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!

 

 

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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

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”…