As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #8: The Bills Mafia

When the schedule makers anointed the Eagles as the only team in the NFL to have three straight road games during the 2019 season, we all knew that this part of their schedule could be a treacherous one.

Two games in and it has been nothing short of a house of horrors.

The easiest (and best) explanation of this is that the team is dressed up in Halloween costume as a lifeless, low on talent football team, playing out the string on the way to double-digit losses and the hope of a high draft pick.

But if it were that simple, all it would take for the Birds to return to winning would be to remove the costume and show their true colors as a possible Super Bowl contender.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Games are won and lost in the trenches, and in that respect, both the Eagles offensive and defensive lines have been abysmal and downright scary over the last two games.

While the offensive line gave up three sacks (not great but not awful either), Carson Wentz seemed to be hurried and forced from the pocket every time he dropped back to pass. Conversely, while the Eagles defense registered three sacks, Cowboys quarterback Zak Prescott had all kinds of time to throw, and was rarely hurried or knocked down, which explains why the Cowboys were able to drive up and down the field at will.

Perhaps all the Eagles offense will need will be the return of someone to stretch the field a la DeSean Jackson. But if “D-Jax” will be out for an extended period of time, perhaps the trade deadline will be a place to find a suitable fill in.

But the Eagles defense is where most of the issues lie. Aside from the line’s struggles, the secondary has not impressed, and the return of Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby may not do enough to turn the tide.

Linebacker is another area that seems deficient. The Eagles cut Zach Brown because he was giving the Vikings bulletin board material, but didn’t head coach Doug Pederson do the exact same thing when he stated that the Eagles would win last Sunday against the Cowboys?

Zach Brown was not the second coming of Seth Joyner or Jeremiah Trotter, but when Nathan Gerry was getting pushed out of his gap assignments on a regular basis last Sunday, the tune that the “Zach Brown band” was playing sounded quite melodious in comparison.

The Birds now head to Buffalo, where the outcome might play a pivotal role in deciding the course of their season.

Should they come out victorious, 4-4 at the halfway point, while not anything to write home about, would mean that there is still hope, and perhaps a trade to improve the team before Tuesday’s trade deadline (much like they did last year, acquiring Golden Tate from the Detroit Lions).

But a loss could mean that Howie Roseman, much like the Phillies brass at the trade deadline this past summer, decide that it’s not worth giving up draft picks for a team that’s just mediocre.

A record of 3-5 and perhaps the fans turn their attention to the winter sports teams (Flyers and especially the Sixers) while we’re still in the Fall.

Last year, the Birds stood at 4-6 before turning their season around. And while it became a memorable one with a trip to the Divisional Round of the playoffs, a repeat of a bad start is not a good trend, being that they’ve already made it a bad habit of starting that way in games.

The Bills, while not a powerhouse, are 5-1 and actually have the 2nd best record in the AFC (second only to the 7-0 Patriots). And while their offense still struggles with 2nd year QB Josh Allen, their defense is top notch under former Eagles defensive coordinator and current head coach Sean McDermott.

I have to think that the Birds win, if for nothing else than the fact that I’ll be in the stands and don’t want to venture the thought of going to Western NY to see a loss. Either way, expect the “Bills Mafia” (the name given to hardcore Bills fans) to be in full force, and smashing tables pregame (which is their specialty). Win or lose, they still booze in Orchard Park.

Birds win 16-9.

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

EAGLES at Bills 1:00 PM FOX

Panthers at 49ers 4:05 PM FOX

Raiders at Texans 4:25 PM CBS

Packers at Chiefs 8:20 PM NBC

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #3: Eagles vs. Lions

One by one, they started falling.

First, Dallas Goedert suffered a calf injury in warmups. Then, the dynamic duo of the “Shawns”, as in DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery, both suffered injuries, which meant that the Eagles top two starting wide receivers would be inactive for the night. Add Corey Clement’s shoulder and Tim Jernigan’s foot, and the blue tent on the Eagles sideline began to resemble a MASH unit.

To make matters worse, Carson Wentz took a hit to the ribs which made all of us wince when we saw it, and he ended up going through the concussion protocol before being allowed to return to the game.

But while injuries were the biggest conversation point after last week’s loss to the Falcons, the Eagles, for the 2nd straight week, failed to score any points in the 1st quarter. This continues a disturbing trend that dates back to last season, when Philadelphia was ranked 31st out of 32 teams when it came to first quarter scoring, averaging a paltry 3.2 points/game.

To the Birds credit, they bounced back, just as they had against Washington one week earlier, eventually taking the lead for the first time, 20-17, with 3:13 left in the game.

But that lead was short lived, as the Falcons, facing a 4th & 3 at their 46, managed to do what Julio Jones and the rest of his teammates could not do in the NFC divisional playoff game two seasons ago at the Linc…score the winning touchdown.

Jones caught a short screen pass, got a good block from fellow receiver Mohamed Sanu, and was off to the races, giving the Falcons the lead.

The Eagles had their chances on their final drive, going all the way down to the Atlanta 16 before a 4th & 8 pass to tight end Zach Ertz only earned them 7.9 yards (or something like that). The big play, or lack of it, on that drive was the catch that Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor didn’t make, which would have possibly been a touchdown and, at worst, put the Eagles in great field position with ample time left to take the lead.

But while it’s easy to criticize Agholor for that play, he did come up big in the absence of DeSean & Alshon, catching 8 receptions for 107 yards as the Eagles top wide receiver on the field.

Agholor may have to continue to play a bigger role in this week’s game against the Detroit Lions, as DeSean Jackson has been ruled out and is likely to miss next week’s game as well, which is against Green Bay on a short week.

With Alshon Jeffery (and tight end Dallas Goedert) also questionable, expect Mack Hollins as well as 2nd round draft pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside to see more playing time. Speaking of which, for all of the preseason, I thought his name was Ortega-Whiteside, which caused me to develop a craving for tacos with “Ortega” shells every time he touched the ball. Hopefully my taste for tacos reaches a climatic peak on Sunday, as that can only be a positive for the Eagles offense.

As for this week’s opponent, if you thought that the Washington Redskins have had a mediocre history as of late, that is still nothing compared to the Detroit Lions, who have won exactly ONE playoff game since they last won a championship in 1957.

One playoff win in 61 YEARS. And you thought watching the Phillies under Gabe Kapler was frustrating?

Detroit has had some winning seasons over the years, and have looked at times like they had the talent for sustained success. But if you’re a Lions fan, you must have a fetish for being teased…because every time you thought they had a chance, you were bound to end up disappointed.

The Eagles can help their cause on Sunday by actually getting off to a fast start for a change, and will need a much better game from guard Isaac Seumalo, Seumalo looked like a revolving door against the Falcons last week, which is great if you’re the Ritz-Carlton looking for a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. Unfortunately, quite the opposite playing on the offensive line.

The Birds would do well to run the ball more often, especially if some of their skill position players won’t be playing in this game. Playing at home, especially with a tough Thursday night road game looming, I see the Eagles winning 27-20, on what will be an unusually hot mid-September day.

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

Lions at EAGLES 1:00 PM FOX

Ravens at Chiefs 1:00 PM CBS

Saints at Seahawks 4:25 PM CBS

Texans at Chargers 4:25 PM CBS

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #2: Birds of a Feather

Many prognosticators looked at last week’s opening day tilt between the Eagles and Redskins and felt that the Birds might be a little rusty in the first half. Unfortunately, no one predicted that the Redskins would come out looking like a well-oiled machine that could move up and down the field at will.

Before the charcoal grills in the parking lot had even begun to cool from all the pregame tailgating, the Birds were already down 7-0, and it did not get any better from there.

The ‘Skins tacked on a field goal, and a 69-yard bomb from Case Keenum to wide receiver Terry McLaurin had the visitors from the nation’s capital up 17-0 with just under 10 minutes left in the 2nd quarter.

Save for a Wentz to DeSean Jackson touchdown pass, the Birds were down 20-7 at halftime, and the natives were already starting to get restless.

When the Eagles struggle in the 1st half at home, it is usually the halftime entertainment that suffers the wrath of the disgruntled fan, and last Sunday was no different.

The Eagles had hired an artist to render a painting at halftime, and fans could be heard yelling comments such as:

1) “THIS is the halftime entertainment?”.

2) “Wonder what Jeff Lurie is paying for this?”

3) “This is as bad as the Eagles”.

Even when the artist was finished, no one in the stands could make out exactly what he was rendering. That is, of course, till he turned his painting around to reveal a beautifully drawn Eagle.

The irony was that for most of the first half, no one could figure out what the Eagles of the football variety were doing either. But they turned it around in the 2nd half, scoring 24 unanswered points before Washington scored a meaningless touchdown with six seconds left when the game was no longer in doubt.

In the 2nd half, the Birds showed flashes of what we thought they were, as the Redskins reverted back to what we thought they were as well, which is mediocrity at its finest. The 32-27 victory, though too close for comfort to start, was a good win in what will be a tough first half of their season.

This week, the Eagles travel to Atlanta to take on another type of bird for the Sunday night NBC game. But while the Eagles have soared over the last few years, it is the Falcon that has had its wings clipped more often than not.

Three seasons ago, the Falcons were on the verge of defeating New England and winning their first ever Super Bowl. That is, until Atlanta’s offensive coaches tried to outsmart themselves, and the Patriots came back from a 25 point deficit to win, which became the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.

While we all remember fondly the Eagles 2017 Super Bowl winning season and the great win over the Patriots, the “Philly-Philly” play, etc., it was actually the Falcons who came the closest to beating us that postseason.

Atlanta had a 4th & Goal at the 2 in the final minute of the game when an incomplete pass to Julio Jones gave the Birds a divisional playoff victory at home. If Julio catches that pass, the curse of the Eagles never winning a Super Bowl most likely lingers on today.

Instead, it is Atlanta who is still trying to climb to the mountaintop for the first time in its history. The Falcons had an injury riddled 2018, and finished with a 7-9 record to show for it. And when they were soundly defeated by Minnesota last week 28-12 (including being down 28-0 at one point), many wondered if the Falcons were for real.

If Atlanta loses this game, they will be down 0-2 and the rest of this season will be an uphill climb for local Philadelphia native and Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons not only have the advantage of playing at home this week in a dome, but it will be their home opener and they want to show their fans that they are for real, especially after last week’s drubbing.

The Eagles are definitely the better team in my opinion. But the better team does not always win. For that reason, I think the Eagles keep it close but lose 28-27, especially with their suspect secondary.

But all is not lost. The Birds should still have a successful season barring major injuries. And who knows…believe it or not, the predictions of “Nostra-damit” have been proven wrong before. ūüėČ

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

Colts at Titans 1:00 PM CBS

Seahawks at Steelers 1:00 PM FOX

Vikings at Packers 1:00 PM FOX

Saints at Rams 4:25 PM FOX

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 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 #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

As Broad & Pattison Turns Superbowl Edition: Jack & the Beanstalk

The time has come for Jack to once again attempt to climb the beanstalk.

It’s not that Jack hasn’t tried before.¬† But such an opportunity has been very rare, with only two prior attempts in fifty-two years, both of which were unsuccessful.

The first time, back in January of 1981, most expected that Jack would be victorious.  But as we all know, the favorite does not always succeed, and Jack was wound up tighter than a yo-yo,  nervous and on edge, and it showed as he never had a chance, hitting the ground with a thump almost before he started the climb.

During his last attempt in 2005, Jack showed more resolve early on, and for a while, it looked like he might actually succeed.  But the giant not only had too much talent, but also seemed to use some unscrupulous methods against Jack, and with time eventually working against him, Jack did not display the urgency that many expected, which eventually resulted in his downfall and another lost opportunity.

And so it’s come to this.

Thirteen years have passed, and on Sunday, Jack will once again look up at the beanstalk and attempt to do what has failed him those two previous occasions – climb to the top and rightfully claim all the riches that await there.

Many will wait with bated breath as he tries, knowing that the giant that awaits to thwart him is not only a very formidable foe, but the same one he faced previously.  The giant has seen many attempt to try, and with the exception of one, all others have failed.

Shall he succeed, there will be more than just a bag of gold coins, a goose that lays golden eggs, and a magic harp awaiting him.

If he succeeds, the heart and admiration of a city, a city that has watched him come so close before only to fall short, will be in his hands.

If he succeeds, all the demons of years’ past will have be exonerated.¬† All of those years when others around him were successful multiple times while Jack could not succeed even once will have been forgotten.

The “Jack”, as you know by now, is your Philadelphia Eagles, an organization that has not tasted a championship since 1960.¬† Ironically, the “Super Ball”, a bouncing ball made of synthetic rubber, was created four years later, which was the basis for the coining of the NFL championship being called the Super Bowl.

But 52 years of the modern age of the NFL (the “Super Bowl” age) have passed, and while the other kids that play alongside the Eagles in the NFC East playpen (the Giants, Redskins, & Cowboys) have won 12 of the previous 52 Super Bowls, the Eagles still carry the shame of never having won even once, figuratively wearing a big fat zero on their chest like a scarlet letter.

But all that could change come Sunday night.  Much like the Patriots did back in the 2001 season, a win, in the best case scenario, could catapult this team into years of organizational success with Carson Wentz at the helm.

Win, and the Eagles have some bragging rights with their fellow NFL, and more specifically, NFC East brethen.

Once again, their opponent is the favorite, but would they want it any other way?¬† The prognosticators haven’t had the Birds favored in three straight games, but prognosticators are like meteorologists…they only seem to be right half of the time anyway.

The one area where the Eagles lack compared to their opponent is experience, but eventually, blocking, tackling, schemes, and talent win the game, and the Eagles have enough of it to succeed.

The strange thing is that while New England has won 5 of the last 16 Super Bowls, they’ve all been close games, with their five victories decided by a total margin of 19 points.¬† They’ve never dominated their opponents the way the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980’s and the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990’s did.

At some point, the clock did EVENTUALLY strike midnight for Cinderella.¬† Perhaps it’s now time for the Patriots championship carriage to turn into a pumpkin as well?

I think the Eagles will win for one reason and one reason only – it’s THEIR time.¬† This team has faced so much adversity in the form of injuries to key players, with the biggest one being the loss of their franchise quarterback.¬† Yet they have persevered and made it all the way to the doorstep of a championship.

If the Birds don’t attain their ultimate goal on Sunday night, we can look back at a very enjoyable season with much optimism for the future.¬† But if they were to win, aside from celebrating in frigid Minneapolis on Sunday night, I will ecstatically look forward to one thing – writing about it afterwards.

The writing part won’t be hard at all.¬† Frankly, it’s been in my head for 12 years since I started writing about the Eagles to my friends by email on the eve of the NFC Championship in 2005.

I just need the Birds to do their part and give me a reason to put it on paper….and I believe they will.

So fasten your seatbelts and, as an ex-Eagles wide receiver once said “Get your popcorn ready”!

Jack is primed to climb the beanstalk once again, and this time he is meant to succeed.

E-A-G-L-E-S!

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)

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #17: A December Snoozer

The expectation was that Old Saint Nick would bring presents to all of the good little boys and girls on Christmas morning, while a young “Saint Nick” would deliver the #1 seed and homefield advantage to all of the Eagles fans, both naughty and nice, come Christmas night.

But while Old Saint Nick delivered on his promise, young Saint Nick almost delivered a bag of coal instead.

Clinching the #1 seed in your conference is usually a cause for celebration, but as the Eagles trotted off the field last Monday night after a victory over the Raiders, they looked more like they were walking out of a funeral.

And who could blame them?  What we witnessed last week was a less than stellar performance by the offense. What makes it even more concerning was that it was against a team that flew cross country into the cold weather with absolutely nothing to play for save pride.

After the close win against another bad team in the Giants two weeks back, the feeling was that the offense would be fine with Saint Nick at the helm, especially after he threw four touchdowns in the process in his first start this season.

The area of concern was how easily the defense was getting torched against a bad offensive team like New York, but against the Raiders, everything got flipped.

The defense redeemed itself somewhat, but it was the play of Foles and the whole offense which was doing anything but making spirits bright for the 70,000 fans who braved the cold to watch that Christmas Night snoozer.

Foles was hitting them low, hitting them high, but no one was watching the Eagles fly.  More like limp into the postseason.

To be fair, not everything that was happening to the offense was Foles’ fault.¬† The receivers, who have been quite an improvement from 2016, seemed like they were trying to untangle themselves from a string of Christmas lights, and were unable to get any kind of separation from the defenders.

Two wins in two weeks against two bad teams, yet the way the Eagles played has caused more consternation than optimism.

When the Eagles were blowing out their opponents back in October & November, I made the point that watching the Birds was actually getting somewhat boring.  By the 2nd half, I found myself sitting in my seat at the Linc in a very laid back manner, almost acting more like I was watching one of 162 Phillies game on a lazy summer day at Citizens Bank Park.

But all of the Bird watching boredom (a rarity I know due to all those one-sided contests) has now been replaced by a return to the “mean” for Eagles fans – the teeth clenching, fingernail biting, blood pressure rising is back and here to stay as long as the Eagles are still playing.

Things were just too good to be true back in the fall.¬† We can’t have it easy – the starting quarterback who seemed to be the golden child of the franchise and who’s play was elevated compared to so many others HAS to get hurt to make things interesting.

The one hit-wonder who once threw 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in a single season and who tied a record for most touchdowns thrown in a single game in that same spectacular season, HAS to come down to earth to make things interesting.¬† Otherwise, it would be just too easy for Philadelphia and we won’t know what to do with ourselves.

No, doing things the hard way is what we’re used to.¬† It’s what we thrive on, especially with the playoffs approaching.

If the Eagles play their first playoff game in four years at the same level as they did the last two weeks, their playoff push will be short-lived, regardless of whether they face the Vikings, Rams, Saints or Panthers.¬† And we’re now placing all our hopes with a quarterback who has the ability to throw four touchdowns…or kill a lot of worms while throwing the football.

When Carson Wentz first got hurt, I made the point that while the Eagles “replacement engine” is not as good as the original, it was still capable of doing the job.¬† And I still feel that way.

But if Wentz was starting last week, the Birds would have looked much more crisp on offense, as he had the ability to mask some of the deficiencies of this team with his play.¬† Unfortunately, Foles does not have that luxury, so the “wrinkles and grey hair” are starting to show.

The Birds will need to play better in all aspects if they want to make this a season to remember.    But before they embark on that quest, there is the matter of finishing out the string of the regular season first.

The Cowboys will come in with nothing to play for, but will play all of their starters for most of the game (I think) in order to finish the season at 9-7 and with a win.¬† The Birds would do well to give their starting offense a “tune-up” of sorts before the playoffs begin.

Ideally, the offense comes in and scores 10 or 14 points in its first two drives and is then lifted for the backups.  But if they struggle as they did last week, it will only raise the alarm bells as to whether this team can last even one round in the playoffs.

Hard to predict this game, so I won’t.¬† But let’s hope that the offense can get back on track and that the defense continues to play as it did last week against the Raiders.¬† ¬†Otherwise, what seemed to be a promising start to 2018 just a few weeks back may be another winter of our discontent.

Amit’s Marquee Matchup of the Week (only one this week):

Panthers at Falcons  4:25 PM  FOX

The Last Word:

Thanks to Amanda Moran for the pic from the Green Legion pregame tailgate at Santa Monica pier prior to the Eagles – Rams game.¬† With frigid temps in the forecast here at least through next week, I’d go back in a heartbeat.