As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #2: Birds of a Feather

Many prognosticators looked at last week’s opening day tilt between the Eagles and Redskins and felt that the Birds might be a little rusty in the first half. Unfortunately, no one predicted that the Redskins would come out looking like a well-oiled machine that could move up and down the field at will.

Before the charcoal grills in the parking lot had even begun to cool from all the pregame tailgating, the Birds were already down 7-0, and it did not get any better from there.

The ‘Skins tacked on a field goal, and a 69-yard bomb from Case Keenum to wide receiver Terry McLaurin had the visitors from the nation’s capital up 17-0 with just under 10 minutes left in the 2nd quarter.

Save for a Wentz to DeSean Jackson touchdown pass, the Birds were down 20-7 at halftime, and the natives were already starting to get restless.

When the Eagles struggle in the 1st half at home, it is usually the halftime entertainment that suffers the wrath of the disgruntled fan, and last Sunday was no different.

The Eagles had hired an artist to render a painting at halftime, and fans could be heard yelling comments such as:

1) “THIS is the halftime entertainment?”.

2) “Wonder what Jeff Lurie is paying for this?”

3) “This is as bad as the Eagles”.

Even when the artist was finished, no one in the stands could make out exactly what he was rendering. That is, of course, till he turned his painting around to reveal a beautifully drawn Eagle.

The irony was that for most of the first half, no one could figure out what the Eagles of the football variety were doing either. But they turned it around in the 2nd half, scoring 24 unanswered points before Washington scored a meaningless touchdown with six seconds left when the game was no longer in doubt.

In the 2nd half, the Birds showed flashes of what we thought they were, as the Redskins reverted back to what we thought they were as well, which is mediocrity at its finest. The 32-27 victory, though too close for comfort to start, was a good win in what will be a tough first half of their season.

This week, the Eagles travel to Atlanta to take on another type of bird for the Sunday night NBC game. But while the Eagles have soared over the last few years, it is the Falcon that has had its wings clipped more often than not.

Three seasons ago, the Falcons were on the verge of defeating New England and winning their first ever Super Bowl. That is, until Atlanta’s offensive coaches tried to outsmart themselves, and the Patriots came back from a 25 point deficit to win, which became the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.

While we all remember fondly the Eagles 2017 Super Bowl winning season and the great win over the Patriots, the “Philly-Philly” play, etc., it was actually the Falcons who came the closest to beating us that postseason.

Atlanta had a 4th & Goal at the 2 in the final minute of the game when an incomplete pass to Julio Jones gave the Birds a divisional playoff victory at home. If Julio catches that pass, the curse of the Eagles never winning a Super Bowl most likely lingers on today.

Instead, it is Atlanta who is still trying to climb to the mountaintop for the first time in its history. The Falcons had an injury riddled 2018, and finished with a 7-9 record to show for it. And when they were soundly defeated by Minnesota last week 28-12 (including being down 28-0 at one point), many wondered if the Falcons were for real.

If Atlanta loses this game, they will be down 0-2 and the rest of this season will be an uphill climb for local Philadelphia native and Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons not only have the advantage of playing at home this week in a dome, but it will be their home opener and they want to show their fans that they are for real, especially after last week’s drubbing.

The Eagles are definitely the better team in my opinion. But the better team does not always win. For that reason, I think the Eagles keep it close but lose 28-27, especially with their suspect secondary.

But all is not lost. The Birds should still have a successful season barring major injuries. And who knows…believe it or not, the predictions of “Nostra-damit” have been proven wrong before. ūüėČ

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

Colts at Titans 1:00 PM CBS

Seahawks at Steelers 1:00 PM FOX

Vikings at Packers 1:00 PM FOX

Saints at Rams 4:25 PM FOX

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #1: The Wentz Wagon Returns

When we last left our beloved Birds, the football was seen glancing off the hands of one Alshon Jeffery and into the hands of Saints cornerback Marcus Lattimore, effectively ending the Eagles hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champions.

As Lattimore raced down the field, a dejected Jeffery lay on the ground, looking at his hands as if they had deceived him at the most inopportune time. But blaming the usually sure-handed receiver, who has been an important cog in the Eagles receiving corps since he arrived from Chicago two seasons ago, would surely be an injustice.

No, the Eagles lost that Sunday because all of the lucky breaks that had gone their way in the previous month or so finally ended. Their late-season surge to the playoffs almost made us forget that this was a team that stuttered through the gates, and were actually 4-6 at one point after a blowout 48-7 loss to the Saints in Week 11.

But the Birds managed to win five of their last six, including three in a row to end the season after quarterback Carson Wentz went down for the season. And with some luck from the Chicago Bears, who defeated the Minnesota Vikings on the last week of the season, the Eagles were in the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since the 2009-10 seasons.

A 9-7 record and a wildcard entrance, however, meant that the team would have to win three straight on the road to repeat as champs. But after a wildcard round victory over the Chicago Bears, the same team that had assisted the Birds to receive an invite to the playoff dance to begin with, many thought that destiny would once again be in the Eagles hands.

And why not? The “double doink” that gave the Eagles the victory only reiterated to the faithful that the good fortunes of this team would continue all the way to Atlanta (site of Super Bowl 53).

And when the team got off to a 14-0 lead in the Superdome against the same Saints team that had blown them out on that same field just two months prior, all the signs were looking toward Philadelphia advancing to the NFC Championship game once again.

But the Saints would not go easily into the night, especially with a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees. And any chances the Eagles had of coming back from a 20-14 deficit were dashed as the ball caromed off Jeffery’s hands.

But a new season brings with it the promise of another Super Bowl run, especially with a healthy Carson Wentz under center. And the Eagles went out this past offseason to make sure that Wentz has enough ammunition to get this offense going, bringing in running back Jordan Howard from the Bears and bringing back an older (and hopefully, wiser) DeSean Jackson to play wide receiver.

DeSean may not be the young whipper snapper that the Birds drafted in 2008 under then head coach Andy Reid, but he still has the ability to stretch the field with his speed, something the Eagles sorely lacked last season after Mike Wallace was injured early in the year.

Gone though, is Nick Foles, who was the equivalent of Linus’ security blanket from the classic “Peanuts” comic strip (as far as Eagles fans were concerned). Foles could always be counted on to provide comfort (as well as some clutch wins) during a period of uncertainty, and his Super Bowl victory will be etched in this fan base’s memory for a lifetime.

Should Wentz, who’s injury plagued three seasons with the Eagles mask the fact that he’s a very good quarterback when healthy, suffer the same fate once again, the quarterback duties would fall on journeyman backup Josh McCown. And while McCown has bounced around the league more than your average “bounce house” has bounced around your neighbor’s backyard, he has had the misfortune of playing on a lot of bad teams, having never reached the postseason in his seventeen years in the NFL.

If McCown was called into duty on this team, I actually think he would surprise some people with his play, though whether he can replicate Foles’ success as a backup remains to be seen.

The Birds start off their season at home against a divisional foe in the Washington Redskins, the same team that they ended with in the regular season last year (winning 24-0).

The Redskins have been pretty much mediocre since owner Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999, and will probably continue to be until he decides to sell.

The team’s high point during Snyder’s 20-year tenure has been three 10-6 seasons (1999, 2005, & 2012) and only two playoff wins to show for it, with the last one coming in 2005.

In the same span, the Redskins have had eight head coaches. So to summarize – two playoff wins, eight head coaches. Not a stat that would go over well in the City of Brotherly Love.

Speaking of which, over that same span, the Eagles under owner Jeff Lurie have had eleven seasons of ten or more wins, 14 playoff victories, and two Superbowl appearances, including their Superbowl victory two seasons ago.

Redskins fans continue to remember fondly the days of John Riggins barreling through the Miami Dolphins defense en route to a Super Bowl XVII victory, or Doug Williams relishing his “15 minutes of fame” when he put up 35 points in one QUARTER against the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.

But as the years pass, those memories continue to fade, and ‘Skins fans are left with the bungling Dan Snyder in representing what this once storied franchise has now become.

That all bodes well for the Eagles, who will need a week 1 victory, especially considering that they have a murderous road schedule during the first half of the season. They are the only team in the NFL to have three straight road games this season, but should they get through that, they will only have to get on a plane once in the 2nd half of the season.

The Birds will struggle in the first half, as the rustiness from lack of playing during the preseason will show its effects. But the team will eventually put it together in the 2nd half, winning 27-14.

“As Broad & Pattison Turns” has returned. Let the NFL season begin and Go BIRDS!

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

Colts at Chargers 4:05 PM CBS

Steelers at Patriots 8:20 PM NBC

Texans at Saints 7:10 PM ESPN (Mon)

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #11: Difficult task in the Big Easy

The Philadelphia Eagles, one year removed from their first ever Super Bowl title, have been doing a lousy job of defending their status as champions.

A record of 4-4 halfway through the season, with three of their four losses coming in excruciatingly painful fashion, have the faithful pulling their hair out and wondering if 2017 was simply a mirage that never really happened.

With the team opening up the 2nd half of its season against the Dallas Cowboys, a team that has been mired in mediocrity not only this season but basically since the turn of the century, this matchup seemed like the perfect tonic for whatever has been ailing the Birds.  And the oddsmakers must have felt the same way, as the Eagles were seven point favorites going in.

But when Philadelphia went on offense to start the game and promptly went three and out, I couldn’t help but think of Han Solo in those classic Star Wars movies looking over at Chewbacca and stating, “I’ve got a BAD feeling about this”.

That bad feeling continued for the first thirty minutes as the Eagles went into halftime down 13-3.¬† This team’s ineptitude at the beginning of games is puzzling, as they have now scored a total of 21 points during the 1st quarter all season, with 14 of those points coming in one game against the lowly New York Giants.

The Birds did manage to crawl out of their hole to start the 3rd quarter and eventually tied the game at 13-13.¬† But on the two occasions that they clawed their way back into a tie, Dallas’s offense, which was held in check for most of the first half, would drive down the field without much resistance to retake the lead.¬†

Down 27-20, the Birds reached the Dallas 30 yard line at the two-minute warning of the 4th quarter.  But on 3rd & 2, a swing pass to Corey Clement was sniffed out for a 5-yard loss, and the following play, a pass to tight end Zach Ertz, fell just one yard short of the first down. 

And while the Eagles did get the ball back with 38 seconds left, it was too little, too late.¬† That’s the kind of season it’s been my friends.

This team, instead of resembling a Super Bowl champion, looks very much like the 7-9 team of two years ago.¬† That was Doug Pederson’s first year as head coach, and that team also had the habit of losing close games that they could have won had one or two plays gone the other way.

Sitting at 4-5, the Eagles now find themselves heading to New Orleans to face the Saints, who just happen to be the top team in the NFC, a spot that the Birds held for most of last season.

Add to that the fact that the New Orleans Superdome is not an easy place to play, and the Saints feature one of the best current coach/quarterback combinations in Sean Payton & Drew Brees (second only to Tom Brady & Bill Belichick in my opinion), and one can see why the Eagles started off as nine-point underdogs.

The good news (if there is any) is that the Birds should be able to score on this defense.  The bad news is, can they actually stop the Saints offense?

Both starting cornerbacks for the Eagles (Ronald Darby & Jalen Mills) are out, with Darby out for the remainder of the season.  2nd year man Sidney Jones will return this week, and will have to earn his paycheck as the starting outside corner for the first time since his college days against a dangerous Saints offense.  Opposite him will be his fellow 2017 draft pick Rasul Douglas, who allowed eight catches last week in his first starting gig.

For some reason, I think that the Eagles will play with a lot of pride, and actually keep it close.  The question is, is this team good enough to win?

Birds lose this game, 28-24.¬† And let’s hope the Redskins & Cowboys do as well.¬† Otherwise, we may be throwing the 2018 Eagles season out with the trash on Monday morning.

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

Texans at Redskins 1:00 PM CBS

Vikings at Bears 8:20 PM NBC

Chiefs at Rams 8:15 PM ESPN (Mon.)

As Broad & Pattison Turns Superbowl Edition: Jack & the Beanstalk

The time has come for Jack to once again attempt to climb the beanstalk.

It’s not that Jack hasn’t tried before.¬† But such an opportunity has been very rare, with only two prior attempts in fifty-two years, both of which were unsuccessful.

The first time, back in January of 1981, most expected that Jack would be victorious.  But as we all know, the favorite does not always succeed, and Jack was wound up tighter than a yo-yo,  nervous and on edge, and it showed as he never had a chance, hitting the ground with a thump almost before he started the climb.

During his last attempt in 2005, Jack showed more resolve early on, and for a while, it looked like he might actually succeed.  But the giant not only had too much talent, but also seemed to use some unscrupulous methods against Jack, and with time eventually working against him, Jack did not display the urgency that many expected, which eventually resulted in his downfall and another lost opportunity.

And so it’s come to this.

Thirteen years have passed, and on Sunday, Jack will once again look up at the beanstalk and attempt to do what has failed him those two previous occasions – climb to the top and rightfully claim all the riches that await there.

Many will wait with bated breath as he tries, knowing that the giant that awaits to thwart him is not only a very formidable foe, but the same one he faced previously.  The giant has seen many attempt to try, and with the exception of one, all others have failed.

Shall he succeed, there will be more than just a bag of gold coins, a goose that lays golden eggs, and a magic harp awaiting him.

If he succeeds, the heart and admiration of a city, a city that has watched him come so close before only to fall short, will be in his hands.

If he succeeds, all the demons of years’ past will have be exonerated.¬† All of those years when others around him were successful multiple times while Jack could not succeed even once will have been forgotten.

The “Jack”, as you know by now, is your Philadelphia Eagles, an organization that has not tasted a championship since 1960.¬† Ironically, the “Super Ball”, a bouncing ball made of synthetic rubber, was created four years later, which was the basis for the coining of the NFL championship being called the Super Bowl.

But 52 years of the modern age of the NFL (the “Super Bowl” age) have passed, and while the other kids that play alongside the Eagles in the NFC East playpen (the Giants, Redskins, & Cowboys) have won 12 of the previous 52 Super Bowls, the Eagles still carry the shame of never having won even once, figuratively wearing a big fat zero on their chest like a scarlet letter.

But all that could change come Sunday night.  Much like the Patriots did back in the 2001 season, a win, in the best case scenario, could catapult this team into years of organizational success with Carson Wentz at the helm.

Win, and the Eagles have some bragging rights with their fellow NFL, and more specifically, NFC East brethen.

Once again, their opponent is the favorite, but would they want it any other way?¬† The prognosticators haven’t had the Birds favored in three straight games, but prognosticators are like meteorologists…they only seem to be right half of the time anyway.

The one area where the Eagles lack compared to their opponent is experience, but eventually, blocking, tackling, schemes, and talent win the game, and the Eagles have enough of it to succeed.

The strange thing is that while New England has won 5 of the last 16 Super Bowls, they’ve all been close games, with their five victories decided by a total margin of 19 points.¬† They’ve never dominated their opponents the way the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980’s and the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990’s did.

At some point, the clock did EVENTUALLY strike midnight for Cinderella.¬† Perhaps it’s now time for the Patriots championship carriage to turn into a pumpkin as well?

I think the Eagles will win for one reason and one reason only – it’s THEIR time.¬† This team has faced so much adversity in the form of injuries to key players, with the biggest one being the loss of their franchise quarterback.¬† Yet they have persevered and made it all the way to the doorstep of a championship.

If the Birds don’t attain their ultimate goal on Sunday night, we can look back at a very enjoyable season with much optimism for the future.¬† But if they were to win, aside from celebrating in frigid Minneapolis on Sunday night, I will ecstatically look forward to one thing – writing about it afterwards.

The writing part won’t be hard at all.¬† Frankly, it’s been in my head for 12 years since I started writing about the Eagles to my friends by email on the eve of the NFC Championship in 2005.

I just need the Birds to do their part and give me a reason to put it on paper….and I believe they will.

So fasten your seatbelts and, as an ex-Eagles wide receiver once said “Get your popcorn ready”!

Jack is primed to climb the beanstalk once again, and this time he is meant to succeed.

E-A-G-L-E-S!

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #7: Mondayyyyy Night Football

If you had asked prognosticators about their expectations for the 2017 Eagles before the season began, most would have stated that a 9-7 record would not only be an improvement from last season, but also a sign that the team is on the way up to bigger and better things for the future.

Well, here we are six games in, and it looks like the Eagles construction project is well ahead of schedule.

The Birds dismantled the Carolina Panthers last Thursday night, 28-23, in a hard fought contest that very few (excluding yours truly) predicted that the Eagles would win.

The Eagles had a short week to practice and were going on the road against a quality opponent, which wouldn’t make their task of winning easy by any means.¬† And they faced a quarterback who not only is a physical specimen with his size, but has an uncanny ability to throw the ball downfield with ease.

Add to that the fact that Carolina was also 4-1 going into the game, and perhaps the doubt was understandable.

But Cam Newton, when things don’t go his way, can quickly become “Scram” Newton, hiding underneath a towel draped over his head and face, looking as if he was a child who was told that he could not leave the dinner table until he had finished his vegetables.¬† The television “cam”, and the game stats, showed that he had three interceptions in the game to cap off his night, which clearly didn’t help his team’s cause.

Meanwhile, Carson Wentz, while not having a huge game passing wise (he only threw for 222 yards), still managed to throw for three touchdowns.  The 2nd year quarterback from North Dakota now has 13 touchdowns on the year versus only three interceptions.

Somewhere on the shores of Lake Erie, the Cleveland Browns organization must be kicking themselves for trading down instead of drafting the “Ginger Jesus” as the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft.¬† Such poor decisions help to explain why the Browns are currently 0-6 and have had only two winning seasons since they returned to Cleveland in 1999.¬† But I digress….

With the Kansas City Chiefs losing on Thursday night to the Oakland Raiders, the Birds now stand as the only team in the league with only one loss.¬† And their early season success has resulted in the hopes of a playoff birth before the season, now having turned to talks of a possible first-round bye or even (gulp) home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.¬† But before we jump ahead of ourselves, let’s consider one thing:¬† A 5-1 start does not a playoff guarantee make.

The last time the Eagles got off to such a good start was 2014 (a mere three years ago).  That season, the Birds turned a 5-1 start into a 9-3 record after a Thanksgiving Day thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys, and it looked like the Birds could be serious contenders for the Super Bowl.

Instead, the team went on to lose its next three games, two of which were at home.  The third of those crucial losses gave them a 9-6 record and eliminated them from the playoffs before the last game of the season was even played.  A season that looked so promising just a few weeks back had quickly smoldered into nothingness.

This is not to suggest that this team will do the same.¬† During that 2014 season, that three game losing streak was the beginning of the end for Chip Kelly, who was fired with one game remaining in the 2015 season when his team was 6-9.¬† And neither of Chip Kelly’s quarterbacks at that time (Nick Foles in 2014 & Sam Bradford in 2015) hold the same pedigree as Carson Wentz does.

But more than half of the season still remains to be played, and there is still time for things to change for the worst, either due to ineffectiveness or to injury.¬† ¬†Let’s enjoy what this ride may bring, and keep our fingers crossed.

The Eagles come off of a 11-day hiatus this week, as they face the Washington Redskins on Monday night. The ‘Skins seem to be the Birds most formidable opponent in the division, as they sit at 3-2 and in 2nd place in the division.¬† But as the Birds have already defeated Washington in the opener, a win on Monday night would effectively knock the Redskins out of contention for the division.

This will be another tough, division game for the Eagles, as a lot is on the line for Washington.  But with the home crowd in a frenzy and behind them, the Eagles win in a nail biter, 27-24.

The Last Word:

When it comes to our division foes, every one knows we hate the Cowboys.¬† And while we can recall so many tough, close games against the Giants, the same cannot be said about the Redskins.¬† Part of the reason for this is that both Philadelphia and Washington haven’t finished with winning records in the same season since 1996, and interestingly enough, we’ve only faced our division rival from the nation’s capital once in the playoffs, which was a 1990 wildcard playoff game that ended Buddy Ryan’s tenure as coach of the Eagles.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Saints at Packers  1:00 PM  FOX

Falcons at Patriots  8:30 PM  NBC

Redskins at EAGLES  8:30 PM  ESPN  (Mon)

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #1: A New Hope

Look up the word “hope” in the dictionary, and you will find its meaning to be “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” ¬†In that sense, Eagles fans have been hoping for a very long time.

It has been fifty-seven years since the City of Brotherly Love last experienced an NFL championship.  The year was 1960, a year in which the United States had just entered the Vietnam War, and John F. Kennedy had just been elected President of the United States.

The Flintstones cartoon was shown on television for the first time, and Cassius Clay (who later took the name Muhammad Ali) would win his first professional fight and go on to become the greatest boxer of all time.

The Eagles defeated the Green Bay Packers, 17-13, at Franklin Field on a cold December day that season to win the 1960 NFL Championship, in what would turn out to be the only playoff loss of legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi’s illustrious career.

Fifty-seven years is a very long time, especially when taken in the context that there are those who were crawling around and practicing the art of ‘babytalk’ on that December day who are now nearing retirement age and still haven’t experienced an Eagles championship.

And yet, Eagles fans continue to hope. ¬†And hope. ¬†And then hope some more, even when the team’s prospects seen daunting.

There have been Eagles coaches that have given the fans no hope, mostly during the lean years following the 1960 championship all the way up to 1975.

There were those who started out with promise, but whose early successes were merely a result of the leftover players from the previous regime (Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes, Chip Kelly).

There were those who had the roster of a championship caliber team, but who were more “bark then bite” once the playoffs arrived (Buddy Ryan).

And then there were those (Dick Vermeil & Andy Reid) who gave Eagles fans the most hope, taking them to the brink of the promise land, only to disappoint once again.

But through it all, Eagles fans continue to persevere, continue to hope, that one day, they will see the fruits of their devotion realized, much like all the other teams in their division have on more than one occasion.

The great Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist Bill Lyon once remarked that Eagles fans could “teach loyalty to a dog”, which is probably the most accurate description one could give to this city’s rabid fan base. ¬†And perhaps, they now have a ¬†quarterback who has given them reason to believe.

The Eagles took a gamble to move up to the #2 overall draft pick last season to acquire quarterback Carson Wentz, who, on first impression, looks like he could throw an interception and, instead of cursing or yelling, would just say “AW SHUCKS!”

But one should not confuse Wentz’s small town, seemingly relaxed demeanor in any way to a lack of football acumen. ¬†Wentz has a strong arm and seems to have a good grasp of the mental side of the game, which is essential to the success of an NFL quarterback.

Carson in his rookie season was very much like Luke Skywalker in the “Empire Strikes Back” movie. ¬†Luke, as you may recall, was then a budding jedi knight who took his lumps (and got his hand chopped off by his father in the process) ¬†while¬†learning the ways of the force from master Yoda. ¬†But Luke returned as a seasoned jedi in the sequel (aptly named “Return of the Jedi”) who could handle anything thrown his way while becoming a major force in helping the Rebel Alliance defeat the Evil Empire.

This season is Carson Wentz’s “Return of the Jedi” moment. ¬†After one year of experience under his belt, it is now his time to be the unequivocal leader of this Eagles team. ¬†And while he won’t have to worry about any familial violence on the field, he will have to be concerned with the pass rush from opposing defenders.

Wentz is the “New Hope” of the Eagles, and this team will only go as far as he can carry them. ¬†To make his life easier, the front-office added some wide receiver weapons to his arsenal in the form of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, which were sorely lacking in 2016.

Assuming that the team can stay healthy, there is no reason to expect anything less than a 9-7 record at worst, and a possible playoff birth.  And while a Super Bowl may still be a couple years away, stranger things have happened in the NFL.

The Birds start the season on the right foot this Sunday, defeating the Washington Redskins, 30-20, for the first time in six tries. ¬†In the meantime, Birds fans will watch with excitement and HOPE, that maybe, just maybe, this season will end with a different outcome then so many in the recent past…

What is your prediction for this Eagles season?  Feel free to post in the comments section!

2016 Week #14: Eagles vs. Redskins

While the ominous clouds that hovered over Paul Brown Stadium last Sunday foretold of the chilly rain that was to eventually began following the game, it could have easily been a harbinger of things to come for the Eagles.

The Birds reached their low point of the season on Sunday, losing to the Bengals, 32-14, in a game that wasn’t even as close as such a blowout score would indicate.

From the start, the team looked more like they were out to leisurely paddle down the Ohio River in a canoe as opposed to trying to win a football game and possibly saving their season.  At one point in the 3rd quarter, they were down 29-0, before waking up and scoring 14 unanswered points to try and make a game out of it.  But by then, it was too little, too late.

One would think that this was the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980’s that the Eagles¬†were facing. ¬†Or the Patriots team that has won four Super Bowls with Tom Brady & Bill Belichick. ¬†But no, this was the lowly Bengals, a team that entered the game with a record of 3-7-1. ¬†This was the Bengals who haven’t won a playoff game since George H. Bush was President and Madonna’s “Justify My Love” was the #1 song in the country (Jan. 1991).

But being that we have now entered the period between Thanksgiving & Christmas known as the “season of giving”, the Birds defense, and especially their secondary, was in a giving mood all day, giving up chunks of yardage whenever Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton wanted to throw the football.

The loss to the Bengals only brought more questions in a season that has fallen faster than Santa coming down your chimney:

Has quarterback Carson Wentz just hit a rookie wall with no talent around him?  Or is he just not that good?

Is rookie coach Doug Pederson just going through growing pains as a rookie coach?  Or will his hiring be a royal pain in the Eagles side for years to come?

What happened to Jim Schwartz’s defense, which looked so good in the early part of the season? ¬†And why does he refuse to blitz when the pressure, or lack of it, from his front four just isn’t working?

Why was tight end Zach Ertz doing his best impression of ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov instead of blocking Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict when Carson Wentz was trying to scramble for a first down?

Unfortunately, there is nothing under the Eagles proverbial Christmas tree that will likely provide any answers to these and many other pertinent questions that inquiring minds want answered. ¬†For that, we may have to wait till the offseason…and what a cold, empty offseason it may turn out to be.

For a change, the few bright spots that came out of this game were actually from the wide receivers. ¬†Nelson Agholor, who has been fighting demons in his head all season long, actually caught everything that was thrown to him. ¬†Sure, he only caught four passes for 23 yards, but at this point, it’s all about “baby steps” for Agholor.

In addition, undrafted rookie receiver Paul Turner, who only caught everything thrown his way in the preseason, earning him a spot on the team’s practice squad,¬†impressed in his 2nd game,¬†hauling in six catches for 80 yards. ¬†But Turner’s success begs the question… if the guy is catching everything, why did it take an injury to Jordan Matthews to get him on the field?

With December upon us, the Eagles sit two games back of a wild card spot with four games to play in a tight, jumbled race.  To get into the playoffs, they would need to win out, six geese a laying (as in losses from six other teams), two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.  Much like the commercial, you may get that Lexus RX 350 for Christmas if you ask Santa nicely, but gifting you an Eagles postseason birth may be too difficult even for Old Saint Nick.

This Sunday, the Birds will try to right their ship when they face the Washington Redskins, which, ironically, are one of the six teams that are in front of them in the NFC wild card race.

This team needs a win more than Jill Stein needs a hobby, but it’s hard to determine whether they will actually get it or not. ¬†It wouldn’t surprise me if they came out, played hard and won, ¬†but it also wouldn’t surprise me if they lost out in what has become a frustrating season.

For that reason, I really don’t have a prediction, but for the Eagles sake, hopefully it’s the former. ¬†Otherwise, the faithful in the stands will become much more naughty than nice…

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

Cowboys at Giants 8:30 PM NBC – Game of the Week

Raiders at Chiefs 8:25 PM NBC (Thurs)

Steelers at Bills 1:00 PM CBS

Seahawks at Packers 4:25 PM FOX

Ravens at Patriots 8:30 PM ESPN (Mon)

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 РGame of the Week

Falcons at Seahawks 4:25 PM FOX

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

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #3: Eagles vs. Redskins

If old habits are hard to break, perhaps Eagles fans would be better off skipping the 1st half of their games altogether.

Through the first two weeks of the season, the Birds have scored a whopping six points combined in the 1st half, but have still managed to win both games while compiling, statistically, the #1 offense in the league.  One wonders what would happen if they actually played the whole four quarters for a change.

Things looked bleak for a while last week until Darren Sproles, who is undersized by NFL standards, performed his weekly “Popeye” act, turning into a 2nd half superhuman and propelling the Birds to victory.¬† One can only assume that he must have downed a can of spinach on the sidelines with the sailor man’s theme song playing in the background.

With the victory, the Birds also became the 1st team in NFL history to start the season 2-0 after being down by 14 points or more in the 2nd half of each game, a feat that speaks to their resiliency, their energy, and their ability to make adjustments on the fly.

On the negative side, the Eagles inability to soar in the 1st half is causing sales of Mylanta to soar in the Delaware Valley, as the number of fans suffering from indigestion, heartburn, and acid reflux has increased considerably since Labor Day weekend.¬† Winning in this fashion gives a team a certain amount of confidence that they are never out of it, but can also result in a belief that the end result will always be a “W”, a thought process that is bound to come back to haunt the Birds at some point.

The Eagles were also lucky that against a good team and in a hostile atmosphere in Indianapolis, they had some calls go their way, most notably a non-call against them on a Malcolm Jenkins interception and a questionable horse collar call for pulling down LeSean McCoy.¬† These “lucky breaks” have a tendency to even out under the guise of the football gods sitting high above on an NFL shaped cloud somewhere, and the Birds will undoubtedly lose a game down the road due to some questionable calls going against them.¬†¬† Let’s just hope that the bad karma doesn’t occur during a playoff game.

The humor of those two back-to-back calls was that while they actually got the Colts fans in arms enough to boo for an extended period of time, they did not need to result in the “covering of the ears” of any young children in attendance at the game.¬† One would probably not want to fathom what would have been shouted at the referees had those two calls gone against the home team here at the Linc.

This week, the Birds face the Redskins, who trashed the Jaguars last week after starting quarterback Robert Griffin III (RG3) went down with what could possibly be a season ending ankle injury.  Enter Kirk Cousins, who did nothing more than operate the offense as if he had been the starter for the last three years.

Former Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson also managed to injure his shoulder last week and will be a game time decision as to whether he will play against his former team.

The Birds won a game on the road last week that they probably should not have, and are coming off of a short week with perhaps a little bit of overconfidence.¬† It also doesn’t help the Birds cause that Kirk Cousins will be at the helm instead of Robert Griffin III.¬† While¬† RG3 may be DeSean’s “bro”, Kirk may turn out to be the capital’s favorite “cousin”, and give the Redskins a much better chance to win in the long run.

Sorry peeps, but I think the Eagles fall short this week, 31-27.

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

Chargers at Bills 1:00 PM CBS

49ers at Cardinals 4:05 PM FOX

Broncos at Seahawks 4:25 PM CBS