As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #8: The Enchanted Season continues

The quarterback, about to be pancaked to the turf, throws a pass into the corner of the end zone with the perfect trajectory and accuracy.  Undrafted rookie Corey Clement, who is not only living out his dream of playing in the NFL, but doing so for his hometown team, makes a difficult, against the shoulder catch in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

The Enchanted Season continues…

Rookie kicker Jake Elliott, sitting on the Cincinnati practice squad because he could not win their placekicker’s job, joins the team and makes eleven consecutive field goals, including a 61-yarder with no time left on the clock to defeat the New York Giants as the crowd erupts into a frenzy.

The Enchanted Season continues…

Injuries continue to decimate this team, especially on the defensive side.  The situation gets even worse last Monday night, when nine-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters, a stalwart on the offensive line, and Jordan Hicks, the quarterback of the defense, have to be helped off the field with what turn out to be season ending injuries.

The team that had the least number of injuries in 2016 has now had the law of averages catch up to them.  Yet, the “next man up” philosophy has continued to operate effectively, with the injuries not causing the team to skip a beat.

The Enchanted Season continues…

With the Eagles nursing a precarious seven point lead at the start of the 4th quarter, the quarterback drops back to pass and is met with a ferocious pass rush in a play that surely looks to be a sack.  Suddenly, out of a pile, the QB miraculously  appears like Houdini, turning what should have been a 9-yard loss into a 17-yard gain.  Even one of Jon Dorenbos’s magic tricks never looked so good.

The Enchanted Season continues…

With a 6-1 record, the Eagles sit atop the NFL with the league’s best record, while visions of a Super Bowl slowly began to dance in their fans heads.  But even a 16-game season is a long one, and there still remains nine regular season games left to be played.

Nine games for more injuries to mount.  Nine games for the Eagles to have a letdown.  Nine games to allow the Cowboys to beat them twice and creep back into the NFC East race.

The Eagles currently hold a 2.5 game lead in the NFC East, with both the Cowboys and Redskins in their rearview mirror at 3-3.   A division title is certainly in the Eagles grasp, which guarantees you a #4 seed at worst and a home playoff game in the first round of the playoffs.  But while the Eagles would have been thrilled with that at the beginning of the season, their aspirations are much higher considering what has transpired thus far.

The race to a Super Bowl begins with securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  And in a sport where playing at home gives you an advantage unlike any other, having that #1 seed is the best way to do so.  But even with a 6-1 record, the Eagles have both the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams hot on their tail at 5-2, as well as the New Orleans Saints and the Seattle Seahawks at 4-2 (since they’ve both already had their bye week).

The Eagles will have a tough stretch of road games come December, when they will face the Seahawks on December 2nd followed by the Rams the following weekend.  These two games could be HUGE in determining the NFC playoff picture, assuming that all three teams continue at their current rate of success.

This week, the San Francisco 49ers will come to town, which will mark the 41st time in NFL history that the team with the best record in the NFL will face the team with the worst record.  San Francisco is not only one of two teams in the league that still remain winless (the other being Cleveland), but they have also lost 19 straight games played on Sundays, a losing streak which is also second only to the Browns, who have lost 24 straight on Sundays.

But even though the Niners are still in search of their first win, they are also the only team in NFL history to lose five straight games by 3 points or less.  That last stat reveals that the Niners are not to be taken lightly.  They are a team that has not yet learned how to win, much like the Eagles from last season.

The Birds will have Halapoulivaati Vaitai at left tackle filling in for the injured Jason Peters (say that name three times over without screwing up). “Big V”, as he is known for simplicity purposes, had extensive on the job training filling in for Lane Johnson last year and, after some first game jitters, performed admirably for the Eagles.  He may have to fill the void for the remainder of the season with Peters being out.

On the defensive side, the Eagles, as they usually do, will probably go with only two linebackers on the field for the majority of the snaps, with Nigel Bradham taking over Jordan Hicks’ spot as the quarterback of the defense and Mychal Kendricks most likely taking the other starting spot.

Kendricks was not getting as many snaps as either Hicks or Bradham, but whenever he has been in the game, he has had a favorable impact.  And while the only time Bradham had the responsibility for making sure the defense was in the right alignment was when Jordan Hicks was hurt in the Panthers game, he actually played pretty well in Hicks’ absence.

Once again, I don’t think this game will be a blowout (I know, I know…I always say that) as the Niners have played it close in so many games.  Expect a wet and stormy day filled with the natives in ponchos and some rain soaked Chickie & Pete’s crab fries, as the Birds win, 28-17, and go to 7-1.

The Enchanted Season continues…

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Steelers at Lions  8:30 PM  NBC

Broncos at Chiefs  8:30 PM  ESPN

 

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As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #7: Mondayyyyy Night Football

If you had asked prognosticators about their expectations for the 2017 Eagles before the season began, most would have stated that a 9-7 record would not only be an improvement from last season, but also a sign that the team is on the way up to bigger and better things for the future.

Well, here we are six games in, and it looks like the Eagles construction project is well ahead of schedule.

The Birds dismantled the Carolina Panthers last Thursday night, 28-23, in a hard fought contest that very few (excluding yours truly) predicted that the Eagles would win.

The Eagles had a short week to practice and were going on the road against a quality opponent, which wouldn’t make their task of winning easy by any means.  And they faced a quarterback who not only is a physical specimen with his size, but has an uncanny ability to throw the ball downfield with ease.

Add to that the fact that Carolina was also 4-1 going into the game, and perhaps the doubt was understandable.

But Cam Newton, when things don’t go his way, can quickly become “Scram” Newton, hiding underneath a towel draped over his head and face, looking as if he was a child who was told that he could not leave the dinner table until he had finished his vegetables.  The television “cam”, and the game stats, showed that he had three interceptions in the game to cap off his night, which clearly didn’t help his team’s cause.

Meanwhile, Carson Wentz, while not having a huge game passing wise (he only threw for 222 yards), still managed to throw for three touchdowns.  The 2nd year quarterback from North Dakota now has 13 touchdowns on the year versus only three interceptions.

Somewhere on the shores of Lake Erie, the Cleveland Browns organization must be kicking themselves for trading down instead of drafting the “Ginger Jesus” as the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft.  Such poor decisions help to explain why the Browns are currently 0-6 and have had only two winning seasons since they returned to Cleveland in 1999.  But I digress….

With the Kansas City Chiefs losing on Thursday night to the Oakland Raiders, the Birds now stand as the only team in the league with only one loss.  And their early season success has resulted in the hopes of a playoff birth before the season, now having turned to talks of a possible first-round bye or even (gulp) home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  But before we jump ahead of ourselves, let’s consider one thing:  A 5-1 start does not a playoff guarantee make.

The last time the Eagles got off to such a good start was 2014 (a mere three years ago).  That season, the Birds turned a 5-1 start into a 9-3 record after a Thanksgiving Day thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys, and it looked like the Birds could be serious contenders for the Super Bowl.

Instead, the team went on to lose its next three games, two of which were at home.  The third of those crucial losses gave them a 9-6 record and eliminated them from the playoffs before the last game of the season was even played.  A season that looked so promising just a few weeks back had quickly smoldered into nothingness.

This is not to suggest that this team will do the same.  During that 2014 season, that three game losing streak was the beginning of the end for Chip Kelly, who was fired with one game remaining in the 2015 season when his team was 6-9.  And neither of Chip Kelly’s quarterbacks at that time (Nick Foles in 2014 & Sam Bradford in 2015) hold the same pedigree as Carson Wentz does.

But more than half of the season still remains to be played, and there is still time for things to change for the worst, either due to ineffectiveness or to injury.   Let’s enjoy what this ride may bring, and keep our fingers crossed.

The Eagles come off of a 11-day hiatus this week, as they face the Washington Redskins on Monday night. The ‘Skins seem to be the Birds most formidable opponent in the division, as they sit at 3-2 and in 2nd place in the division.  But as the Birds have already defeated Washington in the opener, a win on Monday night would effectively knock the Redskins out of contention for the division.

This will be another tough, division game for the Eagles, as a lot is on the line for Washington.  But with the home crowd in a frenzy and behind them, the Eagles win in a nail biter, 27-24.

The Last Word:

When it comes to our division foes, every one knows we hate the Cowboys.  And while we can recall so many tough, close games against the Giants, the same cannot be said about the Redskins.  Part of the reason for this is that both Philadelphia and Washington haven’t finished with winning records in the same season since 1996, and interestingly enough, we’ve only faced our division rival from the nation’s capital once in the playoffs, which was a 1990 wildcard playoff game that ended Buddy Ryan’s tenure as coach of the Eagles.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Saints at Packers  1:00 PM  FOX

Falcons at Patriots  8:30 PM  NBC

Redskins at EAGLES  8:30 PM  ESPN  (Mon)

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #6: Runnin’ Down A Dream

Before Sunday’s game, the Cardinals knew that their best hope to defeat the Eagles was to unleash wide receiver and Philly killer Larry Fitzgerald against the Eagles defense.  Instead, it was the Cardinals who witnessed their own “House of Horrors” at the Linc on Sunday afternoon.

And while there was no Jason, Michael Myers, or Freddy Krueger to do the heavy slashing like in those classic horror movies, there was Carson Wentz slashing through the Cardinals defense and slowly killing off any hope the team from Arizona had of making a comeback.

By the time the 1st quarter was over and the last tailgater had settled comfortably into their seat, the score was already 21-0 and the Redbirds must have felt like they were living their own version of “Nightmare on Elm Street”.  Meanwhile, Eagles fans, on what was an overcast but very humid day for early October, were enjoying all the pomp and circumstance of a blowout victory and happily singing along to all of Tom Petty’s greatest hits during the TV timeouts.  One can only assume that whomever is responsible for the music at the Linc must be a huge Tom Petty fan.

Meanwhile, Carson Wentz threw four touchdowns for the first time in his young career, as he spread the touchdown wealth to four different recipients (tight ends Trey Burton & Zach Ertz and wide receivers Torrey Smith & Nelson Agholor).  Agholor’s touchdown reception was a sight of beauty, not only for the catch itself, but for the move he put on Cardinals safety Budda Baker.

Speaking of Wentz, the 2nd year quarterback hails from North Dakota, a state that has neither 1) An NFL team within its borders nor a 2) Division I FBS School.  As such, the heart and soul of football in North Dakota are the North Dakota State Bison, a Division I FCS school (the former Division 1-AA) and the school that Wentz led to Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) titles in 2014-15 (the last one being the team’s 5th straight championship).

When the Birds drafted the North Dakotan as the #2 overall pick, they were looking for someone who could lead this team for years to come and possibly be the missing link to a parade down Broad Street.

What they never expected was that, along with a quarterback, they acquired a whole state of new fans in the process.  And while many North Dakotans, understandably, may not have known much about the City of Brotherly Love before 2016, they are fully behind their “native son” and have adapted this team as their own.

Whether it’s a home game at the Linc or a road game in Kansas City, one can always find a North Dakota contingent of the “Wentz wagon” in the stands.  And perhaps it will be some of that Bison green (their colors being green and yellow) that will help to eventually break the championship drought that has plagued this city for fifty-seven years and counting.

The Birds currently sit at 4-1 and, along with their explosive offense, have a defense that has managed to play well even with all their injuries.  Add to that the unexpected emergence of Kenjon Barner on special teams to replace the injured Darren Sproles, and you have the makings of what could be something special in 2017.

Unfortunately, there is little time for this team to rejoice in Sunday’s victory, as a Thursday night contest on the road against the Carolina Panthers awaits them.

The Panthers come in with a surprising 4-1 record as well, and this game could have HUGE implications for playoff seeding in January if both teams can continue their early season success going forward.

One thing that could hurt the Birds is the loss of offensive lineman Lane Johnson, who may be out due to a possible concussion.  But this team has managed to persevere thus far with injuries, especially on the defensive side.

A tough, hard fought game that goes down to the wire.  But the Eagles pull it out with a Jake Elliott field goal, 23-20.  And the fans continue to believe…

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

EAGLES at Panthers  8:25 PM  CBS/NFL Ntwrk

Packers at Vikings  1:00 PM  FOX

Lions at Saints  1:00 PM  FOX

Patriots at Jets  1:00 PM  CBS

Rams at Jaguars  4:05 PM  FOX

Steelers at Chiefs  4:25 PM  CBS

 

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #5: Carson Takes over Carson

In a city ironically named Carson, it was the quarterback with the same first name who showed why the Eagles moved up in the draft to pick him #2 overall.

Carson Wentz methodically moved the offense up and down the field last Sunday, changing the plays at the line of scrimmage when needed and looking more like a seasoned 10-year veteran than a player who is only in his 2nd season and still learning the ropes of playing quarterback.

The result was a 26-24 victory, putting the Birds at 3-1 on this young season.  And while skeptics may point to the fact that this team had the same record last season before going 4-8 the rest of the way, this team does have a different look about them.

In 2016, after defeating the Chicago Bears in their first road game of the season, the Eagles managed to lose their last seven road games.  This year, the team has already surpassed last year’s road win total, going 2-1 thus far.

Last season, six of the Birds final eight losses were in games that were lost by a touchdown or less.  Change the result of a play here or there and perhaps the Eagles finish at 10-6 instead of 7-9.  But that was a young team that still had not learned HOW to win.

This season, the Birds are 2-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less, defeating the Giants and Chargers in consecutive weeks after a close loss to the Chiefs in Week 2.  It is not only the quarterback that is growing before our eyes but the rest of the team around him as well.

And then there is the coach, who claimed he was still “learning” the world of coaching after the loss to the Chiefs in which he threw the ball much too often, much like his mentor, Andy Reid, was known to do.  Many predicted then that Doug Pederson’s coaching career would not only be a failure if he continues down this path, but that he would get his young quarterback knocked out of the game in the process.

But give Pederson credit.  He adjusted and started to use his horses in the running game more often over the last two weeks, resulting in a new “three headed monster” in the backfield consisting of LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, and rookie (and local product) Corey  Clement, who continues to shine when given the ball.

Much like the trio of Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter, and Brian Westbrook before them, these three all offer a different dimension of the running game and fresh legs in the backfield.  Add to that a rejuvenated offensive line which gets to be on the attack in the running game, and you now have an offense which can use the run to setup the pass, as they did successfully last week.

The other intriguing part of last week’s contest was the crowd itself.  In a stadium designed for soccer but housing football, it also became a stadium meant for Chargers fans but housing Eagles fans.  The announced crowd was 25,000, of which approximately 15,000 were Birds fans.

A sport played in the wrong type of venue, fans cheering for the wrong uniform, and a team in the wrong city.  Not quite a three headed monster, but more like a “three headed misfit”.

One can only surmise that the NFL must have hired some consulting firm to do a study,  and that they came to the conclusion that football in Los Angeles would be a rousing success.  But then again, I’ve never heard of a consulting firm telling their client that their idea is completely stupid, have you?   Sort of like an insurance agent telling you that you don’t need life insurance…these things just don’t happen.

This week, the Birds return from the “CaliLinc” to the real “Linc” to face the Arizona Cardinals, a team that currently sits at 2-2 in the NFC West.

The “RedBirds” enjoyed a streak of three consecutive winning seasons until last season, when they finished 7-8-1.  And while they have a good coach in Bruce Arians (who also coached Temple football once upon a time), their quarterback, and the rest of their team, is quickly aging.  And not aging like fine wine, but aging like that half-gallon of milk in your refrigerator which you should have thrown out five days ago.

Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer can still be dangerous though, and still has weapons like wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who is a class act and most likely, a hall-of-famer one day.

What should also be interesting to watch is the Eagles running game against the Cardinals run defense, which is one of the stingiest in the league.

The Birds would do well to not overlook this opponent, especially considering that they have a quick turnaround, with a Thursday night game coming up against the Carolina Panthers.  This contest will be close in the first half but Birds will win, 27-17.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Patriots at Buccaneers  8:30 PM  CBS/NFL Ntwrk (Thurs)

Panthers at Lions  1:00 PM  FOX

Ravens at Raiders  4:05 PM  CBS

Packers at Cowboys  4:25 PM  FOX

Chiefs at Texans  8:25 PM  NBC