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

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 Week #8: Eagles at Cowboys

Somewhere in my “wishful thinking” mind, I’m hoping that the Eagles spent their bye weekend at a Halloween party, with Sam Bradford dressed as Tom Brady and his receivers dressed as Odell Beckham.  And then, like a movie where the powers of the costume end up consuming the individual that wears it, they will return from the bye and play “in costume” for the remainder of the season.

Easier said then done I know.  But as you are all aware, Halloween coincided with the Eagles bye week this year, which is ironic considering that the Birds play at times has been nothing but frightening.  But luckily they play in the NFC East, where no team really scares anyone, so the division remains up for grabs.

This week, the Eagles began a stretch where they will play four straight winnable games against teams with losing records (Dallas, Miami, Tampa, and Detroit).  Win all four, and they would sit at 7-4, and most likely at the top of the NFC “Least” standings.  Of course, with this team, anything is possible, and they haven’t done anything to give the impression that they can actually go on an extended winning streak of any sort.

Tonight’s game pits the Birds against the Tony Romo-less Cowboys, who have loss five straight since Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks pummeled Romo into the ground back in Week #2 at the Linc in a 20-10 Cowboys victory, which happened to be the last time that Dallas actually won a game.

If the Cowboys hadn’t lost Romo due to injury, they could have easily been sitting at 6-1 instead of 2-5, and looking at the rest of the NFC East in their rearview mirror.  Instead, they’re probably lamenting the fact that they did not have a capable backup quarterback to fill Romo’s shoes, the way that the Eagles do with Mark Sanchez.

The Birds problems on offense rest not with their backup, but with their starting quarterback Sam Bradford.  Either Bradford makes bad throws, or his receivers drop good ones, which has been the theme through seven games.

When these two teams met back in September, the Cowboys were also without wide receiver Dez Bryant and defensive end Greg Hardy (due to injury and suspension, respectively).  Hardy is able to play this time around and has the ability to be a terror to the opposing teams’ offense.  Unfortunately for Hardy, he also seems to be quite a terror off the field as well, but that is a story for another time.

This game might end up being a 7-6 snoozer, with Hardy causing havoc on the Eagles offense, and Cowboys quarterback Matt Cassel causing havoc on himself due to his poor play.  Rumor has it that former Phillies ace and current Texas Ranger Cole Hamels may be next in line to play quarterback if Cassel falters.  And why not?  He probably couldn’t do any worse (the Hamels comment is in jest of course).

In reality, I think the scoring improves somewhat and the Eagles win 14-10.  Wake me up when it’s over…

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

Packers at Panthers 1:00 PM FOX – Game of the Week

Rams at Vikings 1:00 PM FOX

Raiders at Steelers 1:00 PM CBS

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 2015 Week #5: Eagles vs. Saints

In honor of Halloween, Chip Kelly is planning to produce a horror film entitled “Nightmare on Broad & Pattison”.  And coincidentally, he has all the right characters to make it a success.

For starters, the first thing every horror movie needs is a good victim.  Enter Sam Bradford, who has already starred in Jeff Fisher’s St. Louis classic, “Assault on the Arch”, in which Bradford was the victim of season ending injuries and constant mediocre play around him.  Luckily, Sam does not have to deviate much from character in Chip’s film, since he has to deal with the constant fear of being pummeled by oncoming defensive lineman every time he drops back to pass.

Every good horror movie has some element of monsters, and in this case, the Eagles have a “3-headed Monster” in the form of Murray, Mathews, and Sproles, which is supposed to provide security and support for the beleaguered quarterback. Instead, it remains underutilized, which only intensifies the problems of this offense.

You want ghosts? The ghosts of the 2011 Dream Team linger with the way this team has started, and the nagging fear is that Byron Maxwell has been possessed by Nnamdi Asomugha, who was the Eagles 2011 prized free agent cornerback but ended up being a bust.

Ladies and gentleman, such is the state of your 2015 Philadelphia Eagles one-quarter into the season.  A season that held promise going in is turning into a house of horrors on a weekly basis.

In search of a silver lining, many will point to Chip Kelly’s first season in 2013, when the Eagles started off 1-3, but rebounded to go 9-3 the rest of the way and earn an NFC East title.  But that team was very fortunate during its 9-3 run, as their opponents included a 1) Putrid Oakland Raiders team that went 4-12, 2) A victory over the Green Bay Packers without having to face an injured Aaron Rodgers, and a 3) Win against the Cowboys on the last week of the season to win the division without having to face an injured Tony Romo (and that game was a close affair).

For me, this season is a parallel universe (in sticking with the Halloween theme) of 2012, when the Eagles started off 3-1, winning their first three games by a combined total of four points (the first time in NFL history that has ever happened).

That 2012 team was using “Just for Men” to cover its grays’ and dentures to hide the fact that it had no bite.  But once their flaws were exposed, that team quickly disintegrated, winning only one game the rest of the year en route to a 4-12 record and the eventual firing of Andy Reid after fourteen years as the Eagles head coach.

The 2015 Eagles are a polar opposite (at least record wise) of the 2012 team.  While their record is only 1-3 and they do have problems that need to be addressed, this team could have easily won three of their four games had a few things turned out differently.

Against both the Falcons and the Redskins, the Eagles offense showed up for only two quarters of football, yet both games were very close at the end. What happens if the offense plays well for even 2 1/2 quarters of football instead of just two?

In both of those losses, the Eagles kicking game let them down, missing crucial kicks which might have made the difference between a win and a loss.   Perhaps a healthy Cody Parkey gets them a 3-1 record instead of 1-3?

An inconsistent offense does not a Super Bowl team make, and this team will win nothing if this offense continues to play the way they have through four games.  But a 1-3 record when your team is getting blown out is one thing…this team, even with its deficiencies, could have been 3-1.

The silver lining is that maybe this team corrects its problems and plays a little more consistently on offense. Perhaps new kicker Caleb Sturgis redeems himself and starts to make some kicks that make the difference between victory and defeat?

Is this a possible Super bowl team like we thought before Labor Day?  Absolutely not – but beggars can’t be choosers. Let’s choose to hope for a competitive team that will give us a reason to watch every Sunday.

The Eagles face a crossroads of sorts when they face the Saints at home this Sunday.  This team has rebounded from a 1-3 start in the past to make it to the playoffs, just as they did two years back.  But they have NEVER started the season 1-4 and made the postseason,  a fact that makes this game even more crucial.

Regardless of the outcome, the Eagles offense, more so this Sunday than any other time this season, REALLY needs to get off to a fast start.  If this team can, at the very least, put a field goal on the board on its opening drive, it would give the fans some hope that this offense can actually move the ball BEFORE the halftime pomp and circumstance takes place (a field goal would also give their kicker a much needed boost of confidence).

But start the game with another “three-and-out” and the “wolves” from the stands will understandably be howling with anger, tired of the horror show about to be played out before them once again.

If the Eagles can pull out a win against what is a bad Saints team, there will still be an interest in watching the sequel of the 2015 season.  But lose, and the 2015 season becomes just another bad horror film…

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

Patriots at Cowboys 4:25 PM CBS – Game of the Week

Rams at Packers 1:00 PM CBS

Steelers at Chargers 8:30 PM ESPN

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