Monday, December 27, 2010

Congratulations to the Eagles, and We're Doomed

Let me just get this out of the way first: Andy Reid has now won his division in half of his seasons as the Eagles' head coach, and has made the playoffs in 9 out of 12 seasons. Considering that the only time that he's missed where the year when he took over a moribund franchise with a rookie Donovan McNabb, then again in 2005 and 2007, it's been a pretty great year here. It's also the first time they've won the division since 2004, and with the Cowboys and Redskins in disarray, and the Giants possibly spiralling into chaos in a turnover-filled December, this might be the first of many. Health permitting, the young offensive core of skill players could be running things in the NFC East for a long time, and the defense is talented, if erratic. No one who roots for this laundry can call this year anything but a success. They were supposed to be a .500 club; instead, they still have a shot to be the #1 seed, and will be no lower than the #3.

Now, having said that, they are clearly doomed. Here's why.

Point 1: By moving the SNF game, what would have been a pretty easy game against a no-longer-caring Vikings team gets harder. RB Adrian Peterson and QB Brett Favre, who were both likely to miss a Sunday game, could both return. Which gives the moribund Vikings a full complement of weapons, along with a healthy WR tandem of Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, and a quality TE in Visanthe Schiancoe, along with a QB who has always been good at getting the ball to that option. What would have been a walkover might be anything but.

Point 2: With the move to Tuesday, the Five Tool Ninja now has a free ticket for the game that he's graciously offered to me. The Reid Eagles are 0-3 with me in their physical presence, with each loss being a meaningful heart-breaker. So count on this game going right into the dumper, folks. It's a lock. (Oh, and I also took them in this week's picks column. The only way I could put this one more in the dumper is if I wear my Donovan McNabb jersey, the one I boght just before the NFC Championship loss. Yes, Don was 0-2 in the playoffs when I owned that. It's more or less kept me from ever getting another jersey.)

Point 3: Even if the Eagles do somehow get past my potent losing mojo and the Vikings, they'll then have to turn around on short rest and deal with the Cowboys -- once again, a realtively easy opponent that could be anything but, since Dallas will be playing to save head coach Jason Garett's job for 2011, and will come in wih three extra days of rest, having played last Saturday night in Arizona. Dallas was just a three point loser two weeks ago, and while their defense is a train wreck, they can rush the passer, and they'll also pull out all of the stops for a spoiler moment. Since the Bears will be playing the Packers at the same time, there's little chance of pulling the starters. Which means that we're looking at a club that's already down four defensive starters in the last few weeks getting two full games of work in the cold. Let's just say that I'm not counting on them suddenly getting healthy.

Point 4: Let's give Green a pass on these last two games. After all, the Vikings and Cowboys have been out of the playoff hunt for a long time for a reason, and Green does have freakishly exciting offensive weapons. But with the Bears coming through today in Chicago against the Jets, they have the bye -- and even a potential top seed -- in their sights, against a Packer team they know like the back of their hands. There's no way that the Bears are going to want to end their year with anything but a win, which means that Green gets the 3 seed. And a downright dangerous wild-card team, from the grab bag pile of Saints, Packers, Giants and Bucs. And while there's still a million permutations possible, the most likely of those is the Saints come to town.

Which is to say, just about the worst possible opponent possible, really. (The Packers might be scarier, but if they win, you'd expect the Eagles to get a bye.)

New Orleans isn't scared of a pinball game. They also aren't bad in the cold, and could finally have healthy running backs by the time of a playoff game. They have past playoff success against Andy Reid (remember the Jeff Garcia game), a defense that takes the ball away, and the pedigree of being past Super Bowl champions. The Eagles would be a favorite, but not by a lot, and a loss wouldn't be unexpected.

Point 5: Let's give Green one more pass, and a wild-card weekend win, even against the possible defending Super Bowl champions. Assuming form holds, this puts Green back in Chicago against a rested Bears team... and, well, the same folks that physically dominated Green a month ago in a game that was only close due to a late fade. There's also this very distressing fact: Michael Vick has never beaten the Bears. Chicago would have to be a four to seven point favorite, and with their offense hitting hard the past couple of weeks, along with extra rest, that's probably right.

Point 6: Push this one step further, and give Green a win in Chicago. After all, Reid's an experienced playoff coach, and Bears QB Jay Cutler doesn't exactly strike anyone as a playoff juggernaut field general, what with the pick issues. So behind Door Number Three is... Atlanta, in all likelihood, who just have to take care of business at home with a bye the week before, then do the same for the right to go to the Super Bowl.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan is ungodly successful at home, with wins in 18 of his last 19 starts. Assuming that Atlanta hosts the NFCC, that number will have gone to 21 in 22, since the Falcons will have won their last two games at home, plus the divisional game. Home playoff teams in this game win 2/3rds of the time, and when it's a dome game, with crowd in full roar, that assignment gets crazy hard. Give Falcon Fan a chance to howl down the gretest enemy in the franchise's history, with a power running game, a Hall of Fame tight end, and solid lines...

Well, Philly did take this Falcons team apart in Philly early in the season, in what was, easily, the worst game of the year for the Dirty Birds. Ryan's never been on this kind of stage, and while he's done everything he's been asked to do this year, he really does seem more like a game manager than a guy who wins a shootout. And it's not as if the Eagles fear a fast track, or an optimal setting where the deep ball is in play.

Which finally takes us to the final pitfall, and the river card that won't make anyone in the tri-state area happy. The Patriots await, with a head coach that has done Reid before and repeatedly. And they don't even look like they'll have a hard road to get there, given that they'll play just two home games against a sudden paucity of great teams in the AFC.

In the past month, Pittsburgh has lost safety Troy Polamalu and got torn apart by the Pats at home. In the past month, the Jets were absolutely eviscerated by the Patriots in the statement game of the year. The Colts don't scare them, and unless the Ravens channel their 2009 selves, especially in the secondary, there isn't a club that should stay with them. Given how fundamentally flawed the Green defense is, it's hard to see how Dreamboat Brady and Company don't put up 40 against them.

So, doomed. Less so if they somehow work out a bye with a Bear stumble, but all that does is take them from three games in which they will be solid underdogs to two. And I'm not even mad about this, really.

Here's the point where I've gotten to with football, and maybe this is just all too telling for an Eagles fan that has never ended his year with a playoff win... I watch the game for art now, and moments, only. DeSean Jackson can put up years of numbers and big plays, but the signature play has been achieved with the punt return that tore out the Giants' hearts. Vick can and will do more, but the play that will define him for me is that jailbreak safety blitz where he blinks out of existence for the whiff, then makes 35 yards where every other QB in the league would have made a grease stain on the turf.

And well, any year in which my laundry wins the division is a good year. Even if they are doomed, with the weather and the media and the civil authorities all conspiring to bring the doom home.

Besides, God doesn't love us enough for the first Eagles' Super Bowl championship ever to come in Dallas, right?


Anonymous said...

wow are you sure you're an Eagles fan? And maybe you can do us all a favor & not go to the game on Tuesday if you really think you're such a doom machine lol.

snd_dsgnr said...

I'm confused, why do you think the most likely playoff matchup is against the Saints? As far as I can tell the only scenario where that happens requires that:

1. Tampa wins in New Orleans
2. Chicago wins in Green Bay
3. Washington beats New York

I could see one or two of those things happening, but probably not all of them.

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