2016 Week #12: Packers at Eagles

“They are who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook!”

Such were the words of a disgruntled Dennis Green, then coach of the Arizona Cardinals, after a 2006 loss to the Chicago Bears in which his team led by 20 points.

And while Green’s tirade became one of the most well known postgame outbursts in NFL history, the same phrase he made so famous could also be used in explaining the Eagles loss to the Seahawks last Sunday.

The Birds knew going into the game that they would need to play mistake free football to beat a dominant Seattle team at home.  But knowing and doing are two distinctly different things, and there were two plays that took place in the 2nd quarter that turned the tide in Seattle’s favor.

With the Eagles leading 7-6 and the Seahawks faced with a 3rd & 16, defensive lineman  Brandon Graham was called for offsides on a play which resulted in an incomplete pass.   His offsides was totally unrelated to the play and would have resulted in Seattle having to try a long field goal or punt.  Instead, on the very next play, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, while scrambling to avoid being sacked, hit tight end Jimmy Graham  on what turned into a 35-yard touchdown to give the Seahawks a 13-7 lead.

On the Eagles next drive, the offense responded with a Carson Wentz to Zach Ertz 57-yard catch and run touchdown pass (and miraculously, Ertz never fell down while running with the football) which should have tied up the game.  Instead, wide receiver Nelson Agholor (or more appropriately, “Awful-or”) was flagged for an illegal formation penalty, nullifying the touchdown.  Once again, his penalty, like Brandon Graham’s before him, had nothing to do with the play itself, but those two plays in the span of three minutes turned a close game into a 14-point swing for the Seahawks, and the game was basically won right there.

If one did not watch the game and only saw the final score (a 26-15 Seahawks victory), they may have had the impression that the Eagles hung in till the end. But that was not the case at all…the Birds were manhandled after those two plays, and with ten minutes left in regulation, ending the misery to watch Bruno Mars on 60 Minutes seemed like a much better alternative.

But in keeping this Eagles season in perspective, and especially considering the holiday we are celebrating this week, we should be thankful that the Birds are 5-5, in a season in which not much was expected.

While Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz looked lost at times and played his worst game of the year, he will have days like that as a rookie, especially against a foe like Seattle.  Personally, I am thankful to not have to see Mark Sanchez playing quarterback in midnight green again.

So what are the Eagles playoff chances with six games left in the regular season?  Here is everything you need to know about the playoff picture as it stands right now (but were afraid to ask):

The Dallas Cowboys sit at 9-1 and hold a four game lead over the Eagles for the NFC East division lead.  The Birds have about as much chance to win the division as Melania Trump and Michelle Obama duking it out in a sanctioned boxing match on inauguration day.

The Eagles best chance to make the playoffs is by earning one of the two NFC wild-card spots, currently held by the New York Giants and Washington Redskins.  The “G-Men” hold a 2-game lead over the Birds while the ‘Skins hold a 1.5 game lead due to having one of their games end in a tie.

The Eagles would have to do no worse than 4-2 just to have a CHANCE at a playoff spot (to quote Jim Carrey from the “Dumb & Dumber” movie – “So you’re saying there’s a CHANCE??”).  Even that would require the Redskins to do no better than 2-4 and other teams to falter as well, so a 5-1 finish might be more realistic of what the Birds need to get in.

There are currently four teams on the “outside, looking in” for those two wildcard spots: 1) The Lions OR Vikings at 6-4 (one of them would currently win their respective division, 2) The Eagles at 5-5, 3) Tampa at 5-5, and 4) the Cardinals at 4-5-1 (perhaps it’s time for the NFL to just abolish tie games?).

The Eagles would greatly help their cause by winning their four remaining home games against the Packers, Redskins, Giants and Cowboys.  Doing so would not only cut the Giants and Redskins lead for the wildcard, but give the Eagles a 3-3 division record, which could factor in as a possible tiebreaker should the teams be tied with identical records at the end of the season.

The Eagles should root for the Cowboys to win their next five games.  This is not a typo….I repeat, this is not a typo.  Yes, an Eagles fan rooting for Dallas is about as likely as Bernie Sanders campaigning for Donald Trump, but in this case it is warranted.

Should the Cowboys do that, their last game of the season against the Eagles would be rendered meaningless from their standpoint.  They would probably end up resting most of their starters and play some guy named Romo at quarterback, giving the Eagles an easy shot at victory, and perhaps securing a playoff birth in the process.

Today’s Thanksgiving games will factor heavily into the playoff picture, with the Lions hosting the Vikings and the Cowboys hosting the Redskins.  Eagles fans need to root for both “hosts” (Detroit & Dallas) to secure a victory…got all that???  There will be a pop quiz right after you’ve inhaled your third piece of pumpkin pie.

As for the Eagles, they will look to rebound this Monday night at home against the Packers, who are playing themselves out of the playoffs due to various injuries on their defense.  The Eagles are a perfect 4-0 at home this season and will continue that this week, keeping the playoff race interesting with a 30-20 victory.

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

Redskins at Cowboys 4:30 PM FOX (Thurs) – Game of the Week

Vikings at Lions 12:30 PM CBS (Thurs)

Chiefs at Broncos 8:30 PM NBC

The Last Word:

Be thankful for what you have.  You may not think your life is ideal, but there is someone out there who would gladly trade places with you in a heartbeat. Happy Thanksgiving!

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2016 Week #11: Eagles at Seahawks

With the Presidential election behind us, it is now time for us to choose between other items of the utmost importance… like pumpkin or pecan pie? Or who to sit next to at the dinner table on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is about being home and in familiar surroundings, and for the Eagles, home has definitely been where the heart is, at least in 2016.

The Birds are 4-0 in the friendly confines of Lincoln Financial Field, and could possibly earn their first undefeated season at home for the first time since 1992, when they went 11-5 overall and lost in the 2nd round of the playoffs (They actually went 7-1 at home in 2004, with their only loss coming on the last game of the season in which they rested all of their starters in a game that meant nothing for playoff positioning.  So if you ask me, their last undefeated season at home was really 2004).

Last Sunday, the Eagles were at a crossroads of sorts.  A 3-0 start had turned into the team losing four of its last five games, and a loss against the Falcons could have squashed any hopes this team had of making the playoffs.

The Birds were facing an Atlanta team that was averaging almost 34 points a game, yet the Eagles defense held them to only 15 in a 24-15 win.  They could have won by much more than that, but the 2016 edition of the Philadelphia Eagles seems to be hellbent on keeping games close and searching for any possibly way to lose.  Luckily, they do not always succeed.

This week, the Eagles face what will be their toughest test of the year.  The Seahawks have lost a total of five games at home over the last five YEARS, and their stadium is regarded as one of the loudest, if not THE loudest, of all NFL stadiums.

I’m actually not sure why.  Seattle natives don’t seem like the rambunctious type, but more the subdued, chilled out type, so I can only decipher that all the noise that Century Link field seems to generate must be due to the configuration of the stadium itself.

The Eagles face an uphill battle but are they good enough to pull out a win?  Absolutely.

The problem is that they also seem unable to put together an error free, almost perfect game, which is what they may need to do in hostile conditions on Sunday.

The Birds will keep it close and have a chance in the 4th quarter.  But too many missed red zone opportunities and dropped passes by a mediocre receiving core will doom them once again.  Birds lose 27-20, but this is one loss that I can’t honestly say I would be disappointed in.

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

EAGLES at Seahawks 4:25 PM CBS – Game of the Week

Ravens at Cowboys 1:00 PM CBS

Texans at Raiders (in Mexico City) 8:30 PM ESPN (Mon)

2016 Week #9: Eagles at Giants

With the presidential election only a few days away, the newly formed “Rookie” party led by Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson is holding a substantial lead in all local Delaware Valley polls.

Perhaps it’s due to the fact that Wentz provides “hope” for the future and a change at quarterback that “we can believe in”.  Perhaps it’s the “temperament” of Eagles campaign manager Doug Pederson or the “experience” of Eagles Secretary of Defense Jim Schwartz.

But even good campaigns go through their ups and downs.  While Doug Pederson will not be found guilty of using an email server that wasn’t secure, he has been guilty of using running backs that could not secure the football.

Then you have the wide receivers who have been “careless” when it comes to catching the football. Yet, when one of them is questioned about it (Nelson Agholor) he responds with an air of smugness or privilege as if he is “immune” to criticism.  Agholor apologized a few days later, but if this keeps up, he may have to change his name to Nelson “Awfulor”

Last but not least, you have Eagles kick returner Josh Huff, who was caught with guns and marijuana in his car, in a state (NJ) in which he was not licensed to carry a weapon.  The Eagles “justice” department responded swiftly, releasing him from the team on Thursday without the need to convene a grand jury to hear all the facts.

 

Then there is the matter of Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who’s name should probably be changed to “Zach Irks”…since it irks Eagles fans how Zach is always one game away from being one game away from being one game away to having his annual breakout game of the year.  Most likely, Ertz will have his breakout game at home against the Cowboys in the last game of the season…but only if it deemed to be meaningless and the Eagles are already out of the playoffs.  Otherwise, don’t hold your breath.

Last Sunday’s game was maddening for Eagles fans, as for 3 and 1/2 quarters, it looked like the Birds would be tied for the NFC East lead by game’s end.  But questionable “campaign strategy” by Doug Pederson, in which he “elected” to have the Eagles play it safe instead of vigorously attacking their opponent, resulted in the Cowboys coming back twice from a ten point deficit in the “polls” to eventually win in overtime.

Whenever the Eagles seemed to use a heavy campaign “blitz”, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott seemed off his game and was hurried into throwing incompletions. Yet, on Dallas’ game-tying 4th quarter drive and the game winning drive in overtime, Schwartz chose to “tone down the rhetoric” and only used a four man defensive front, which gave Prescott ample time to throw the ball to an open receiver, and eventually win the game.

The Eagles 3-0 start gave us some false hope, as two of their three opening wins were against teams that are not going to qualify for the playoff “ballot” (the Browns and Bears, respectively).  But the Eagles are still a good team…much better than last year, and the easy opponents of the September “primaries” have been replaced with a grueling stretch which will determine how valid of a “candidate” they really are to win the NFC East.

If the Birds had won last week, I thought that this week’s Giants game was ripe for a letdown.  But considering the disappointment that the team experienced last Sunday, they will be prepared and focused this week against the G-Men.

Birds win 27-21.  It won’t be easy…but it never is in the swamp of the Meadowlands where Jimmy Hoffa is supposedly resting in peace.

The Last Word(s) – After Chip Kelly’s first two “terms” (years) as coach of the Eagles, we were led to believe that 1) Not only was he a good football coach but that 2) He only believed in drafting character guys for his football team.

Knowing now that Kelly failed on both of his “campaign promises” here, I wonder how long it will be till his “constituents” in the Bay Area come to the same realization.

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

Bills at Seahawks 8:30 PM ESPN (Mon) – Game of the Week

EAGLES at Giants 1:00 PM FOX

Broncos at Raiders 8:30 PM NBC