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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texans at Redskins 1:00 PM CBS

Vikings at Bears 8:20 PM NBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saints at Bengals 1:00 PM FOX

Patriots at Titans 1:00 PM CBS

 

 

 

As Broad & Pattison Turns 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 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.

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #11: It’s Dallas Week!

20170916 blog

The bye week not only gives a football team a much needed break from the physical rigors of a 16-game regular season, but the chance to mentally get away from the game as well.  And while we don’t really know how most NFL players are spending their free time (nor should we), one can probably guess that Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz spent last weekend out on the prairie of North Dakota (or in the NJ Pinelands perhaps) hunting for whatever he considers to be “wild game”.

And while he is probably quite capable of capturing whatever he sets out to hunt, the hunt to capture a Super Bowl trophy for the city of Philadelphia has eluded all those who have tried thus far.

But with seven games left in the regular season, the Eagles will now dive headfirst into what are uncharted waters for this young team, as for the first time since 2004, they have the best record in the NFL this late in the season and are on track to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Of course, there are games that must be played and actually won to get this team to where they want to go.  And with four of their next five games on the road, the Eagles will surely get a chance to show that they are for real.  If not, the Saints, Rams, and Vikings are all knocking on their doorstep, with all three teams owning a record of 7-2 and only one game behind the Birds.

But first things first – the Eagles need to win the NFC East before bigger and better things can be achieved.  And for that, they need to start by beating a Dallas Cowboys team that is on life support when it comes to staying alive for a division title.

Things were so much easier for the ‘Boys last season.  Even after losing their starting quarterback, Tony Romo, for much of the season, they managed to go 13-3 as rookie Dak Prescott took the league by storm and led Dallas to the #1 seed in the NFC.

All that went for naught, however, when Aaron Rodgers dashed the Cowboys hopes by throwing a sideline pass to tight end Jared Cook with seconds remaining in a tie game, which then enabled kicker Mason Crosby to kick a game -winning 52-yard field goal and break the Cowboys fans hearts again.

The above should be a warning for the Eagles and their fans that even if they manage to attain the best record in the league and all the playoff advantages that come with it, NOTHING is guaranteed.  This is precisely why the thought of facing the Saints and Drew Brees in the playoffs, even at home at the Linc, scares the hell out of me.

As for the Cowboys, this season has not been as promising as the last.  They sit at 5-3 and a loss would, for all intents and purposes, mean that Dallas would have to hope for a wildcard spot in order to be invited to the playoff  dance.

A win for the Eagles Sunday night and they would have a four game lead in the division with only six games to play, which would practically guarantee them the division title, barring a collapse.

This blogger suspects, as many do, that the Birds might be a little rusty in the first half tomorrow, which would keep the Cowboys in the game and give them hope of pulling out a win.

But after halftime, the team would get into gear and roll off another victory, 27-23, with visions of some turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes on their minds.  And the Enchanted Season continues….

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Titans at Steelers  8:30 PM  NBC/NFL Ntwrk  (Thurs)

Rams at Vikings  1:00 PM  FOX

EAGLES at Cowboys  8:30 PM  NBC

Falcons at Seahawks  8:30 PM  ESPN  (Mon)

As Broad & Pattison Turns 2016: Conference Championship edition

After four Wildcard and two Divisional playoff games, many of us were scratching our heads as to the lack of any competitive football being played.  Six games had resulted in six blowouts with the loser often looking like they did not belong in the playoffs to began with.

Then came last Sunday and the Packers-Cowboys and Steelers-Chiefs contests helped to make NFL playoff football great again.

The Packers-Cowboys contest was one for the ages, with the game tied at 28-28 with four minutes left.  Both teams then traded field goals of 50+ yards, but unfortunately that still left Packers QB Aaron Rodgers with 35 seconds left.

What amazingly followed was not only a perfect pass from Rodgers to Jared Cook which set up the Mason Crosby game-winning 51-yard field goal, but the fact that on the preceding play, Rodgers was sacked and somehow managed to hold onto the ball.  A Rodgers fumble at that point in time, and the Dallas Cowboys would have been set up to kick a game winning field goal themselves.

While the game itself deserved five stars for entertainment value, the outcome meant that the lone star on Jerry Jones’s party bus had once again fallen off on the way to another playoff victory, much to the delight of Eagles fans everywhere.  Misery does, indeed, love company…

Then there was the Steelers – Chiefs game, in which Kansas City rallied to score a touchdown in the final minutes, only to fail to score a tying 2-point conversion when offensive lineman Eric Fisher was called for a holding penalty on the play.

The Chiefs had a chance to get the ball back had they been able to hold Pittsburgh to a 3-and-out and punt the ball.  But a 3rd down completion from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown ended that possibility and the Steelers advanced.

Andy Reid is definitely a good coach as he, once again, has taking a bad team and turned them into a winner.  But other coaches who have had some success but failed to win a championship learned from their mistakes and did some things differently in their next jobs.

Dick Vermeil, Tom Coughlin, Bill Belichick – they all changed some aspect of their coaching to win a Super Bowl with their 2nd team.  But while Reid has taken his team to the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, the ghost of Andy Reid’s playoff pasts continue to haunt him.

Reid’s misuse of timeouts and his clock management on the Chiefs last drive meant that he was left with only one timeout and short of time when the Steelers were trying to run out the clock. And while having a full complement of timeouts would not have guaranteed anything, it was another situation where Reid’s shortcomings could have played into the outcome of the game.

So while the Chiefs & Cowboys head home and ponder what could have been, we move on to the NFL’s Final Four, and hopefully, more competitive games to follow.

Packers at Falcons 3:05 PM FOX – The sexy pick in this game is to go with the Green Bay Packers, and why not?  The Pack have won eight straight games after starting the year 4-6, and Aaron Rodgers should be in the conversation as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

But even sexiness eventually starts to show some wrinkles, and the Atlanta Falcons are not some “also-ran” who were lucky to get in to the playoff dance.  I’m picking the Falcons to advance to the Super Bowl.

Steelers at Patriots 6:40 PM CBS – Should we really be surprised that either of these teams are playing in this game?  New England will set an NFL record by playing in their 6th straight AFC Championship today, breaking the record of five straight set by the Oakland Raiders during the 1973-77 seasons.

One of these two teams have played in the AFC Championship game in 13 of the last 14 seasons, which is remarkable in today’s parity driven NFL.  But the key to success in the NFL is having consistent quarterback play, and all four teams that have made it this far have top notch QB’s (Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers).

As for the game itself, when these two teams met in the regular season, the Steelers were without “Big Ben” and it showed in a 27-16 loss.  Pittsburgh gets their revenge today and moves on to the Super Bowl to face Atlanta.

As Broad & Pattison Turns: Divisional Playoff Weekend 2016

If you were hoping to spend a cold and snowy weekend staying in and watching good, quality NFL playoff football last weekend, you were surely disappointed.  Four games played and all of them were complete duds to say the least (unless you were one of the lucky ones who’s actually a fan of one of the four teams that advanced).

For starters, the Texans  – Raiders game became somewhat of a joke even before the opening kickoff, considering that the Raiders were another quarterback injury away from having the Dr. Pepper vendor at Houston’s NRG Stadium become their next starting QB.

The Texans are nothing to write home about, but even their starter, Brock Osweiler, looks good when compared to the other team’s 3rd string rookie.

Next, it was on to the Saturday nightcap in the “Cars vs. Computers” bowl (Detroit vs. Seattle).  The game was actually close for three quarters, before the Seahawks turned it into a romp, but this contest was boring from the start and totally lacked pizzazz, technology and innovation.  The Lions, after being 9-4 at one point, ended their season with four straight losses and looked like they’re in dire need of an economic bailout.

The following day brought sunshine to the weather but still a dreary day on your television screen.  The Miami Dolphins walked out of the tunnel at Heinz Field, saw their breath, and probably thought, “Well folks, it’s been fun…maybe we should head back to South Beach and hang out with Justin Bieber instead?”  And why not, the guy must be feeling lonely since all of the New York Giants receivers left him.

The Steelers took full advantage, winning easily in a blowout.  The game got so bad that at one point, I sincerely considered switching over to C-SPAN to watch classic congressional hearings from the Jimmy Carter era.

Speaking of those New York Giants receivers, they left the sun and fun of South Beach for the frozen tundra of Lambeau field and its hotshot gunslinger host, Aaron Rodgers, in the Sunday marquee matchup.

Rodgers showed why Wisconsin is considered “flyover country”, as his passes flew over the Giants countless times for completions in a 38-13 victory, including a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half.  Rodgers has become an expert in the Hail Mary, and it will only be a matter of time before it is renamed to the 1) Hail Aaron or the 2) Buck Rodgers….or something like that.

We now move on from the Top Twelve to the Elite Eight of the NFL, and for the fans sake, even one competitive playoff game would make for a better weekend than the last one.

Seahawks at Falcons 4:35 PM FOX (Saturday) – Rumor has it that the only reason Falcons fans will be at this game at all today is because they were tricked into believing that Georgia Tech was playing in another bowl game.

Such is the nature of all professional sports in Atlanta.  While the Seahawks have the “12th man”, the Falcons fans decibel level will probably be at “minus 12”.  No wonder why Dan Reeves, when he was coaching the Falcons in a home playoff game, actually had to incite the crowd to get loud.

The Falcons win because they’re playing at home, but frankly, Atlanta doesn’t deserve a Super Bowl championship, and much less a playoff victory.

Texans at Patriots 8:15 PM CBS (Saturday) – Fear not if you have plans on Saturday night – this game is set to kickoff at 8:15 PM, but will probably be over by 9:00 PM, giving you ample time to hit the 1) Hair O the Dog, 2) Harp & Crown, 3) Plough & the Stars 4) Name your favorite bar/event here.

Okay, so the “Hair O the Dog” was last week but you get the picture.  This game may give you flashbacks to the 2011 Divisional Playoff game when the Patriots walloped the Broncos (with Tim Tebow at quarterback), 45-10, which coincidentally was also a Saturday night 8:15 game.

Brady and the “Emperor” (Bill Belichick) move on and continue to build the Death Star.

Packers at Cowboys 4:40 PM FOX (Sunday)  – This week’s marquee matchup features the old school Packers and the new school Cowboys, in what is a traditional rivalry from the days of Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry.

The Packers have won seven straight and are poised to make another Super Bowl run, much like they did in 2010.  Last time the Cowboys were in a playoff game, they lost to these very same Packers at Lambeau Field in this very same round two years ago, on what was a controversial call at the end of the game.

The Cowboys have had a great season and have a strong nucleus that the Eagles need to be weary of going forward.  But the ‘Boys are not yet ready for Primetime, and the Packers advance.

Steelers at Chiefs 8:20 PM NBC (Sunday)  – This game was originally scheduled for 1:05 PM Sunday, but an ice storm that is blanketing the Kansas City area pushed it back to Sunday night.  At least this means that Al Micheals can say “Sundayyyyyyy Night Football” one last time this season.

The Steelers pushed aside the Dolphins last week as if they were melting snowmen in searing heat.  This week should prove to be a much tougher test since they are on the road, but it’s hard to decipher the Chiefs.

Kansas City is a good team, and Andy Reid is a good coach, but in my opinion, he is the millennium version of Marty Schottenheimer.  Schottenheimer, as some of you may recall, always had the ability to make a bad team good, but always seemed to come up short in the playoffs.  And Andy Reid is no different…

Something inexplicably happens and Reid’s teams always fall short.  Often, as it was with the Eagles, the playoff losses could be blamed on strategy, play calling, or clock management..all things that fall upon the head coach.

But while Reid always fell short of his ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl, he also won a ton of playoff games.  He adds to that total today as Kansas City advances.

Enjoy the games everyone.  Let’s hope that last week’s “Wildcard duds” turn into this week’s “Divisional playoff dandies”…