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

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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 #15: The Wentz Wagon Derailed

On the road to the Super Bowl, even the most fine-tuned automobile can encounter some setbacks.

Sometimes the setbacks are nothing more than standard maintenance…an oil change or a tire rotation every now and then to keep the car driving smoothly.

Sometimes it may be something that requires a little more time and effort to fix, but still is nothing more than a temporary delay (a set of new tires comes to mind).

But if there are more serious matters, such as if the engine or transmission goes, suddenly what was a smooth drive to one’s destination suddenly becomes a major hassle, detour, or an altogether cancellation of one’s plans.

Carson Wentz, in only his 2nd year of quarterbacking the Eagles, was the engine of this football team.  And it had been speeding down the “Autobahn” of the 2017 NFL season at warp speed, while others such as Jerry Jones and his car with the star painted on the side were in the slow lane looking on with envy.

At one time, it was Jones and his automobile which was revered on the highway.  But now, while he does his best to keep his Mercedes looking shiny and new, the truth of the matter is that it is old and clunky, and always seem to be in the shop for one reason or another.

But I digress (as I often do).  Surely, there are other key components that have helped to keep the Eagles in the fast lane.  And even after some of those parts were lost for the season (Jordan Hicks, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles), the “replacement parts” all seemed to be of genuine quality, making the car hum without skipping a beat.

But this, my friends, is different.  This isn’t just an ordinary part that can be easily replaced.  The Eagles had been searching far and wide for this part for much of their history, and seem to have finally found it.   But losing it puts a huge damper on what was an exhilarating win on the road against a very determined Rams team.  It was a victory that not only gave the Birds the NFC East championship with three games still left to play, but also catapulted them back into the top spot for the conference, thanks to a Vikings loss to the Panthers earlier on Sunday.

On Wentz’s final play of his season, he stood in the pocket and waited, waited, waited, until he found Alshon Jeffrey  open in the end zone.  The quarterback actually had an opening to run it in for a touchdown…an opening he would have normally exploited and taken the ball in himself.  Thinking back now, it was probably painful for him to move.

So the replacement engine has been installed and is ready to go.  And while everyone is aware that it is not as good as the original, that does not mean that it cannot do the job.

Nick Foles has been here before.  In 2013, it was Foles who led the Eagles to their last NFC East title, and did so while throwing 27 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.

But much like Thomas Dolby’s  one-hit wonder, “She Blinded Me With Science”, the fear is that Foles could be a one-hit wonder on the football field as well.

After his breakout season in 2013, Foles threw 13 TD’s and 10 INT’s for the Eagles the following year before he broke his collarbone in mid-season and missed the last seven games.  Still not bad numbers, but after he was traded for Sam Bradford before the start of the 2015 season, his stint as the then St. Louis Rams quarterback did not go as well, as he finished with more interceptions than touchdowns (13 INT’s vs. 10 TD’s), and was ultimately benched for Case Keenam, who is having his own career season with the Vikings this year.

The hope is that his lack of success in St. Louis was due to the team around him not being very good.  Foles will now be the maestro for a team that has a lot of quality parts around him.  And while he does not have the ability to elude the rush like Carson Wentz did, he still has good football smarts.

At the end of last week’s game, when the Eagles needed a first down to secure a victory, it was Foles who, on 3rd & 8, threw a pass to Nelson Agholor in a spot that only Agholor could catch it.  And to his credit, he did.  That is where the football smarts of Foles can shine through, especially when he is surrounded by skilled players around him.

Back in 1999, when the Rams lost starter Trent Green for the season in a preseason game, their coach, Dick Vermeil, stood in front of the media and announced, rather prophetically, that the Rams would “rally around Kurt Warner…. and we WILL play good football”.  And they did, winning the Super Bowl for the first time in their history.

Is Nick Foles on par with Kurt Warner?  Absolutely not.  But Eagles coach Doug Pederson was basically relaying the same message to his team this week (minus the crying of course).

Carson Wentz is a huge loss for this team.  But while Nick Foles is no Wentz, he WILL play good football, as the Birds win 31-13 this week against the Giants.

The engine has been replaced and the automobile is ready to go.  And while the road to the Super Bowl just became a little more treacherous, it does not mean that the new engine won’t get them there.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Chargers at Chiefs  8:30 PM  NFL Ntwrk  (Sat)

Packers at Panthers  1:00 PM  FOX

Rams at Seahawks  4:05 PM  FOX

Patriots at Steelers  4:25 PM  CBS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

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

Panthers at Lions  1:00 PM  FOX

Ravens at Raiders  4:05 PM  CBS

Packers at Cowboys  4:25 PM  FOX

Chiefs at Texans  8:25 PM  NBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Panthers at Patriots  1:00 PM  FOX

Lions at Vikings  1:00 PM  FOX

Rams at Cowboys  1:00 PM  FOX

Bills at Falcons  1:00 PM  FOX

Steelers at Ravens 1:00 PM  CBS

Raiders at Broncos  4:25 PM  CBS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Falcons at Lions  1:00 PM  FOX

Seahawks at Titans  4:05 PM  FOX

Raiders at Redskins  8:30 PM  NBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

EAGLES at Chiefs  1:00 PM  (FOX)

Titans at Jaguars  1:00 PM  (CBS)

Cowboys at Broncos  4:25 PM  (FOX)

Packers at Falcons  8:30 PM  (NBC)

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