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: 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: Wild-Card Weekend 2016

The first week of the New Year can only mean three things:

  • The New Years’ “Resolutioners” will clog up your local gym
  • The San Francisco 49ers will fire another coach
  • Eagles tight end Zach Ertz will have his annual “breakout” game

All three occurred this past week as we moved ahead to 2017, but unfortunately for the Eagles, it also represented another season  which will not end in a championship for your local football team.

But keeping with the New Years’ tradition theme, the Birds did continue their three year “tradition” of playing in, and winning, their final regular season game which once again had no impact on their season.  While the Super Bowl continues to evade them, they would easily be distinguished champions of the “Mediocre & Meaningless Bowl.”

What was more disturbing is that, for the 3rd straight season, the Eagles walked off the field acting as if another meaningless win was going to be a stepping stone to a successful season in 2017.  Perhaps they forgot to look at recent history and realize that their prior two regular season finale victories in 2014 & ’15 were followed up by consecutive 7-9 seasons.

But much like the old Sunkist orange soda commercial from the 1980’s, the Eagles seem to be singing along to the tune of  “Good Vibrations” while their fellow NFC East brethren, the Giants and Cowboys, march on to bigger and better things like playoff victories and Super Bowls.  Let’s hope that the Birds made a New Years resolution to still be playing in January next year.  Then again, resolutions are made to be broken – just ask all those new members at your gym who will no longer be around by the time Valentine’s Day rolls around…

So while your Eagles miss the playoffs for the 3rd straight year, and haven’t won a playoff game since the 2008 season, here’s a rundown of the NFL games that make up Wildcard weekend:

Raiders at Texans 4:35 PM ESPN (Saturday) – Go back three weeks ago and the Raiders had not only clinched their first playoff appearance since 2002, but also had a very good shot at a division title and a possible #1 overall seed in the AFC.  But Christmas Eve brought nothing but coal in their stockings, as starting quarterback Derek Carr went down with a season ending knee injury.

The Raiders were forced to start former Penn Stater Matt McGloin in the season finale, who also managed to suffer a shoulder injury, knocking him out of the game.  With rookie Connor Cook having to take his place, Oakland ended up losing to the Broncos, which caused them to fall from their #2 seed all the way down to #5 and having to start the playoffs on the road.

Cook will be the starter in the playoffs, with McGloin most likely the backup, a rather precarious situation when you’re “one and done” in the playoffs.

The Texans situation is not much better, as starter Brock Osweiler, who was signed as a free agent from the Broncos, has not lived up to expectations, forcing Houston to play backup Tom Savage the last few weeks.

But similar to the Raiders calamity, Savage also got hurt last week, forcing Houston to go back to the much maligned Osweiler.  So you basically have a matchup that features a rookie 3rd stringer versus a free agent bust who has lost his job.  This game may be the least anticipated  quarterback matchup in NFL history.  For the Raiders sake, perhaps Connor Cook can do his best Dak Prescott impersonation?

With all the backup QB’s, this game would probably have more scoring if the Oakland A’s played the Houston Astros instead.

Raiders win 3-2 on a sacrifice fly in the 9th inning.

Lions at Seahawks 8:15 PM NBC (Saturday) – Those poor, poor Lions.  Last week, they were a win away from their first division title (and first home playoff game) since 1993, and along comes Aaron Rodgers once again to remind them that he is still their “Daddy”.

The Lions are very much like Charlie Brown trying to kick that elusive football.  Every time you think that they will actually be successful, along comes Lucy to prevent them from doing so.

A Detroit win last week would have had them playing in the friendly confines of Ford Field indoors against the New York Giants.  Instead, they must now venture to the Great Northwest, where a stadium labeled as the loudest in the land awaits them, along with a Seattle Seahawks team that has struggled the last few weeks but is still superior to the Lions.

The Seahawks advance and the Lions are left to ponder what could have been…

Dolphins at Steelers 1:05 PM (Sunday) – Once upon a time, a Dolphins-Steelers matchup featured two of the top teams in the NFL.  But while the Dolphins have struggled to regain that status in the millennium, the Steelers keep chugging along, winners of five division championships and two Super Bowls in the last eleven years.

Miami has played well under first year head coach Adam Gase, who led them to a 10-6 record.  But much like the Raiders, the fish will have to go with backup Matt Moore and hope for the best with starter Ryan Tannehill being injured.

This is also a revenge game for the black and gold, who lost 30-15 to the Dolphins in Week 6 down in Miami.  My predictions:

1) There will be no fish or shrimp served at Heinz Field on Sunday.

2) The Steelers get their revenge and move on to the divisional round.

Giants at Packers 4:40 PM FOX (Sunday)

In the most intriguing matchup of Wildcard weekend, the Giants travel to the “Frozen Tundra” to face the Packers.  And the tundra, which was practically balmy and above freezing two weeks ago, will be back to its normal self, with temperatures expected to be around 14 degrees at gametime.

The Pack were left for dead after a 4-6 start, but a six game winning streak that started by beating the Eagles on a Monday night at the Linc has turned them into NFC North winners and a chance to host a first-round playoff game.

Ironically, when the Giants won the Super Bowl in both the 2007 & 2011 seasons, they had to beat the Packers on the road in the playoffs to advance.  But while they are hoping that such a winning tradition continues, the 3rd time will be a charm for Green Bay.

No victory for the G-Men this time, and no sight of Tom Coughlin on the sideline with his nose glowing like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer from the cold.