As the Jubilee Line Turns Week #8: The Birds & the Brits

For three quarters, things were going so well.

For three quarters, Eagles fans were watching the team they remember so fondly from last year…you know, the team that got off to a big lead and won so easily.

For most of this season, it seemed that the Eagles were in a funk.  But in last week’s Giants game, and for three quarters of the Carolina game, Philadelphia looked like it had finally ate the snickers bar and become “themselves” again.

And then it all unraveled before you could say “Piccadilly Circus”.

In one of the most bizarre quarters of football I ever recall, Carolina scored 21 unanswered points in a 21-17 Eagles defeat that left most of the 69,000 plus fans who had ventured to the Linc on an unseasonably chilly and windy day, understandably despondent and confused.

Perhaps the Eagles were thinking ahead to visiting Big Ben, Windsor Castle and the London Eye, instead of keeping an eye on Panthers wide receivers Devin Funchess & ex-Eagle Torrey Smith, who torched the Birds for a combined 10 catches for 123 yards and one touchdown?

Perhaps defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz started reading the London Underground “tube” map, thinking it was his defense’s play calling sheet?  That would explain why his defense seemed like it was underground and stuck in a tub for the whole 4th quarter.

But the Eagles offense is not without its share of blame either.  Just as the defense, which had played so well for three quarters, completely fell apart, the offense, which had done the same for most of the contest, decided to match the defense’s 4th quarter ineptitude.

The same Eagles offense which managed 19 first downs through the first three quarters only managed two in the final 15 minutes, and Carson Wentz’s decision to throw to a double covered Alshon Jeffery instead of opting for a short pass to a wide open Wendell Smallwood on 3rd & 2 on the Eagles final drive sealed the game.

Wentz’s stats for the day were simply amazing  – 30 for 37 passing for 310 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.  But his numbers masked that he, just like the rest of the team, were abysmal when it came to closing out the game.

The Eagles now sit at 3-4 and are a defensive stop on 4th & 10 against Carolina and 4th & 15 against the Titans, respectively, from being 5-2 instead.  But as ex-Giants coach Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are”.  And the Eagles are simply average at this point.

The Birds travel to London this week to try to erase the bad taste that still permeates after a bad loss to Carolina.  And while the Eagles 4th quarter collapse did deflate my London trip balloon somewhat, it will be the first time that the Birds will play a regular season game overseas, which will make it all the more exciting for their fans who travel almost as well as Steelers fans.

The Eagles opponent for their inaugural international game will be the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have played a home game in London every year since 2013.  The Jags made it to the AFC Championship last season, and were a quarter away from facing the Eagles in last year’s Super Bowl.

Since starting the season 3-1, however, the Jags have lost three straight and have been outscored 90-28 during their losing streak.  They benched their quarterback, Blake Bortles, during last week’s 20-7 loss and replaced him with journeyman Cody Kessler, though Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone did state that Bortles would start against the Eagles on Sunday.

Before the season, I saw this as a loss for the Eagles, with the thought that facing a good Jacksonville team that was used to playing annually in the U.K would be a tough task for the Birds.  But the Jags have turned to pussycats as of late, and this is a great opportunity for Philadelphia to forget about the Carolina game and right the ship heading into their bye.

A win would put the Eagles at 4-4, which is not where the defending Super Bowl champions expected to be at this point.  And while there is still half of a season remaining to be played, the schedule only gets tougher from here, with road games against the Rams & Saints still looming.

Luckily, the NFC East is weak this year, which still gives the team a chance at a division title and a first round home playoff game.  But we should forget about any hopes for a first round bye and home field advantage in the playoffs at this point.

While we were looking forward to drinking Chimay when the season started, we may have to settle for Coors Light.

But regardless of the Eagles record, I plan to enjoy my time in the U.K with the “Birds & the Brits”.  Eagles win 24-17.

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

Dolphins at Texans 8:20 PM FOX/NFL Network (Thurs)

Ravens at Panthers 1:00 PM CBS

Buccaneers at Bengals 1:00 PM FOX

Packers at Rams 4:25 PM FOX

Saints at Vikings 8:20 PM NBC

 

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As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #7: Back to Normalcy

The Eagles got back to a bit of championship “normalcy” last Thursday night.  By normalcy, I mean that they got ahead early against an inferior opponent and played stifling defense to ensure that any hope of the Giants coming back was thwarted.

The devil’s advocate would point out that the Giants are not exactly the New England Patriots, and their offense consists of Saquon Barkely and (enter sound of crickets chirping here).  But playoff caliber teams are supposed to win these kind of games, which was a departure from what the Eagles did in losses to Tampa Bay & Tennessee.

And while the Giants look to have a great talent at running back, they may rue the day that they chose Barkley over a quarterback that could have been their future for years to come.

Their fellow brethren at MetLife Stadium, the New York Jets, chose Sam Darnold with the 3rd pick in the 2018 NFL draft with the hope that he will be their franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future, and if that comes to fruition, it will only serve to rub more salt in the Giants’ wounds.  Since the mid-1980’s,  it has been the Giants that have enjoyed most of the NFL success in the Big Apple, but their fateful decision on draft day could change that.

Speaking of franchise quarterbacks, since returning from injury, Carson Wentz seems to look more comfortable as each week progresses, and he seems to have developed an uncanny connection with Alshon Jeffery, his #1 wide receiver.  The signing of Jeffery to be Wentz’s go-to guy before the 2017 season seems to have been a great move by general manager Howie Roseman, and the improvement of Nelson Agholor since his disappointing rookie season has really solidified this receiving corps.

One of the main areas of focus, especially after the Eagles lost to the Minnesota Vikings two weeks back, has been the run-pass ratio, with some criticizing the Eagles for their heavy dependence on the passing game.

The problem with just looking at the numbers is that they are often predicated by the situation in the game, as well as the down and distance.

Against the Vikings, the Birds, because of dumb pre snap penalties, were often in 2nd & long and 3rd & long situations, which skewed the run-pass ratio more toward the pass.

During the Giants game, I did my own “modified” run-pass ratio tracking by looking only at plays that weren’t passing downs (1st & 10 or less, 2nd & 6 or less, 3rd & 3 or less).  In this analysis, I also excluded 1) The Eagles last drive before halftime (as they were passing to get into position to kick a field goal) as well as the 2) Last 10 minutes of the game (which was skewed toward the run since the game was all but won).

Out of 37 total plays that fit the aforementioned scenario, I counted 21 passing plays & 16 running plays, for a 57% pass ratio.  Anything over 60%, and the Eagles would have seemed too pass happy, so 57% was definitely an acceptable percentage in my opinion.

Unfortunately, with no Eagles game last Sunday, I played the role of bonafide “couch potato”, hoping for some outside help against our NFC East foes.  But it never showed up.

The Panthers couldn’t manage to pull out a win against the Redskins, while the Jaguars didn’t show up against the Cowboys, which means that a logjam currently sits at the top of the division, with the Redskins at 3-2 and the Eagles & Cowboys each at 3-3.

This week, the Panthers come to Philadelphia, playing the last of three straight games against an NFC East opponent.  Carolina hopes to avoid a losing streak, and expect their quarterback, Cam Newton, to be flashing his goofy smile regardless of what the game situation may be.

The Birds have been great at home under Doug Pederson, and it looks like they may have righted their ship after last week, so I’m predicting a Birds win, 34-17.

The Eagles at 4-3 sounds much better than 3-4, and would make their first regular season game in London all the more special.  But first things first…

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

Titans at Chargers (London) 9:30 AM CBS

Patriots at Bears 1:00 PM CBS

Saints at Ravens 4:05 PM FOX

Cowboys at Redskins 4:25 PM CBS

Bengals at Chiefs 8:20 PM NBC

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #6: A Must-Win in the Meadowlands

If the general consensus is that the Eagles are suffering from a Super Bowl hangover, then the good news is that the rest of their division is too busy doing shots of tequila (figuratively speaking) to care.

That is the only thing one can surmise, as witnessed by the fact that no team in the division has a winning record five weeks into the season.  The Washington Redskins had a chance to be the early front runners, but went to New Orleans and got blown out in a game where yours truly was more interested in watching weather coverage of Hurricane Michael by the time the fourth quarter rolled around.

In my opinion, the Redskins were 2-1 going into the New Orleans game only because they hadn’t faced any team of substance, and Drew Brees and the Saints quickly put them  back in their place.

But while the rest of the division wallows in mediocrity, your hometown Birds seem like they don’t want to be left out of happy hour at the “NFC Least Bar & Grill” either.  The Eagles lost another game on Sunday that they probably would have won last year, as even though they managed to erase a 20-3 deficit to make it a 20-14 contest and were 24 yards away from taking the lead, that drive ended up with no more than a punt.

Yes, that’s right ladies and gentlemen – 2nd & 4 at the Vikings 24 yard line and the best this team can do is punt.  But that’s what happens when dumb penalties have become a staple of your young season.

And even after they managed to pin the Vikings all the way down at their own 10 yard line, Minnesota was still able to drive the ball down and kick a field goal to put the game out of reach.  There was no Brandon Graham strip sack a la last year’s Super Bowl.  No big stop on 3rd down to give the offense another crack at reaching the end zone.

The “top shelf” liquor that this team was drinking from last season has now been replaced by the cheapest house brand, which is tainted and severely watered down.

This team could easily be 5-0 right now.  But they could just as easily be 0-5.  Meet in the middle and you have a mediocre product.

Luckily, there is still time to right the ship, but as we near the halfway point of the season, even Father Time only gives you so many chances.

The Eagles could beat the Giants this week and it wouldn’t be a surprise.  Conversely, they could get beat in a close game and it would not shock anyone either.  Such is the state of your Birds these days.

The Eagles will not only have to deal with Giants stud running back Saquon Barkley, but also a passing attack that features Odell Beckham  Jr.  The loss of safety Rodney McLeod for the year will not help in that respect, and the defense is still waiting for someone in the secondary to step up and fill his void.

I’m not sure what to think anymore.  The Birds are defending Super Bowl champions and still have a good portion of their team intact from last season, so the hope is that they eventually turn on the switch and play like it.

The Eagles players will tell you that they are a much better team than their record indicates, but their fans are still waiting for some corroborating evidence to back up that statement.

My heart tells me that the Birds will win, but my head tells me otherwise.  I’ll go with my heart…at least for this week.

Birds win 24-16.  If not, the flight for the Eagles game in London in a few weeks could seem a LOT longer than seven hours…

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

Bears at Dolphins 1:00 PM FOX

Steelers at Bengals 1:00 PM CBS

Ravens at Titans 4:25 PM CBS

Jaguars at Cowboys 4:25 PM CBS

 

 

 

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #5: The Vikings Return

First, Carson Wentz got his BFF (best friend forever) Jordan Matthews, back on the team.

Next, he got his BCR (best current receiver) Alshon Jeffery, back from injury.

That combination was a lethal one last Sunday afternoon, as Jeffery returned to catch eight passes for 105 yards.  And while Matthews only had one catch for 56 yards, it was for the game’s first touchdown that put the Eagles up 7-3 late in the 2nd quarter.

Add to that Zach Ertz’s ten catches for 112 yards, and the Eagles passing game had them up 17-3 halfway through the third quarter on a gorgeous sunny day in Nashville looking full of roses and rainbows.

Unfortunately, by the time the game ended, the city that is the home of the Country Music Hall of Fame had the Eagles singing only the blues, as Tennessee rallied for a 26-23 victory in overtime.

What was a comfortable 17-3 lead turned into a Titans 20-17 lead before the Birds woke up to tie the game with 16 seconds left.  But on the play before, the Eagles, facing 3rd & 3 from the Titans 12, somehow chose to throw a fade pattern into the end zone that had no chance of being caught, which had me scratching my head.  A better play call there might have given the team a chance to win with a touchdown in regulation.

But all that didn’t seem to matter when the Eagles got the ball first in overtime at their own 25 and, within five plays, already had a 1st down at the Titans 17-yard line.  Surely, the defending Super Bowl champions would continue this drive with ease and take it in for a touchdown, ending this game once and for all?

But the Eagles lost two yards from that point forward, which meant that even though Jake Elliott’s 37-yard field goal sailed through the uprights with ease, the Titans still had a chance to tie or win the game.

What followed was disconcerting to say the least, as the Birds defense allowed Tennessee to convert not one, not two, but THREE 4th downs to keep their hopes alive and eventually seal the victory with a touchdown.  The worst one was the first, as on 4th & 15 from their own 31, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota dropped back to pass and found a wide open Taywan Taylor out for a leisurely stroll 19 yards down the sideline.  Mariota threw the ball his way and Taylor turned to his left to catch it without so much as an Eagle in the vicinity to disrupt him.

Last season, the Eagles would have stopped the Titans right there.

Last season, even after Tennessee had cut the Eagles lead to 17-10, this team would have found a way to counter with a score of their own, dashing any hopes the Titans would have had of making a game of it.  But last season, the Eagles were an unknown who had never won a Super Bowl in their history.

A byproduct of being defending Super Bowl champs is that no one will take this team lightly on any given Sunday.  Even the teams that range from downright putrid to slightly above mediocre (like the Titans) will play the Eagles as if it’s their Super Bowl, as witnessed by the fact that Titans fans (which only made up half of the stadium due to the large influx of Birds fans that made the trip to the Music City) celebrated as if they had actually won something after the game was over.

In the words of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, “Toto – I don’t think we’re in 2017 anymore.”

A 3-1 start would have put this team in a good position.

A 2-2 start is somewhat precarious, as the schedule is brutal, with trips to New Orleans and Los Angeles still on tap for the 2nd half of the season.

The Eagles got to the Super Bowl last year because of a nine game winning streak in which they did not lose a game for over two and a half months, which set them up with the #1 seed & homefield advantage in the playoffs.  Travel on the road in the postseason to Minnesota, Atlanta, or L.A with your backup quarterback last season, and I don’t think the Birds are Super Bowl champions.

While it’s still early, the Rams are already 4-0 and hold a two game lead over Philadelphia for the top seed in the NFC.  And while injuries can quickly change any team’s fortunes, the Eagles can’t afford any more bad losses.

This week’s opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, also had high hopes for 2018, especially after acquiring Kirk Cousins from the Redskins to be their starting quarterback.  But they’ve also gotten off to a slow start with a 1-2-1 record, and cannot afford to fall back any further in the NFC “Frozen” division (that’s NFC North for those of you keeping tabs).

This Sunday would be a good time for the Eagles to start to right the ship.  Problem is, Kirk Cousins knows the Eagles too well, having faced them twice a year over the last six years.  However, playing at home before their home crowd, the Birds seem to do quite well under Doug Pederson, and should continue that trend this week.

Birds win 27-23, and hope prevails for a Super Bowl repeat…for at least one more week.

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

Jaguars at Chiefs 1:00 PM CBS

Dolphins at Bengals 1:00 PM CBS

Redskins at Saints 8:15 PM ESPN (Mon)