffs due to both wildcard teams having a record of 11-5.  This season, in the aforementioned “NFC Least”, this team could go 9-7 and make the playoffs as a division winner and possibly win a 1st round game at home.  But while the fans would be happy to see Chip’s first playoff victory, the expectations were much more than a “one and done” scenario.

But perhaps WIP radio’s Ike Reese had it right.  Reese commented that all of the changes the Eagles made before the season would pay off not this season, but in 2016.  Ike’s opinion was that next year, when this team has a full season of playing together, would be the year when this offense truly jells and plays to what it is capable of.

Personally, I’m fine with that if it happens.  Perhaps a winning record and a competitive team in a mediocre division is what our expectations should be for 2015.  Let Sam Bradford work out all the kinks now.  Let this offense take the whole season to realize that the game does actually START in the 1st quarter and not the 3rd.

Perhaps watered down expectations for 2015 is what we should adhere to.  And why not?  We’ve waited 55 years for a championship – what’s another year or two?

This week, the Birds face the Giants in what is a critical contest for supremacy (if you can call it that) in the NFC Least.  The Giants eked out a win against a bad 49ers team at home last week, and are a surprising 3-2 on the young season.  Injuries have hampered both teams, but being a Monday night game, both teams will want to impress under the lights.

Hopefully the Eagles offense will pass on the sausage sandwich and Miller Lite being offered by Gino in Lot K, and actually succeed in scoring some points in the 1st quarter.

Birds win 28-14, and the Eagles have at least a share of the division lead at 3-3.  Welcome to life in the NFC Least…

The Last Word:

Don’t tell anyone, but I was actually rooting for the Mets to beat the Dodgers in the NLDS.  I know, I know…being from Philadelphia I’m supposed to hate all New “Yawk” teams (and the Cowboys as well), but the Mets put together their team the way that I hope the Phillies do within the next few years….with homegrown talent.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, are trying to be the Yankees of the 90’s in my opinion – by buying their way in.

Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins were both major contributors during the Phillies 2007-2011 run, which resulted in one World Series championship and two National League pennants.  But Utley’s slide into 2nd base the other night (or better yet, lack of a slide), was a dirty play, and Rollins is stealing money, just as he did with the Phillies during his last few seasons here.

Neither Utley or Rollins deserve another championship as far as I’m concerned.  There – I said it.

As for the NLCS, I’d like to see the Cubs win if only to rid them of their postseason misery.  And on the AL side, let the Royals success continue…the Jays can wait another year or two…or twenty.

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

Bengals at Bills 1:00 PM CBS – Game of the Week

Cardinals at Steelers 1:00 PM FOX

Patriots at Colts 8:30 PM NBC

As Broad & Pattison Turns 2015 Week #5: Eagles vs. Saints

In honor of Halloween, Chip Kelly is planning to produce a horror film entitled “Nightmare on Broad & Pattison”.  And coincidentally, he has all the right characters to make it a success.

For starters, the first thing every horror movie needs is a good victim.  Enter Sam Bradford, who has already starred in Jeff Fisher’s St. Louis classic, “Assault on the Arch”, in which Bradford was the victim of season ending injuries and constant mediocre play around him.  Luckily, Sam does not have to deviate much from character in Chip’s film, since he has to deal with the constant fear of being pummeled by oncoming defensive lineman every time he drops back to pass.

Every good horror movie has some element of monsters, and in this case, the Eagles have a “3-headed Monster” in the form of Murray, Mathews, and Sproles, which is supposed to provide security and support for the beleaguered quarterback. Instead, it remains underutilized, which only intensifies the problems of this offense.

You want ghosts? The ghosts of the 2011 Dream Team linger with the way this team has started, and the nagging fear is that Byron Maxwell has been possessed by Nnamdi Asomugha, who was the Eagles 2011 prized free agent cornerback but ended up being a bust.

Ladies and gentleman, such is the state of your 2015 Philadelphia Eagles one-quarter into the season.  A season that held promise going in is turning into a house of horrors on a weekly basis.

In search of a silver lining, many will point to Chip Kelly’s first season in 2013, when the Eagles started off 1-3, but rebounded to go 9-3 the rest of the way and earn an NFC East title.  But that team was very fortunate during its 9-3 run, as their opponents included a 1) Putrid Oakland Raiders team that went 4-12, 2) A victory over the Green Bay Packers without having to face an injured Aaron Rodgers, and a 3) Win against the Cowboys on the last week of the season to win the division without having to face an injured Tony Romo (and that game was a close affair).

For me, this season is a parallel universe (in sticking with the Halloween theme) of 2012, when the Eagles started off 3-1, winning their first three games by a combined total of four points (the first time in NFL history that has ever happened).

That 2012 team was using “Just for Men” to cover its grays’ and dentures to hide the fact that it had no bite.  But once their flaws were exposed, that team quickly disintegrated, winning only one game the rest of the year en route to a 4-12 record and the eventual firing of Andy Reid after fourteen years as the Eagles head coach.

The 2015 Eagles are a polar opposite (at least record wise) of the 2012 team.  While their record is only 1-3 and they do have problems that need to be addressed, this team could have easily won three of their four games had a few things turned out differently.

Against both the Falcons and the Redskins, the Eagles offense showed up for only two quarters of football, yet both games were very close at the end. What happens if the offense plays well for even 2 1/2 quarters of football instead of just two?

In both of those losses, the Eagles kicking game let them down, missing crucial kicks which might have made the difference between a win and a loss.   Perhaps a healthy Cody Parkey gets them a 3-1 record instead of 1-3?

An inconsistent offense does not a Super Bowl team make, and this team will win nothing if this offense continues to play the way they have through four games.  But a 1-3 record when your team is getting blown out is one thing…this team, even with its deficiencies, could have been 3-1.

The silver lining is that maybe this team corrects its problems and plays a little more consistently on offense. Perhaps new kicker Caleb Sturgis redeems himself and starts to make some kicks that make the difference between victory and defeat?

Is this a possible Super bowl team like we thought before Labor Day?  Absolutely not – but beggars can’t be choosers. Let’s choose to hope for a competitive team that will give us a reason to watch every Sunday.

The Eagles face a crossroads of sorts when they face the Saints at home this Sunday.  This team has rebounded from a 1-3 start in the past to make it to the playoffs, just as they did two years back.  But they have NEVER started the season 1-4 and made the postseason,  a fact that makes this game even more crucial.

Regardless of the outcome, the Eagles offense, more so this Sunday than any other time this season, REALLY needs to get off to a fast start.  If this team can, at the very least, put a field goal on the board on its opening drive, it would give the fans some hope that this offense can actually move the ball BEFORE the halftime pomp and circumstance takes place (a field goal would also give their kicker a much needed boost of confidence).

But start the game with another “three-and-out” and the “wolves” from the stands will understandably be howling with anger, tired of the horror show about to be played out before them once again.

If the Eagles can pull out a win against what is a bad Saints team, there will still be an interest in watching the sequel of the 2015 season.  But lose, and the 2015 season becomes just another bad horror film…

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

Patriots at Cowboys 4:25 PM CBS – Game of the Week

Rams at Packers 1:00 PM CBS

Steelers at Chargers 8:30 PM ESPN

As Broad & Pattison Turns 2015 Week #4: Eagles at Redskins

Luckily, the “Eagles apocalypse” that some had predicted for last Sunday did not take place.

Luckily, the only mass that took place was of the papal variety, and not a mass exodus of Birds fans jumping off the bandwagon.

The Eagles came out and gave their fans some inspiration in the 1st half, as they jumped out to a 24-0 lead, which included a highlight reel punt return touchdown by Darren Sproles.  The running game, which was moribund for all sixty minutes of the Dallas game, came to life as well, as the line went back to basics and tried to plow over defenders instead of running stunts that always seemed to leave an open Cowboys defender.

But the offense seemed to go to sleep in the 2nd half, unable to score any points while the Jets came back to make a game of it at 24-17.  And while that fortunately became the final score, it did nothing to give Birds fans confidence that this offense can become what it was intended to be.

But much like a baby who must crawl before he/she can walk, perhaps this team, and its quarterback, must take baby steps in the early going as they adapt to all of the new players who somehow have to fit and adapt to Chip Kelly’s offense.

After four games, we’ve seen exactly four quarters of good football from this offense, which does not make for a good average if you’re keeping stats at home.

Sometimes it’s the play of the line that does not give the running backs holes to run or the quarterback time to pass.  Other times, with time to throw, it’s the wide receivers who are not getting open, which is not a surprise when you consider that the veteran of their top three receivers is Jordan Matthews, who is only in his 2nd year.

But the most disconcerting thing is when the receivers are open but Sam Bradford seems to make a throw that gives them no chance for a catch.

The line and the receivers can improve with time, and the hope is that Bradford will shake off his rust from lack of playing time due to injury the last few years and join them.  But that’s the magic question – is the quarterback just rusty or just not very good?

If it is the latter, then the question of whether Chip the GM is as competent as Chip the coach will be asked time and time again.  If Bradford is not all that he is advertised to be, the Eagles can release him after this year and move on.  But then what?

Nick Foles, while a capable NFL quarterback, is not in the top tier of a Tom Brady or an Aaron Rodgers, which is why the Eagles traded for Sam Bradford in the first place.  But if the Bradford experiment does not work, who can fill that role?  A team has to be either really bad, and be lucky enough to be really bad in a year where there is a stud quarterback in the draft, or you have to take your chance on an injured quarterback who can fill that role when healthy (much like the Saints did with Drew Brees some ten years ago).

The next four games should give us the answer on the QB position.  Half a season in, and the “rust” card is no longer an option.  Let us hope that this offence can put it together with time.

As for this week, while Hurricane Joaquin is no longer in the weather picture for Sunday’s game, “Hurricane Mathews” (as in Eagles running back Ryan Matthews) may pose some problems for the Redskins defense.  Look for Mathews, as opposed to DeMarco Murray, getting the bulk of the carries as the Eagles keep it simple and win, 24-14.

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

Texans at Falcons 1:00 PM CBS – Game of the Week

Jets vs. Dolphins 9:30 AM CBS (in London)

Packers at 49ers 4:25 PM FOX

Vikings at Broncos 4:25 PM FOX