As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #17: A December Snoozer

The expectation was that Old Saint Nick would bring presents to all of the good little boys and girls on Christmas morning, while a young “Saint Nick” would deliver the #1 seed and homefield advantage to all of the Eagles fans, both naughty and nice, come Christmas night.

But while Old Saint Nick delivered on his promise, young Saint Nick almost delivered a bag of coal instead.

Clinching the #1 seed in your conference is usually a cause for celebration, but as the Eagles trotted off the field last Monday night after a victory over the Raiders, they looked more like they were walking out of a funeral.

And who could blame them?  What we witnessed last week was a less than stellar performance by the offense. What makes it even more concerning was that it was against a team that flew cross country into the cold weather with absolutely nothing to play for save pride.

After the close win against another bad team in the Giants two weeks back, the feeling was that the offense would be fine with Saint Nick at the helm, especially after he threw four touchdowns in the process in his first start this season.

The area of concern was how easily the defense was getting torched against a bad offensive team like New York, but against the Raiders, everything got flipped.

The defense redeemed itself somewhat, but it was the play of Foles and the whole offense which was doing anything but making spirits bright for the 70,000 fans who braved the cold to watch that Christmas Night snoozer.

Foles was hitting them low, hitting them high, but no one was watching the Eagles fly.  More like limp into the postseason.

To be fair, not everything that was happening to the offense was Foles’ fault.  The receivers, who have been quite an improvement from 2016, seemed like they were trying to untangle themselves from a string of Christmas lights, and were unable to get any kind of separation from the defenders.

Two wins in two weeks against two bad teams, yet the way the Eagles played has caused more consternation than optimism.

When the Eagles were blowing out their opponents back in October & November, I made the point that watching the Birds was actually getting somewhat boring.  By the 2nd half, I found myself sitting in my seat at the Linc in a very laid back manner, almost acting more like I was watching one of 162 Phillies game on a lazy summer day at Citizens Bank Park.

But all of the Bird watching boredom (a rarity I know due to all those one-sided contests) has now been replaced by a return to the “mean” for Eagles fans – the teeth clenching, fingernail biting, blood pressure rising is back and here to stay as long as the Eagles are still playing.

Things were just too good to be true back in the fall.  We can’t have it easy – the starting quarterback who seemed to be the golden child of the franchise and who’s play was elevated compared to so many others HAS to get hurt to make things interesting.

The one hit-wonder who once threw 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in a single season and who tied a record for most touchdowns thrown in a single game in that same spectacular season, HAS to come down to earth to make things interesting.  Otherwise, it would be just too easy for Philadelphia and we won’t know what to do with ourselves.

No, doing things the hard way is what we’re used to.  It’s what we thrive on, especially with the playoffs approaching.

If the Eagles play their first playoff game in four years at the same level as they did the last two weeks, their playoff push will be short-lived, regardless of whether they face the Vikings, Rams, Saints or Panthers.  And we’re now placing all our hopes with a quarterback who has the ability to throw four touchdowns…or kill a lot of worms while throwing the football.

When Carson Wentz first got hurt, I made the point that while the Eagles “replacement engine” is not as good as the original, it was still capable of doing the job.  And I still feel that way.

But if Wentz was starting last week, the Birds would have looked much more crisp on offense, as he had the ability to mask some of the deficiencies of this team with his play.  Unfortunately, Foles does not have that luxury, so the “wrinkles and grey hair” are starting to show.

The Birds will need to play better in all aspects if they want to make this a season to remember.    But before they embark on that quest, there is the matter of finishing out the string of the regular season first.

The Cowboys will come in with nothing to play for, but will play all of their starters for most of the game (I think) in order to finish the season at 9-7 and with a win.  The Birds would do well to give their starting offense a “tune-up” of sorts before the playoffs begin.

Ideally, the offense comes in and scores 10 or 14 points in its first two drives and is then lifted for the backups.  But if they struggle as they did last week, it will only raise the alarm bells as to whether this team can last even one round in the playoffs.

Hard to predict this game, so I won’t.  But let’s hope that the offense can get back on track and that the defense continues to play as it did last week against the Raiders.   Otherwise, what seemed to be a promising start to 2018 just a few weeks back may be another winter of our discontent.

Amit’s Marquee Matchup of the Week (only one this week):

Panthers at Falcons  4:25 PM  FOX

The Last Word:

Thanks to Amanda Moran for the pic from the Green Legion pregame tailgate at Santa Monica pier prior to the Eagles – Rams game.  With frigid temps in the forecast here at least through next week, I’d go back in a heartbeat.

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As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #16: Santa Comes Early

If the Eagles were looking for an early Christmas gift from the NFL schedule makers, they got it in the form of the New York Giants.

The G-Men, in a game that meant nothing for them but everything for the Birds, got off to a 20-7 lead, while the Eagles played the first quarter as if they were nestled all snug in their beds, with visions of sugar-plums dancing in their heads.

At least they managed to wake up after one quarter of play and realize that there were still a lot of presents left to be delivered to their fans before Super Bowl morning on February 4th.

In fairness to the Birds, they were on the 3rd leg of a 3-game road trip.  And after defeating a very good team in the Los Angeles Rams the week before, it was perhaps understandable that the team would not be at full throttle playing a New York team who’s season was effectively over somewhere in between Halloween & Thanksgiving Day.

But while the game ended up being a 34-29 Eagles victory which wasn’t decided till the waning minutes, it should hopefully serve as a wakeup call to the team that they can’t simply show up and expect to win.

If the Giants were not a 2-win team going in, the Eagles would have lost this game.

If the Giants were not a train wreck who had fired their coach a few weeks back, the Eagles would be looking up at the Minnesota Vikings for that coveted #1 conference seed instead of in the driver’s seat.

It’s hard to believe how much things have changed since these two teams first met back in Week #3.

The Giants were going in at 0-2, while the Birds stood at 1-1, having just come off a tough loss on the road against Kansas City after having defeated the Washington Redskins on the road in their opener.

That game not only resulted in an exciting, down to the wire finish, with rookie field goal kicker Jake Elliott kicking a 61-yard field goal with no time left to win the game, but it kick started the Eagles on a 10-game winning streak, which has put them in the enviable position to win the conference.

The Giants, meanwhile, will go into the offseason with a lot to fix, including the question of whether Eli Manning will continue to be their quarterback in the future.  In addition, they will have to search for not only a new head coach, but a new general manager as well after Jerry Reese, who held the job since 2008, was also let go.

I actually spent last weekend in Tampa and got to watch the game with the “Tampadelphia” group, which gets together to watch the Birds at the Crowne Plaza bar in the Westshore area.  Great atmosphere and great to watch the game with fellow Eagles fans.  A different kind of “road” game of sorts for me last week.

The Eagles will now come back to the creature comforts of home for their final two regular season games, which will be against the Raiders on Christmas night, followed by the Cowboys on New Years Eve.

This game is difficult to predict, if only for the fact that who actually plays for the Eagles might hinge on the outcome of the Vikings – Packers game, which will take place this Saturday night.

A Packers win would give the Eagles the #1 conference seed, and render their final two regular season games moot.  And since the Packers were eliminated from playoff contention last weekend, they will be resting Aaron Rodgers for the remainder of the season and going with 2nd year quarterback Brett Hundley, which should help the Vikings chances.

If the Birds have clinched the conference before they set foot on the field Monday night, expect the starters to play a quarter to a half before they start playing with their newly opened Christmas gifts on the sideline.

But if the Birds need a win to clinch the conference themselves, they will be facing a Raiders team that, at 6-8, is quite a disappointment considering that they had a chance to be the #1 seed in the AFC last season before losing both their 1st & 2nd string quarterback in consecutive weeks.

Part of me would like to see the Eagles needing to win the game, as opposed to watching Nick Foles’ backup Nate Sudfeld (who ironically looks like Foles) coming in for mop-up duty.

Frankly, that’s the only time Eagles fans should want to see Sudfeld on the playing field.  If Foles gets injured and he is forced to start, the Birds chances of making the Super Bowl would be severely hampered…unless Sudfeld can somehow turn into “Studfeld”.

Assuming the Birds need this game, they win easily, 34-17.  And Santa watches from the North Pole with a glass of eggnog in his hand and forgives three idiot Eagles fans for throwing snowballs at him some forty years ago.

The Last Word: 

R.I.P Dick Enberg.  While everyone remembers the #1 CBS crew of Pat Summerall and John Madden, Enberg was always my favorite as the #1 NFL broadcaster for NBC from 1980 to 1997.  Ironically, the first Super Bowl that Enberg called was the Eagles-Raiders Super Bowl in January of 1981.

More recently, Enberg served as the San Diego Padres play-by-play man from 2010-2016.  I still remember watching so many classic NFL games that were made even better by his voice, and his signature line, “Oh My!”, will surely be missed.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Bills at Patriots  1:00 PM  CBS

Falcons at Saints  1:00 PM  FOX

Rams at Titans  1:00 PM  FOX

Seahawks at Cowboys  4:25 PM  FOX

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #15: The Wentz Wagon Derailed

On the road to the Super Bowl, even the most fine-tuned automobile can encounter some setbacks.

Sometimes the setbacks are nothing more than standard maintenance…an oil change or a tire rotation every now and then to keep the car driving smoothly.

Sometimes it may be something that requires a little more time and effort to fix, but still is nothing more than a temporary delay (a set of new tires comes to mind).

But if there are more serious matters, such as if the engine or transmission goes, suddenly what was a smooth drive to one’s destination suddenly becomes a major hassle, detour, or an altogether cancellation of one’s plans.

Carson Wentz, in only his 2nd year of quarterbacking the Eagles, was the engine of this football team.  And it had been speeding down the “Autobahn” of the 2017 NFL season at warp speed, while others such as Jerry Jones and his car with the star painted on the side were in the slow lane looking on with envy.

At one time, it was Jones and his automobile which was revered on the highway.  But now, while he does his best to keep his Mercedes looking shiny and new, the truth of the matter is that it is old and clunky, and always seem to be in the shop for one reason or another.

But I digress (as I often do).  Surely, there are other key components that have helped to keep the Eagles in the fast lane.  And even after some of those parts were lost for the season (Jordan Hicks, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles), the “replacement parts” all seemed to be of genuine quality, making the car hum without skipping a beat.

But this, my friends, is different.  This isn’t just an ordinary part that can be easily replaced.  The Eagles had been searching far and wide for this part for much of their history, and seem to have finally found it.   But losing it puts a huge damper on what was an exhilarating win on the road against a very determined Rams team.  It was a victory that not only gave the Birds the NFC East championship with three games still left to play, but also catapulted them back into the top spot for the conference, thanks to a Vikings loss to the Panthers earlier on Sunday.

On Wentz’s final play of his season, he stood in the pocket and waited, waited, waited, until he found Alshon Jeffrey  open in the end zone.  The quarterback actually had an opening to run it in for a touchdown…an opening he would have normally exploited and taken the ball in himself.  Thinking back now, it was probably painful for him to move.

So the replacement engine has been installed and is ready to go.  And while everyone is aware that it is not as good as the original, that does not mean that it cannot do the job.

Nick Foles has been here before.  In 2013, it was Foles who led the Eagles to their last NFC East title, and did so while throwing 27 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.

But much like Thomas Dolby’s  one-hit wonder, “She Blinded Me With Science”, the fear is that Foles could be a one-hit wonder on the football field as well.

After his breakout season in 2013, Foles threw 13 TD’s and 10 INT’s for the Eagles the following year before he broke his collarbone in mid-season and missed the last seven games.  Still not bad numbers, but after he was traded for Sam Bradford before the start of the 2015 season, his stint as the then St. Louis Rams quarterback did not go as well, as he finished with more interceptions than touchdowns (13 INT’s vs. 10 TD’s), and was ultimately benched for Case Keenam, who is having his own career season with the Vikings this year.

The hope is that his lack of success in St. Louis was due to the team around him not being very good.  Foles will now be the maestro for a team that has a lot of quality parts around him.  And while he does not have the ability to elude the rush like Carson Wentz did, he still has good football smarts.

At the end of last week’s game, when the Eagles needed a first down to secure a victory, it was Foles who, on 3rd & 8, threw a pass to Nelson Agholor in a spot that only Agholor could catch it.  And to his credit, he did.  That is where the football smarts of Foles can shine through, especially when he is surrounded by skilled players around him.

Back in 1999, when the Rams lost starter Trent Green for the season in a preseason game, their coach, Dick Vermeil, stood in front of the media and announced, rather prophetically, that the Rams would “rally around Kurt Warner…. and we WILL play good football”.  And they did, winning the Super Bowl for the first time in their history.

Is Nick Foles on par with Kurt Warner?  Absolutely not.  But Eagles coach Doug Pederson was basically relaying the same message to his team this week (minus the crying of course).

Carson Wentz is a huge loss for this team.  But while Nick Foles is no Wentz, he WILL play good football, as the Birds win 31-13 this week against the Giants.

The engine has been replaced and the automobile is ready to go.  And while the road to the Super Bowl just became a little more treacherous, it does not mean that the new engine won’t get them there.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Chargers at Chiefs  8:30 PM  NFL Ntwrk  (Sat)

Packers at Panthers  1:00 PM  FOX

Rams at Seahawks  4:05 PM  FOX

Patriots at Steelers  4:25 PM  CBS

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #14: 1) Sloppy in Seattle & 2) He Went to Jared

What was one of the first things Sean McVay did when he became head coach of the Los Angeles Rams?  He went to Jared of course.

No, I don’t mean Jared, the “Galleria of Jewelry”, to buy his girlfriend a ring (sorry to disappoint you ladies).

Instead, he went to Jared as in Jared Goff, the Rams quarterback who had become somewhat of an enigma, to discuss what had taken place in his rookie season.

Goff, and Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, were both taken as the #1 & #2 overall picks, respectively, in the 2016 NFL draft.  And while rookie quarterbacks generally go through some growing pains in their first year, the general feeling around the Eagles at the end of last season was that the drafting of Wentz was the right decision.  Unfortunately, the same could not be said of Goff.

The Rams were dead last in the league in scoring last season,  with Goff starting the last seven games and throwing 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions with a passer rating of 63.6, which did nothing to inspire confidence that he was the bona fide future QB of the team (ironically, the starter for the first nine games was Case Keenum, who is leading the Vikings to a 10-2 start this year).

As for Sean McVay, he is not just another rookie coach, but was the youngest coach in NFL history at 30 years old when he was hired (he is 31 now) after spending the last three seasons as the Redskins offensive coordinator .  And while experience can be a big advantage in the NFL, McVay has proven that it can be overrated, as the Rams are tied with the Eagles for the #1 scoring offense in the NFL.

But to make sure that McVay has some quality experience around him, his defensive coordinator is Wade Phillips, who at 70 years old is old enough to be McVay’s father, and was the defensive coordinator for the Eagles from 1986-1988 during the Buddy Ryan years.

As for the Birds, I don’t know about sleepless, but their movie should be aptly named “Sloppy in Seattle”.

Perhaps it was the four consecutive blowout victories that preceded the Seahawks game that had them thinking they just needed to show up to win.

Or maybe there was too much attention paid to whether the defense would be doing the 1) Cha-Cha Slide or the 2) Cupid Shuffle as a follow up to the “Electric Slide”.

Whatever the reason may be, last Sunday’s game could best be described in three words:  SLOPPY, SLOPPY, SLOPPY.

But have no fear Eagles fans…there is no reason to jump off the bandwagon or cancel your flight to Minneapolis in February just yet.

The silver lining in all of this is that no team, in a 16-game schedule, comes fully prepared to play every week.  And it wasn’t a case of the Eagles being overmatched by a veteran Seattle team.  Even with all the sloppy play, the Birds had chances to win the game.

In the 1st quarter, Carson Wentz overthrew Nelson Agholor on a pass that may have resulted in a touchdown.  He usually makes that play.

Later in the game,  another pass to Agholor is caught but underthrown.  That same pass thrown in stride may have resulted in a touchdown.

In the 3rd quarter, Wentz, while going in for the tying score, fumbles the football, which results in a turnover and a huge opportunity lost.  Funny how, when you fumble the football while heading for the end zone against the “Bad News Bears”, the ball stays in bounds and is recovered by one of your teammates for a touchdown, but when you do the same thing against a good team like the Seahawks, it goes out of bounds and results in a touchback.   Good teams create their own luck it seems.

One pass overthrown, one underthrown, and a fumble at the goal line.  Twenty-one points left on the field right there.    Good teams like the Eagles don’t make those kind of mistakes.

The good news about this Sunday’s game against the Rams is that, while it is technically a road game, it may not actually feel like such.  Much like the game against the Chargers two months ago, it may be a stadium filled with rabid Eagles fans (including yours truly).

The Rams seem to think so, as they have been practicing with a silent count this week, which is usually only needed when playing on the road in a hostile environment.

The fact that the Eagles may have a home-field advantage out in LA is both a blessing for them, and a sign of how pathetic the idea of keeping an NFL team in Los Angeles really is.

The Eagles will gladly take all the help they can get, as after last week’s loss, they now find themselves playing in a game this Sunday that will have HUGE playoff implications.

Win, and they will keep their #2 conference seed with a chance to move back up to the #1 spot, should the Vikings slip up on the road against the Panthers on Sunday afternoon.

A first round bye comes with a week of rest and relaxation and the comforts of possibly never having to leave home.

Lose, and the Eagles will fall to the #3 and maybe even the #4 seed, if the Saints can defeat the Falcons on the road Thursday night.

Lose, and the result could mean a more precarious route to take on the road to the Super Bowl, with land mines at every turn.  That’s how important a win is this Sunday, even with four games left in the regular season.

The Eagles will win this Sunday because Carson Wentz will not repeat the same mistakes he made last week.

The Eagles will win this Sunday because their Prince Harry look-alike QB will carry this team on his shoulders.

Birds win 38-20.  And the Enchanted Season WILL continue.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Saints at Falcons  8:25 PM  NBC/NFL Ntwrk  (Thurs)

Vikings at Panthers  1:00 PM  CBS

EAGLES at Rams  4:25 PM  FOX

Seahawks at Jaguars  4:25 PM  FOX

Ravens at Steelers  8:30 PM  NBC

 

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #13: The Populists vs. the Establishment

If the NFL was a political party, it would have the same problem that the Republicans & Democrats do – a divided party.

On one side, you have the NFC Trump/Sanders “Populist”  conference, with the AFC representing the Bush/Clinton “Establishment/Status Quo” wing of the NFL.

Why the NFC as the Populists and not the other way around, even though seven of the eight original NFL teams now play in the NFC?  Because the two teams currently at the top of the NFC (Eagles & Vikings)  were teams that were not seen as anyone’s Super Bowl favorite going in.  Both were expected to be 9-7 at best by most of the so-called NFL experts, and “outsiders” in the race for the Super Bowl.  Instead, both teams have surpassed expectations and are hoping to make 2017 a year to remember.

On top of that, neither of these teams have ever won a championship in the 51-year history of the Super Bowl/modern era of football.  And while one of these teams has fans that are loyal to a fault, they have a fan “base” that any team would be jealous of.

On the flip side, the top two teams in the AFC, the Patriots & Steelers, have been a dynasty in their conference for so long, it’s hard to remember a time when they weren’t in power.  These two teams have not only won 11 of the 51 Super Bowls, but since the 2001 season, have won the championship an astounding seven of the last sixteen seasons.

One of these teams, in order to keep their hold on power, has even been accused of “rigging” games by stealing signs and deflating footballs, in order to make sure that their championship “foundation” remains intact.

Will this be the year that these two dominant football families (the Rooney’s with the Steelers and the Kraft’s with the Patriots) began to fall from grace?  Time will tell, but the climate is ripe for some new voices in the football world (just as it was in the political world), especially with young quarterbacks such as Carson Wentz and the Rams Jared Goff having such a favorable impact on their respective teams.

As for the Eagles, they now began what is their toughest stretch of the season – a 3-game road trip which includes back-to-back games against the Seattle Seahawks and the L.A Rams, the two teams that sit atop the NFC West.

Playing on the West Coast can be difficult for an East Coast team no matter who they’re facing, especially with the travel and time change involved.  But playing in Seattle, which is considered one of the loudest stadiums to play in, is just an added degree of difficulty.

Personally, the only reason Seattle’s stadium, CenturyLink Field, seems that loud (in my opinion) is due to its layout, which somehow manages to keep the sound in.  I refuse to believe that fans in the Pacific Northwest can be louder than ours.

As for the game, in any season but this one, most Eagles fans would have pegged this as a loss.  And most of us did back in the summer, before the Eagles home games started to resemble a college football game where a Division I powerhouse was beating up on the “Little Sisters of the Poor” (a.k.a the Akron’s and Georgia State’s of the college football world).

As for my predictions, the last two weeks I stated that the Bears and Cowboys would score 20 and 23 points, respectively (in an Eagles win), to which loyal reader and fellow season ticket holder Steve Market remarked that he was “having trouble coming up with how either team would score” that many points.  And to his credit, he was right, as both teams were held to single digits (the Cowboys nine points and the Bears only three).

So this week, instead of doubting the Eagles defense once again, I am handing over prediction responsibilities to Steve, who is predicting a 31-20 Eagles victory.  He also feels that since Wentz has already played in Seattle last season, his prowess of being a “film geek” will help to ensure that he’ll be better prepared this time around.

And while we’ll be “waiting all day for Sunday night”, there are a few entertaining games on FOX to hold us over till the Birds-Seahawks kickoff on NBC at approximately 8:30 PM.

First, we have the Vikings and Falcons in the “brunch w/ mimosas” game at 1 PM followed by the Panthers at Saints in the “happy hour w/ buffalo wings” game at 4:25 PM.  And in case you’re not sure, you should be rooting for the Falcons over the Vikings and the Panthers over New Orleans.

This Sunday should be a little tougher for our Birds than the last few weeks, as Seattle should be a good barometer of where the Eagles stand, though the Seahawks will be without defensive standouts Richard Sherman & Kam Chancellor due to injury.

But a 31-20 victory sounds just as appetizing as anything I’d pick up at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Patriots at Bills  1:00 PM  CBS

Vikings at Falcons  1:00 PM  FOX

Panthers at Saints  4:25 PM  FOX

EAGLES at Seahawks  8:30 PM  NBC