As Broad & Pattison Turns: Wild-Card Weekend 2016

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.

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2016 Week #16: Eagles vs. Giants

‘Twas the night before the Eagles – Giants game,

And the Eagles seemed out of sync,

Could they muster up a victory,

End their losing streak at the Linc?

A 3-0 start had slowly evaporated,

A five game losing streak effectively ending their season,

Would the fans come out to watch this wretched team?

Perhaps free tickets and a good tailgate, the only reason.

Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz had been erratic of late,

His interceptions were not a favorable sign,

But perhaps the return of offensive tackle Lane Johnson,

Would help to anchor a depleted offensive line.

Darren Sproles was off the concussion protocol,

The doctors had concurred that he was fully healed,

Now if only the general manager could find a receiver,

Who could actually stretch the field.

All that Eagles fans ever wanted for Christmas,

Was a Super Bowl victory from dear old Santa,

But six losses that could have been wins this year,

Had Birds fans constantly reaching for their Mylanta.

The Giants will be looking to pass the ball,

That Odell Beckham sure likes to do a lot of prancing,

Any chance that the Eagles secondary,

Can actually keep Victor Cruz from salsa dancing?

Will this Thursday night be any different?

An NFC East matchup is always a close fight,

Birds break their losing streak and win 23-20,

And to all, a good night.

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

Lions at Cowboys 8:30 PM ESPN (Mon) – Game of the Week

Vikings at Packers 1:00 PM FOX  (Sat)

Ravens at Steelers 4:30 PM NFL Network

Broncos at Chiefs 8:30 PM NBC

2016 Week #13: Eagles at Bengals

Last offseason, when Eagles fans were lamenting the winter and looking forward to Phillies spring training and summer days spent down the shore, the NFL schedule makers were hard at work putting together the 2016 NFL schedule.

The “who” and “where” of the schedule had already been decided as soon as the last regular season game of the 2015 season had ended.  But it was the “when” that was yet to be determined.

With the availability of facilities, team requests, and travel dates all needing to be taken into account, there were many permutation combinations that could have taken place to configure the schedule.  And ultimately, the one that was created for your 2016 Philadelphia Eagles seems to be both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing because a team that not many had high hopes for started out the season 3-0.

A blessing because a team that traded its starting quarterback a week before the season commenced ended up starting a rookie at the position who looked poised and beyond his years as he stood in the pocket, giving fans reason to believe that he may replicate the success that rookie quarterbacks such as Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco before him had experienced (a visit to the conference championship in their rookie season).

A blessing because the Eagles saw an oasis of riches that were possible before them as they stood alone in first place in the NFC East after three weeks.  Perhaps this team, the one that most expected to go 7-9 or 8-8, would surprise everyone and go deep in the playoffs.

But then there were losses to the Lions, Redskins, and Giants…all games where the Eagles fell behind early 14-0 but still had chances to win in the end.

An overtime loss to the Cowboys as well as a Monday night loss to the Packers also followed.  And a Seattle loss in which they were simply overmatched in the 2nd half.

And while there were quality wins over the Falcons and Vikings sprinkled between the losses, suddenly a 3-0 start had turned into 5-6.

Suddenly, the Eagles schedule had become a curse.  A curse, because a 3-0 start was the equivalent of “Fool’s Gold”.  A curse because the oasis of riches that the Eagles and their fans had seen after that Pittsburgh win was nothing more than a mirage.  Whether that mirage was just a longer path to the promise land or a toxic wasteland remains to be seen.

Looking back, the Eagles started off 2-0 by beating two teams (the Browns and Bears) that have won a total of two games between them.  Their third win, a thorough beating of the Pittsburgh Steelers, looked to be a victory against a  possible Super Bowl contender, but the Steelers have shown since then that they are slightly above average at best.

If you told Birds fans back on Labor Day that they would be 5-6 after eleven games, no one would have been surprised.  It’s just how they got there that’s disconcerting.

Turn the order of the Eagles season around and it paints a much different picture.  If the Eagles had started out the season at 2-6 and then reeled off three straight victories to get to where they are now, many would have seen it is a sign that the Eagles are progressing under first year head coach Doug Pederson after an initial “probation” period, involving getting to know him, his system, how he operates, etc.

The positive spin is that the Eagles had chances to win in all of their losses (including Seattle in the first half) .  The negative to all this is that a few of their losses can be pointed directly to their head coach.

If Doug Pederson chooses to kick a field goal against Dallas, that could have been a victory. If he decides to stick with a game plan that is working against a Packers defense that was allowing 37 points a game in its last four contests, the Eagles win that game.  Instead, they only managed to score 13 points.

Perhaps the scary thing about Pederson isn’t that he is another Andy Reid.  Perhaps the scary thing is that he is nowhere close and is overmatched.  That would set the Eagles back even further than all the bad receivers Chip Kelly drafted and good skill players he let go.

Let’s hope for Pederson’s sake and ours, that Doug is simply experiencing growing pains as a first year head coach and will only get better with time.  Let’s hope that his “growing” into his job (along with his quarterback), coupled with good drafts in the next few years means this team can do much better than 7-9 or 8-8 for years to come.

As for this season, there is still time to right the ship.  The good news is that the Birds are only 1.5 games behind the last playoff spot currently held by the Washington Redskins, whom they will play at home next Sunday.  The bad news is that there are four other teams between them and Washington all vying for that wildcard spot, whom the Eagles will have to overtake as well.

The Birds will face, what should be, their easiest opponent out of their five remaining games this Sunday.  Cincinnati is one of eight teams, in my estimation, that is out of the playoff race (if not mathematically, then for all intents and purposes).  The Eagles will face a wounded Bengals team that needs to simply be put out of their misery.  Whether they are good enough to insert the final dagger remains to be seen.

I’m picking the Eagles simply because I’m an Eagles fan.  Well that, and because I’m heading to Cincinnati for the game.

In the best case scenario, the Birds win at 1 PM, and the Redskins and Buccaneers both lose in their late afternoon games, resulting in a HUGE Eagles – Redskins matchup at the Linc next Sunday.

In the worst case scenario, the Eagles lose to the lowly Bengals, the Redskins win at Arizona, and we are better off spending next Sunday being tortured at the mall than tortured watching our Birds.

Let’s hope for the former…Birds win 30-17.  Just don’t ask me why.

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

Cowboys at Vikings 8:25 PM NBC (Thurs) – Game of the Week

Chiefs at Falcons 1:00 PM CBS

Dolphins at Ravens 1:00 PM CBS

Bills at Raiders 4:05 PM CBS

Giants at Steelers 4:25 PM FOX

2016 Week #9: Eagles at Giants

With the presidential election only a few days away, the newly formed “Rookie” party led by Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson is holding a substantial lead in all local Delaware Valley polls.

Perhaps it’s due to the fact that Wentz provides “hope” for the future and a change at quarterback that “we can believe in”.  Perhaps it’s the “temperament” of Eagles campaign manager Doug Pederson or the “experience” of Eagles Secretary of Defense Jim Schwartz.

But even good campaigns go through their ups and downs.  While Doug Pederson will not be found guilty of using an email server that wasn’t secure, he has been guilty of using running backs that could not secure the football.

Then you have the wide receivers who have been “careless” when it comes to catching the football. Yet, when one of them is questioned about it (Nelson Agholor) he responds with an air of smugness or privilege as if he is “immune” to criticism.  Agholor apologized a few days later, but if this keeps up, he may have to change his name to Nelson “Awfulor”

Last but not least, you have Eagles kick returner Josh Huff, who was caught with guns and marijuana in his car, in a state (NJ) in which he was not licensed to carry a weapon.  The Eagles “justice” department responded swiftly, releasing him from the team on Thursday without the need to convene a grand jury to hear all the facts.

 

Then there is the matter of Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who’s name should probably be changed to “Zach Irks”…since it irks Eagles fans how Zach is always one game away from being one game away from being one game away to having his annual breakout game of the year.  Most likely, Ertz will have his breakout game at home against the Cowboys in the last game of the season…but only if it deemed to be meaningless and the Eagles are already out of the playoffs.  Otherwise, don’t hold your breath.

Last Sunday’s game was maddening for Eagles fans, as for 3 and 1/2 quarters, it looked like the Birds would be tied for the NFC East lead by game’s end.  But questionable “campaign strategy” by Doug Pederson, in which he “elected” to have the Eagles play it safe instead of vigorously attacking their opponent, resulted in the Cowboys coming back twice from a ten point deficit in the “polls” to eventually win in overtime.

Whenever the Eagles seemed to use a heavy campaign “blitz”, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott seemed off his game and was hurried into throwing incompletions. Yet, on Dallas’ game-tying 4th quarter drive and the game winning drive in overtime, Schwartz chose to “tone down the rhetoric” and only used a four man defensive front, which gave Prescott ample time to throw the ball to an open receiver, and eventually win the game.

The Eagles 3-0 start gave us some false hope, as two of their three opening wins were against teams that are not going to qualify for the playoff “ballot” (the Browns and Bears, respectively).  But the Eagles are still a good team…much better than last year, and the easy opponents of the September “primaries” have been replaced with a grueling stretch which will determine how valid of a “candidate” they really are to win the NFC East.

If the Birds had won last week, I thought that this week’s Giants game was ripe for a letdown.  But considering the disappointment that the team experienced last Sunday, they will be prepared and focused this week against the G-Men.

Birds win 27-21.  It won’t be easy…but it never is in the swamp of the Meadowlands where Jimmy Hoffa is supposedly resting in peace.

The Last Word(s) – After Chip Kelly’s first two “terms” (years) as coach of the Eagles, we were led to believe that 1) Not only was he a good football coach but that 2) He only believed in drafting character guys for his football team.

Knowing now that Kelly failed on both of his “campaign promises” here, I wonder how long it will be till his “constituents” in the Bay Area come to the same realization.

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

Bills at Seahawks 8:30 PM ESPN (Mon) – Game of the Week

EAGLES at Giants 1:00 PM FOX

Broncos at Raiders 8:30 PM NBC

2016 Week #8: Eagles at Cowboys

Last Sunday’s Eagles game could best be described as one of the strangest, most bizarre games in the team’s history.  Perhaps it was due to the fact that Halloween was only a week away, with both teams handing out turnovers in the 1st half the way that one hands out candy on Halloween night.

First, it was Carson Wentz throwing out some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for the Vikings to snatch up, which put them in perfect position to score the game’s first touchdown at the Eagles two-yard line.  But Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford, wanting to show how much he appreciated his former Eagles teammates, admirably played the role of “Mr. Goodbar”, giving the ball right back to the Birds by throwing his first interception of the year.

The follies continued with a muffed handoff between Wentz and running back Darren Sproles, leading to another turnover, which was immediately followed by Sam Bradford being stripped of the ball and the Eagles recovering, which was followed, a few plays earlier, with another Wentz interception.

If you were keeping track at home (and possibly pulling your hair out all at the same time) that was a total of five (count ’em, FIVE) turnovers within the first ten minutes of the game.  Eventually both teams realized that the “season of giving” is not upon us quite yet and settled down somewhat, registering only three more turnovers (I use the phrase “only three” very loosely) in total the rest of the game in what eventually resulted in a 21-10 Eagles victory.

Amid all the sloppy play, the Eagles returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown courtesy of Josh Huff, resulting in the first time in their history that they’ve accomplished the feat in consecutive games. Now, if only Huff would stop acting like he’s leading the Penn State Blue Band and not end his touchdown runs with a somersault.

Both lines, which struggled mightily against the Redskins the week prior, also redeemed themselves well on Sunday.  The defense was putting constant pressure on Sam Bradford, and the offensive line, including rookie tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, did a very good job against a formidable Vikings defense.  Vaitai, or “Big V”, as he is known, was called for a false start on the Eagles second offensive play of the game, but his name was never heard again, which is actually a good sign when you’re an offensive lineman.

Lost somewhat in all the turnovers was the fact that the Eagles defeated a very good team.  The Vikings were not only the last remaining undefeated team in the league…they are a team that has a Super bowl caliber defense.

It’s hard to decipher what the Birds are at this point.  They’ve beaten two quality teams at home thus far in the Steelers and the Vikings, but their two other wins have come against bad competition in the Browns & the Bears.

The tough schedule they face the next few weeks will be very foretelling about how good this team really is, and this week’s Sunday night contest against the Dallas Cowboys will be HUGE.

Lose, and the Eagles are in a two game hole for the division lead with the Cowboys  having a game in hand.  Win, and they’ll share the same record with the Birds holding the tiebreaker.  An Eagles-Cowboys game is always big no matter the record, but with so much at stake so early in the season, it doesn’t get much better than that.

With Halloween the following night, this game should be a “Thriller”, unlike last Sunday’s turnover fest, which had many quoting John Lennon, “Nobody told me there’d be days like these…strange days indeed”.

As for the outcome, I went out on a limb last week and picked the Eagles to win 23-9, which wasn’t too far off from the final score of 21-10.  But this week seems much harder to predict.

Unlike the Vikings, the Cowboys strength is not their defense, but their offense, and their offensive line is stacked and will be much harder to deal with then the Vikings were.

The Cowboys have not lost since Week 1 against the Giants so perhaps they are due?  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is what I’m banking on – Birds win 28-21.  Buckle your seat belts for Sunday night…’cause no one’s gonna save you from the beast about to strike…

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

Patriots at Bills 1:00 PM CBS – Game of the Week

Lions at Texans 1:00 PM FOX

Packers at Falcons 4:25 PM FOX

EAGLES at Cowboys 8:30 PM NBC

The Last Word  – It’s good to see that this year’s World Series winner will be one who’s fans have been starving for a championship for quite some time (The Cubs haven’t won since 1908 & the Indians since 1948).

But while the Cubs seem to be everyone’s darlings this year, I hope that the Indians can pull it out.  They are a small market team with a small market payroll, yet they built a team basically with platoon players who seem to be put in the right situations to succeed.

While there are no guarantees, the Cubs should be in the mix for the next few years.  The Indians – not so certain of that.  After years of futility, I’d like to see Cleveland experience it’s 2nd championship of 2016.

 

2016 Week #7: Eagles vs. Vikings

For the first three weeks of the season, the  Eagles and their fans were on a honeymoon of sorts.

Jetting off to a tropical destination together (Aruba, Puerta Vallarta, Hawaii, name your favorite spot here), their days were spent enjoying the heat of the sun, cool ocean breezes, and sipping margaritas poolside, while their nights were filled with scrumptious dinners, dancing all night, and “other” activities which I cannot mention in a PG rated blog.

But unfortunately the honeymoon is now over, and the credit card bill has come due.

On top of that, the wife is not happy that her new hubby snores at night, and the hubby is not pleased that his wife expects him to go shopping with her on Sunday afternoons while the NFL games are on.

Such is the new “reality” of the Eagles and their fans after the last two weeks have both resulted in losses, leading to the thought that maybe this love fest isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The Birds, to their credit, were still in a position to win, both against the Lions and the Redskins with 2:00 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  But consecutive weeks of the offense and defense (minus a Malcolm Jenkins touchdown for an interception) sleep walking through the first half made their 2nd half all the more laborious.

The glass half-empty crowd would say that the 3-0 start was based on teams not knowing rookie coach Doug Pederson’s and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz’s tendencies.  But with enough film out there for teams to “hack” into the Eagles schemes (sorry Wikileaks – no credit for you or Vladimir Putin on this one), their “trade secrets” are now out on the open market for other teams to exploit.

But while that may be the case, the glass half full crowd recognizes that all is not lost.  Football is a chess game of sorts, and the ability to change your tendencies after your opponent has changed theirs is what makes the good teams successful for so long.  Even someone like Bill Belichick, who’s major success has come from having Tom Brady as his starting quarterback (and playing unfair to some extent), is a master at putting the right people in the right places to succeed.

But before I turn my blog into a leadership management course, their is still the matter of the football game being played on the field, and most notably, in the trenches. The Eagles failed in both respects last week, as their offensive & defensive lines seemed to be outmatched or simply out-muscled all day.

The suspension of Lane Johnson, who wins the NFL’s “Stupid Man of the Year” award for 2016, led to rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai having to fill in at right tackle.  And while Vaitai struggled mightily in the 1st half against  a veteran defensive lineman like Ryan Kerrigan, I thought he settled down somewhat in the 2nd half.  In this game, there was enough blame to go around all over the line.

The defense, which had been a strength of the Eagles during their 3-0 start, also seemed to look lost and just physically over matched at the line of scrimmage.  The upside is that after giving up three touchdowns in consecutive weeks in the first half, the defense seemed to adjust and gave up a total of only nine points during the 2nd half.  The downside is that putting their offense in a hole by halftime isn’t a trend that winning teams seem to want to replicate.

Some of the blame for last Sunday must also fall on Golden Boy Wentz, who had his worst game of the year in my opinion.  Initially, I thought his tendency to hold onto the ball for too long (especially during his last drive) was his only negative, but upon further review, there were many instances when Wentz had tight end Zach Ertz open for a first down, but instead seemed to be looking downfield and not noticing that one of his best pass catching options were open.  If a few of those throws are made to Wentz, the Eagles would have extended drives at various phases of the game, possibly leading to more points and eventually, a win.

So where do we go from here?  The Eagles are at a crossroads of sorts, and face what is certainly a murderous schedule coming up, with none of their next six opponents holding a losing record currently.

The first of those is the Vikings, who come into the Linc on Sunday at 5-0 and are the only undefeated team left in the league.  Minnesota’s defense has been carrying them so far, but their offense leaves much to be desired, ranked 30th in yards gained and 32nd in rushing yards.

Sam Bradford has been the best “game manager” that the Vikings could have asked for, but even he can be rattled when pressured, in which case you’ll get a goofy “Keanu Reeves/deer in headlights” look from him.

The Eagles offense may struggle to put up points, but there is no reason the Birds defense can’t stop Minnesota’s offense as well. Then again, we said that about the Redskins, and look what happened.

This is a game that the Birds need more than the Vikings do, or the wolves will certainly be howling before Halloween.  The Birds settle down,  Halapoulivaati Vaitai & Carson Wentz settle down, and the Eagles win a tough fought defensive contest, 23-9.

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

Vikings at EAGLES 1:00 PM FOX – Game of the Week

Patriots at Steelers 4:25 PM CBS

Texans at Broncos 4:25 PM CBS

 

 

2016 Week #6: Eagles at Redskins

Surely, the fairy tale couldn’t last forever?

Surely, the folklore going around that Carson Wentz could 1) Save the country’s burgeoning debt crisis, 2) Cure every form of cancer, 3) Be the perfect husband for your sister/daughter AND 4) Never throw an interception could not all be true?

The last theory was debunked last Sunday in Motown when Wentz, with enough time to lead his team down the field for a winning field goal, threw an ill-advised pass downfield to Nelson Agholor who, when in tight coverage with a defender for a pass, looks more like he’s doing the “limbo dance” than actually fighting for the ball.

As the Lions celebrated and their fans, who seemed comatose and disinterested for most of the game, actually came to life, Wentz walked off the field presumably humming the Human League’s 1986 hit song “Human” playing in his head (cause frankly, he’s only human…of flesh and blood he’s made).  The throw was young Carson’s first interception of the year and negated what had been an Eagles comeback from two scores down in the 2nd half to take the lead, before Ryan Mathews fumble on 3rd &2 eventually led to Detroit kicking what was the eventual winning field goal.

No one expected the Birds to go 16-0, and it’s not necessarily a surprise that they lost a close game to the Lions.  But it was more HOW they lost it that hurt the most.

If the Eagles were not coming off a bye, the Lions contest could have easily been labeled a “trap” game, considering that they were coming off a big win against the Steelers and facing a division foe in the Redskins this week.  But I thought the bye would work to negate any kind of letdown against a Lions team that has not won anything of significance since the 1950’s.  I was wrong.

Perhaps this kind of wakeup call is exactly what the Birds needed.  The expectations for this season have changed significantly after four games, and a 8-8 season will no longer be considered a success as it was before the Eagles took the field against the Cleveland Browns on opening day.

The Birds face a tough test on the road this week.  The Redskins have rebounded from an 0-2 start to win three straight and are in the thick of the NFC East race at 3-2.  Don’t look now, but the NFC “Least” is currently the best division in football, with three of the four teams (Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins) with winning records, and the Giants not far behind at 2-3.

The Eagles would do well to run the ball against the ‘Skins, who possess the league’s 30th ranked run defense.  Last week, both Wendell Smallwood & Kenjon Barner looked like they had been placed in the witness protection program by coach Doug Pederson, as both seemed to be conspicuously absent from the running game. Mixing in both Smallwood & Barner into the running back rotation would help to keep Darron Sproles & Ryan Mathews fresh as well, especially as the game wears on.

Any division game the Eagles play always seems to be a tough game no matter the record of either team.  But I don’t think the Redskins are as good as their 3-2 record suggests.  And coming off a tough loss to the Lions, the Eagles will not take Washington lightly.  Birds win 27-17 and the “ying and yang” is in balance once again in “Eagleville”.

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

Eagles at Redskins 1:00 PM FOX

Cowboys at Packers 4:25 PM FOX – Game of the Week

Falcons at Seahawks 4:25 PM FOX