26 December 2007

2007 Week 16 Recap

Eagles at Saints, Sunday, December 23, 2007

In attendance: Ex-Navy Cheesehead (bearing his cheesehead, for all the good it did the Packers), Chef Spouse, and Steely McMeow

Menu: Tex-Mex again. Chef Spouse has been working on perfecting his fajita recipe this fall. On the up side, MARGARITAS!

Happy holidays, Eagles fans. I wished for an early Christmas gift for us, and we got it, in a nice win over the Saints at the Superdome, a feat we were unable to accomplish last season. Sorry this recap is running a little late, but I was too busy making merry (and fighting with the insurance company about the status of The Money Pit on Christmas Eve, which is a WHOLE ‘NOTHER story) to sit my butt down and write up this thing. Be thankful I took an extra day off work this week, otherwise this would’ve probably been a combo week 16 recap/week 17 picks post. And that would just be confusing.

As philly.com notes, lots of things went well Sunday. But I think the key to the victory was demonstrated in that first offensive series. The pressure comes, the pocket collapses and McNabb breaks free (rather than getting sacked) and rips a 40 yard run (rather than getting tackled), and then fumbles. It bounces into the end zone (rather than into a Saint’s arms) and is recovered by Kevin Curtis (rather than a Saint). Touchdown, Eagles! (rather than Turnover, Eagles!)

What does that all add up to? The return of our luck. Even beyond all the other problems we’ve had this year, the thing that’s killed us the most, in my opinion, has been that pretty much every single break has gone against us. Sure, we’ve never been one of those teams with the magic touch, where every risky decision seems to pay off. But we’ve been way under 50% for most of this season. WAY under. WAY, WAY under. We’ve lost 4 games by 3 points. Three points isn’t in the range of skill, it’s the range of luck. Two of those games go our way, we’re at 9-6 and have locked up the second NFC wildcard spot. Just sayin’.

Another thing that went right on Sunday is that Big 5 is clearly feeling better. So of course the question is: did he come back too soon from the ACL tear? Yeah, I think he probably did, but there’s a big BUT here, and it’s BUT the receivers. For significant portions of this season, it’s seemed like McNabb and our receiving corps are operating out of completely different playbooks. I think it’s because only one of our five receivers (Greg Lewis, out of Avant, Baskett, Brown, and Curtis) has been with the Eagles more than three years. What’s the common theme of the past three years? McNabb’s been injured for significant portions of each season, and in fact missed the majority of the 2007 off-season. Of course they’re only now starting to get their timing down. Unlike West 36, these guys actually need to practice, and they’ve had relatively limited reps with the starting QB.

Another thing that went right on Sunday was the return of big plays on defense. Our turnover ratio this season has been, um, not good. To say the least. In fact, the less said about that, the better. Forced fumbles? Not our thing. Picks? Yeah, Lito was out a lot. 3rd and 4th down stands? We could NOT get off the field to save our lives at times. But not Sunday. The Saints 3rd down efficiency was only 25%. Now that’s more like it.

And finally, West 36 is a pair of yards away from wresting the Eagles’ single season yards from scrimmage title from Wilbert Montgomery. And he totally deserves it. And he’ll get to do it at home on Sunday. What a rock star!

Around the rest of the NFL…lots of games with playoff implications.

Steelers over Rams: The Steelers have looked intermittently shaky this year. But not Thursday night. They won when it counted and secured their fifth trip to the playoffs in seven years. The Steelers are currently in the lead for "team I’ll root for through the playoffs.” Hopefully, they’ll get another shot at the Pats and it will go better this time.

Cowboys over Panthers: The Cowboys locked up home field advantage due to another sorry outing from the Panthers. Sure hope they manage to get their QB troubles figured out before next season. Anyone interesting coming out in the draft and likely to still be available by the time the Panthers get to make a selection? Because about 25 out of the 32 teams need a QB.

Giants over Bills: Another NFC East rival solidifies their playoff spot. Sigh.

Colts over Texans: Surprisingly, Dungy kept his starters in for most of what was a meaningless game for both teams. Maybe he was worried about them getting rusty with too much down time? I don’t know, but given all the injury problems the Colts have faced this year, it seems like a risky move to me. But then again, Dungy’s the (literal) egghead making all the money, not me.

Lions over Chiefs: Whatever. What is it now, 10 wins guaranteed for 2008? 2009? Never? How long does Rod Marinelli get to keep his job, anyway? Actually, that’s not fair – it was Kitna who guaranteed the wins. And given the dearth of good QBs, I doubt he’ll be getting fired as long as he’s still ambulatory.

Jags over Raiders: Warren Sapp, exercising the wisdom that comes with age, got himself kicked out of the game. Too bad he couldn’t get himself sent home, where he could’ve drowned his sorrows in a nice, cold brewski or 10.

Bears over Packers: The Packers needed the win to have any chance of securing home field advantage in the playoffs, which has now been locked up by the Cowboys. The weather was terrible in Chicago Sunday – wind, rain, snow. It was pretty much like the average day at Base Camp I on Everest. It has been suggested that the Packers dreadful performance may have been intentional. At 38 years old, Favre may have observed the lousy conditions and decided that heading to Texas for the NFC Championship game might not actually be such a bad idea. Seems far-fetched to me, but then again, I wouldn’t want to spend 3½ hours trying to connect with receivers in the middle of an ice storm, either.

Bengals over Browns: Another team that needed a win and didn’t get it. The Browns had a chance to secure a trip to the 2007 post-season and blew it to a team that has been, shall we say, a little inconsistent this year. To quote Bryan Lee, "You gotta want it!”

Cardinals over Falcons: Who cares? Oh – and two more teams with QB problems!

49ers over Bucs: OK, the Bucs (yet another team that’s suffered on the injury front this year) took out their starters early in favor of the practice squad (which is about everybody they have left) and the 49ers still barely squeaked a win. That doesn’t bode well for 2008.

Pats over Dolphins: Couldn’t the Pats all get food poisoning or something? I don’t want them to die – I don’t think – but getting them out of the way for a while would be nice. I can’t believe I’m going to have to root for the Giants Sunday night. I hate the Patriots.

Seahawks over Ravens: A year ago, who would’ve thought I’d be writing that during week 16? In other news, some "beautiful idiot” (to quote Deadspin) is sitting on the roof of a Bal’mer bar until the Ravens win. That’s, um, INSANE. But dedicated! I think – I hope – he’s planning to come down during the off-season.

Titans over Jets: The Titans took a close one over the pathetic Jets and kept their playoff hopes alive – barely. If you can only put up 10 points on the Jets, dude, getting TO the playoffs is not going to benefit you much.

Redskins over Vikings: Even though we won’t be involved, wouldn’t it be cool if the NFC East ruled the NFC playoffs again? Looks like it might happen, particularly after that flaccid performance by the Vikings Sunday night.

Chargers over Broncos: No real surprises here, other than that Mike Shanahan still has a job. And that Norv’s team is actually doing pretty well.

Playoff picture heading into week 17...

The Pats had locked up AFC East, the first week bye, and home field before week 16.

The Colts had locked up ACF South and the first week bye before week 16.

The Chargers had locked up AFC West before week 16.

Due to their win over the Rams and the Browns inexplicable loss to the Bengals, the Steelers have locked up AFC North.

Their expected win over the Raiders brought the Jags the first AFC wildcard spot.

The Browns and the Titans are still alive for the second AFC wildcard spot.

The Cowboys had locked up NFC East and the first week bye before week 16. With their own win over the Panthers and the Packers inexplicable loss to the Bears, they’ve now locked up home field, as, regardless of what happens in week 17, they own the tie breaker win over the Packers.

Speaker of, the Packers had locked up NFC North and the first week bye before week 16.

Likewise, the Bucs and Seahawks had locked up NFC South and West prior to week 16.

The Giants’ win over the Bills secured them the first NFC wildcard spot.

The Vikings failure to secure a win over the Redskins means that both teams and the Saints are vying for the final NFC spot. For those who, like me, were confused about why we’re out of the playoffs when the Saints, also at 7-8, are still in, it has to do with the tie breaker rules. The Saints have more divisional wins. Ah well.

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