As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #10: America’s “Mediocre” Team Comes to Town

On Tuesday, voters flocked to the polls to determine the balance of power in Congress.

Meanwhile, the race to determine the balance of power in the eastern division of the NFC conference is also heating up.

With two months to go, two of the four “candidates” are locked in a virtual dead heat, while a third’s poll numbers have been slipping as of late.

The fourth candidate, from the NY/NJ/CT district, is so far behind in the polls that they have already conceded defeat in this election, and are formulating a strategy to regroup and energize their “base” in order to have a better showing next year.

In Congress, the political party of the President usually does not fare well in mid-term elections, losing an average of 30 House seats since World War II (the President’s party lost approx. 35 this year, which falls right in line with historical trends).

In the NFC East, being the “incumbent” does not fare well either, as there has not been a repeat champion in the division since the Eagles of the Philadelphia district won four straight elections from 2001-2004.  With half of their season still left, the Birds are hoping to buck that trend and get into the playoffs as a division winner, though they are too far behind in the “bye/homefield advantage” poll to end up as a #1 or #2 seed.

In addition, the Birds schedule does not help their cause.  While the Redskins remaining eight games feature only one opponent that currently has a winning record, the Eagles have two road games left against the top two teams in their conference (the Saints & Rams) as well as the Houston Texans at home in late December, which may not be as easy as it once looked.

Assuming the Eagles lose on the road against the Saints & Rams, they would have to win their six remaining games just to go 10-6, which, with the exception of the Texans game, are all against divisional foes (two each against the Redskins & Cowboys, one against the Giants).

If they were to win five of those six, they would end up at 9-7, which may or may not be enough to win the NFC East.  In such a scenario, they would probably have to sweep the Redskins to win the division with only nine wins.

While the Eagles defense was criticized in their close losses (giving up two long 4th down conversions which resulted in the team being 6-2 instead of 4-4 will do that), the defense is not playing any worse than last season when it comes to points scored against them.  It’s actually the offense that has regressed.

Last season, the Birds averaged 30.5 points/game (excluding the last regular season game, in which they had nothing to play for).

This season, the team is averaging only 22.3 points/game, which represents a significant  drop of more than 8 points/game from last year.  With the exception of the Giants game, they have not scored 30 or more points all season, something that they did nine times in 2017.

The arrival of Golden Tate from Detroit in a trade should help those anemic offensive numbers somewhat. Tate has averaged 93 catches per season over the last four years, and his presence on the field should help to open up the ball to other pass catchers as well.

The injury bug continues to plague the Birds, however.  Darren Sproles, who seems to have the longest nagging hamstring in the history of the NFL, is out once again, and injuries in the secondary to cornerbacks Jalen Mills & Sidney Jones won’t help matters either.

Interestingly enough, this will actually be the first relevant Eagles – Cowboys contest at home in three years.  Both in 2016 & 2017, they faced each other on the last week of the season, in a game that was irrelevant to both teams.

In ’16, the Cowboys had already clinched home field advantage and were using the game to get Tony Romo back up to speed after recovering from injury.  The Birds won that game and finished up their season 7-9, heading into the offseason with questions about whether their coach, Doug Pederson, was NFL quality caliber.  We all know how that turned out.

In ’17, it was the Cowboys playing out the string and winning the game, while the Eagles were using it to figure out whether Nick Foles was good enough to get them through the playoffs and to their first Super Bowl title in team history.  We all know how that turned out.

Dallas is in a more precarious position than the Birds are.  They lost at home to Tennessee last Monday night, and come to the Linc on a short week and on a short lifeline, with a record of 3-5 on the season.

But while the Cowboys have been struggling this season,  they are still hated in these parts with that stupid “America’s Team” label, which really needs to change to “America’s Mediocre Team”, being that they haven’t been relevant for most of this century.

Being a Sunday night game, the crowd will have had all day to feast on tailgate food and drink, and thus, will be thrusting for blood by the time the 8:20 PM kickoff rolls around.

I expect the Eagles to come out looking much better on offense, and with the addition of Golden Tate, to win this game, 34-20.

I also predict that the stoic, confused look on Jerry Jones’s face will be shown often on national television, with the Sunday night broadcast team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth continuing to kiss his “gluteus maximus” instead of being critical of his football decisions in any aspect.

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

Panthers at Steelers 8:20 PM NFL Network/FOX (Thurs.)

Saints at Bengals 1:00 PM FOX

Patriots at Titans 1:00 PM CBS

 

 

 

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As Broad & Pattison Turns: The Birds, the Brits, and the Bye Week

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First, our Jubilee Line train stalled right before it reached Wembley Park station last Sunday.

Then, in what seemed like a bad omen, the Eagles offense seemed to stall as well late in the 4th quarter.

Luckily, both made it to their desired destination in time.

The London “Underground” train, after halting for about 10-15 minutes, made it to Wembley Park, and the Eagles managed to not give up another late lead and lose the game.

After the Eagles took a 24-15 lead with 9:55 left in the 4th quarter, they allowed the Jaguars to go 69 yards on 10 plays before stopping them at the 6-yard line and forcing a field goal, which cut the Birds lead to 24-18.

But regardless of which city or continent they are playing in, the Eagles have been prone to giving up late leads over the first half of the season. So when the team went three and out on its next possession and punted to Jacksonville, thoughts of another late game collapse must have been permeating through the minds of all those who had made the trip to London to watch their beloved Birds.

Those thoughts came to the forefront when, on 4th & 1 at their own 36, the Jaguars converted and kept their drive alive.  Somehow, the Eagles seem unable to stop anyone on 4th down, and this only solidified that opinion especially in this writer’s mind.

But when the Jaguars reached 3rd & 2 at their own 48, they were unable to convert on two straight passes, and the Birds offense garnered two more first downs to run out the clock and seal the game.

If the Eagles were playing a quality opponent, the outcome could have been different.  But this was the Jaguars, a team that was still trying to find the magic that got them 15 minutes away from reaching the Super Bowl last season.

With the win, the Birds got to 4-4 and more importantly, did not send their faithful out into the jam packed line waiting to board the train asking themselves why they made this trip to see another devastating loss.

While I expected throngs of Eagles fans to make the trip to London, the one thing that surprised me was how many British football fans there actually are.

If one wanted to gauge the heavy attendance of the Brits at Wembley Stadium last Sunday, the evidence could be found when the singing of the Star Spangled Banner was followed by the singing of  God Save the Queen.  As soon as the song began, one could hear thousands in attendance at Wembley singing along, signaling that American football is not only a game followed by those who live on American shores.

And while, on my many visits to other cities to watch the Eagles, I’ve always been surprised at how many Birds fans I’ve met who’ve never lived in the Delaware Valley, I was also equally amazed to see how many Eagles fans there were who reside in the U.K.

For example, my father, while waiting in the concession line during the game, met a young man in his 20’s who drove from Manchester to Wembley on the morning of the game just to watch his favorite NFL team, the Eagles, play.  His girlfriend, who was in attendance with him, was a Redskins fan because…well because she found a Redskins hat at a young age and started wearing it.

Everyone has their reasons for becoming a fan of a team I suppose (ironically, my brother-in-law is also a Redskins fan, but that’s because he grew up in Northern Virginia, not because he found a hat).

On the train leaving the game, we spotted an older British gentleman wearing a Carson Wentz jersey.  Curious, I asked him how he became an Eagles fan.  He replied that while he had lived in the U.K all his life, he got hooked to the NFL, and became a Philadelphia fan, while listening to game broadcasts on Armed Forces radio back in the 1970’s.  He explained to us, in delight, how he had the chance to visit Philadelphia and experience a game back at the “Vet” in the 80’s.

It’s stories like these that make Eagles road trips just as memorable as watching the game itself, and I’m glad that, in the case of the London game, we could make a memorable family trip out of it.

With the Birds having their bye this week (a.k.a “Rake your leaves” Sunday), there is no game to preview, so instead let’s take a look at this week’s marquee matchups:

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

Steelers at Ravens 1:00 PM CBS   – I keep hearing how good of a team the Ravens are, but with a record of 4-4, they have been inconsistent thus far.

The Steelers always seem to be in play for a playoff spot, though some of their fans (namely, my friends who are Steelers fans) would like to see a change at the head coaching position.  Being a battle between two division rivals, this should be an intriguing contest, and represents the only marquee matchup in the 1 PM EST time slot.

Chargers at Seahawks 4:05 PM CBS – The Chargers hope to take that next step and become an elite team in the AFC.  But time is running out for quarterback Philip Rivers, who is now in his 15th NFL season, to reach that elusive Super Bowl.

The Seahawks defense is no longer the “Legion of Boom” team they were just a few years ago, but they have been playing well as of late.  And while the Los Angeles Rams, barring a collapse, will run away with the NFC West, Seattle is hoping to get an invite to the NFL playoff dance via one of the two wildcard spots.

Rams at Saints 4:25 PM FOX – This game is the best one on the docket this week, as it pits the top two teams in the NFC against each other, and could determine who gets home field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

The Rams held off the Packers at home last week, but should have a tougher time on the road in the New Orleans Superdome.  L.A is the lone undefeated team left in the NFL, which could change by Sunday night.

Packers at Patriots 8:20 PM NBC – Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady…need I say more?  Ironically, these two have yet to face each other in a Super Bowl, and I don’t see that changing this season.