2016 Week #3: Eagles vs. Steelers

Repeat after me – A 2-0 start does not a season make.

A 2-0 start does not guarantee a winning season.

A 2-0 start does not guarantee a playoff berth.

It is still possible for the Eagles, after beating up on two bad teams, to lose the rest of their games against better competition and end up 2-14.  And while that is highly unlikely, the Birds did start out 3-1 in 2012, only to end up 4-12 at the end of Andy Reid’s last season.

I say that not to dampen the spirits of those who are yearning for winning in this town, as this team, and the situation that they find themselves in, is quite different than the one in 2012.  Only that while we are downright “giddy” after two weeks of football, there is still a long season that remains ahead with much tougher competition on the horizon.

With five minutes left in the 3rd quarter, on what was a beautiful and practically balmy Monday night with kickoff temps still in the 80’s (unheard of for a September Chicago night), I sat in my seat in the “spaceship” known as Soldier field with teeth clenched, watching the Birds precariously hold on to a  9-7 lead and wondering if that would be enough to hold off the Bears in their home opener.

And while nine points did not prove to be enough, the Eagles scored three touchdowns to effectively put the game away and send the Bears fans home early with ten minutes still left in the game.  No matter how nice the weather, the play of Jay Cutler, coupled with a worknight/schoolnight for most Bears fans, was not enough to keep them in their seats when their hometown team was down by 22 points.

As for the Birds, they couldn’t have asked for a better start after two games in Doug Pederson’s inaugural coaching season.  But this season will not continue to be all “roses and rainbows” for young quarterback Carson Wentz, and their undoubtedly will be a game or two where he looks up at the home crowd to hear nothing but the bellowing of the famous Philadelphia “BOOOOOOO” and thinks to himself “Toto, I don’t think we’re in North Dakota anymore”.

Let’s hope that happens later than sooner, but the first real test for this team will come this Sunday in the form of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While not quite cross state rivals due to playing in different conferences, the Steelers present a huge challenge for the Birds, as many have them slated to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.  Pittsburgh still has “Big Ben” Roethlisberger  at quarterback, and with receiver Antonio Bryant as his top wide receiver, the Eagles secondary will have their hands full.

The defensive line would do well to pressure Big Ben, but even then, Roethlisberger has the ability to sidestep the rush and throw the ball downfield.

The Eagles will play a very competitive game and keep it close, in what should be a raucous crowd at the Linc.  I wouldn’t be surprised in the outcome either way, but while my head tells me the Steelers are definitely the better team, my heart tells me that the Birds will find a way to pull it out.

Birds win 23-20 in a nail biter where the fans make all the difference….

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

Texans at Patriots 8:25 PM CBS/NFL Network (Thurs)

Broncos at Bengals 1:00 PM CBS (Game of the Week)

Vikings at Panthers 1:00 PM FOX

Steelers at Eagles 4:25 PM CBS

Jets at Chiefs 4:25 PM CBS

2016 Week #1: Eagles vs. Browns

Last week at this time, the plan was for Carson Wentz to practice riding his bike, complete with training wheels, in the school parking lot, while all the other kids would be riding over the river and through the woods to the playground to hang out with the “big boys”.

Fast forward to the present and much has changed since then.  The trade that sent last year’s starting quarteback, Sam Bradford, to the Vikings, elevated Wentz’s status from “watch and learn” to “learn under fire”.  But how did he get to this point so quickly?

My initial reaction after the Bradford trade was that the Eagles were recreating their own Broadway play titled “1999”, with the following cast of characters:

1) Coach Doug Pederson starring as first-year head coach Andy Reid.  “Big Red”, as you may recall, was not really anyone else’s first choice to become a head coach (sound familiar Doug Pederson?).

2) Quarterback Chase Daniel starring as Eagles starting quarterback Doug Pederson (yes, the same guy who is now our head coach), who was the Eagles quarterback to start the 1999 season, and was expected to be the ‘placeholder’ for the position till Donovan McNabb was deemed ready for primetime.

3) Rookie Carson Wentz starring as first-round draft pick (and #2 overall pick) Donovan McNabb, which is exactly where Wentz was drafted as well.

If you didn’t think things could get even more weird, Prince, who sang the hit song “1999”, was a Minnesota native, which is where Sam Bradford was traded to.      .

Eagles fans, while voicing mixed reviews (since no one really knows how the ending will turn out) expressed disappointment that the play did not bring back 1) $30 seats in the 700-level, 2) “Sign-man” and 3) Judge Seamus McCaffery and his famous “Eagles court”.

The trade of Bradford to Minnesota explains Wentz moving up at least one spot in the pecking order from a third-string QB to the backup.  But one week ago, Wentz was a rookie who had two quarters of NFL preseason playing experience and three games of being injured.  All the talk was about the rookie sitting, learning, and healing.  How did Wentz go from #3 to #1 in such a short span of time?

In the Eagles ideal world, they would have probably preferred to have Chase Daniel start the season and Wentz be the backup, so that they would be “quarterbacking like it’s 1999”. The problem in all of this was that Daniel did nothing to inspire confidence among the brass that he could actually run the offense with any consistency, struggling in the preseason against backups and third-stringers.

The Eagles will try to word this as if to heap praise on rookie Wentz for his football acumen, since the alternative is to admit that signing Daniel as the backup (for $7 million no less) might just have been a really BAD idea.

While no one is saying so publicly, if Carson Wentz gets hurt again and Daniel (the former Chiefs backup) has to play for any extended period of time, Chase may end up getting “chased” out of town and Eagles fans may take up sewing and basket weaving as hobbies to kill time on what could become a series of dismal Sunday fall afternoons.

The best hope for Eagles fans is that the rookie gets brought along slowly while the running game, defense, and special teams keep them in games, especially at the start of the season.

The schedule makers made things easy on the Birds for the opener, giving them the Cleveland Browns at home.  The Browns have been the “mistake by the lake” since their return to the NFL in 1999, compiling only two winning seasons, one playoff appearance, and zero playoff wins in that span.

In continuing the ironies from above, it was the Browns who had the rights to the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft and could have drafted Carson Wentz.  Instead, they traded his rights to the Eagles for a plethora of draft picks.

It was also the Browns who had the 1st overall draft pick in 1999 and could have spent it on Donovan McNabb. Instead, they chose to draft Tim Couch, who ended up spending more time watching football on the couch than on the field.

The moral of the story?  Always do the opposite of what the Cleveland Browns will do.

The Eagles have a great opportunity to start the season on the right foot.  They would do well to get off to an early lead, as a first half deficit against a bad team will surely have the natives restless and howling, which would not bode well for young Carson’s confidence.

Birds win the opener and Carson does okay, which is all we can ask at this point.

The Last Word:

What I’m looking forward to, more than anything else, while sitting at my seat at the Linc this upcoming Sunday, is the standing ovation that young Carson Wentz will receive the first time he heads onto the field to lead the offense.

Unlike Kevin Kolb, Nick Foles, and Sam Bradford before him, let’s hope his name is one we hear for years to come in an Eagles uniform.   If not, the period from 201o to 2019 could well be remembered as a “lost decade” for Eagles fans…and another decade without a championship.

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

Panthers at Broncos 8:30 PM NBC (Thurs) – Game of the Week

Bengals at Jets 1:00 PM CBS

Patriots at Cardinals 8:30 PM NBC

Steelers at Redskins 7:10 PM ESPN (Mon)

The 2016 Eagles: 1st Down & Wentz

In 1989, the Minnesota Vikings, feeling that a legitimate running back threat was the only thing preventing them from making a serious Super Bowl run, traded for then Cowboys running back Hershel Walker, in what was considered a blockbuster deal at that time.

That trade eventually netted the Cowboys three first round and three second-round picks (including first-round pick Emmitt Smith) who, along with quarterback Troy Aikman and wide receiver Michael Irvin, ended up being the catalyst for their turnaround from doormat of the NFL to Super Bowl champion three times in a four year-span.

Meanwhile, the Vikings never saw the desired result they expected from acquiring an all-pro running back.  While they won the division that season, they were thumped by the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional playoff round and never made it back to the playoffs the following two years with Hershel Walker on their roster.

Hershel was eventually released and ended up signing with the Eagles in 1992, and the Minnesota trade was largely seen by many as a fleecing of the Vikings organization.

If all goes exactly as the Eagles hope, yesterday’s trade of quarterback Sam Bradford could end up being the “Fleecing of the Vikings #2”.

In a unprecedented move that saw a NFL team trade away their starting quarterback with only a week to go till the start of the regular season, the Bradford trade was the finality to a culmination of events that started with the devastating season ending injury suffered by Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at practice last Tuesday.

The Vikings, once again hoping to go deep in the playoffs much like in 1989, were left with backup Shaun Hill at quarterback to lead them there.  Add to that the fact that they are opening a brand new stadium and starting the season at quarterback with the journeyman Hill would have been the equivalent of having your wedding at the Four Seasons or the Ritz Carlton and serving 1) Peanut butter and jelly and 2) Grilled cheese sandwiches as the main course.

It was pure luck that the Eagles were able to trade Sam Bradford to Minnesota because of the injury.  But it was skill on General Manager Howie Roseman’s part to not only receive a 1st round pick back as compensation, but an additional 2018 pick as well that will be no worse than a 4th rounder.

With the Bradford trade, Howie has, in true “Back to the Future” style, undone all of the bad moves that former coach Chip Kelly initiated last year (perhaps we should just refer to Howie as “Marty McFly”?).  Gone are DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso, and now Bradford…all Chip Kelly moves that didn’t turn out to achieve the desired results.

Normally, the trading of your starting quarterback this late in the year would mean that a team is  “punting” away the season and looking to the future.  But upon further review, I don’t think this reduces the expectations for your 2016 Eagles at all.

For starters, the expectations were not that high to began with even with Bradford at quarterback.  The guy is essentially a glorified game manager and not the second coming of Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, which is what one would expect out of a former number one overall draft pick.  The Eagles would have been fortunate to get  eight or nine wins even if they kept him.

The question is, how much does playing an inexperienced Carson Wentz at quarterback, who has a huge upside, versus an experienced, veteran quarterback who is slightly above average at best with no upside, really hurt you?  We already knew that the defense and the special teams of the 2016 Eagles were much stronger than the offense, and nothing about the Bradford trade changes that.

Wentz will naturally make some rookie mistakes early on that Bradford would not, but by the 2nd half of the season, he may be making the plays that Bradford will never make (this is assuming, of course, that he is healthy enough to play).

There are a few other reasons that I am glad to see Sam Bradford go as well:

  1. He never really wanted to be here this season anyway.
  2. I’ll stop thinking that Keanu Reeves is playing for the Eagles.
  3. That “deer in the headlights” look that he has at his postgame news conference be it win, lose, or draw.
  4. His inability to throw the ball down the field.

On the long-term, getting the ball rolling with rookie Carson Wentz at the helm sooner than later is the best thing this team could do.  And in a weak division, it would not surprise me if they won the division anyway.

Broad & Pattison turned on its heels once this trade was announced.  Hopefully, the 2016 season will turn for the better with it as well.

 

 

As Broad & Pattison Turns: Let the Eagles Preseason Began…

The Eagles preseason began Thursday night with more uncertainty than in past years about which direction this team was heading in.  But there was no doubt as to who the faithful really wanted to see…

Eagles starting quarterback Sam Bradford started the game, but if you were in attendance and happened to miss it, who could blame you?  Sam was in the game for an entire three plays, which wasn’t even enough time for your cheese cup to be infiltrated by a single Chickie’s & Pete’s crab fry.

Enter Chase Daniels, expensive backup to the stars (or at least to the Philadelphia Eagles), who looked hesitant every time he dropped back to throw.  Perhaps his timidness in the pocket was due to being with a new team.  Perhaps it was the heat and humidity which had him shaky in the pocket.  Or perhaps it was the Seasons Pizza sign which had Chase thinking about a large pepperoni to go following the game.

Whatever it was, his ineffectiveness had caught the fans ire.  It may have only been preseason, but when it came to the natives showing their displeasure, they were in mid-season form.  A reign of boos showered down upon Daniels’ multiple times during the first half, followed by chants of “We Want Wentz” (in reference to Eagles first-round draft pick Carson Wentz).

One can only suspect that Chase Daniels, not accustomed to such treatment from the Chiefs home crowd, must have walked back to the sideline and told Doug Pederson, “Coach – I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!”

With less than two minutes left before halftime, the fans finally got their wish.  Wonder-boy Wentz was supposed to come in at the start of the 3rd quarter, but even rookie coach Pederson must have sensed that keeping his backup in for another series was an exercise in futility, and instead put in the rookie to run the two minute offense.

To Wentz’s credit, he came in and played rather well in the time he was in the game.  The young quarterback showed pocket presence and an ability to throw the ball away when there was no play to be made, something that many young quarterbacks struggle with early in their careers.  Wentz did throw an ill-advised interception in the end zone, but considering that it was his first NFL action, not too shabby.

The question automatically becomes – how much action will Wentz see when the real games began?  Those playing the role of devil’s advocate will rightfully point out that many of the defenders chasing him on Thursday night may be slicing your deli meat at your local Acme or Giant a month from now. How will he fare against the starters and all-pros of the NFL?

That is a question that may remain unanswered for some time, but at least on this night, Wentz showed that he had the tools to play in the NFL.

On the defensive side, Jim Schwartz may turn out to be the defensive coordinator we have been searching for since Jim Johnson passed away back in 2009.  He has the experience to run a defense and has a stalwart on the defensive line in Fletcher Cox to anchor it.

But this night was all about Carson Wentz.  In a season where the expectations are not quite on par with past years, he may be the one who holds the key to this team’s future beyond 2016.

The Last Word – Perhaps this should be retitled the most RECENT word.  Carson Wentz suffered a hairline fracture in his ribs in the 4th quarter of Thursday’s game and the Eagles are hopeful he returns before the end of the preseason.  Setback #1 for Wonder kid Wentz…hopefully not a sign of things to come for your 2016 Eagles….

As Broad & Pattison Turns 2015 Week #6: Eagles vs. Giants

The uneasy feeling that I had while sitting at my seat during last Sunday’s Eagles-Saints game was not due to being out the night before.  No, that uneasy feeling was due to watching one Samuel Jacob Bradford, supposed savior of the Eagles football franchise, try to lead his team into the end zone.

The Eagles offense actually showed signs of life for a change in the first quarter, as Sam led the Eagles on two long drives. He then culminated those drives by throwing two bad interceptions in the end zone.

Both of Sam’s errant throws were the kind that Nick Foles usually makes, but keeping Foles around was not the answer either, as evidenced by Foles throwing four interceptions for the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

Luckily for Sam, and the rest of the offense, the Birds showed signs of life in the 2nd half and handily defeated the Saints 39-17, with yours truly leaving the game with over eight minutes left.

But while the Eagles temporarily saved their season and sit at 2-3 in the NFC “Least”, how many times can they continue to struggle in the first half?  It’s as if this offense, mentally, is in the parking lot tailgating with the faithful in the 1st quarter and recovering from a headache in the 2nd.

Sam’s two 1st half INT’s would have cost the Birds if they were actually playing against a more formidable opponent, but against the Saints, who’s best days with Drew Brees are behind them, they were able to recover and come back.

After five games, this team is still an enigma.  At times, they have shown flashes of brilliance and can move the ball at will. Other times, this offense looks like it is saddled in traffic on the Schuylkill.

Luckily, if the rule of “what goes around comes around” holds true, it might actually benefit the Eagles this season.

Last year, the Eagles won ten games but still failed to make the playoffs due to both wildcard teams having a record of 11-5.  This season, in the aforementioned “NFC Least”, this team could go 9-7 and make the playoffs as a division winner and possibly win a 1st round game at home.  But while the fans would be happy to see Chip’s first playoff victory, the expectations were much more than a “one and done” scenario.

But perhaps WIP radio’s Ike Reese had it right.  Reese commented that all of the changes the Eagles made before the season would pay off not this season, but in 2016.  Ike’s opinion was that next year, when this team has a full season of playing together, would be the year when this offense truly jells and plays to what it is capable of.

Personally, I’m fine with that if it happens.  Perhaps a winning record and a competitive team in a mediocre division is what our expectations should be for 2015.  Let Sam Bradford work out all the kinks now.  Let this offense take the whole season to realize that the game does actually START in the 1st quarter and not the 3rd.

Perhaps watered down expectations for 2015 is what we should adhere to.  And why not?  We’ve waited 55 years for a championship – what’s another year or two?

This week, the Birds face the Giants in what is a critical contest for supremacy (if you can call it that) in the NFC Least.  The Giants eked out a win against a bad 49ers team at home last week, and are a surprising 3-2 on the young season.  Injuries have hampered both teams, but being a Monday night game, both teams will want to impress under the lights.

Hopefully the Eagles offense will pass on the sausage sandwich and Miller Lite being offered by Gino in Lot K, and actually succeed in scoring some points in the 1st quarter.

Birds win 28-14, and the Eagles have at least a share of the division lead at 3-3.  Welcome to life in the NFC Least…

The Last Word:

Don’t tell anyone, but I was actually rooting for the Mets to beat the Dodgers in the NLDS.  I know, I know…being from Philadelphia I’m supposed to hate all New “Yawk” teams (and the Cowboys as well), but the Mets put together their team the way that I hope the Phillies do within the next few years….with homegrown talent.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, are trying to be the Yankees of the 90’s in my opinion – by buying their way in.

Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins were both major contributors during the Phillies 2007-2011 run, which resulted in one World Series championship and two National League pennants.  But Utley’s slide into 2nd base the other night (or better yet, lack of a slide), was a dirty play, and Rollins is stealing money, just as he did with the Phillies during his last few seasons here.

Neither Utley or Rollins deserve another championship as far as I’m concerned.  There – I said it.

As for the NLCS, I’d like to see the Cubs win if only to rid them of their postseason misery.  And on the AL side, let the Royals success continue…the Jays can wait another year or two…or twenty.

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

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

Cardinals at Steelers 1:00 PM FOX

Patriots at Colts 8:30 PM NBC

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #17: Eagles at Giants

There are certain omens that occur during a football game, mostly involving the placekicker, that provide an accurate reading of whether it is going to be your team’s day or not.

When the kicker “doinks” a field goal off the uprights, but it still manages to go through, it’s a safe bet that it’s your team’s day to win.   Conversely, when that “doink” results in preventing that kick from going through, it’s likely a bad omen of things to come.

Another bad omen is when your kicker, who has been reliable for the whole season, not only misses two field goals in the game but misses one from a very makable 36 yards out, which is precisely what happened last week to Cody Parkey.

Even after the Eagles managed to claw their way back to tie the game, had the ball with 2:36 remaining, and managed to drive from their own 15 to the Redskins 48-yard line, I couldn’t help but think back to those two missed field goals and the gnawing thought that this was not to be the Eagles day.  And then it happened…

Mark Sanchez, who hasn’t done much to prove to any future employer that he’s worthy of being a starting quarterback in this league, dropped back and, under a blitz, threw an ill-advised, off the mark pass that was intercepted by Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland.

The interception didn’t guarantee the Redskins anything, as they were only at the 50, but any hope of stopping Washington ended for the Birds on the next play, when Pierre Garcon caught a pass and faked out Cary “toast” Williams, going 23 yards to the Eagles 35.  Add 15 yards for a Vinny Curry roughing-the-passer penalty and that was the game.  The Redskins at the Eagles 20 and, much like last year’s playoff game against the Saints, only needing to run down the clock and hit a chip shot field goal to win it, thereby putting a dagger in Chip Kelly’s sophomore season and leading to more questions than answers about which direction this team is going.

What’s remaining after all the carcass has been removed from what was a 9-3 record and a division lead is the Eagles first meaningless game in two seasons.  And while I’m okay with playing the starters, one would have hoped that Matt Barkley would have gotten the chance to start at quarterback, if only to see what he could do in a regular season game that won’t make a difference…win or lose.

Chip Kelly, in his weekly news conference, scoffed at that idea, stating that all of his starters, including Mark Sanchez, will start the final game.  Perhaps Chip thinks that he’s still coaching in college and that ten wins instead of nine will help the team receive an invite to a better named, but still meaningless, bowl game.  Perhaps Chip thinks he’s going on a recruiting trip where he can boast that his team had double-digit wins two years in a row, making it more likely that he can snag a blue-“chip” recruit (no pun intended).

Unfortunately, Chip now has all the constraints of the NFL draft when it comes to acquiring “prospects”, and nine wins instead of ten would help that cause.  However, four straight losses would leave a bad taste in the mouth of the players and extend their losing streak into next year, something the current players would probably like to extinguish before catching the next plane out of town and exiting what will surely be the “City of Sports Discontent” for possibly the next eight months and even longer.

No, the Eagles need a win if for nothing else than their psyche, but facing a Giants team that has won three straight, there is no guarantee they will get it.  I’m actually neutral either way…a win would look better, but so would a better draft pick.

Unfortunately, I think Sanchez continues his mediocre play, the Eagles continue to turn the ball over, and the secondary continues to give up big plays.  Eagles lose 30-17 and end one of the most disappointing seasons in recent history.

Amit’s Top 5 Power Rankings:

1. Patriots (2)

2. Seahawks (3)

3. Broncos (1)

4. Cardinals (4)

5. Cowboys (new)

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

Chargers at Chiefs 1:00 PM CBS

Lions at Packers 4:25 PM FOX

Bengals at Steelers 8:30 PM NBC – Game of the Week

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #16: Eagles at Redskins

After the Eagles pummeled the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day to commence the tough 3-game stretch that would supposedly define their season, many Eagles fans were having visions of a Super Bowl appearance dancing in their heads.

But after back-to-back losses against the Seahawks and Cowboys (two teams that are vying with the Birds for a playoff spot and preferable seeding), Eagles fans could find themselves with only a stack of coal in their football stocking come Christmas morning.

Last Sunday, they were repeatedly fed a stack of “Dez”, as in Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, who ran roughshot down the field multiple times and basically treated Birds cornerback Bradley Fletcher as if he was a harmless ragdoll standing in his way.

Dallas made up for its lopsided loss at the hands of the Birds down in Dallas and let it be known that if they are to partake in another December swoon, it would not be occurring this easily or quickly.  Unlike the Eagles win down in Dallas, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo looked healthier, had ten days to prepare as opposed to three, and showed that given time, he can tear up the Eagles secondary, which is the major component that will likely keep the Birds from obtaining any kind of elite status this season.

And of course, there is the matter of the quarterback situation, which neither the ghosts of Christmas present or Christmas future really seem to have an answer for.

While Mark Sanchez’s mobility adds another element to the passing game (an element that Nick Foles does not possess), both quarterbacks were turning the ball over more than needed to win in this league.  But to Nick’s credit, when he wasn’t turning the ball over once or twice a game, he was actually making accurate throws, a trait that Sanchez displayed in his first few starts but has now been lost over the last few weeks.

The Eagles didn’t lose last Sunday because the Cowboys possess a great defense and there was nowhere to throw.  On many occasions, Sanchez had receivers open throughout the game and simply was off target or just didn’t see them.  More and more, it is becoming evident that his tenure with the Eagles will be a short one, as he is not the kind of player who can consistently play to a high level week after week.  When Sanchez’s playing career does eventually come to an end though, he could probably become a public relations “guru” for any NFL team, as he handles the media like an all-pro quarterback should.  If only he could play like one too…

This week, the Birds get somewhat of a respite, as after facing the Cowboys-Seahawks-Cowboys over the last three weeks, they now face the lowly Washington Redskins, who seem to display more gridlock and turmoil than their capital counterparts over in the halls of Congress.  If you think our quarterback situation is uncertain for the future, the Redskins drafted two young quarterbacks in 2012 (Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins) with the 2nd and the 102nd overall pick, respectively, and neither of them seem to be primed to hold the job for the long term.  The Redskins also acquired Colt McCoy, who was a 3rd round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2010, but he isn’t the answer either.

At this point, the ‘Skins are probably looking just to finish off their season and make plans for New Years Eve in a few weeks, so this game SHOULD be an easy one, as long as the Eagles aren’t thinking about last minute Christmas shopping deals while running around on the field.

With last week’s loss, the Eagles find themselves no longer in control of their destiny, and will need help from other teams if they are to be invited to the NFL’s playoff party which begins Jan. 3rd.  So without further ado, here are the various playoff possibilities for the team (have your abacus and calculus calculator ready):

1) Birds need to win one more game than the Cowboys the rest of the regular season.  Problem is, there are only two games remaining.  Should that happen (which could occur this week with Dallas facing the Colts), the Eagles would still win their division and host a 1st round playoff game.  This is the easiest and best case scenario.

2) If the Eagles don’t win their division, they can still get in as a wildcard team, but would need to win both of their remaining games against the ‘Skins and Giants, while one of the following three teams (Seahawks, Packers, Lions) need to lose BOTH of their last two games.

Which of these is the most likely?  The Lions and Packers face each other in the last game of the season in Green Bay, so one of them will definitely have one loss (barring a tie).  The Lions face the Bears, who will be starting Jimmy Clausen instead of Jay Cutler, on the road this Sunday, while the Packers will be facing Tampa on the road and looking to rebound after last week’s loss to the Bills.

Assuming the Packers beat the Lions in their last game of the season, we should be rooting heavily for the Bears this Sunday, but they are about as done as the Redskins, and probably have a better chance with Jimmy Dean at quarterback.

The Seahawks face the Cardinals on the road this week, but even if they lose that game to a backup quarterback, they end the season at home against the Rams, a probable win.  All said, the wildcard is a long shot, but then again, stranger things have happened before (for reference, see Eagles entrance to the playoffs in 2008).

Birds win this Saturday, 35-14, and then we sit back on Sunday and become Bears, Buccaneers, Cardinals, and most importantly, Colts fans…

Amit’s Top 5 Power Rankings:

1. Broncos (1)

2. Patriots (2)

3. Seahawks (4)

4. Cardinals (3)

5. Packers (5)

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

Chiefs at Steelers 1:00 PM CBS

Colts at Cowboys 4:25 PM CBS

Seahawks at Cardinals 8:30 PM NBC – Game of the Week

Broncos at Bengals 8:30 PM ESPN