As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #11: Difficult task in the Big Easy

The Philadelphia Eagles, one year removed from their first ever Super Bowl title, have been doing a lousy job of defending their status as champions.

A record of 4-4 halfway through the season, with three of their four losses coming in excruciatingly painful fashion, have the faithful pulling their hair out and wondering if 2017 was simply a mirage that never really happened.

With the team opening up the 2nd half of its season against the Dallas Cowboys, a team that has been mired in mediocrity not only this season but basically since the turn of the century, this matchup seemed like the perfect tonic for whatever has been ailing the Birds.  And the oddsmakers must have felt the same way, as the Eagles were seven point favorites going in.

But when Philadelphia went on offense to start the game and promptly went three and out, I couldn’t help but think of Han Solo in those classic Star Wars movies looking over at Chewbacca and stating, “I’ve got a BAD feeling about this”.

That bad feeling continued for the first thirty minutes as the Eagles went into halftime down 13-3.  This team’s ineptitude at the beginning of games is puzzling, as they have now scored a total of 21 points during the 1st quarter all season, with 14 of those points coming in one game against the lowly New York Giants.

The Birds did manage to crawl out of their hole to start the 3rd quarter and eventually tied the game at 13-13.  But on the two occasions that they clawed their way back into a tie, Dallas’s offense, which was held in check for most of the first half, would drive down the field without much resistance to retake the lead. 

Down 27-20, the Birds reached the Dallas 30 yard line at the two-minute warning of the 4th quarter.  But on 3rd & 2, a swing pass to Corey Clement was sniffed out for a 5-yard loss, and the following play, a pass to tight end Zach Ertz, fell just one yard short of the first down. 

And while the Eagles did get the ball back with 38 seconds left, it was too little, too late.  That’s the kind of season it’s been my friends.

This team, instead of resembling a Super Bowl champion, looks very much like the 7-9 team of two years ago.  That was Doug Pederson’s first year as head coach, and that team also had the habit of losing close games that they could have won had one or two plays gone the other way.

Sitting at 4-5, the Eagles now find themselves heading to New Orleans to face the Saints, who just happen to be the top team in the NFC, a spot that the Birds held for most of last season.

Add to that the fact that the New Orleans Superdome is not an easy place to play, and the Saints feature one of the best current coach/quarterback combinations in Sean Payton & Drew Brees (second only to Tom Brady & Bill Belichick in my opinion), and one can see why the Eagles started off as nine-point underdogs.

The good news (if there is any) is that the Birds should be able to score on this defense.  The bad news is, can they actually stop the Saints offense?

Both starting cornerbacks for the Eagles (Ronald Darby & Jalen Mills) are out, with Darby out for the remainder of the season.  2nd year man Sidney Jones will return this week, and will have to earn his paycheck as the starting outside corner for the first time since his college days against a dangerous Saints offense.  Opposite him will be his fellow 2017 draft pick Rasul Douglas, who allowed eight catches last week in his first starting gig.

For some reason, I think that the Eagles will play with a lot of pride, and actually keep it close.  The question is, is this team good enough to win?

Birds lose this game, 28-24.  And let’s hope the Redskins & Cowboys do as well.  Otherwise, we may be throwing the 2018 Eagles season out with the trash on Monday morning.

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

Texans at Redskins 1:00 PM CBS

Vikings at Bears 8:20 PM NBC

Chiefs at Rams 8:15 PM ESPN (Mon.)

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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

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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

 

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #4: Music City Time

This team seems to be making a habit of this.

Three times in their last four home games dating back to last season, their opponent has gotten within ten yards of the end zone in the closing minutes of the game with a chance to win.

And all three times, the Eagles have come up victorious.

The first game of the three was the reason their playoff run continued last season, and one of the main reasons we can emphatically declare them Super Bowl champions for the first time.

But with the exception being the NFC Championship against the Vikings, the Eagles sit at 2-1 on this young season because their defense stiffened when it needed to, and stopped the Falcons and Colts when they were in danger of stealing the game.

The Birds could have easily been 0-3 right now, and contemplating what might have been.  But good teams find a way to win these games, which is what the Eagles are.

But how long can this go on?  How many weeks can this team expect their defense to pull a rabbit out of their hat?

To be fair, they were playing with their backup quarterback (Nick Foles) the first two weeks, though the “devil’s advocate” in me will say that this is the same backup quarterback who won them the Super Bowl last season.

In addition, the “chosen one” (Carson Wentz) was understandably a little rusty his first week back, as witnessed by his best Johnny Manziel impression, when he stared down Zach Ertz on a poorly thrown pass that was intercepted by the Colts Anthony Walker.  Luckily, Indianapolis could only muster a 31-yard field goal, which helped to mitigate the damage.

It also didn’t help that the Eagles were still playing like a “MASH” unit, with many of their starters, including wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and running backs Darron Sproles and Jay Ajayi, still out last week.  Luckily, Wendell Smallwood came up big in their place, and Bucks County rookie Josh Adams and 2nd year back Corey Clement played admirably as well.

This week, the Birds travel to Nashville to face the Titans and maybe catch a country music concert while they are there.  Not sure if Elvis will be making the trip from Graceland for the game, but it does look like many Eagles fans are hoping to make it a grand old party at the Grand Ole Opre, as many are expected to travel out to the “music city” to cheer on their Birds.

As of now, it looks like Alshon Jeffrey should be back in the lineup, which will help the Eagles and Carson Wentz get their groove back in the passing game.

It has been a long time since the days of the “Music City Miracle” for the Titans, but they currently stand at 2-1 as well and are hoping that Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota can be their future savior…if he can actually stay healthy.

This will not be an easy game for the Birds on the road, but Wentz and the crew will prevail 24-16, before partaking in any country line dancing.

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

Vikings at Rams 8:20 PM FOX/NFL Network (Thurs)

EAGLES at Titans 1:00 PM FOX

Buccaneers at Bears 1:00 PM FOX

Dolphins at Patriots 1:00 PM CBS

Bengals at Falcons 1:00 PM CBS

Ravens at Steelers 8:20 PM NBC

Chiefs at Broncos 8:15 PM ESPN (Mon)

The Last Word:

Ladies & gentlemen, meet “Gritty”, the brand new mascot that the Flyers unveiled this week.

gritty flyers mascot

At first glance, this looks like a character from “Fraggle Rock” gone awry.

Plus, as opposed to endearing (e.g the Philly Phanatic), this creature looks like something that my six year old niece and two year old nephew would be terrified of.

If this is a harbinger of things to come, the Flyers may be in for a very long season….

 

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #2: Tampadelphia

While the threat of lightening before last week’s much anticipated season opening “raise the championship banner” game never came to fruition, lightening did strike once again in the closing seconds of an Eagles – Falcons game at home.

Much like the divisional playoff game last January, Atlanta managed to drive the ball all the way down inside the Eagles 10-yard line with time winding down, causing a lot of nail biting with the faithful who had come out on a surprisingly humid early Sept. night.

But once again, it was the Eagles defense that came up big when a pass that was intended for Julio Jones was ruled incomplete due to being caught out of bounds, and the local Birds escaped with a win in the opener that kept the “feel good” positive atmosphere that has surrounded  this team since last February alive for at least one more week.

That’s not to say that there isn’t work to be done.  The offense struggled, just as they did in last year’s playoff game, but managed to keep it close and score when needed.  But games like this on a consistent basis will not a Super Bowl repeat champion make.

On the positive side, the Eagles defense looks to be its strength, at least for now.  And there is no reason why Nick Foles cannot improve his play, just as he did in the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl.  The Birds really have no choice until Carson Wentz is cleared to play, which could be as early as next week at home against the Colts.

But first, the team must travel to Tampa for a contest that initially looked like a day at the beach (Clearwater beach to be exact).  But that was before the Buccaneers went down to the Big Easy and gave a spanking to the New Orleans Saints, who many had picked as their Super Bowl favorite.

Tampa quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has journeyed around the NFL more than Anthony Bourdain has journeyed around the world, ran roughshod over the Saints defense last week in a 48-40 Tampa win.

But while the “Fitz” hasn’t met a barber he actually likes, it seems that he does have a duo of quality receivers that get his beard all tingly, most notably Mike Evans and former Eagle DeSean Jackson.

The Eagles defense will have to come to play, and cannot afford to take Tampa lightly.  On the plus side, even though this is technically a road game, count on a “Tampa Takeover” as Eagles fans will be coming in from both near and far to soak in the sun and suds, and support their team like very few fans can.

Much like the Chargers game last year, there could very well be more Eagles fans than Bucs fan at this game, which would make it a surreal situation when a chorus of boos roll out when the home team is introduced.

But along with the Eagles strong travel contingent (including yours truly who will be attending a wedding in Sarasota the night before), there is already a legion of Eagles fans who are transplants from the Delaware Valley who get together every Sunday to watch their beloved Birds at the Crowne Plaza Tampa Westshore (near the airport).

The group is appropriately known as “Tampadelphia”, and when I was visiting Tampa last December and looking for a place to watch the Eagles – Giants game with fellow Birds fans, I happened to find this group with the help of a local Eagles fan.

Things got a little scary at the end of the game, but the Birds pulled it out by preventing the Giants from scoring after having 1st & Goal from the Eagles 9 (quite similar to last week’s Falcons game as well), which caused the Tampadelphia crowd to erupt…

While I think that the Eagles will face a tougher test this week than originally thought, they are still the better team, and should come out ahead, 31-17.

Let’s hope the sun shines on the Birds this Sunday.  Meanwhile, if the sun shines a  little in these parts as well, that wouldn’t be so bad either.  Six straight days of cloudy weather is getting to me…

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

EAGLES at Buccaneers 1:00 PM FOX

Panthers at Falcons 1:00 PM FOX

Chiefs at Steelers 1:00 PM CBS

Dolphins at Jets 1:00 PM CBS

Chargers at Bills 1:00 PM CBS

Patriots at Jaguars 4:25 PM CBS

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #1: Championship Edition

FINALLY!!!!!

After 58 years of frustration, mediocrity, some close calls, and a lot of heartbreak, the team from the city of brotherly love finally broke through the steel gates in grand fashion and brought their city what they have richly deserved for so long…the team’s first NFL championship of the Super Bowl era.

What made it even more special was that it was totally unexpected.  This was not one of those teams from the Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb era of the early 2000’s when everyone figured that the Eagles would easily win the division and go to the NFC Championship game with a reasonable shot to make it to the Super Bowl.

If one were to go back to Labor Day 2017 and find anyone that predicted that this team would win it all, they would probably be labeled a dope or moron (and not just by Howard Eskin).

No, 2018 was a season in which a 9-7 record would have signaled a step toward respectability and a sign that the team’s 2nd year quarterback was progressing in the right direction.  But somewhere along the way, someone forget to tell this team that merely earning a winning record was good enough.

A 61-yard field goal by kicker Jake Elliott as time expired gave the Eagles and their fans an exhilarating last second win in their home opener and kick started a nine game winning streak, which put the Eagles at 10-1 and gave the league notice that they were serious contenders to become the NFC representative for the Super Bowl.

But a week 14 road win against a tough Rams team, which clinched the NFC East, was tempered by the fact that their star quarterback, Carson Wentz,  would be out for the remainder of the season.  And when his backup, Nick Foles, looked downright awful in his last two regular season games, many felt that the the Birds would be “one-and-done” in the playoffs, and that Carson Wentz’s injury was just another sign that this team was eternally cursed.

Most national prognosticators seemed to agree with that sentiment as well, as the Eagles entered the playoffs as the first #1 seed since the 1970 Colts to be underdogs in the divisional round of the playoffs.

But with coach Doug Pederson tailoring the offense to his quarterback’s strengths, and Nick Foles’s improved play, the Birds squeaked past the Falcons on a defensive stand, and then blew out the Vikings to earn the right to play in a Super Bowl that no one expected them to be in during the dog days of summer.

And who could have asked for a better opponent than the New England Patriots?  The same team, quarterback, and coach who had defeated the Birds in their last Super Bowl appearance 13 years earlier would be the foe they would have to exercise their past demons against.  And in a game that was one for the ages, the Birds played with an aggressive style that their former coach, Andy Reid, would never have done.

If Reid had still been the Eagles coach, the “Philly Special” would have been replaced with a field goal,  and the gutsy 4th & 1 when Doug Pederson gambled and went for the first down and succeeded with 5 minutes left in the game (which eventually resulted in the winning touchdown) would have been replaced by a punt and a 33-30 Eagles loss.

Pederson deserves all of the accolades for his play calling in the Super Bowl, and this team deserves all of the credit for rallying together as “underdogs” and jelling at the right time.

After what was nothing short of a miracle season, the Lombardi trophy is finally yours Philadelphia.  So without further ado (and before we began the 2018 season), I dedicate the 2017 championship season to the following:

  • Section 244 at the Linc (and a special shout out to Section 745 at the old Vet)
  • Abhi K., a longtime Philadelphia sports fan and his prized “We are #1” pose in many of our childhood photos.
  • My father, who had me change the channel to the Eagles game at 1 PM one Sunday afternoon when I was 7 years old.  The television has been replaced multiple times since but what is being watched has remained the same.
  • Longtime Eagles season ticket holder Steve M., who ironically happens to be married to a lifelong Giants fan.  I guess opposites actually do attract.
  • Janaki Maushi, who still follows all the Philadelphia sports teams even while living 8,000 miles away from Broad & Pattison.
  • My mom and her “halftime hoagies” all throughout my childhood.  They were always served with a smile, even on days when the Eagles had given you nothing to smile about.
  • Joe L., my season ticket comrade for 18 years.
  • Arun Kaka, who is always optimistic that the Eagles can go 16-0, even in years when it looked like they may go 0-16.
  • My sister, “The Neelj”, who’s knowledge of Eagles football is second to none.
  • Shashi Maushi, who’s smile is always missed when the Eagles win a big game.
  • Pathak Kaka, to whom I lost every Eagles bet I ever made.  Luckily, he never made me pay up and actually wash his car.
  • Merrill Reese & Mike Quick, who make it worthwhile to turn down the sound on your TV and turn up the radio.  Much like Harry Kalas before them for the Phillies, the game would not be as enjoyable to watch without them.
  • Anthony Gargano (the cuz) – a “4 for 4” Phila. sports fan & radio personality on 97.5.
  • Ray Didinger – the reason to DVR “Eagles Postgame Live” on my way home from the Linc.

Last but definitely not least, my uncle Kishor.  While he has not been with us since 2010, he was a huge Eagles fan who I had the pleasure of watching many Eagles games with in person.

While sitting at my seat at U.S Bank Stadium following the Eagles Super Bowl win, I couldn’t help but think that he was there in spirit, commenting about how awesome that “Philly Special” call was.

So what can we expect from the 2018 season?  Repeating as champions is never easy, as it has only been accomplished eight times previously, but this team has the talent to do it.

But so often, the fire to repeat is not the same as winning it the first time, and complacency can often get in the way.  The one difference with this team is that their star quarterback wasn’t able to be there during last year’s stretch run due to injury, and whether he says so publicly or not, he wants to win it with the team on HIS shoulders…not as a spectator on the sidelines.

Carson Wentz could be the reason this team repeats, but there will be a bullseye aimed at the Eagles by every team they face.  Week #1 will be a tough test, as the Atlanta Falcons are out for revenge, especially after falling two yards short of advancing in last year’s divisional playoff game.

Birds fans will be psyched to see the team’s first ever Super Bowl banner being hoisted at Lincoln Financial Field during the pregame ceremonies, but once kickoff takes place, that banner will become yesterday’s news as far as the game is concerned.

Luckily, the return of starters such as Darren Sproles, Jason Peters & Nelson Agholor will help to clear out the preseason cobwebs, and the Birds win their opener, 31-21, to get their season off on the right foot.

As for Broad & Pattison, it will continue to turn…but this time with it’s inhabitants as defending champions.  Has a nice ring to it don’t you think?

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

Falcons at EAGLES 8:20 PM –  NBC (Thurs)

Bills at Ravens 1:00 PM – CBS

Cowboys at Panthers 4:25 PM – FOX