As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #1: The Wentz Wagon Returns

When we last left our beloved Birds, the football was seen glancing off the hands of one Alshon Jeffery and into the hands of Saints cornerback Marcus Lattimore, effectively ending the Eagles hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champions.

As Lattimore raced down the field, a dejected Jeffery lay on the ground, looking at his hands as if they had deceived him at the most inopportune time. But blaming the usually sure-handed receiver, who has been an important cog in the Eagles receiving corps since he arrived from Chicago two seasons ago, would surely be an injustice.

No, the Eagles lost that Sunday because all of the lucky breaks that had gone their way in the previous month or so finally ended. Their late-season surge to the playoffs almost made us forget that this was a team that stuttered through the gates, and were actually 4-6 at one point after a blowout 48-7 loss to the Saints in Week 11.

But the Birds managed to win five of their last six, including three in a row to end the season after quarterback Carson Wentz went down for the season. And with some luck from the Chicago Bears, who defeated the Minnesota Vikings on the last week of the season, the Eagles were in the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since the 2009-10 seasons.

A 9-7 record and a wildcard entrance, however, meant that the team would have to win three straight on the road to repeat as champs. But after a wildcard round victory over the Chicago Bears, the same team that had assisted the Birds to receive an invite to the playoff dance to begin with, many thought that destiny would once again be in the Eagles hands.

And why not? The “double doink” that gave the Eagles the victory only reiterated to the faithful that the good fortunes of this team would continue all the way to Atlanta (site of Super Bowl 53).

And when the team got off to a 14-0 lead in the Superdome against the same Saints team that had blown them out on that same field just two months prior, all the signs were looking toward Philadelphia advancing to the NFC Championship game once again.

But the Saints would not go easily into the night, especially with a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees. And any chances the Eagles had of coming back from a 20-14 deficit were dashed as the ball caromed off Jeffery’s hands.

But a new season brings with it the promise of another Super Bowl run, especially with a healthy Carson Wentz under center. And the Eagles went out this past offseason to make sure that Wentz has enough ammunition to get this offense going, bringing in running back Jordan Howard from the Bears and bringing back an older (and hopefully, wiser) DeSean Jackson to play wide receiver.

DeSean may not be the young whipper snapper that the Birds drafted in 2008 under then head coach Andy Reid, but he still has the ability to stretch the field with his speed, something the Eagles sorely lacked last season after Mike Wallace was injured early in the year.

Gone though, is Nick Foles, who was the equivalent of Linus’ security blanket from the classic “Peanuts” comic strip (as far as Eagles fans were concerned). Foles could always be counted on to provide comfort (as well as some clutch wins) during a period of uncertainty, and his Super Bowl victory will be etched in this fan base’s memory for a lifetime.

Should Wentz, who’s injury plagued three seasons with the Eagles mask the fact that he’s a very good quarterback when healthy, suffer the same fate once again, the quarterback duties would fall on journeyman backup Josh McCown. And while McCown has bounced around the league more than your average “bounce house” has bounced around your neighbor’s backyard, he has had the misfortune of playing on a lot of bad teams, having never reached the postseason in his seventeen years in the NFL.

If McCown was called into duty on this team, I actually think he would surprise some people with his play, though whether he can replicate Foles’ success as a backup remains to be seen.

The Birds start off their season at home against a divisional foe in the Washington Redskins, the same team that they ended with in the regular season last year (winning 24-0).

The Redskins have been pretty much mediocre since owner Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999, and will probably continue to be until he decides to sell.

The team’s high point during Snyder’s 20-year tenure has been three 10-6 seasons (1999, 2005, & 2012) and only two playoff wins to show for it, with the last one coming in 2005.

In the same span, the Redskins have had eight head coaches. So to summarize – two playoff wins, eight head coaches. Not a stat that would go over well in the City of Brotherly Love.

Speaking of which, over that same span, the Eagles under owner Jeff Lurie have had eleven seasons of ten or more wins, 14 playoff victories, and two Superbowl appearances, including their Superbowl victory two seasons ago.

Redskins fans continue to remember fondly the days of John Riggins barreling through the Miami Dolphins defense en route to a Super Bowl XVII victory, or Doug Williams relishing his “15 minutes of fame” when he put up 35 points in one QUARTER against the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.

But as the years pass, those memories continue to fade, and ‘Skins fans are left with the bungling Dan Snyder in representing what this once storied franchise has now become.

That all bodes well for the Eagles, who will need a week 1 victory, especially considering that they have a murderous road schedule during the first half of the season. They are the only team in the NFL to have three straight road games this season, but should they get through that, they will only have to get on a plane once in the 2nd half of the season.

The Birds will struggle in the first half, as the rustiness from lack of playing during the preseason will show its effects. But the team will eventually put it together in the 2nd half, winning 27-14.

“As Broad & Pattison Turns” has returned. Let the NFL season begin and Go BIRDS!

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

Colts at Chargers 4:05 PM CBS

Steelers at Patriots 8:20 PM NBC

Texans at Saints 7:10 PM ESPN (Mon)

As Broad & Pattison Turns – Divisional Playoff Weekend: And So It Begins…

If things had gone according to form of even the most optimistic prognosticators, the Birds would have finished their 2017 season at 9-7, which would have earned them the title of  NFC East Division winners in a weak division or an invite to the playoffs as a Wildcard team. And whether they would have played a home playoff game last week in the friendly but frigid confines of Lincoln Financial Field or not, a playoff birth for the first time in four years is something that most fans would have been ecstatic about, as it would have signaled that this team was trending upwards and making great strides to becoming a contender in the near future.

But somewhere around Halloween, all those predictions were thrown out along with that deformed pumpkin sitting on your porch.

Somewhere along the way, a team that most expected to go 8-8, 9-7, or 10-6 as a stretch, started out 7-1.

Somewhere along the way, the steady improvement that we hoped to see in a 2nd year quarterback from a state most Eagles fans knew very little about turned into a franchise quarterback blossoming before our very eyes.

In 2017, Carson Wentz became the kind of quarterback that we had previously watched and envied from afar, as the kind of rare talents he displayed were always found on other teams, but never our own. And his play made those around him look better as well.

But saying that all of this team’s success was strictly due to the quarterback would be an injustice.

The general manager definitely deserves a good amount of credit as well.  And his story his one of persistence.

Howie Roseman was sending letters to various NFL teams in the hopes of getting his foot in the door any way he could.  And when the Eagles finally gave him that opportunity in 2000, he started his Eagles career as an unpaid intern who had to share the side of a desk as his workspace.

But the kid from Marlboro, NJ, who grew up a Jets fan and eventually moved up the Eagles ladder to the general manager position, had to move up not once, but TWICE in the 2016 NFL Draft to acquire the quarterback he coveted.

And not only does it seem that he got the right guy, but he got his franchise quarterback some help in areas that were vastly deficient just a year ago.

While the Eagles finished 7-9 just a year ago, it was fairly evident that the areas of wide receiver, the secondary, and the defensive line needed to be vastly improved in order for this team to make a playoff run.

It was Roseman who signed Alshon Jeffery & Torrey Smith, and traded a reliable receiver in Jordan Matthews to acquire cornerback help in Ronald Darby.

It was Roseman who traded for Tim Jernigan, who has become a stalwart on the defensive line.

It was Roseman who traded for running back Jay Ajayi, who is expected to be the workhorse against the Falcons and help take the pressure off of Nick Foles.

But while the Eagles were flying high after a tough December win on the road against a quality playoff opponent in the LA Rams, that win was tempered by the knowledge that the Birds had lost their franchise quarterback for the remainder of the year.

But while the loss of Wentz was a huge blow to the Eagles Super Bowl chances, the “lucky” part to what was an unlucky situation was that the injury took place so late in the season.

Backup Nick Foles, who ironically was the starting quarterback for this team the last time they made the playoffs in 2013, not only played admirably in the 2nd half of that game, but the win had the Birds at 11-2 and NFC East division winners.

With only two games remaining against subpar competition, the team was able to play just well enough to secure the #1 seed and homefield throughout the playoffs.

But with Foles and the offense looking mediocre over the last few weeks, naturally questions have arisen as to whether the backup has what it takes to get this team to the Super Bowl.

Everyone knows that Nick Foles is not Carson Wentz.  But the good news is that he does not need to be.

And Foles does not need to replicate his 2013 season either…a season where he threw 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He just needs to manage the game and let the other pieces around him do their job.

The most important aspect of the Eagles chances to win their next two games and advance to the Super Bowl is that both games will be played in the friendly confines of Lincoln Financial Field.

At approx. 4:25 PM this Saturday afternoon, right around the time that the Eagles players are introduced on the field, the excitement at the Linc will start to build.  And by the time the coin toss is completed and Adrian emerges from her coma on the big screen to tell Rocky that the only thing she wants him to do is “WIN”, the noise level will have reached a crescendo.

 

Four years is a long time to wait for a playoff game, especially for a fan base that is on 57 years and counting for a championship.  And just as Adrian emerged from her coma, this team, whose offense has played in a comatose state for the last two games, will have to emerge and fight for their playoff lives.

Most outsiders do not expect them to succeed.  The Eagles are the first #1 seed in history to be considered underdogs in the playoffs against a #6 seed, which is what the Atlanta Falcons are.

Much like the City of Philadelphia is treated like an illegitimate stepchild that sits in between the glitz & glamour of New York and the omnipresent lobbyists of Washington, DC, the 2017 Eagles and their city are the NFL’s version of  Rodney Dangerfield – they just get “No Respect”.

One would think that coach Doug Pederson has hammered this point home to his team.  At least it certainly seems that way based on his rather curt press conferences this week.  And that’s all good in my opinion…a “chip on their shoulder” mentally is just what this team might need.

As pointed out by 97.5 morning show host Anthony Gargano, it was Phillies fans who, in the 2008 National League Division Series (NLDS) against the Brewers, got into their ace pitcher C.C Sabathia’s head to the point where he walked starting pitcher Brett Myers, which led to Shane Victorino following that up with a grand slam.

At that point, even though it was only game 2 of the NLDS, you knew that the Brewers were done, and the Phillies went on to win the World Series for the first time in 28 years.

Today, on what will be a cold, windy day with temps in the 30’s, Eagles fans will be more crucial to the outcome than any other game in recent history.  This is a game where the fans will not only have to play the role of the “12th man”, but they will essentially have to make up for the loss of talent at the quarterback level by getting into the psyche of the opponent.

The Eagles have had two weeks to prepare for this game and are playing a team that is used to the comforts of a climate controlled dome.

Two weeks to digest and dissect what went wrong.

Two weeks to figure out how to put their backup quarterback in the best position possible to succeed and move on to the NFC Championship.

And with their fans in a frenzy, there is no reason why they can’t do so.

Eagles win and sit on the doorstep of a Super Bowl in this enchanted season.

And so it begins…

Divisional Playoff Schedule:

Falcons at EAGLES  4:35 PM  NBC (Sat)

Titans at Patriots  8:15 PM  CBS (Sat)

Jaguars at Steelers  1:05 PM  CBS (Sun)

Saints at Vikings  4:40 PM  FOX (Sun)