As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #7: Mondayyyyy Night Football

If you had asked prognosticators about their expectations for the 2017 Eagles before the season began, most would have stated that a 9-7 record would not only be an improvement from last season, but also a sign that the team is on the way up to bigger and better things for the future.

Well, here we are six games in, and it looks like the Eagles construction project is well ahead of schedule.

The Birds dismantled the Carolina Panthers last Thursday night, 28-23, in a hard fought contest that very few (excluding yours truly) predicted that the Eagles would win.

The Eagles had a short week to practice and were going on the road against a quality opponent, which wouldn’t make their task of winning easy by any means.  And they faced a quarterback who not only is a physical specimen with his size, but has an uncanny ability to throw the ball downfield with ease.

Add to that the fact that Carolina was also 4-1 going into the game, and perhaps the doubt was understandable.

But Cam Newton, when things don’t go his way, can quickly become “Scram” Newton, hiding underneath a towel draped over his head and face, looking as if he was a child who was told that he could not leave the dinner table until he had finished his vegetables.  The television “cam”, and the game stats, showed that he had three interceptions in the game to cap off his night, which clearly didn’t help his team’s cause.

Meanwhile, Carson Wentz, while not having a huge game passing wise (he only threw for 222 yards), still managed to throw for three touchdowns.  The 2nd year quarterback from North Dakota now has 13 touchdowns on the year versus only three interceptions.

Somewhere on the shores of Lake Erie, the Cleveland Browns organization must be kicking themselves for trading down instead of drafting the “Ginger Jesus” as the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft.  Such poor decisions help to explain why the Browns are currently 0-6 and have had only two winning seasons since they returned to Cleveland in 1999.  But I digress….

With the Kansas City Chiefs losing on Thursday night to the Oakland Raiders, the Birds now stand as the only team in the league with only one loss.  And their early season success has resulted in the hopes of a playoff birth before the season, now having turned to talks of a possible first-round bye or even (gulp) home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  But before we jump ahead of ourselves, let’s consider one thing:  A 5-1 start does not a playoff guarantee make.

The last time the Eagles got off to such a good start was 2014 (a mere three years ago).  That season, the Birds turned a 5-1 start into a 9-3 record after a Thanksgiving Day thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys, and it looked like the Birds could be serious contenders for the Super Bowl.

Instead, the team went on to lose its next three games, two of which were at home.  The third of those crucial losses gave them a 9-6 record and eliminated them from the playoffs before the last game of the season was even played.  A season that looked so promising just a few weeks back had quickly smoldered into nothingness.

This is not to suggest that this team will do the same.  During that 2014 season, that three game losing streak was the beginning of the end for Chip Kelly, who was fired with one game remaining in the 2015 season when his team was 6-9.  And neither of Chip Kelly’s quarterbacks at that time (Nick Foles in 2014 & Sam Bradford in 2015) hold the same pedigree as Carson Wentz does.

But more than half of the season still remains to be played, and there is still time for things to change for the worst, either due to ineffectiveness or to injury.   Let’s enjoy what this ride may bring, and keep our fingers crossed.

The Eagles come off of a 11-day hiatus this week, as they face the Washington Redskins on Monday night. The ‘Skins seem to be the Birds most formidable opponent in the division, as they sit at 3-2 and in 2nd place in the division.  But as the Birds have already defeated Washington in the opener, a win on Monday night would effectively knock the Redskins out of contention for the division.

This will be another tough, division game for the Eagles, as a lot is on the line for Washington.  But with the home crowd in a frenzy and behind them, the Eagles win in a nail biter, 27-24.

The Last Word:

When it comes to our division foes, every one knows we hate the Cowboys.  And while we can recall so many tough, close games against the Giants, the same cannot be said about the Redskins.  Part of the reason for this is that both Philadelphia and Washington haven’t finished with winning records in the same season since 1996, and interestingly enough, we’ve only faced our division rival from the nation’s capital once in the playoffs, which was a 1990 wildcard playoff game that ended Buddy Ryan’s tenure as coach of the Eagles.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Saints at Packers  1:00 PM  FOX

Falcons at Patriots  8:30 PM  NBC

Redskins at EAGLES  8:30 PM  ESPN  (Mon)

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As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #6: Runnin’ Down A Dream

Before Sunday’s game, the Cardinals knew that their best hope to defeat the Eagles was to unleash wide receiver and Philly killer Larry Fitzgerald against the Eagles defense.  Instead, it was the Cardinals who witnessed their own “House of Horrors” at the Linc on Sunday afternoon.

And while there was no Jason, Michael Myers, or Freddy Krueger to do the heavy slashing like in those classic horror movies, there was Carson Wentz slashing through the Cardinals defense and slowly killing off any hope the team from Arizona had of making a comeback.

By the time the 1st quarter was over and the last tailgater had settled comfortably into their seat, the score was already 21-0 and the Redbirds must have felt like they were living their own version of “Nightmare on Elm Street”.  Meanwhile, Eagles fans, on what was an overcast but very humid day for early October, were enjoying all the pomp and circumstance of a blowout victory and happily singing along to all of Tom Petty’s greatest hits during the TV timeouts.  One can only assume that whomever is responsible for the music at the Linc must be a huge Tom Petty fan.

Meanwhile, Carson Wentz threw four touchdowns for the first time in his young career, as he spread the touchdown wealth to four different recipients (tight ends Trey Burton & Zach Ertz and wide receivers Torrey Smith & Nelson Agholor).  Agholor’s touchdown reception was a sight of beauty, not only for the catch itself, but for the move he put on Cardinals safety Budda Baker.

Speaking of Wentz, the 2nd year quarterback hails from North Dakota, a state that has neither 1) An NFL team within its borders nor a 2) Division I FBS School.  As such, the heart and soul of football in North Dakota are the North Dakota State Bison, a Division I FCS school (the former Division 1-AA) and the school that Wentz led to Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) titles in 2014-15 (the last one being the team’s 5th straight championship).

When the Birds drafted the North Dakotan as the #2 overall pick, they were looking for someone who could lead this team for years to come and possibly be the missing link to a parade down Broad Street.

What they never expected was that, along with a quarterback, they acquired a whole state of new fans in the process.  And while many North Dakotans, understandably, may not have known much about the City of Brotherly Love before 2016, they are fully behind their “native son” and have adapted this team as their own.

Whether it’s a home game at the Linc or a road game in Kansas City, one can always find a North Dakota contingent of the “Wentz wagon” in the stands.  And perhaps it will be some of that Bison green (their colors being green and yellow) that will help to eventually break the championship drought that has plagued this city for fifty-seven years and counting.

The Birds currently sit at 4-1 and, along with their explosive offense, have a defense that has managed to play well even with all their injuries.  Add to that the unexpected emergence of Kenjon Barner on special teams to replace the injured Darren Sproles, and you have the makings of what could be something special in 2017.

Unfortunately, there is little time for this team to rejoice in Sunday’s victory, as a Thursday night contest on the road against the Carolina Panthers awaits them.

The Panthers come in with a surprising 4-1 record as well, and this game could have HUGE implications for playoff seeding in January if both teams can continue their early season success going forward.

One thing that could hurt the Birds is the loss of offensive lineman Lane Johnson, who may be out due to a possible concussion.  But this team has managed to persevere thus far with injuries, especially on the defensive side.

A tough, hard fought game that goes down to the wire.  But the Eagles pull it out with a Jake Elliott field goal, 23-20.  And the fans continue to believe…

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

EAGLES at Panthers  8:25 PM  CBS/NFL Ntwrk

Packers at Vikings  1:00 PM  FOX

Lions at Saints  1:00 PM  FOX

Patriots at Jets  1:00 PM  CBS

Rams at Jaguars  4:05 PM  FOX

Steelers at Chiefs  4:25 PM  CBS

 

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #5: Carson Takes over Carson

In a city ironically named Carson, it was the quarterback with the same first name who showed why the Eagles moved up in the draft to pick him #2 overall.

Carson Wentz methodically moved the offense up and down the field last Sunday, changing the plays at the line of scrimmage when needed and looking more like a seasoned 10-year veteran than a player who is only in his 2nd season and still learning the ropes of playing quarterback.

The result was a 26-24 victory, putting the Birds at 3-1 on this young season.  And while skeptics may point to the fact that this team had the same record last season before going 4-8 the rest of the way, this team does have a different look about them.

In 2016, after defeating the Chicago Bears in their first road game of the season, the Eagles managed to lose their last seven road games.  This year, the team has already surpassed last year’s road win total, going 2-1 thus far.

Last season, six of the Birds final eight losses were in games that were lost by a touchdown or less.  Change the result of a play here or there and perhaps the Eagles finish at 10-6 instead of 7-9.  But that was a young team that still had not learned HOW to win.

This season, the Birds are 2-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less, defeating the Giants and Chargers in consecutive weeks after a close loss to the Chiefs in Week 2.  It is not only the quarterback that is growing before our eyes but the rest of the team around him as well.

And then there is the coach, who claimed he was still “learning” the world of coaching after the loss to the Chiefs in which he threw the ball much too often, much like his mentor, Andy Reid, was known to do.  Many predicted then that Doug Pederson’s coaching career would not only be a failure if he continues down this path, but that he would get his young quarterback knocked out of the game in the process.

But give Pederson credit.  He adjusted and started to use his horses in the running game more often over the last two weeks, resulting in a new “three headed monster” in the backfield consisting of LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, and rookie (and local product) Corey  Clement, who continues to shine when given the ball.

Much like the trio of Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter, and Brian Westbrook before them, these three all offer a different dimension of the running game and fresh legs in the backfield.  Add to that a rejuvenated offensive line which gets to be on the attack in the running game, and you now have an offense which can use the run to setup the pass, as they did successfully last week.

The other intriguing part of last week’s contest was the crowd itself.  In a stadium designed for soccer but housing football, it also became a stadium meant for Chargers fans but housing Eagles fans.  The announced crowd was 25,000, of which approximately 15,000 were Birds fans.

A sport played in the wrong type of venue, fans cheering for the wrong uniform, and a team in the wrong city.  Not quite a three headed monster, but more like a “three headed misfit”.

One can only surmise that the NFL must have hired some consulting firm to do a study,  and that they came to the conclusion that football in Los Angeles would be a rousing success.  But then again, I’ve never heard of a consulting firm telling their client that their idea is completely stupid, have you?   Sort of like an insurance agent telling you that you don’t need life insurance…these things just don’t happen.

This week, the Birds return from the “CaliLinc” to the real “Linc” to face the Arizona Cardinals, a team that currently sits at 2-2 in the NFC West.

The “RedBirds” enjoyed a streak of three consecutive winning seasons until last season, when they finished 7-8-1.  And while they have a good coach in Bruce Arians (who also coached Temple football once upon a time), their quarterback, and the rest of their team, is quickly aging.  And not aging like fine wine, but aging like that half-gallon of milk in your refrigerator which you should have thrown out five days ago.

Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer can still be dangerous though, and still has weapons like wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who is a class act and most likely, a hall-of-famer one day.

What should also be interesting to watch is the Eagles running game against the Cardinals run defense, which is one of the stingiest in the league.

The Birds would do well to not overlook this opponent, especially considering that they have a quick turnaround, with a Thursday night game coming up against the Carolina Panthers.  This contest will be close in the first half but Birds will win, 27-17.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Patriots at Buccaneers  8:30 PM  CBS/NFL Ntwrk (Thurs)

Panthers at Lions  1:00 PM  FOX

Ravens at Raiders  4:05 PM  CBS

Packers at Cowboys  4:25 PM  FOX

Chiefs at Texans  8:25 PM  NBC

As Broad & Pattison Turns #4: Elliott “Phones Home” a Win

The general consensus in sports is that the hotter and more humid the weather is, the farther a ball will travel.  So it should be no surprise that, on what may have been the hottest regular season Eagles game in the history of Lincoln Financial Field, kicker Jake Elliott kicked the longest field goal in Eagles history to win the game.

In a home opener that resembled a playoff frenzy atmosphere more reminiscent of  a cold January day, the Eagles allowed a 14-0 lead to slip away, getting behind 21-14 & 24-21 before Elliott’s  game-winning kick.  The rookie, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals as a 5th round pick, but who’s career hit a pitfall of sorts when he didn’t win the Bengals job to start the season, was signed off of the Bengals practice squad to replace injured kicker Caleb Sturgis.

After the tense, game winning 61-yard field goal, the kicker was carried off the field by his teammates in a game that will be remembered for the ages, if only for how it ended.  Elliott hit the ball so far that if the pigskin was E.T., he would have been able to send him back without having to “phone home” first.

In the worst case scenario, Jake Elliott just experienced his fifteen minutes of fame…a moment he can proudly tell his grandkids about one day.

In the best case scenario, Elliott takes over the kicking duties permanently from Caleb Sturgis and becomes the Birds field goal specialist for years to come, much like little known David Akers eventually did during the Andy Reid era.  But for that, he will have to work on his consistency, which has been shaky.

As astutely pointed out by Eagles postgame analyst and hall-of-fame writer Ray Didinger, it was the “shank” punt by Giants punter Brad Wing on New York’s last possession, which only traveled 28 yards, that gave the Eagles even a shot to try a winning field goal to began with.  If Wing gets off even an average punt in that scenario, the game most likely goes to overtime.

The irony is that once again, it was a mishap by a Giants punter that enabled the Eagles to win the game.  As you may recall, it was Giants punter Matt Dodge who kicked to DeSean Jackson when his coach told him not to, that enabled the Birds to win on the final play in a comeback, miracle win against the Giants at the Meadowlands back in 2010.

But while the game and the excitement of the kick had the Eagles fans singing Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration”, the win masked what were some obvious problems that the Birds have.

For starters, Doug Pederson’s aggressiveness in going for it on a 4th down & 8 from the Giants 43 caused much consternation and understandably so.  The play resulted in Carson Wentz getting sacked, which enabled the Giants to drive down the field and almost score a touchdown, if not for the Eagles defense tightening up on 4th and goal.

Pederson was asked about his thought process in going for it there, in which he replied that he had consulted with his analytics guy before making the decision.  One can only assume that the analytics guy is a five-year-old who invoked the nursery rhyme “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo” as his analytical process?

If New York scores there, and the Eagles lose this game by seven points, the head coach would have understandably been on the hotseat by the media and the fans.  And while it’s one thing to be aggressive, it’s another to make foolhardy decisions, which is precisely why I don’t think that “Dougie P” will be the head coach when this team is ready to compete for a Super Bowl.

The luck of the Irish may have been on Pederson’s side last week.  But how long before his good fortune hits the stroke of midnight in a game that is being played for much higher stakes?

For now though, all is well in Eagles land with an upcoming trip to the land of sun, surf, and the famous “In-N-Out Burger” as the Birds face the Los Angeles Chargers this Sunday (the football team formerly known as the San Diego Chargers).

The Chargers moved to Los Angeles (LA) from their longtime home of San Diego because someone is convinced that people in LA actually care about NFL football.  And ironically, after winning the game on a long kick, the Birds will now play in a stadium in which the predominate sport played there is with your leg (soccer).

Stubhub Center, the temporary home of the Chargers, seats 27,000, which is about 15,000 less than even most traditional baseball stadiums seat these days.

And while a road game on the west coast is usually a cause for concern for an east coast team, there may actually be more Eagles fans at this game than Chargers fans.  Because frankly, most LA residents would probably prefer to hit around a beach ball at a Dodgers game  than go see an NFL game in person.

Add to that the fact that the only fans that travel better than Birds fans are Steelers fans, and you have the makings of a west coast Eagles home game.  Just replace the crab fries and cheesesteaks with burritos and you’re all set.

For that reason, I think Eagles win, 27-20, though once again, it will be a close game.  And if you happen to be in the stands and are looking for the LA natives, just look for the ones with the beach ball.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Panthers at Patriots  1:00 PM  FOX

Lions at Vikings  1:00 PM  FOX

Rams at Cowboys  1:00 PM  FOX

Bills at Falcons  1:00 PM  FOX

Steelers at Ravens 1:00 PM  CBS

Raiders at Broncos  4:25 PM  CBS

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #3: Home Sweet Home

When the schedule first came out showing an Eagles – Chiefs matchup on the road in Week #2, many figured that the Eagles would have a tough time winning in Kansas City. Most also assumed that the contest would feature the passing game since both head coaches (Andy Reid and Doug Pederson) like to pass the ball almost as much as Congress likes to pass the buck.

But in a game that was there for the Eagles taking, their coach’s reluctance to incorporate any semblance of a running game into the offense eventually became the difference between a win and a loss.

Kansas City coach Andy Reid, who is as likely to run the ball as he is to run a marathon, actually adjusted his game plan in the second half to feature a more balanced offense and take the pressure off of his quarterback, Alex Smith, who was getting pummeled by the Eagles defensive line in the first half.  This adjustment led to the Chiefs eventually breaking a 13-13 4th quarter tie and taking a 27-13 lead before holding on to win, 27-20.

And who says that old dogs can’t learn new tricks?  Looks like “Big Red” has actually gotten wiser with experience, though I wouldn’t hold your breath and expect him to run the Boston Marathon against some speedy Kenyans anytime soon.

There were a lot of positive vibes to take from this Eagles’ loss.  The team held its own quite admirably in a hostile environment against an opponent that has a legitimate chance to make a run at the Super Bowl.  And the Birds defensive line once again came out strong, limiting the Chiefs offense to 13 points through three quarters.

The blame for this loss belongs solely on the coach’s shoulders in my opinion.  Regardless of what he may think he sees schematically, dropping back with the intent to pass on 56 of 69 total plays (an 81% pass/run ratio) will do nothing but get your quarterback killed.

In the coach’s defense, he does not yet have a reliable running back that he can count on to carry the load.  Free agent LeGarrette Blount looks somewhat lost in this offense, and it could be that his best days are behind him.  Wendell Smallwood has come up “small” so far this season (no pun intended) and Darren Sproles, while being the only effective running back in last week’s game (10 carries for 48 yards), is best utilized by being used sparingly at this juncture of his career.

Another area of blame for the lack of a running game is the offensive line, which has not done its job of opening holes for the running backs.  Perhaps running back  Corey Clement , the local kid from Glassboro, NJ who made the team as a rookie free agent and is the Eagles “feel good” story of the year, needs to be more involved in the offense.  Or perhaps Dougie P. needs to stick to running the ball even when it doesn’t seem to work in the first three quarters of the game, in the hopes that it will wear down the opposing defense, eventually leading to sizable yardage come the 4th quarter.

While I’m not suggesting that a 50-50 run-pass ratio is what’s needed in today’s NFL that is geared toward the passing game, an 81% pass to run ratio when you are in a tie game in the 4th quarter should be worrisome for a head coach who has aspirations to build a championship team in Philadelphia for the long-term.

This week, the Birds return to the friendly confines of Lincoln Financial Field for their home opener in an NFC East joust against the New York Giants.  The New Yorkers’ have staggered to a 0-2 start, mostly due to their offense looking more like “lilliputians” than Giants.

The G-Men have scored a total of 13 points on offense, while their quarterback, Eli Manning, has been sacked a total of eight times thus far (contrast that with the Eagles, who have scored a total of 42 points on offense after two games).

The Birds would do well to apply continuous pressure on Eli Manning, causing him to get that usual bewildered look on his face (you know, the one where he looks like a squirrel in the middle of the road who’s just realized that there’s an oncoming automobile barreling toward him).

Even with the Giants offensive troubles, they still have a potent weapon in wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., who can wreak havoc on a depleted Eagles secondary if Manning has time to deliver him the ball.

Regardless of the Giants problems on offense, they still have a solid defense, and these NFC East games are rarely comfortable wins.  Expect the natives to be nail biting and restless into the 4th quarter, with some anxious moments for “Beak” (the guy in my section who wears an Eagles beak to each home game).

But have no fear – Birds win 20-16, and all the faithful, including Beak, go home happy.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Falcons at Lions  1:00 PM  FOX

Seahawks at Titans  4:05 PM  FOX

Raiders at Redskins  8:30 PM  NBC

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #2: The “My Tutor” Game.

If NFL games were a Disney movie, last week’s Eagles – Redskins contest could best be described as “Beauty & the Beast”.

There was beauty in the fact that the Birds finally got off the “schnide” and ended their five game losing streak to the Redskins while getting their season off on the right foot. But it was still an ugly win nonetheless.

The Eagles got off to a 13-0 lead and for a while, it looked like it could be a relaxing, smooth sailing kind of afternoon.  But Washington clawed back to take a 14-13 lead which began when a tipped Carson Wentz pass led to an interception for a touchdown, cutting the Birds lead to 13-7.

Whether Wentz had an open passing lane to throw on that play could be disputed.  But there was no disputing that his first touchdown was a thing of beauty.

The elusive “wiggling Wentz” somehow managed to evade three defenders and launch a pass to a wide open Nelson Agholor, who ran it in for the Eagles first score, bringing back memories of Randall Cunningham against the Buffalo Bills and Donovan McNabb against the Cowboys (both of which were also ironically for touchdowns on the road).

But while Wentz’s elusiveness on the play will make highlight films, his play at times was ugly.

There were at least 3-4 passes he threw up for grabs that could have easily been intercepted.  And he failed to connect with wide receiver Torrey Smith on two occasions when the free agent had outrun his defender, overthrowing him on one pass and not throwing it deep enough on another.

I do believe that Carson Wentz is the real deal.  And he will only improve with experience.  But we as Eagles fans will have to endure his growing pains along the way, which is perfectly fine with me, especially considering that the alternative was having Keanu Reeves (Sam Bradford) still here as the starting quarterback.

This week we move from “Beauty and the Beast” to “My Tutor” (which no one in their right mind would ever confuse with a Disney movie).  But it is the perfect title for what awaits this Sunday, as the pupil, Doug Pederson, squares off against his former coach, Andy Reid.

Reid, or “Big Red”, as we know him in these parts, was only the 2nd coach to ever guide the Eagles to the Super Bowl.  But his clock management and penchant for throwing the ball too often eventually got the best of him, and after a successful 12-year run as coach of the Birds, he moved on to Kansas City, where he has also turned the Chiefs into a winner.

I’ve said for a while that Andy Reid is the “Marty Schottenheimer of the Millennium”, a coach that will turn a team into a winner, but, for one reason or another, just won’t win a championship.

Schottenheimer made winners of the Browns, Chiefs, and Chargers, but would always come up short in the playoffs, much like Andy has been prone to do.  Reid does seem to have a Chiefs team that’s capable of going deep in the playoffs, especially after last week’s drubbing of the Patriots, but somehow Andy, poor Andy, will probably screw it up.

What he might not screw up is this Sunday’s game, especially considering that he would have had ten days to prepare his team.  For that reason, coupled with the fact that it is the Chiefs home opener, I was pretty steadfast on going with Kansas City.  But while writing this, I’m not so sure.

While Reid does know Doug Pederson’s tendencies, that argument can actually go both ways, as “Dougie P” used to be an assistant coach for Kansas City before he took the Eagles job in 2016.  Reid also doesn’t know this Eagles team that well, having been gone for five years now.  And being only one game into the season, he does not have a lot of game footage to go off of.

Pederson has something to prove to his mentor and his team will want to put on a good show for him.  The Chiefs could also be a little too high on themselves especially following last week’s game, and may be in prime shape for a letdown.  For those reasons (and the fact that I will be in attendance at Arrowhead), I’m taking the Birds, 28-27.

Afterwards, Carson Wentz celebrates by taking his lineman hunting on the prairie and barbecuing whatever they catch.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

EAGLES at Chiefs  1:00 PM  (FOX)

Titans at Jaguars  1:00 PM  (CBS)

Cowboys at Broncos  4:25 PM  (FOX)

Packers at Falcons  8:30 PM  (NBC)

Lions at Giants  8:30 PM  (ESPN) – Monday

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #1: A New Hope

Look up the word “hope” in the dictionary, and you will find its meaning to be “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”  In that sense, Eagles fans have been hoping for a very long time.

It has been fifty-seven years since the City of Brotherly Love last experienced an NFL championship.  The year was 1960, a year in which the United States had just entered the Vietnam War, and John F. Kennedy had just been elected President of the United States.

The Flintstones cartoon was shown on television for the first time, and Cassius Clay (who later took the name Muhammad Ali) would win his first professional fight and go on to become the greatest boxer of all time.

The Eagles defeated the Green Bay Packers, 17-13, at Franklin Field on a cold December day that season to win the 1960 NFL Championship, in what would turn out to be the only playoff loss of legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi’s illustrious career.

Fifty-seven years is a very long time, especially when taken in the context that there are those who were crawling around and practicing the art of ‘babytalk’ on that December day who are now nearing retirement age and still haven’t experienced an Eagles championship.

And yet, Eagles fans continue to hope.  And hope.  And then hope some more, even when the team’s prospects seen daunting.

There have been Eagles coaches that have given the fans no hope, mostly during the lean years following the 1960 championship all the way up to 1975.

There were those who started out with promise, but whose early successes were merely a result of the leftover players from the previous regime (Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes, Chip Kelly).

There were those who had the roster of a championship caliber team, but who were more “bark then bite” once the playoffs arrived (Buddy Ryan).

And then there were those (Dick Vermeil & Andy Reid) who gave Eagles fans the most hope, taking them to the brink of the promise land, only to disappoint once again.

But through it all, Eagles fans continue to persevere, continue to hope, that one day, they will see the fruits of their devotion realized, much like all the other teams in their division have on more than one occasion.

The great Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist Bill Lyon once remarked that Eagles fans could “teach loyalty to a dog”, which is probably the most accurate description one could give to this city’s rabid fan base.  And perhaps, they now have a  quarterback who has given them reason to believe.

The Eagles took a gamble to move up to the #2 overall draft pick last season to acquire quarterback Carson Wentz, who, on first impression, looks like he could throw an interception and, instead of cursing or yelling, would just say “AW SHUCKS!”

But one should not confuse Wentz’s small town, seemingly relaxed demeanor in any way to a lack of football acumen.  Wentz has a strong arm and seems to have a good grasp of the mental side of the game, which is essential to the success of an NFL quarterback.

Carson in his rookie season was very much like Luke Skywalker in the “Empire Strikes Back” movie.  Luke, as you may recall, was then a budding jedi knight who took his lumps (and got his hand chopped off by his father in the process)  while learning the ways of the force from master Yoda.  But Luke returned as a seasoned jedi in the sequel (aptly named “Return of the Jedi”) who could handle anything thrown his way while becoming a major force in helping the Rebel Alliance defeat the Evil Empire.

This season is Carson Wentz’s “Return of the Jedi” moment.  After one year of experience under his belt, it is now his time to be the unequivocal leader of this Eagles team.  And while he won’t have to worry about any familial violence on the field, he will have to be concerned with the pass rush from opposing defenders.

Wentz is the “New Hope” of the Eagles, and this team will only go as far as he can carry them.  To make his life easier, the front-office added some wide receiver weapons to his arsenal in the form of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, which were sorely lacking in 2016.

Assuming that the team can stay healthy, there is no reason to expect anything less than a 9-7 record at worst, and a possible playoff birth.  And while a Super Bowl may still be a couple years away, stranger things have happened in the NFL.

The Birds start the season on the right foot this Sunday, defeating the Washington Redskins, 30-20, for the first time in six tries.  In the meantime, Birds fans will watch with excitement and HOPE, that maybe, just maybe, this season will end with a different outcome then so many in the recent past…

What is your prediction for this Eagles season?  Feel free to post in the comments section!