As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #13: The Populists vs. the Establishment

If the NFL was a political party, it would have the same problem that the Republicans & Democrats do – a divided party.

On one side, you have the NFC Trump/Sanders “Populist”  conference, with the AFC representing the Bush/Clinton “Establishment/Status Quo” wing of the NFL.

Why the NFC as the Populists and not the other way around, even though seven of the eight original NFL teams now play in the NFC?  Because the two teams currently at the top of the NFC (Eagles & Vikings)  were teams that were not seen as anyone’s Super Bowl favorite going in.  Both were expected to be 9-7 at best by most of the so-called NFL experts, and “outsiders” in the race for the Super Bowl.  Instead, both teams have surpassed expectations and are hoping to make 2017 a year to remember.

On top of that, neither of these teams have ever won a championship in the 51-year history of the Super Bowl/modern era of football.  And while one of these teams has fans that are loyal to a fault, they have a fan “base” that any team would be jealous of.

On the flip side, the top two teams in the AFC, the Patriots & Steelers, have been a dynasty in their conference for so long, it’s hard to remember a time when they weren’t in power.  These two teams have not only won 11 of the 51 Super Bowls, but since the 2001 season, have won the championship an astounding seven of the last sixteen seasons.

One of these teams, in order to keep their hold on power, has even been accused of “rigging” games by stealing signs and deflating footballs, in order to make sure that their championship “foundation” remains intact.

Will this be the year that these two dominant football families (the Rooney’s with the Steelers and the Kraft’s with the Patriots) began to fall from grace?  Time will tell, but the climate is ripe for some new voices in the football world (just as it was in the political world), especially with young quarterbacks such as Carson Wentz and the Rams Jared Goff having such a favorable impact on their respective teams.

As for the Eagles, they now began what is their toughest stretch of the season – a 3-game road trip which includes back-to-back games against the Seattle Seahawks and the L.A Rams, the two teams that sit atop the NFC West.

Playing on the West Coast can be difficult for an East Coast team no matter who they’re facing, especially with the travel and time change involved.  But playing in Seattle, which is considered one of the loudest stadiums to play in, is just an added degree of difficulty.

Personally, the only reason Seattle’s stadium, CenturyLink Field, seems that loud (in my opinion) is due to its layout, which somehow manages to keep the sound in.  I refuse to believe that fans in the Pacific Northwest can be louder than ours.

As for the game, in any season but this one, most Eagles fans would have pegged this as a loss.  And most of us did back in the summer, before the Eagles home games started to resemble a college football game where a Division I powerhouse was beating up on the “Little Sisters of the Poor” (a.k.a the Akron’s and Georgia State’s of the college football world).

As for my predictions, the last two weeks I stated that the Bears and Cowboys would score 20 and 23 points, respectively (in an Eagles win), to which loyal reader and fellow season ticket holder Steve Market remarked that he was “having trouble coming up with how either team would score” that many points.  And to his credit, he was right, as both teams were held to single digits (the Cowboys nine points and the Bears only three).

So this week, instead of doubting the Eagles defense once again, I am handing over prediction responsibilities to Steve, who is predicting a 31-20 Eagles victory.  He also feels that since Wentz has already played in Seattle last season, his prowess of being a “film geek” will help to ensure that he’ll be better prepared this time around.

And while we’ll be “waiting all day for Sunday night”, there are a few entertaining games on FOX to hold us over till the Birds-Seahawks kickoff on NBC at approximately 8:30 PM.

First, we have the Vikings and Falcons in the “brunch w/ mimosas” game at 1 PM followed by the Panthers at Saints in the “happy hour w/ buffalo wings” game at 4:25 PM.  And in case you’re not sure, you should be rooting for the Falcons over the Vikings and the Panthers over New Orleans.

This Sunday should be a little tougher for our Birds than the last few weeks, as Seattle should be a good barometer of where the Eagles stand, though the Seahawks will be without defensive standouts Richard Sherman & Kam Chancellor due to injury.

But a 31-20 victory sounds just as appetizing as anything I’d pick up at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Patriots at Bills  1:00 PM  CBS

Vikings at Falcons  1:00 PM  FOX

Panthers at Saints  4:25 PM  FOX

EAGLES at Seahawks  8:30 PM  NBC

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As Broad & Pattison Turns 2016: Super Bowl

We’ve once again reached the pinnacle of North American sporting events, the Super Bowl.  And once again, those of us in the Delaware Valley will not have a strong rooting interest due to our beloved Birds being excluded from the party for the 49th time in 51 years.

So the next question becomes, whom to root for?  The Patriots are not well liked in these parts, which is rare for a team which we only face once every four years.  But add in stolen signals, deflated balls, and the fact that Bill Belichick looks like Emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars movies, and one can understand why.

But while we hold a certain disdain for the Patriots, their opponents, the Atlanta Falcons, do not endear a “warm and fuzzy” feeling either. They’ve only made the Super Bowl once (and lost) which could cause many to give them the sympathy vote, but their fan base doesn’t seem to be starved for a winner, as the city of Atlanta seems to be more about college football than following any of their four major sports teams.

The one thing that could swing the likability factor in favor of the Falcons is their quarterback, Matt Ryan.  Ryan is a local kid who played at Penn Charter High School and went from Boston College to the big time of the NFL as the 3rd overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft.

While Patriots quarterback Tom Brady always seems to be in the news for various reasons, (four-game suspension he served earlier in the year, his supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen, etc.),  Ryan has become a bonafide NFL starter who seems to be grounded with a solid work ethic.  He seems like a guy you want to root for.

As for the game itself, I’d like nothing more than to see a competitive game first and foremost.  Eight of the ten playoff games this season were thoroughly one-sided, something which does not bode well for the NFL, whose ratings were hurting in the regular season to began with.  A closely played Super Bowl would help to remind fans just what it is that they enjoy about this sport so much.

New England comes in with a ton of Super Bowl experience, while Atlanta comes in with none.  The Falcons are a very young team and the first five minutes of the game will say a lot about the direction this contest goes.

If Atlanta allows the pomp and circumstance of the pregame to get to their psyche, this game could be over long before Lady Gaga begins her halftime performance.

But if the Falcons can remain composed and don’t turn the ball over early (and better yet, manage to score on their first drive), they will be in it for a full 60 minutes and have the firepower offensively to outscore the Patriots.

Falcons do just that, and win 31-24.  And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is spared from having to present Tom Brady, whom he suspended for four games this season, with the Super Bowl trophy.

The Last Word – Some Super Bowl fun facts:

  1. There have been fifty Super Bowls played, and in only five of them (10%) has there been a lead change in the last two minutes of the game.
  2. There has never been a Super Bowl that has gone into Overtime.

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”…

As Broad & Pattison Turns: Conference Championship edition

After a thrilling 1st round playoff weekend where three of the four games were still in doubt going into the final two minutes, the Divisional playoff round seemed to leave a lot to be desired.  Actually, it was, to paraphrase a 16-year old girl, “Like…BORING!”.

The Saints and Seahawks contest, which many thought could be a blowout, actually ended up being one of the more competitive games, with the Saints having a chance to at least throw a hail mary into the end zone on the last play of the game to possibly tie it.   That is, until Saints receiver Marques Colston had a brain freeze, lost track of time, or just decided to play hot potato with the football, resulting in a New Orleans penalty and the end of the game.

The Saturday nightcap between the Colts and the Patriots looked to be one which could go down to the end and go either way, but the Patriots had the game well in hand relatively early in the 4th quarter.  Luckily, due to the exciting life I lead,  yours truly was already snoozing on his couch by then.

Sunday brought us the Niners and the Panthers in what was billed as an intriguing defensive matchup, but Carolina was done in on three drives: Two 1st half drives in which they scored a total of only 3 points while having 1st and goal both times, and a 3rd quarter, 8-minute plus drive that yielded a big fat zero on the scoreboard.   The Niners took over the game in the 2nd half and never looked back, as they now head to the NFC Championship game for the 3rd consecutive year.

The Broncos and the Chargers finished up the Sunday playoff brackets, and for the 1st three quarters it looked like San Diego was ‘California dreamin’ as they looked fast asleep and lifeless in falling behind 17-0 after three quarters.  The Chargers also seemed to think that the word “Omaha” was a new synonym for “hike”, as they had a number of offside penalties caused by Peyton Manning’s signal calling (do Broncos fans play a drinking game where one drinks every time Manning says Omaha?).

So we are now down to the final four, and the teams that are still alive are who we thought they would be (to paraphrase former Vikings and Cardinals coach Dennis Green).

Conference Championship Sunday (all times in EST):

Patriots at Broncos 3:00 PM CBS – For the 15th time, future hall-of-famers Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will face off, and while it is the Broncos vs. the Patriots, there is no denying that Brady is Manning’s “daddy”, having won 10 of their 14 meetings.

While Peyton’s passing numbers are historically astronomical, the playoffs for Manning are like falling asleep in one of those old Freddy Krueger “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies – a nightmare.  He has a 10-11 career playoff record, and generally doesn’t play well in cold weather either.

The plus side for Peyton?  Sunday will be a balmy 60 degrees in Denver and the one time he beat Brady in the playoffs was playing at home for the Colts.

On the New England side, Bill Belichick continues to make weekly trips into his mad scientist laboratory to conjure up ways to win, and Tom Brady might as well be throwing to a CPA, an electrician, and a hot-dog vendor with all the injuries the Patriots have accumulated.

The Pats, like the Niners, will also be playing in their 3rd straight conference championship game, and I give Belichick and Brady a lot of credit for keeping the Foxboro machine going all these years (with the caveat that they haven’t won a Superbowl since Spygate was uncovered).  I’m not bitter or anything…really.

So who wins?  I was giving the nod to the Patriots initially, but Peyton Manning playing at home in spring like weather and I have a feeling he’ll manage not to choke this time.  Broncos advance…

Niners at Seahawks 6:30 PM CBS – These two teams match up so well that if this game was played on a neutral field, it could possibly go to double overtime (in which case, I vote that it be decided by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Niners coach Jim Harbaugh duking it out at midfield).

These two teams really do hate each other and for the last two seasons, the victor has been the one playing at home.  But while that does not bode well for San Francisco, trends are meant to be broken (for reference, see the Bengals losing at home in the wildcard round and the Saints winning outdoors in the cold against the Eagles).

Seattle didn’t play particularly well against New Orleans last week but managed to hold on for the win.  A similar game against San Francisco and the Seahawks will find themselves eating pizza and wings at home during the Super Bowl instead of actually playing in it.

While the 12th man gives Seattle a distinct advantage, Harbaugh will have the Niners ready to play and win.  Niners and Broncos in the Superbowl peeps…

The Last Word – Now that Chris Wheeler is no longer on the Phillies broadcast, I vote for the term “no doubles defense” to be banned from the broadcast as well.   On a serious note, with the removal of “Wheels”, the last link from the original 4-man Phillies broadcast team that many of us in the Delaware Valley grew up watching/listening to are either off the air or are no longer with us (Harry Kalas, Richie Ashburn, Andy Musser, and Wheeler).