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: Wacky Wildcard Weekend

For the majority of NFL teams, the commencement of a new calendar year also represents the end of a long, grueling NFL season.

A season which began with so much promise back in the dog days of summer has unfortunately ended too early for 20 of the 32 NFL teams.  And along with the harsh cold weather that Mother Nature can provide this time of year, the harsh, cold reality has also set in that their dreams of hoisting a Super Bowl trophy come February 4th will remain unfulfilled.

Then there are the remaining twelve that have withstood…those that proved on the field that they deserved an invite to the playoff dance.

Of course, there are always the usual suspects such as the Patriots, Steelers, and Chiefs receiving an invite.  Including 2017, both Kansas City & Pittsburgh have made the playoffs in four of their last five seasons, while this season marks the 14th out of the last fifteen that New England has been in the postseason.

But what sticks out about the 2017 playoffs are the “newbies”.

The Jacksonville Jaguars & Tennessee Titans received an invite to the playoff party for the first time since 2007 & 2008, respectively, while the Los Angeles Rams will be making their first appearance since 2004.  But that still pales in comparison to the Buffalo Bills, who have not made the playoffs in 18 years, which was, until last week, the longest current playoff drought not only in the NFL, but in all of sports.

And while only the Rams, out of those four, look like they have a chance to be Super Bowl bound this season, a playoff appearance at least represents some success and an important stepping stone to the other three organizations, and something for their fans to get excited about.

So while the Eagles have the week off and are preparing for their divisional playoff game next Saturday against  what is a yet to be determined opponent, here is a look at the four games that will make up the NFL’s Wildcard weekend:

Titans at Chiefs  4:35 PM  ABC/ESPN  (Sat)

The Chiefs began their season as gangbusters, starting 5-0 before faltering and losing six of their next seven, before ending the season on a 4-game winning streak.

But while 10-6 won Kansas City the AFC West, their midseason slump prevented them from getting a bye and made their playoff path much more difficult.

The Titans also limped to the finish line, ending the season 9-7 after being 8-4 at one point, which prevented them from winning the AFC South and playing at home this weekend.

Kansas City wins at home today and stays alive at least for one more week, while the Titans go home and their coach’s future hangs in the balance.

Kansas City coach Andy Reid dressed up as Santa Claus two weeks ago after the Chiefs won their division.  I predict that he will be dressed like a snowman after today’s game.

Falcons at Rams  8:15 PM  NBC  (Sat)

The Falcons are this year’s recipient of the “Super Bowl blues” hangover, given annually to the loser of the previous year’s Super Bowl.  But what made it even worse for Atlanta is that they suffered the worst collapse in Super Bowl history.

While their offense has remained mostly intact, they have not played up to par when compared to last season.  Ten wins is still a pretty good season though, especially considering they were 4-4 at the midway point.

Rams coach Sean McVay has not only turned the fortunes of his 2nd year QB, Jared Goff, around, but the Rams look to be a team that will be in the playoff picture for many years to come.

Atlanta has a chance only because they represent the team with playoff experience, while most of the Rams players have not experienced much postseason success.  The Rams also are a surprise 4-4 at home versus 7-1 on the road.  Having said that, I still think the Rams are the better team that will advance to the 2nd round.

Bills at Jaguars  1:05 PM  CBS  (Sun)

It is rare when two teams are facing each other in the playoffs, and yours truly hasn’t watched a single one of their games all season.  But that is exactly the case with Buffalo & Jacksonville.

With neither team coming off a successful 2016 season and both in relatively small markets (Jacksonville being the smallest in the NFL), seeing these two teams on a Sunday night or marquee late Sunday afternoon game is a rarity.

The Bills had to beat the Dolphins on the road last Sunday and then watch the Cincinnati Bengals defeat Baltimore in the closing minutes, knocking the Ravens out of the playoffs and sending Buffalo in.

Bills fans were so excited, they started partying like it was 1999 – which makes sense since that was the last time that Buffalo had actually made the playoffs.

While 2008 represented the year of the last major financial crisis, it also represented the start of a “football crisis” for Jacksonville, which went nine straight years without a winning record until 2017.

The good thing is that at least one of these teams will advance to the next round of the playoffs after suffering from losing for so long.  But that’s only because they are facing each other, not because they are Super Bowl material.

If I were a betting man, I’d place my bets on Jacksonville.

Panthers at Saints  4:40 PM  FOX  (Sun)

The Saints rebounded from three straight 7-9 seasons to go 11-5 and win the NFC South, while the Panthers are another team that has made the playoffs in four of their last five seasons.

New Orleans defeated Carolina  in both of their regular season meetings this season, but doing so three straight times is no easy feat, as the third time is usually a charm for the loser of the first two.  For that reason, I’m picking the Panthers as the only road team to win on Wildcard weekend.

Assuming the Falcons lose tonight, the winner of this game would come to Philadelphia next Saturday to face the Birds.  I’ll gladly take the Panthers as our opponent (or the Falcons preferably), as the Saints, with Drew Brees, would give us the toughest test in my opinion.

While Thanksgiving was two months ago, I’m thankful that the Eagles earned a bye.  Otherwise, I would be freezing my butt off in 5 degree weather at the Linc today to watch the Birds play.  Instead, I look forward to a balmy 38 degree Saturday next weekend.

But whether that will result in Nick Foles playing any better remains to be seen.

Enjoy the games everyone!