As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #12: Da Birds & Da Bears

When you were younger, your parents probably sat you down at some point to discuss the “birds and the bees”.   But did they ever teach you about “Da Birds and Da Bears?”

Probably not, because there is really not much to tell, save for the mid-1980’s when Buddy Ryan became the head coach of the Eagles after leaving his job as the defensive coordinator for the then Super Bowl champion Bears, and bickering with Chicago head coach Mike Ditka in the process, there is really not much history or bad blood between these two teams.

There was, of course, the infamous “Fog Bowl” playoff game back in 1988 in which a thick fog covered Soldier Field during the 2nd half of the game, which prevented the Eagles from mounting a comeback and advancing in the playoffs (speaking of fog, many parents I’ve talked to are sometimes in a “fog” as to how to approach the subject of the birds and the bees with their children, but I digress).

When the NFL schedule came out, most looked at this game just like any other in terms of the opponent.   And that’s all it is, save for the fact that the 2017 edition of the Eagles is very, very good.

So this week we have birds, bears, no bees, but a plethora of turkeys, being Thanksgiving and all.

Last week, after crossing the Betsy Ross bridge and driving down Route 90, I happened to spot not one, not two, but FIVE turkeys at the side of the highway (no joke), with two of them sitting on the highway railing as if they were waiting for an Uber to pick them up.  One can only assume that they were scrambling to get out of town before they became the main course at someone’s dinner table?

Then Thanksgiving came and while we now have three football games to watch if we desire on the holiday (which is probably not a bad idea just to distract us from having the “elephant in the room” conversation of whether you are pro-Trump or anti-Trump), only one of them was one I considered to be a marquee matchup going in (Vikings at Lions as the appetizer game).

Every time I think Minnesota is primed to lose, they keep winning.  And not only winning, but doing so with Case Keenum, who has been a journeyman mostly shuttling back and forth between the Houston Texans and St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams until this season, when he signed with the Minnesota Vikings to be their backup.

An injury to starter Sam Bradford (surprise, surprise) opened the door for Keenum, who has not relinquished his starter spot even though Minnesota’s previous starter, Teddy Bridgewater, has been cleared to play and is waiting in the wings for Keenum to screw up.

Even on Thanksgiving, which is Detroit’s chance to “be seen” (since the Lions don’t get much national TV exposure), the Vikings stole the show and won 30-23, staying on the Eagles heels for that highly coveted #1 seed in the NFC.

Next up was the Cowboys – Chargers game, and while those of us in the Delaware Valley usually have a rooting interest in the Cowboys losing on Thanksgiving, this year I was perfectly content to shut off the television and discuss more interesting subjects such as 1) Why politicians don’t want to give us the ability to buy health insurance across state lines & 2) Using your airline miles to fly in business class to far flung destinations.

This season, the Eagles are playing the role of the “Road Runner” with the Cowboys playing the role of “Wile E. Coyote”.  And while the head coyote (Jerry Jones) thinks he’s a “super genius”, his team has been left way back in the dust, even without the use of an “Acme anvil” like in the cartoons.

Then there was the Giants – Redskins contest as the nightcap, to which even most “New Yawka’s” were saying, “FUGETABOUTIT”!  This game used to be a regular NFC East classic featuring the likes of Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor facing off against Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann.  Nowadays, the closest you’ll get to intrigue between these two teams is watching these two in a strange commercial where Taylor asks Theismann if he wants a turkey leg, to which Theismann replies, “I’m ok, thank you very much”.

For those who may be too young to remember, this was a bizarre exchange, to say the least, because it was Taylor who broke Theismann’s leg in a Monday night football game 32 years ago, ending his career.

As for the Eagles, they probably got to enjoy Thanksgiving like the rest of us, feasting on turkey on Thursday while also hoping to feast on bears on Sunday.  Chicago, like the Eagles last season, come in with a rookie quarterback who was the 2nd overall pick in the NFL draft.  And while Mitchell Trubisky holds a lot of promise for the future, he is learning the ropes of the NFL in a “trial by fire” method.

After this game, the Birds will enter one of the toughest stretches of their season – three straight road games which will take them to Seattle and Los Angeles before ending with the Giants in the swamp lands of North Jersey.

A win against a “not ready for primetime” team with a 3-7 record like the Bears is something that good teams like the Eagles should pull off rather easily.  The Birds do so, knocking the stuffing out of the Bears in their last home game before Christmas night, winning 37-20.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Vikings at Lions  12:30 PM  FOX  (Thurs)

Saints at Rams  4:25 PM  CBS

Packers at Steelers  8:30 PM  NBC

 

 

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As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #11: It’s Dallas Week!

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The bye week not only gives a football team a much needed break from the physical rigors of a 16-game regular season, but the chance to mentally get away from the game as well.  And while we don’t really know how most NFL players are spending their free time (nor should we), one can probably guess that Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz spent last weekend out on the prairie of North Dakota (or in the NJ Pinelands perhaps) hunting for whatever he considers to be “wild game”.

And while he is probably quite capable of capturing whatever he sets out to hunt, the hunt to capture a Super Bowl trophy for the city of Philadelphia has eluded all those who have tried thus far.

But with seven games left in the regular season, the Eagles will now dive headfirst into what are uncharted waters for this young team, as for the first time since 2004, they have the best record in the NFL this late in the season and are on track to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Of course, there are games that must be played and actually won to get this team to where they want to go.  And with four of their next five games on the road, the Eagles will surely get a chance to show that they are for real.  If not, the Saints, Rams, and Vikings are all knocking on their doorstep, with all three teams owning a record of 7-2 and only one game behind the Birds.

But first things first – the Eagles need to win the NFC East before bigger and better things can be achieved.  And for that, they need to start by beating a Dallas Cowboys team that is on life support when it comes to staying alive for a division title.

Things were so much easier for the ‘Boys last season.  Even after losing their starting quarterback, Tony Romo, for much of the season, they managed to go 13-3 as rookie Dak Prescott took the league by storm and led Dallas to the #1 seed in the NFC.

All that went for naught, however, when Aaron Rodgers dashed the Cowboys hopes by throwing a sideline pass to tight end Jared Cook with seconds remaining in a tie game, which then enabled kicker Mason Crosby to kick a game -winning 52-yard field goal and break the Cowboys fans hearts again.

The above should be a warning for the Eagles and their fans that even if they manage to attain the best record in the league and all the playoff advantages that come with it, NOTHING is guaranteed.  This is precisely why the thought of facing the Saints and Drew Brees in the playoffs, even at home at the Linc, scares the hell out of me.

As for the Cowboys, this season has not been as promising as the last.  They sit at 5-3 and a loss would, for all intents and purposes, mean that Dallas would have to hope for a wildcard spot in order to be invited to the playoff  dance.

A win for the Eagles Sunday night and they would have a four game lead in the division with only six games to play, which would practically guarantee them the division title, barring a collapse.

This blogger suspects, as many do, that the Birds might be a little rusty in the first half tomorrow, which would keep the Cowboys in the game and give them hope of pulling out a win.

But after halftime, the team would get into gear and roll off another victory, 27-23, with visions of some turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes on their minds.  And the Enchanted Season continues….

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Titans at Steelers  8:30 PM  NBC/NFL Ntwrk  (Thurs)

Rams at Vikings  1:00 PM  FOX

EAGLES at Cowboys  8:30 PM  NBC

Falcons at Seahawks  8:30 PM  ESPN  (Mon)

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #10: Eagles Bye Week

If my preseason prediction holds true to form, the Eagles will only win one game for the remainder of this season.

Of course, at this point, we should all take our preseason predictions and throw them out with that stale candy corn that is still sitting in your child’s Halloween candy basket.  Whether you had an overly pessimistic prognostication (5-6 wins) or an overly optimistic one (10-11 wins) before the season began, what we are seeing defies any logic.

And while an 8-1 start does not a Super Bowl season make, consider this:  The Eagles, in their previous 84 years of existence, have started 8-1 only four times (1949, 1960, 1980, & 2004).

In 1949 & 1960, they became NFL Champions (in the pre-Super Bowl era).

In 1980 & 2004, they went to the Super Bowl (albeit in a losing affair).

Last Sunday, even after finding out that tight end Zach Ertz would be out for the game, the Birds still went out and put up 51 points against a Broncos team that had the #1 ranked defense heading into the game.

The Eagles will have a tough 7-game stretch to end their season, including road games against the Cowboys, Seahawks, and Rams.  And they will have to try to prevail in those contests without key players who are lost for the remainder of the season, including Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, and Jordan Hicks. But unless the injury bug continues to decimate the Eagles, such as a loss to quarterback Carson Wentz, there is no reason to think this team cannot continue what they have started.

This being the Eagles bye week, it’s not only a chance for the Birds to get away from football for a few days, but a chance for Eagles fans to take a breather and enjoy watching other games around the league.  So without further ado, here is a quick look at this week’s marquee matchups:

Saints at Bills  1:00 PM  FOX

If you’re a Buffalo Bills fan, your interest in your team is sort of like your interest in that girl from back in your high school days – every time you think there’s a chance, you’re bound to be disappointed.

The Buffalo Bills started the season 5-2, giving their fans much optimism that this could be the first time in 18 seasons that their beloved Bills make the playoffs.  And then they proceeded to go out last week and lose a stinker to the lowly New York Jets.

The Saints started the season 0-2 but have since run off 6 straight wins, putting them in the lead in the NFC South and in the mix with the Eagles for the top seed in the NFC.

This game is being played in Buffalo, which should help the Bills chances, being that the Saints will be outside the creature comforts of their dome.  Eagles fans will be hoping that the Bills can rebound and hurt New Orleans’ chances of catching the Eagles in the race for the #1 seed in the NFC.

Vikings at Redskins  1:00 PM  FOX

If you’re an Eagles fan married to a Redskins fan, this will be one of those rare NFL Sundays where there will be harmony and marital bliss in your household, as all Eagles fans should be rooting for the ‘Skins to defeat the Vikings.

Washington sits at 4-4 and has already lost both games against the Eagles, so their chances of catching the Eagles and winning the NFC East is about as likely as me winning the Powerball lottery.

The Vikings, like the Saints, are also 6-2 and have their sites set on catching the Eagles and securing that #1 overall seed in the NFC.  The Redskins can still secure a playoff birth via a wildcard spot, and a win today would benefit them against a tough Vikings team.

Cowboys at Falcons  4:25 PM  FOX

For the last few weeks, it’s been just as difficult to decipher whether Ezekiel Elliott will play for the Cowboys as it is to figure out whether Joel Embiid will play for the Sixers.

Some clarity on this issue did come to light this week, as Elliott will be out for at least the next four weeks, until his Dec. 1st court date.  The Cowboys are the closest threat to overtaking the Eagles, as they sit 2.5 games back of the Birds in the NFC East and still have two games remaining against us, including what could be a pivotal Sunday night showdown next week.

The Falcons are suffering from the typical Super Bowl loser “hangover”, as they sit at 4-4 and are in danger of falling further back of the Saints and Panthers in the tough NFC South.

Atlanta is playing at home, where a win for the Falcons would not only help their own cause, but the Eagles cause as well.

Dolphins at Panthers  8:30 PM  ESPN (Mon)

The Dolphins, much like their fellow AFC brethren, the Bills, always seem ready to have a breakout season, and then end up flopping (which is ironic since they are Dolphins after all).

The Panthers still have hope to win the NFC South, with the Saints only a half-game ahead of them.  Carolina is two games behind the Eagles in terms of conference seeding, and a loss in hand already against the Birds will hurt their chances of overtaking the Eagles.  However, if a 3-way tie were to occur for the conference lead, their loss to Philadelphia might be a non-issue (since head-to-head only matters if all three teams have played each other).

Another game where we should be rooting for an AFC East team (in this case, Miami) to win.

Enjoy this Sunday Funday/Eagles bye week everyone.  Let’s go Bills, Redskins, Falcons, and Dolphins.

 

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #9: All Treats, No Tricks

After the Eagles began the first of three straight home games with a convincing win over a division foe in the Washington Redskins, many felt that last week’s game against an 0-7 49ers team would be like feasting on “Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat.”

Instead, with the Birds struggling on offense for most of the first half and nursing only a 3-0 lead at the 2-minute warning before halftime, it looked more like the visit from the winless Niners would end up a trick instead of a treat.

But this is not your father’s Eagles team (or any Eagles team from the recent past for that matter).  A team that had actually lost four of its last six games when they were favored by double digits has now learned how to win even when they are facing an inferior opponent.

Before the fans even had time to contemplate whether to stand in line for crab fries or nachos, the Eagles scored two touchdowns in the last two minutes before halftime to turn a nervous 3-0 lead into a 17-0 comfortable one.

All the treats continued in the 2nd half, as the Eagles built a 33-7 lead with ten minutes left in the game, resulting in the fans heading for the exits before the rain, which was off and on during the game, finally began to get heavier and continue through the night.

But while the skies looked quite gloomy overhead, and over the rest of the 49ers season, there was nothing but sunny skies for the Birds at the halfway point of their 2017 campaign.

To their credit, the team did not go into the locker room with any bombastic swagger.  They knew they had won only because they were facing a winless team that they allowed to hang around in the first half.

San Francisco was the team of the decade in the 1980’s and was once a model franchise that others, like the Eagles, sought to emulate.  But in their current state, they are a wretched team that is at one of its low points in their 72-year history, which explains why they just traded a 2nd round pick in next year’s draft for Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Speaking of trades, the Eagles pulled off one of their own as well before Tuesday afternoon’s NFL trade deadline, sending a 4th round pick to the Miami Dolphins for running back Jay Ajayi.

The trade for Ajayi is another smooth move by general manager Howie Roseman, who seems to have a penchant for fleecing the Miami Dolphins whenever possible.  It was Howie, after all, who engineered a trade before the 2016 season to move up from 13th to 8th in the NFL draft, which was later used to move up to the 2nd overall spot to draft Carson Wentz.

Ajayi was a Pro Bowler last season, but he fell out of favor with Miami’s head coach Adam Gase, and the one worry with him is that he tends to pout when he doesn’t get the ball, even after games when his team wins.

One would suspect that in the Eagles locker room, such a disruptive attitude would not be tolerated.  The Eagles do seem to be a very unselfish team, which is a rarity in this day and age of big contracts that are earned based mostly on stats.  But perhaps Ajayi realizes that he has a chance to win a Super Bowl here, and could be the focal point of the running game in the future with LeGarrette Blount unsigned beyond this season.

Either way, it is currently a crowded backfield, with Ajayi, Blount, Wendell Smallwood, and Kenjon Barner all at the running back spot.  Most likely, it will be Barner as the odd man out, who will be mostly relegated to the punt return duties with the addition of Ajayi.

As for the team, they have the Denver Broncos at home this Sunday before embarking on their much deserved bye week.

The Broncos started the season 3-1, but have since lost three in a row to fall to 3-4 and currently sit 2.5 games behind the division leading Kansas City Chiefs.  Along with their current losing streak, the stock of their quarterback, Trevor Siemian, has concurrently fallen as well, and Siemian was benched this week in favor of backup Brock Osweiler.

The Broncos have outgained their opponents in all four of their losses, but turnovers continue to kill them, as Siemian has thrown 10 interceptions on the year, including three last week against the Chiefs.

Last Sunday, the Eagles faced a 49ers quarterback (C.J. Beathard) that would never be confused with either Joe Montana or Steve Young.

This week, they  will face a quarterback (Brock Osweiler) that would never be confused with John Elway or Peyton Manning.  As such, it is another chance for the defense to tee off and pad their stats, before taking a week off to tee off at the golf course.

Birds head off to their bye week on a high note, defeating the Broncos, 27-17.  And the enchanted season rolls on…

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Falcons at Panthers  1:00 PM  FOX

Broncos at EAGLES  1:00 PM   CBS

Chiefs at Cowboys  4:25 PM   CBS