The first week of the New Year can only mean three things:
- The New Years’ “Resolutioners” will clog up your local gym
- The San Francisco 49ers will fire another coach
- Eagles tight end Zach Ertz will have his annual “breakout” game
All three occurred this past week as we moved ahead to 2017, but unfortunately for the Eagles, it also represented another season which will not end in a championship for your local football team.
But keeping with the New Years’ tradition theme, the Birds did continue their three year “tradition” of playing in, and winning, their final regular season game which once again had no impact on their season. While the Super Bowl continues to evade them, they would easily be distinguished champions of the “Mediocre & Meaningless Bowl.”
What was more disturbing is that, for the 3rd straight season, the Eagles walked off the field acting as if another meaningless win was going to be a stepping stone to a successful season in 2017. Perhaps they forgot to look at recent history and realize that their prior two regular season finale victories in 2014 & ’15 were followed up by consecutive 7-9 seasons.
But much like the old Sunkist orange soda commercial from the 1980’s, the Eagles seem to be singing along to the tune of “Good Vibrations” while their fellow NFC East brethren, the Giants and Cowboys, march on to bigger and better things like playoff victories and Super Bowls. Let’s hope that the Birds made a New Years resolution to still be playing in January next year. Then again, resolutions are made to be broken – just ask all those new members at your gym who will no longer be around by the time Valentine’s Day rolls around…
So while your Eagles miss the playoffs for the 3rd straight year, and haven’t won a playoff game since the 2008 season, here’s a rundown of the NFL games that make up Wildcard weekend:
Raiders at Texans 4:35 PM ESPN (Saturday) – Go back three weeks ago and the Raiders had not only clinched their first playoff appearance since 2002, but also had a very good shot at a division title and a possible #1 overall seed in the AFC. But Christmas Eve brought nothing but coal in their stockings, as starting quarterback Derek Carr went down with a season ending knee injury.
The Raiders were forced to start former Penn Stater Matt McGloin in the season finale, who also managed to suffer a shoulder injury, knocking him out of the game. With rookie Connor Cook having to take his place, Oakland ended up losing to the Broncos, which caused them to fall from their #2 seed all the way down to #5 and having to start the playoffs on the road.
Cook will be the starter in the playoffs, with McGloin most likely the backup, a rather precarious situation when you’re “one and done” in the playoffs.
The Texans situation is not much better, as starter Brock Osweiler, who was signed as a free agent from the Broncos, has not lived up to expectations, forcing Houston to play backup Tom Savage the last few weeks.
But similar to the Raiders calamity, Savage also got hurt last week, forcing Houston to go back to the much maligned Osweiler. So you basically have a matchup that features a rookie 3rd stringer versus a free agent bust who has lost his job. This game may be the least anticipated quarterback matchup in NFL history. For the Raiders sake, perhaps Connor Cook can do his best Dak Prescott impersonation?
With all the backup QB’s, this game would probably have more scoring if the Oakland A’s played the Houston Astros instead.
Raiders win 3-2 on a sacrifice fly in the 9th inning.
Lions at Seahawks 8:15 PM NBC (Saturday) – Those poor, poor Lions. Last week, they were a win away from their first division title (and first home playoff game) since 1993, and along comes Aaron Rodgers once again to remind them that he is still their “Daddy”.
The Lions are very much like Charlie Brown trying to kick that elusive football. Every time you think that they will actually be successful, along comes Lucy to prevent them from doing so.
A Detroit win last week would have had them playing in the friendly confines of Ford Field indoors against the New York Giants. Instead, they must now venture to the Great Northwest, where a stadium labeled as the loudest in the land awaits them, along with a Seattle Seahawks team that has struggled the last few weeks but is still superior to the Lions.
The Seahawks advance and the Lions are left to ponder what could have been…
Dolphins at Steelers 1:05 PM (Sunday) – Once upon a time, a Dolphins-Steelers matchup featured two of the top teams in the NFL. But while the Dolphins have struggled to regain that status in the millennium, the Steelers keep chugging along, winners of five division championships and two Super Bowls in the last eleven years.
Miami has played well under first year head coach Adam Gase, who led them to a 10-6 record. But much like the Raiders, the fish will have to go with backup Matt Moore and hope for the best with starter Ryan Tannehill being injured.
This is also a revenge game for the black and gold, who lost 30-15 to the Dolphins in Week 6 down in Miami. My predictions:
1) There will be no fish or shrimp served at Heinz Field on Sunday.
2) The Steelers get their revenge and move on to the divisional round.
Giants at Packers 4:40 PM FOX (Sunday)
In the most intriguing matchup of Wildcard weekend, the Giants travel to the “Frozen Tundra” to face the Packers. And the tundra, which was practically balmy and above freezing two weeks ago, will be back to its normal self, with temperatures expected to be around 14 degrees at gametime.
The Pack were left for dead after a 4-6 start, but a six game winning streak that started by beating the Eagles on a Monday night at the Linc has turned them into NFC North winners and a chance to host a first-round playoff game.
Ironically, when the Giants won the Super Bowl in both the 2007 & 2011 seasons, they had to beat the Packers on the road in the playoffs to advance. But while they are hoping that such a winning tradition continues, the 3rd time will be a charm for Green Bay.
No victory for the G-Men this time, and no sight of Tom Coughlin on the sideline with his nose glowing like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer from the cold.