As Broad & Pattison Turns: Conference Championship edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conference Championship Sunday (all times in EST):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #9: Eagles at Raiders

While I’m not at all in favor of the NFL’s desire to start a new franchise in London (sorry Brits), I am totally in favor of the NFL moving the Eagles remaining four home games to London, Mumbai, or even Guam for that matter.  Perhaps that’s what it will take to salvage the season.

What seemed like an anomaly has now grown into a “scarlet letter” of sorts for this franchise…ten straight losses at home, a feat not even accomplished during the lean years of the 60’s and early 70’s when this writer was not even part of the world population.   With each loss, the ire of the fans grows, as the Eagles approach the NFL record of fourteen straight losses at home.

On Sunday, the Eagles continued their offensive ineptitude, moving slower than an automobile trying to meander its way down the hairpin turns of San Francisco’s Lombard Street.   If you’re keeping score, the offense has scored exactly three points in two games, and even that was because of a gift DeMeco Ryans interception that gave the Birds the ball at the Cowboys 30 yard line.

The recent scoring drought not only has Eagles fans frustrated, but has prevented the faithful at the Linc from singing their fight song, “Fly Eagles Fly”, on a regular basis (after each touchdown).  Perhaps we need to follow Jacksonville’s lead (since they rarely score touchdowns either) and come up with a jingle for every first down like “Move those Chains! Move those Chains! Move those Chains, Whoo!”

Yes, that is the actual Jaguars song (whatever Jacksonville marketing guru came up with that should be fired), second only to their “We Are….Jaguars” chant.  No wonder they’re a losing franchise (personally, I’ll stick with my alma mater’s “We Are..Penn State” chant).

But going back to the Birds, what was once a promising situation at quarterback has now turned into a conundrum.  This past offseason, after fourteen seasons with Andy Reid at the helm, the Eagles decided on a “No Reid option”,  vying instead for Chip Kelly and his “read-option” offense.  But over the last two weeks, this so-called progressive offense has morphed into “read-optionless-injured”, with one QB hurt (Michael Vick), one recently concussed (Nick Foles), and one inexperienced (Matt Barkley).

Speaking of Barkley, while I give him a pass for not having much NFL experience, I don’t give him a pass for stating that he played “okay”.  One plays okay when the offense scores 14 or 17 points, not when you score zero points and you’re the quarterback for three quarters…OKAY???

So what happens when the Birds visit the “black hole” that is Oakland’s Almeda County Stadium this Sunday?  Of course, the Birds win with my man Nick Foles at quarterback.

That’s right…even after my whole diatribe above, the Eagles salvage the season and win this Sunday as long as Foles remains healthy enough to start.

Remember, you heard it here first peeps.  Of course, if I’m wrong, it could be a long flight back from the Bay Area for the Green Legion and its members.  At least there’s always Fisherman’s Wharf and some adult beverages from Napa Valley to  help dull the pain…

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

Bears at Packers  8:40 PM ESPN  (Mon) – This is the perfect Sunday to finally rake the leaves that have been building up in your yard, as there is only one marquee matchup on the docket this weekend, and that is not till Monday night.  The Bears started out 3-0 this season but have come back down to earth as of late (don’t they always?), losing three of their last four games.  The Packers, with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, are quietly leading the NFC “Snowbelt” division at 5-2.  My prediction – there will be frost on the cheese.