11 January 2007

2006 Season Divisional Weekend Picks

Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints? Hopefully us.

I just spoke with Life-Long Eagles Fan Mom, and I realized that it's at times like this that I particularly miss living in the Philly area.

Philly news? 24/7 Eagles coverage. DC news? New mayor Adrian Fenty (don't get me wrong - I voted for him, and he seems like a decent guy - but details of his plan for streamlining the building permit process are not nearly as exciting as playoff coverage).

Philly stores? Wall-to-wall Eagles merch. DC stores? They've given up on the Skins and have replaced everything with Caps/Nats/Wizards/United/anything else they can dig up to try to take the stench of another lousy season out of the air.

Philly malls? Akers and Garcia signing autographs. DC malls? Post-Christmas sales.

Sports coverage in the Inquirer? All Eagles, all the time. Sports coverage in the Post? Well, since the Skins season is over, let's pretty much just ignore the playoffs and feature high school wrestling on the front page.

Oy.

Life-Long Eagles Fan Mom: "Well, it's not like this happens that often."

Me: "I don't know - I call 5 times in 6 years pretty damn often."

Which brings me to my larger point. Plenty of people who know a lot more about football than I do have handicapped this game. Short version? The teams are pretty evenly matched and are probably the two best - certainly the two hottest - teams left standing in the NFC. The Eagles have an edge in post-season experience. The Saints have an edge in the #1 ranked offense (of course, we're #2, so that may not help them that much). Both teams have good but inconsistent defense, that both makes and sometimes gives up big plays. We'll be hurting without Lito, but they'll be hurting without Joe Horn. It really could go either way, and no one will be shocked. And if we can't go to the NFC Championship game and rep the NFC in the Super Bowl, the Saints are definitely my second choice, no question.

So what is my larger point? This is the only place I post, but I lurk around plenty of other fan sites. And the amount of carping and whining about Andy Reid, Marty Mornhinweg, Jim Johnson, Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia, and pretty much every other player you can name is just ridiculous.

I know, I know - obsessed fans have to talk about something. And every team's fans are critical of missteps by the owner, front office, coaching staff, and/or players. But Eagles fans take it to an art form - the Dark Arts. I'm pretty sure I've seen Voldemort in the stands at the Linc, wearing a Dawkins jersey.

No, AR & Coaches haven't produced a Lombardi Trophy to date. AR is pass-happy and hasn't always displayed the best clock management skills. JJ can get blitz-happy and leave our secondary with their asses hanging out. Mornhinweg might get nabbed by some other team as their new head coach in the off-season. McNabb isn't a perfect QB, and neither is Garcia. They've both had their share of bone-headed plays. McNabb tries too hard to make the big play at times and isn't always as accurate with the ball as he could be. Garcia's short, he doesn't have the biggest arm in the world, and his emotions sometimes get the better of him. Jon Runyan and Trent Cole suffer from the same problem. Trotter's lost a step or two. Jerome McDougal has turned out to be a disappointment (which is a real shame after he fought back from last summer's gunshot wounds). Our receivers still drop too many passes. And we never know from one year to the next who we're going to have. We tried to pick up a marquee wideout, and it nearly wrecked the team. Reno Mahe has broken maybe ONE big kick off return in his entire career. Sheldon Brown and Mike Lewis get beat occasionally, particularly by guys who are taller than 5' 10" (aka, most of the receivers in the NFL). Westy's had a lot of problems with injuries over the years (not this year, thank God, and knock on wood). So has Jevon Kearse. So has Buck. The past two years have been David Akers' worst ever (he's only at 78% on field goals this year). And Philadelphia hasn't seen a sports championship since humans discovered fire.

But could we all just calm down for a minute? I was chatting with an intelligent, reflective, life-long Skins fan over cocktails last night (you know, not the typical "5-11 this year? Next year, we're DEFINITELY going to win the Super Bowl!" type), and of course the conversation turned to football. He had nothing but praise for Jeff Lurie, the Eagles front office, Andy Reid, and most of our players.

In Philly, we have a few bad games, and the next thing you know, the fans are out for the blood of AR, JJ, Big 5, and anyone else in the vicinity. Let me remind you of something: we've won the division 5 out of the last 6 years. The Cowboys, Giants, and Skins would LOVE to see us get rid of Reid and/or McNabb. Not only would they then have a shot at picking up those two themselves, they also might have a prayer of winning the division.

What? It's so easy to win the division year after year? It's so easy to win Super Bowls? Name me two teams that have had more consistent success than the Eagles since AR and D-Mac came on in 1999. Sure, the Patriots. Who else you got? Thought so.

Yeah, I want a Super Bowl, too. I still hate the Raiders for whomping us in Super Bowl XV in 1981. But just about everyone in the football viewing world gave this team up for dead when McNabb went down against the Titans or, at the very latest, when we lost to the Colts Thanksgiving weekend. And we went on to win the division and our first playoff game.

So regardless of what happens Saturday night, let's all try to take a breath before we start calling for heads to roll. Remember that Andy Reid is the winningest coach we've ever had in Philadelphia. Remember that Jeff Garcia is almost 37 years old and has shown us some big brass ones in the last six weeks. Remember that McNabb has led us to more post-season wins than any QB in Eagles history. Remember that David Akers will probably end up in the Hall of Fame. Remember that when the **** hit the fan, this team didn't give up, even though everyone expected them to. They decided to pull it together and do whatever it took to save their season. And remember that six short weeks ago, nobody saw any of this coming. And try to enjoy it for once, for chrissakes.

WHEW.

OK, Colts/Ravens - not only do I think the Ravens will win, if the Colts are smart, they won't even get off the bus. Can you say grudge match? I predict the boos of the Baltimore fans will shake the very ground, and Ray Lewis will probably end the game carrying Peyton Manning's recently ripped-off head around the field on a pike.

Seahawks/Bears - ay yi yi. Neither team is looking particularly, you know, good, at this point. But I think the Bears' defense, depleted as it may be, will manage to edge out the sputtering Seahawks', well, everything. This will probably not be one of the more brilliant games we've all witnessed. Although hopefully it won't be as painfully bad at the Seahawks/Cowboys mess last week. Dude, that was just embarrassing.

Pats/Chargers - I'm ignoring my own advice and picking against the Pats in the playoffs. Which almost definitely means I'm wrong. But the Chargers are just too good at everything. Their one weakness is that Philip Rivers is new to the playoffs, and I'm sure Evil Genius Bill Belichick will find a way to exploit that. That week off may not actually have been all that helpful. And Martyball is always lurking in the background, like some cartoon villain with a Snidely Whiplash mustache, ready to tie LT to the train tracks. The Schott does not have the best post-season record ever. Evil Genius Belichick, on the other hand, does. Still, in LT I trust.

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