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Inside the numbers: The Pundit seeks insight into this Eagles’ season

Combined Record of teams in Eagles’ Wins: 57-63

Combined Record of Teams in Eagles’ Losses: 55-34

Combined Record of Teams in Eagles’ Ties: 3-11-1

Analysis: Well, for the most part, the Eagles win the games they are supposed to. With the exception, of course, of the horrid tie against the Bengals. Because that was sickening. Continue reading

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NFL quick hits

It’s funny, really – since the Eagles didn’t play on Sunday, I felt like I had the day off. I’m not entirely certain why, since normally all I do on a Sunday is watch the Eagles. I guess our beloved Birds provide the same amount of stress as a difficult day at the office. (Editor’s note: Try reading this crap all day…) Anyway, it freed me up to check in on the rest of the NFL – here’s what I observed.

– Tampa Bay has a very good defense. Tampa Bay’s offense, minus Jeff Garcia and Earnest Graham, might cost them a playoff birth. The Falcons gave up three turnovers and never really got top receiver Roddy White going, and still squeaked out a win, mostly because Tampa Bay’s offense was putrid. Atlanta did get a huge game from Michael Turner, who rushed for 152 yards, and a stellar performance from John Abraham, whose three sacks brought him to a very quiet 15 1/2 for the season. Give Atlanta credit – they ran the ball well, kept the Tampa Bay’s offense out of the endzone, and pulled out an ugly win. They had the look of a playoff team, and now Eagles fans have to hope that either Minnesota beats them next week, or that disappointing San Diego can beat a suddenly struggling Tampa Bay team next week.

– The Giants are reeling. They did not look good against the Cowboys, giving up eight sacks and never really getting anything going offensively. Not having Jacobs hurt the running game to a point, but I doubt he would have been able to bash his way through the Cowboys defense. Anbody still think this team will be as productive without Plaxico? (Editor’s note: He was always a shot in the leg for their offense). Steve Smith did his job, but Terrence Newman completely shut out Domenik Hixon. The Giants are left to battle for the top seed in the NFC against Carolina next week, and it will be interesting to see how they respond.

Did the loss of this guy handcuff the Giants Super Bowl chances?

Did the loss of this guy handcuff the Giants Super Bowl chances?

– All Pittsburgh does is win. It’s ugly, sloppy, unappealing and nerve-wracking (Editor’s note: Sounds like a date with The Pundit), but they manage to squeak out W’s week in and week out. Their battle against Baltimore was a smashmouth, lunch pail grind from the get-go, and despite the low score, was entertaining throughout. The Ravens will be a very tough team to face if they make the playoffs, and I expect them to come out humming against Dallas next week. Meanwhile, the Steelers will be preparing for a huge showdown against the Titans…

– …who somehow gave up 207 receiving yards to Andre Johnson and lost to the Texans on Sunday. Should Fisher have sent out Bironas for a 51-yard attempt late in the fourth? Maybe, but if Bironas misses it, I guarantee you everyone is talking about how poor that decision was. Fact is, Kerry Collins wasn’t making his throws, and it killed him right until the end of the game. An huuuuuge game against Pittsburgh next week, with the number one seed in the AFC on the line. Oh, and where has this Texans team been all season? A better start to their season, and they’re in the playoff mix right now.

-Way to go, Tavaris Jackson. Now damnit, I want to see that type of performance in a win against Atlanta next week. (Editor’s note: Don’t think of yourself, Tavaris – think of Philadelphia).

– Hey, Buffalo Bills: what in God’s green earth were you thinking dropping back to pass? Run the ball, damnit! Your defense was playing well, and you had run the ball successfully all game long! How many ways can you find to lose football games? You make losing an art. (Editor’s note: Nobody circles the loss column like the Buffalo Bills. And that’s my rumbling, stumbling impression of an archaic routine).

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen / Nobody knows my sorrow...

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen / Nobody knows my sorrow...

– Fantasy Note: I would just like to thank the core of my successful fantasy team this season for absolutely tanking this week, which happens to be my league’s semifinal. A big, warm thank-you to Brandon Marshall, Roddy White, LaDainian Tomlinson, Clinton Portis, Chris Johnson, and Tony Gonzalez for combining to score 51.5 points this week. Now, all I need to defeat my opponent is a meager 56 points from Donovan McNabb tomorrow. That shouldn’t be too tough – all he needs to do is throw for 450 yards and five touchdowns, while running for another 50 yards and two TD’s. (Editor’s note: Eh, just another night at the office, right?)

– What we have to look forward to, after the Eagles tomorrow night: Cowboys vs. Ravens. Two defenses playing at a very high level right now, two teams with everything to play for. Falcons vs. Vikings. Atlanta is still fighting to make the playoffs, and if the Vikings win out, and the Giants lose their next two, the Vikings can actually sneak into the bye (they play each other on the last week of the season). That, and they’ve won their last four, and are red-hot right now. Giants vs. Panthers. Top seed in the NFC goes to the victor. This one should a brawl. Titans vs. Steelers. Top seed in the AFC likely goes to the victor (Titans win seals it, Steelers win puts them atop the AFC, would still have to beat the Browns in their season finale). This one should be a war. Eagles vs. Redskins. Eagles playing for their playoff lives, Redskins fighting to salvage some respect from a season teetering dangerously on the edge of disaster. Two NFC East teams that don’t like each other always makes for a good game. Patriots vs. Cardinals. The Patriots are fighting to make the playoffs, and the Cardinals are fighting for a bit of momentum heading into the playoffs. Bucs vs. Chargers. Believe or not, the Chargers can still win their division (by winning their last two, and having the Broncos lose their last two. They play the Broncos the last week of the season). Meanwhile, the Bucs will clinch a playoff spot if they win their last two games. It’s gonna be fun, baby.

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The Pundit’s Power Rankings: Plaxico shoots up the list!

Unlike traditional Power Rankings, which attempt to rank teams on a week-to-week basis, the Pundit’s Power Rankings avoid such arbitrary silliness. Instead, The Pundit wishes only to rank the pertinence, scope, and conversational value of the top sports stories of the week. Extra points for any stories that lend themselves to relentless mockery and high-horse rhetoric. On to the Rankings!

1. Plaxico Burress shoots himself in thigh

A true run-and-shoot offense. Well, shoot and run, I suppose. And I’m not sure if I’d be running after I had shot myself in the thigh. Whatever. I feel as though we need to go over the details of this one more time: Plaxico Burress shoots himself in the thigh after stuffing his handgun, which didn’t have a safety, into his sweatpants while hanging out at a club. A handgun he didn’t have a permit for in New York, a city notoriously strict on illegal possession of firearms. And not only do the Giants lose their best receiver, but one of their top linebackers, Antonio Pierce, might be in some trouble as well. This story speaks for itself.

2. The Juice is no longer on the loose

At this point, anything I say would just be piling on. And that’s what, a 15-year penalty?

3. Sean Avery’s sloppy seconds

Hard to believe he got a six-game suspension for what he said. Classy? Hell no. But worth a six-game suspension? Hardly. Seems to me like the NHL was looking for a reason to crack down on what they felt to be one of their more unsavory characters, and they got their money’s worth. Quick question: on a sloppy-second score, is Avery credited with an assist?

4. NFL players take substance to mask steroids, suspensions suspended

Anybody else think it’s a bit fishy that the Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson, of Minnesota, was the judge who temporarily delayed the suspensions of the 5 players accused of using diuretics to mask steroids? Which, of course, led to a federal judge blocking the suspensions until a further investigation into the matter could take place. Would Judge Larson have taken such a vested interest in the manner if the Williams Wall, and the Vikings playoff hopes, weren’t in jeopardy? I have no idea, but I love a conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, so I’m going to go the paranoid route. Which is why I’m almost positive that Matt Cassel has been taking injections of Tom Brady’s DNA, Tony Sparano is actually Tony Soprano and is involved in a massive point-shaving operation, explaining the Dolphins sudden success, and somebody suddenly changed the overtime rules without telling anyone in week 11, confusing Donovan McNabb and, apparently, a huge contingent of NFL players. Oh, and Plaxico Burress didn’t shoot himself in the thigh – there was another shooter up on the grassy knoll, maaan…

5. Charlie Weis’ future in question

Let’s do some math, ok? Alright, here’s a problem to start with: Unlimited resources + a multitude of highly touted recruits + a lucrative television contract + a huge contract for your head coach + the past four years = 28-21 record and two losses in the Fiesta Bowl. Oh, and the two losses in the Fiesta Bowl were with players almost exclusively recruited by Tyrone Willingham. I despise Notre Dame and their College Football politicking, so seeing them fail doesn’t bother me much – I say, let Charlie work it out. Heh…

(And now, for a commercial break. This has nothing to do with this post at all, but I just saw this TV, and it absolutely cracked me up – they were offering commemorative Barack Obama half-dollars. I mean, seriously? What’s next, the Collector’s Edition Obama Oreo Tin?)

6. Oklahoma or Texas? The BCS again reveals its flaws

Though, after watching Oklahoma absolutely toy with Missouri during four lopsided quarters, its hard to argue that Oklahoma doesn’t deserve to be where they are right now. I mean, if you’re a college football fan, the Oklahoma vs. Florida match-up has to be getting you pretty pumped up.  Plus, Penn State vs. USC, and Texas, Alabama, Utah and Ohio State pairing off should actually make for a decent bowl season. Still, even though I supported Oklahoma being the Big-12 South champion, I can’t help but feel as though Texas got absolutely screwed. Hey, at least ESPN now has the broadcasting rights to the BCS after Fox’s contract runs up – now we’ll get years of the Gameday Crew touting the wonders of the BCS. Hooray!

7. Arbitration, Free Agency in MLB

None of the major moves have happened to this point, so much of this story has simply been speculation. Player X is going here, player Y is going there, Scott Boras is a huge piece of shit, etc. etc. Well, except for that last part – that’s just true. Once Manny and CC are signed, sealed and delivered, the rest will fall like dominoes. As for me, I’d like to see Derek Lowe end up in Philly, as well as a second to third-tier outfielder. What I think will happen?  Jamie Moyer will be back, and we’ll still get a second to third-tier outfielder. Though I have a feeling that Mr. Amaro is going to want to make a splash in his first offseason…

That’s it for this week’s Pundit Power Rankings – be sure to check in tomorrow for some postgame Eagles reactions.

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

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Coming down the stretch, part two: AFC predictions

By Rant (With blurbs from The Pundit)

Tennessee Titans  (11-1)

This team, like the New York Giants, isn’t flashy, yet they get the job done and are solid from top to bottom. They are a force to be reckoned with, and what’s more is that the Titans have been in this position before with head coach Jeff Fisher; they know how to win big. (Editor’s note: I’m not entirely sure when Rant means here. Last year they were a wildcard team that lost in the first round of the playoffs. The last time the Titans made a run was in 2002, when they won their division and eventually lost to the Raiders in the AFC Championship game. Not sure that many players from this team were on that one, however). Their running game is absurd, though defenses have really started to key on Chris Johnson’s speed; simultaneously, the rookie may be hitting the wall a bit in his first NFL season. He had a huge day against Detroilet, but my grandmother could run all over that defense if she had a good line to block for her. (Editor’s note: She probably has one hell of a stiff arm. Actually, I’d imagine all of her joints are pretty stiff by now).

The Titans are leading the AFC South by 3 games, ahead of the previously untouchable leaders, the Indianapolis Colts. Kerry Collins may be experiencing a career renaissance, turning 36 in December, though he’s not quite the ageless “wonder” that Kurt Warner is. Still, he has been playing well…but will it be enough for Tennessee’s offense if the run game gets completely shut down?  I’m not sure there.

Regardless, this team will continue to physically pound and out-hit their opponents.  Their defense is relentless and will help bring this team to victory in the playoffs.

Remaining Schedule:  vs. Cleveland (W); at Houston (W); vs. Pittsburgh (L); at Indianapolis (L)

I see the Titans winning games against Cleveland and Houston easily, but then dropping a loss at home to Pittsburgh because they’ve gotten complacent about their record.  Jeff Fisher will rest his starters the last game of the season in a loss at Indy because his team holds the best record in the AFC and is therefore guaranteed home field advantage in the playoffs.

Final Record:  13-3

AFC Playoff Spot:  No. 1 Seed; AFC South Division Champion

The Pundit’s Take: I agree here – they should have the top seed all wrapped up by the time the Steelers roll into town.

Pittsburgh Steelers  (9-3)

Ben Roethlisberger is playing at the top of his game right now, despite an offensive line that seems to willingly give up sacks and free quarterback hits. (Editor’s note: 33 sacks, to be precise, and the 36 overall the Steelers have allowed is 6th worst in the NFL). Last year, Roethlisberger got sacked second most in the league but still managed a 31 to 11 TD:INT ratio, an incredible stat that tells me this guy knows how to sling the football.  Though Roethlisberger isn’t performing as well this year, he is still the leader of their offense and his tough play through injury embodies what the team stands for (Editor’s note: 13 TD’s, 12 INT’s – not exactly awe-inspiring).

Tomlin seems to have opened up the passing attack to Big Ben in a Pittsburgh fashion, meaning that they’ll still pass but at heart remain a smashmouth, aggressive running team first. The running back committee, however, has been blown many an injury, namely to Willie Parker and top draft pick Rashard Mendenhall.

Pittsburgh’s D will continue to destroy players as they gain momentum heading into the playoffs.  This will be big for the Steelers, because teams will continue to come after Big Ben and it’s going to make things difficult for their offense.

Remaining Schedule:  vs. Dallas (L); at Baltimore (W); at Tennessee (W); vs. Cleveland (W)

I see the Steelers losing big against Big D this weekend.  This will serve as a wake-up call for Pittsburgh, inspiring them to win out the rest of the season.  I think they’ll stun a tough Tennessee team on the road, coming out swinging and playing the same aggressive, hard hitting football that the Titans play, and they won’t be ready for it.

Final Record:  12-4

AFC Playoff Spot:  No. 2 Seed; AFC North Division Champion

The Pundit’s Take: I think Dallas will simply outscore them, doing just enough on defense to get the win, and then comes an interesting match-up against Baltimore. Sorry, Steelers fans – Baltimore’s defense is structured to give Roethlisberger hell all game long. I see Baltimore crawling past Pitt in a knock-out, drag-down battle. I’m thinking 9-7, Baltimore. The Steelers salvage their season by beating an uninterested Titans team and Cleveland, because, well, it’s Cleveland, finishing 11-5 and winning the division. They’ll finish tied with B-More, but after a couple of tiebreakers, their 10 conference wins to the Ravens’ 9 will give them the division.

New York Jets  (8-4)

I remember hearing an analyst this July say that the New York Jets would flip their 2007 5-11 record to 11-5 this year with the arrival of Favre.  I thought that was an overestimation of the Favre-trade effectiveness.  Looks like I could be wrong. (Editor’s note: Though I hate to admit it, ditto.)  But I mean, there’s a first for everything, right?  (Editor’s note: And whatever shred of humility Rant had salvaged by admitting he was wrong just dissipated beyond recovery). Favre is playing really well, and the team has seemed to rally around him. The Jets beat a previously undefeated Titans team two weeks ago, then got humbled at home by dropping a loss to the Broncos; and Favre did not look good in that game. (Editor’s note: Neither did their 30th ranked pass-defense; would you like those 357 passing yards and 2 touchdowns gift-wrapped for the holiday season, Mr. Cutler?)

The Jets were getting really hot before last week, and I see them rediscovering their spark and blazing through teams on their way to winning the division. (Editor’s note: That’s one small step for man, and one giant step for Mangini’s job security?) New York will get by on the arm of Brett Favre and a defense that does enough to win games. (Editor’s note: They are 8th against the run). Their D-line has stepped it up, and I think that will continue.

Remaining Schedule:  at San Francisco (W); vs. Buffalo (W); at Seattle (W); vs. Miami (L)

The loss to the Broncos will fuel this team to win big the next three games. But I see Miami declaring war against New York in the season finale; Favre won’t be on his game and have a multiple pick outing, throwing the game away to the Dolphins. But it doesn’t matter because New York will lock up the division and head into the playoffs,  though I think Favre’s uncanny ability to make dumb throws will plague this team in the postseason.

Final Record:  11-5

AFC Playoff Spot:  No. 3 Seed; AFC East Division Champion

The Pundit’s Take: I disagree only slightly with Rant’s final prognosis – I see this team winning out. Having Buffalo and Miami at home will be an advantage, especially against Miami, who is 1-7 since 2000 against the Jets in New York.

Denver Broncos  (7-5)

The Broncos are led by another young quarterback lighting up the league this year, Jay Cutler (at least when he isn’t stinking it up against the likes of the lowly Raiders). He and his team of wannabes, the Denver Broncos, keep sending me mixed signals. (Editor’s note: And women continue to send him no signals whatsoever). Cutler started off the first 4 games of the year leading MVP talk with Drew Brees nipping at his heels. But he cooled off, and so did his team, which lacks a solid defensive unit.

The defensive play is unfortunate, because they have some stars in players like Champ Bailey, Elvis Dumervil (who I, by the way, always said would be great coming out of college), etc.  The Broncos, like the Seattle Seahawks of pre-2008, are basically granted a free playoff spot due to their poor division, barring a total collapse.

This team needs to learn how to shore up the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, as the run game and run defense are both lacking.  This will be a problem, because they will not be a legitimate title contender without establishing a run game. (Editor’s note: Though Peyton Hillis did just go for 129 yards with a TD against a pretty good Jets running D). But the Bronco’s will be in the playoffs anyway, and I’m glad for them.  Besides, I have a soft spot in my football-shaped heart for the Broncos.  I’d like to see them and Cutler get back to some glory days. (Editor’s note: And Jay Cutler totally has callouses on his fingers for you, Rant. No, wait – that’s the Diabetes. My fault).

Remaining Schedule:  vs. Kansas City (W); at Carolina (L); vs. Buffalo (L); at San Diego (W)

The Broncos will assert themselves against the Chiefs this weekend, but lose at Carolina and Buffalo; a reminder that this team has problems against the run.  Denver will then win at San Diego in the final game of the season in a very tight game.

Final Record:  9-7

AFC Playoff Spot:  No. 4 Seed; AFC West Division Champion

The Pundit’s Take: Agree with the record, though I think the losses come to Carolina and San Diego, not Buffalo. San Diego owes them for the blown-call game, and Denver will likely be resting their starters this week, anyhow).

Indianapolis Colts  (8-4)

This team is not looking like their best right now, a lot of it due to the lacking play of Peyton Manning. Everybody is saying Peyton is having another good year and statistically I would agree. (Editor’s note: Really, I wouldn’t even say he’s having that great of a year – 19 TD’s, but 12 picks in 12 games? Not the Peyton Manning I know and love. Last year’s 14 picks were the most he threw in six seasons!) But the fire that usually carries Peyton Manning doesn’t seem to be there this season, if you ask me.  The guy is getting older and his team is struggling around him.  No doubt the Colts have been winning the games they need to, but they’re game is not on point, and they’re not going to catch division rival Tennessee.

Marvin Harrison’s play is on the decline and it is hurting Peyton Manning’s game. (Editor’s note: Looks like the Colt .88 Special is finally unloaded). Harrison is still productive, but he is not the consistent threat Manning once relied on consistently. And the defense, though fast and led by some studs, only seemed to click like a real unit in the 2005 and 2006 seasons. They need somebody to come along and light a fire under their asses, because they’re not going to scare many teams in the playoffs with their current play.

Remaining Schedule:  vs. Cincinnati (W), vs. Detroit (W), at Jacksonville (W), vs. Tennessee (W)

The Colts will win out, but it won’t look pretty, except for a huge win against Detroit. But then again, everybody has a huge game against Detroit. Indy will win against Tennessee in their last regular season game and head into the playoffs feeling good about themselves.  But I don’t think this team has what it takes to do much, they just look stale.

Final Record:  12-4

AFC Playoff Spot:  No. 5 Seed; Wild Card Seed No. 1

The Pundit’s Take: I think they win out, and they would not be a team I would want to face. In the NFL, a win is a win, and sometimes, believing you will win is as important as talent. I mean, would you want to see an Indy team that had reeled off 9 straight wins heading into the playoffs? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

Baltimore Ravens  (8-4)

Another interesting team, the 2008 Baltimore Ravens.  Joe Flacco is proving has proven his worth thus far this year, though not at the same level as fellow rookie QB Matt Ryan. This team surprised me this year with success the same way they did last year with failure.  The fall from grace last year after a 13-3 season in 2006 was unbelievable, much as this season’s turnaround has been equally surprising.

Coming into the season, I thought second-year quarterback Troy Smith was given the green light by rookie coach John Harbaugh to lead his offense, but then Smith got pneumonia and lost 30 pounds. Flacco stepped in, and I don’t think there is any doubt that he is their franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future.

The Ravens have a trio of good runners in Willis McGahee, rookie workhorse Ray Rice, and the hard hitting Le’Ron McClain. The O-line is still pushing people around despite the loss of Jonathon Ogden to retirement this past offseason. The defense is showing signs of aging at several positions, though they are still 3rd in the NFL in points allowed and 2nd in yards allowed per game. Third year DT Haloti Ngata from Oregon is a solid anchor in the middle of their defense.

John Harbaugh is yet another rookie head coach turning his team around and making headlines. In fact, Jonathon Ogden almost held off retirement because he said that Harbaugh was that inspiring from day one in the organization.  This is a team on the rise.

Remaining Schedule:  vs. Washington (W); vs. Pittsburgh (L); at Dallas (L); vs. Jacksonville (W)

The Ravens will flatten the Redskins this weekend, then drop a loss to a better Pittsburgh team. After this, the team will go into desperation mode, but won’t be able to get it done in Big D because Flacco won’t be able to handle the pressure, being that he’s still a rookie. Baltimore will finally get it done against a struggling Jacksonville team and head into the playoffs, beating out New England and Miami for the final Wild Card spot. The Ravens hold the tie breaker over Miami with their head-to-head victory, and against New England because they have a better in conference record:  Baltimore 8 wins in conference, New England 6 wins in conference.

Final Record:  10-6

AFC Playoff Spot:  No. 6 Seed; Wild Card Seed No. 2

The Pundit’s Take: I don’t agree. I think this team beats the Steelers, hounding and pounding Big Ben all day long. That victory will prove huge for the Ravens, as their 11-5 record will get them into the playoffs, though the Steelers will still win the division. The reason I see them winning this one? Couple of reasons: they protect Flacco a bit better than the Steelers protect Big Ben, to the tune of 13 less sacks allowed this year. The Steelers are playing their running back situation by ear, while Baltimore shuffles three solid backs in and out of the game, to the tune of the NFL’s third-ranked rushing offense. Though the defenses cancel each other out, I think the Ravens offense, at this juncture of the season, is a bit more equipped to handle the Steelers D than the Steelers offense is equipped to handle B-More’s D. Should be one of the better games of this season.

New England Patriots  (7-5)

Matt Cassel is finally getting the idea that he can just chuck that ball in the general vicinity of Randy Moss and win games.  He has been playing well the past couple weeks, but like all the experts say (cough, cough…ahem), he is a product of wonderboy Josh McDaniel’s videogame-like passing attack.  Seriously, with the Pats pass-blocking O-line, all they need to do is have Wes Welker run square-ins against linebackers while Randy Moss runs go’s and post routes. Viola!  Insert Random Quarterback Here and Automatically Gain 300 Yards Passing!

This team is struggling right now though, regardless of Matt Cassel.  The Pats just resigned LB Roosevelt Colvin, a guy they cut this past offseason; to me, this is a sign of desperation from Bill Belicheck. The guy must be pulling his fucking hair out right now the way his defense is playing. The secondary is a make-shift joke, and teams will continue to exploit that weakness the rest of the season. (Editor’s note: They’re 16th against the pass – not spectacular, though I don’t know if that makes the secondary a joke).  Rookie LB Jarrod Mayo is playing well right now, and the D-line still has it, but the defense as a whole is not meshing well right now. This and a so-so run game are the Achilles heel(s) of this team.

Remaining Schedule:  at Seattle (W); at Oakland (W); vs. Arizona (W); at Buffalo (L)

New England fields a very favorable remaining schedule, but it’s that last game at Buffalo that will finally put a knife in their playoff hopes.  Division rival Buffalo will come out swinging like it’s the Super Bowl and Matt Cassel simply won’t be able to deliver in the clutch like Tom Brady.  The season is on the line, and I say the Pats fold like a lawn chair.  This will piss me off because I love watching the Patriots, but there’s always next year when Randy Moss and company greet returning MVP Brady with open arms and reassert their dominance. AMEN! (Editor’s note: YOU CALL YOURSELF AN EAGLES FAN? I CALL YOU A BANDWAGON SELL-OUT! I ONLY ALLOWED THAT UTTERLY DESPICABLE SENTENCE TO DIMINISH THIS POST SO THAT I COULD PUBLICLY CHASTISE YOU! Seriously, though – shame on you, Rant. You’re better than that).

Final Record:  10-6

AFC Playoff Spot:  OUT

The Pundit’s Take: Way to let him have it, Editor. I think the Patriots will win out, and tragically for them, still miss the playoffs at 11-5 due to Baltimore holding the tiebreaker over them. Which is a brutal way to go out. Still, 11-5 after losing the game’s best player for the season is one hell of a job by Bill Belichick, his staff, and the Patriots team.

Miami Dolphins  (7-5)

This team is turning things around with a great rookie head coach led by the ever-steady hand of Bill Parcells. Chad Pennington and a revitalized rushing attack have helped to make the Dolphins look good on offense, but they just lost leading WR Greg Camarillo to a season-ending knee injury.  The Ricky Williams / Ronnie Brown tandem has been a hit so far, and the two started the NFL wildcat fad this season.

However, the defense is not playing as well as it needs to, and this will hurt the Dolphins in the end.  Joey Porter is playing lights-out football right now, but the guy needs to shut his mouth, because his defense isn’t playing as well as he is.  Regardless, this has been a very positive rebuilding year for head coach Tony Sparano.

Remaining Schedule:  at Buffalo (W), vs. San Francisco (L), at Kansas City (W), at NY Jets (W)

Miami will play a tough game in Toronto this weekend against Buffalo and come out on top.  But the team won’t stay focused enough and will end up losing to a 49ers team for whatever reason, causing Bill Parcells to freak out and go ape-shit on the team. (Editor’s note: No, he won’t; he’s pretty removed from the day-to-day happenings of the team). After a win against the pathetic Chiefs, Chad Pennington will be out for revenge against his former team after being excommunicated when Favre arrived in New York this year. Pennington and the Dolphins will have a huge game and come just short of the last Wildcard spot after winning only one game the year before. Great turn around season for this franchise.

Final Record:  10-6

AFC Playoff Spot:  OUT

The Pundit’s Take: Disgree with the final result – I think they lose to Toronto, er, Buffalo, beat the Niners and Chiefs, then lose to the Jets, finishing 9-7. Hey, if I’m a Dolphins fan, I’m completely satisfied with their 8-game turnaround this year. Nice work, Tony Soprano. (Editor’s note: Wait, that’s not right…)

Rant’s AFC Playoff Seeds

1. Titans

2. Steelers

3. Jets

4. Broncos

5. Colts

6. Ravens

The Pundit’s AFC Playoff Seeds

1. Titans

2. Jets

3. Steelers

4. Broncos

5. Colts

6. Ravens

Rant’s AFC Playoff Predictions

Wildcard Round: Jets over Ravens, Colts over Broncos

Divisional Round: Titans over Colts, Steelers over Ravens

AFC Championship: Titans over Steelers

The Pundit’s Playoff Predictions

Wildcard Round: Steelers over Ravens (the difference between these two teams ends up being homefield adavantage and a few field goals this year), Colts over Broncos

Divisional Round: Titans over Colts, Steelers over Jets

AFC Championship: Titans over Steelers

Rant’s Super Bowl Prediction

Giants over Titans

The Pundit’s Super Bowl Prediction

Titans over Cowboys (you know damn well I could never pick them to win the thing)

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Coming down the stretch: NFL predictions for the final quarter of the season and the Playoffs

Rant (with a few blurbs from The Pundit)

At one of the Packers’ recent press conferences, head coach Mike McCarthy made a statement about the Packers dropping games, noting, “It’s November, we need to be winning football games.”  I thought, damn straight man, the playoff picture is starting to take shape. Here’s some insight on how Rant thinks it will all go down. And going down the last quarter stretch of the season, we get to separate the men from the boys, which is always fun, if you ask me. (Editor’s note: Are the men or the boys more fun for you, Rant?)

NFC Playoff Picture

New York Giants  (11-1)

The Giants have hunger and character. They were not, nor will they ever be, satisfied with their Super Bowl win. Eli Manning took a huge step during the 2007 postseason, and has now joined his brother in top-tier QB status. This is the best overall team in the NFL at this juncture, and it just so happens that they play in the toughest division in the league, as well.

Eli Manning is chucking the ball to whomever he wants, and has developed a good rapport with second year man Steve Smith, journeyman Domenik Hixon and the ageless Amani Toomer. (Editor’s note: And now, without Plaxico around, it’s safe once again to use the shotgun. Ahhhh, making fun of Plax really is a blast). Then there’s the powerful running game led by “Earth, Wind, and Fire” as they say in New York, and their ridiculous defense. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnola has the perfect blend of youth and experience on his defense right now. The Giants will continue to execute, and in turn, will win games. They won’t wow anybody with finesse, but they’ll smash people in the jaw during the playoffs.

Remaining Schedule:  vs. Philadelphia (W), at Dallas (W), vs. Carolina (W), at Minnesota (L)

The Giants will further assert themselves over the next three games, then Coughlin will rest his starters and allow the Vikings to get into the playoffs by dropping a loss in Minnesota.

Final Record:  14-2

Playoff Spot:  No. 1 Seed; NFC East Division Champion

The Pundit’s Take: I agree with Rant – the Giants are playing too well right now to doubt them. But are they peaking too soon?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (9-3)

Any winning team led by the always consistent Jeff Garcia is dangerous, especially with that tenacious Tampa D. Look for the Bucs to take their division in the next couple of weeks and head into the playoffs with confidence. Their 4th ranked defense is going to scare some teams, compounded by the fact that Jeff Garcia does not turn the ball over. (Editor’s note: He’s only thrown 3 picks this year, and only 9 in his last 30 games. Impressive. Hey, if it smells like a game-manager, and looks like a game-manager…)

They have a great 1-2 punch in running backs Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn, and Antonio Bryant is probably the best wide receiver nobody knows. (Editor’s note: May be better for him that way – when people know about him, it’s normally for the wrong reasons). But Tampa’s defense will have to step up if their offense starts to struggle in the playoffs, and I think they’ll do it. This is a solid team that will continue to play consistent football into the playoffs.

Remaining Schedule:  at Carolina (W), at Atlanta (W), vs. San Diego (W), vs. Oakland (W)

The Bucs will assert their control on the NFC South with a good win over Carolina on Monday, and win out the rest of this season if Jon Gruden decides he doesn’t need to rest his starters the last game of the season.

Final Record:  13-3

Playoff Spot:  No. 2 Seed; NFC South Division Champion

The Pundit’s Take: I agree, though I think they lose the last week of the season, resting their starters, as the Giants will already have top seed in the playoffs locked up. They settle for the two-seed at 12-4.

Arizona Cardinals  (7-5)

This team is all about Kurt Warner right now, who is statistically up there with Drew Brees this year. (Editor’s note: And a possible MVP candidate). Ken Wisenhunt decided to go with Warner over Matt Leinart, and it’s paying dividends. By the way, I don’t know what is wrong with Leinart; when he got drafted, I thought he was the most NFL-ready QB I’d ever seen. (Editor’s note: Hmmmm…statue in the pocket, not a very strong arm, came in thinking he was a playboy instead of being a player). Anyway, Warner is having success in large part because of stud receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. That being said, I don’t think the offensive line isn’t getting enough credit, led by second-year tackle Levi Brown out of Penn State (YEAH BOY!).

Despite their pass-blocking abilities, the O-line hasn’t helped the one-dimensional Cardinals support much of a run game.  This and their lack of consistenty on defense will bite this team in the playoffs after they finally win their division after years of people predicting them to do so.  It would be cheap to say that anybody could win the NFC West, because the Cardinals are playing good football, at least offensively. We’ll just ignore their horrible game here in Philly.

Remaining Schedule:  vs. St. Louis (W), vs. Minnesota (W), at New England (L), vs. Seattle (W)

Winning 3 of their last 4 will amp up the Cardinals for the playoffs, allowing this team to bounce back from their reality check this past Thursday in Philly.

Final Record:  10-6

NFC Playoff Spot:  No. 3 Seed; NFC West Division Champion

The Pundit’s Take: I agree again. It’s as though we’ve been discussing football a lot lately, or something. St. Louis and Seattle are gimme’s, the Patriots will have too much at stake for the Cardinals to beat them, and they will feast on Minnesota’s 21st ranked pass defense.

Minnesota Vikings  (7-5)

Looking back now, we all know that Tavaris Jackson was a letdown, but what else has kept this team mediocre? They boast arguably the best run-blocking O-line in the NFL and arguably the best runner in Adrian Peterson.  But QB and receiver is a problem for Minnesota’s offense. Gus Frerotte has filled in adequately, but certainly cannot be asked to do much more than manage a game. Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian are decent wideouts, but nothing that will scare defenses. The Vikings will suffer in playoff contention, as defenses will be keying on the run, making it difficult for this team to survive.

Minnesota’s defense is the team’s stronger side, but was just weakened with the loss of DT tandem Pat and brotha-from-anotha-motha Kevin Williams. Unfortunately for Minnesota, that suspension is for the rest of the regular season, all for using a diuretic that masks steroids in urine testing. These two guys are behemoths in the middle of Minnesota’s stifling D-Line, averaging 6’4″ and 314 pounds between them – that’s a lot of man to move (Editor’s note: Two things here: first of all, that’s what she said. Second, I gotta think they were using the diuretics for weight loss, and not to get stronger – each are already gargantuan).  The D’s strongest point has just been broken, but it won’t be enough to stop this team from winning their division.

Vikings Remaining Schedule:  at Detroit (W), at Arizona (L), Atlanta (L), New York (W)

What will help this team is their piss-poor division.  Like the Cardinals in the pathetic NFC West, the Vikings will almost win their division by default, though Chicago will be nipping at their heals.  This will take Brad Childress off the hot seat temporarily. (Editor’s note: Is he on already?)  I see the Vikings beating Detroit (duh) and a resting New York team the last game of the season, but losing at Arizona and against Atlanta because of their losses on the defensive line.

Final Record:  9-7

NFC Playoff Spot:  No. 4 Seed; NFC North Division Champion

The Pundit’s Take: In agreement once more. Arizona will go pass-happy on them, beating them in a shoot-out, and Atlanta will pound the ball right up the gut, where the Williams Wall used to be.

Carolina Panthers  (9-3)

Next in line, the fake Carolina Panthers.  Fake, you say?  Yeah, because they are faking fans and Vegas betters alike that they’re a semi-legit team, which they really aren’t (Editor’s note: For reference, check their cake schedule: their best wins this year are against Arizona, Atlanta and Chicago. They don’t have one big, signature win).  Jake Delhomme is too inconsistent to lead this team to playoff glory, and though he has put up solid numbers this year, you don’t know what kind of performance he’s gonna give you from one game to the next.

The Panthers have retained a solid defensive unit the past couple of years, led by beast Julius Peppers.  And fortunately for the Panthers, they’ve picked up a great ground game this year, though I seriously doubt it will be enough for this team to make a big playoff run. Still, this season has probably moved John Fox off the hot seat for another year. Don’t get too comfortable though, John – you still need a more consistent QB if you wanna stay in Raleigh.

Remaining Schedule:  Tampa Bay (L), vs. Denver (W), at NY Giants (L), at New Orleans (W)

The Panthers will show their inferiority against Tampa and New York, but will earn a playoff spot with their win at New Orleans the last game of the season.  Some people might think Carolina will lose this game, but I think the Panthers will run the ball effectively against a porous Saints D, keeping the ball out of the hands of the ever-dangerous Drew Brees.

Final Record:  11-5

NFC Playoff Spot:  No. 5 Seed; Wild Card Seed No. 1

The Pundit’s take: Agree, though I can’t stop focusing on the Denver game. If they get a hot Denver team, they may be in trouble. A cold Denver team is an easy win for them. I think they make the playoffs at 11-5.

Washington Redskins  (7-5)

The always interesting Redskins; they show dominance, then they come out flat. The only thing I can tell about this team is that they’re good, but don’t have the identity or mentality to win a championship. New head coach Jim Zorn has done well in his first year with Washington, but his team can’t seem to quite put it all together at once. Jason Campbell is playing well, but he still hasn’t gotten to the level where he can lead the team to victory on his own. Clinton Portis has been running all over people, but his multiple injuries are coming to the surface at the wrong time.

The defense is looking good, especially after acquiring castoff CB DeAngelo Hall, adding great depth in the defensive secondary.  I’m still not sure why they went after 34 year-old Jason Taylor, but I’m not calling the shots in Washington, owner Dan Snyder is.  Snyder is still convinced that overspending on free agent players and coaches, along with drafting overrated college receivers, is the quick and easy way to win a championship.  Sorry Dan, but there is no easy button for Super Bowl winners.

Remaining Schedule: at Baltimore (L), at Cincinnati (W), vs. Philadelphia (W), at San Francisco (W)

The Skins will lose this Sunday at Baltimore with or without a banged-up Clinton Portis, but will rattle off 3 straight victories and get into the playoffs.  The Redskins get the nod over Dallas in the Wild Card tiebreaker because they will finish with a better division record:  Washington 3-3, Dallas 2-4. The Redskins then get the spot over Atlanta in the Wild Card tie breaker because they will finish with more wins in conference, 8 to 6.  What a mess of shit my predictions brought along with them!

Final Record:  10-6

NFC Playoff Spot:  No. 6 Seed; Wild Card Seed No. #2

The Pundit’s Take: This is where I begin to differ with Rant. I don’t see the Redskins beating Baltimore, but the game that will haunt them is their match-up with the Eagles, who I think will exact revenge against the ‘Skins. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t see the Eagles running the table to finish the season. However, they probably should have beat them the first time around, and who knows if Portis will be healthy for round two. That, and the Eagles defense has cranked it up a few notches since their last meeting. I see the ‘Skins finishing at 9-7 and missing the playoffs.

Dallas Cowboys  (8-4)

Maybe Terrell Owens is right when he says he needs to get the ball in order for the Cowboys to win.  Regardless, the soon to be 35 year-old shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, a benefit from keeping his body in peak physical condition year round. Oh yeah, and his quarterback isn’t going to be slowing down either. Romo is back to his loose and mobile self once more after returning from a broken finger on his throwing hand. I don’t know if Wade Phillips and Jerry Jones gathered their team together the past couple of weeks to try and rid themselves of the off field crap, but this team is getting some momentum going at the right time.

We all know what the Cowboys are capable of and look for them to make a statement down the stretch.  I don’t think it will be enough to take the division from the Giants, but I do see this team grabbing an NFC Wildcard spot if they can beat the Eagles in Philly the last game of the season; unfortunately for this team, it won’t be able to do that.  Andy Reid will want to give his city something to celebrate and give McNabb a nice sendoff gift before he is kicked out of town.  The Eagles will play fired-up football and knock Dallas out of playoff contention, ending Philly’s season on a high note.

Remaining Schedule:  at Pittsburgh (W), vs. NY Giants (L), vs. Baltimore (W), at Philadelphia (L)

Dallas will beat Pittsburgh convincingly, lose a squeaker to the Giants, then crush Baltimore.  But losing in Philadelphia will drive a steak into their playoff hearts, adding yet another saga to the Cowboys-Eagles rivalry.

Final Record:  10-6

NFC Playoff Spot:  OUT

The Pundit’s Take: Again, I can’t agree with Rant. The Cowboys have a BRUTAL finish to their season, but I think they’re about to catch fire. I think they win every game except a battle against the Giants. As much as I despise myself for even thinking it, I think they beat the Eagles with their own playoff spot hanging in the balance, finishing 11-5. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find some rope, a step-ladder and a high ceiling.

Atlanta Falcons  (8-4)

Who would’ve thought we’d be talking about the Atlanta Falcons as a potential playoff team this year?  Billionaire Arthur Blank found a good one in rookie head coach Mike Smith, who captured the trust of his team in a matter of months.  Part of this must be due to players believing in a sound system that Smith has installed in Atlanta.  The other part is probably due to Smith drafting rookie sensation Matt Ryan, who has gotten his team behind him faster than my friend the Pundit likes to get behind good-looking men at the bar. Oh, SNAP! (Editor’s note: Ahahahahahahaha.)

The Pundit’s Take: Alright Rant, I see what you did there. I’m not even going to retaliate. No sir, not my style. I won’t mention that Rant has Barbara Streisand’s entire library of music, or that he tried to mix me an appletini the other night. Nope…not going to stoop to his level.

The Falcons, led by phenom Matt Ryan, road-grader Michael Turner, and rising star receiver Roddy White, are truly this year’s Cinderella team. I’ve been saying even before the draft that Matt Ryan has whatever “it” is to be an NFL quarterback while many of my colleagues dissed me. Now I’m laughing in their faces about it because the kid seems to have his team in position for a playoff run. Oh yeah, and the rook has his team ranked 6th in total offense (9th in scoring). ROOKIE QUARTERBACKS AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THIS GOOD AT SLINGING THE BALL!!!

But the Falcons fall short on the other side of the ball, with a 24th ranked defense; this will come back to haunt them. Doesn’t matter though, as the football starved fans in Atlanta are glad to move their franchise into a new chapter in Falcons history.

Remaining Schedule:  at New Orleans (L), vs. Tampa Bay (L), at Minnesota (W), vs. St. Louis (W)

The Falcons will drop two straight division losses, with a tight loss to the Saints and a huge defeat against the Bucs. Atlanta will then win its last two games, but it won’t be enough to beat out Washington for the remaining playoff spot.

Final Record:  10-6

NFC Playoff Spot:  OUT

The Pundit’s Take: Yup, I see it the same way. New Orleans is tough at home, 5-1 below sea level this year. And Tampa Bay is more experienced and boasts a tough D. Hell of a season, though, especially for a team that is probably about two years ahead of schedule after the Mike Vick debacle and DeAngelo Hall’s unfriendly departure.

Chicago Bears  (6-6)

Oh, da Bears. Another team I could care less about, and you should too.  This team could win the struggling NFC North but are not a playoff team. The Bears still can’t field a consistent offense for 16 games, and it will stay that way until they get a real quarterback and some more playmakers. Matt Forte was a step in the right direction for the Bears’ offense, but quarterback and receiver remain an issue. (Editor’s note: Forte is the truth). Some people are sold on Kyle Orton, but I’m not; he’s not their answer at QB and he showed that against Minnesota this past Sunday.

The Bears will have to ride a heroic defensive effort if they want to make the playoffs, though it’s not as stingy as it has been the past couple of years, ranking 16th in total defense and points allowed. Unfortunately for Chicago, they’ll lose when they can’t score points for their slumping offense. This team seems to have some identity issues after making the Super Bowl two years ago.

Remaining Schedule:  Jacksonville (W), New Orleans (L), Green Bay (W), at Houston (L)

I see the Bears dropping losses to New Orleans and Houston, moving to 8-8 on the season and losing their division and playoff hopes all in one.  The momentum in the NFC North swung in the direction of Minnesota after Chicago’s forgettable performance this past Sunday at the hands of their division rival.

Final Record:  8-8

NFC Playoff Spot:  OUT

The Pundit’s Take: I agree with the 8-8 record, though I would swap the Green Bay and Houston results.

Teams not mentioned:

Philadelphia and New Orleans: Each would need to run the table to make the playoffs, and I don’t see it happening.

The Pundit’s Take: Agreed.

Rant’s NFC Playoff Seeds

1. New York Giants

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

3. Arizona Cardinals

4. Minnesota Vikings

5. Carolina Panthers

6. Washington Redskins

The Pundit’s NFC Playoff Seeds

1. Giants

2. Bucs

3. Cardinals

4. Vikings

5. Cowboys

6. Panthers (How did the Cowboys edge the Panthers, each team possessing an identical record? Well, they didn’t play head-to-head, so that got tossed out. And they each finished 7-5 in my prediction. On to like foes: against GB, NYG, and TB, the Cowboys were 2-2, while the Panthers were 1-3).

Rant’s NFC Playoff Predictions

Wildcard Round: Panthers over Vikings, Cardinals over Redskins

Divisional Round: Giants over Panthers, Bucs over Cardinals

NFC Championship: New York over Tampa Bay

The Pundit’s Playoff Predictions

Wildcard Round: Cowboys over Vikings, Panthers over Cardinals

Divisional Round: Cowboys over Tampa Bay, Giants over Panthers

NFC Championship: Cowboys over Giants (The Cowboys will come into this game having won eight of their last nine games, and I don’t think the Giants can beat them three times in the same season. I don’t know, I just have a feeling this team is about to come to life. I really, really want to be wrong, and I’m hoping I’m jixing the living hell out of them).

Look for AFC predictions this evening.

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No Eagles? No problem…The Pundit previews a few games worth watching

With no Eagles to watch on Sunday, I’ve been trying to decide what I will do with my day tomorrow. It would be a spectacular day to catch up on some laundry, do some cleaning around the house, take a trek to the Free Library, and cook a few meals for the upcoming week.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

While that is what I probably should do, what I likely will do is watch football all day, flipping over to the Sixers at five. The one nice thing about not having the Eagles game on tomorrow is that I can frantically follow my fantasy players – a win tomorrow, and I clinch a playoff spot, baby! (Editor’s note: The Pundit enjoys long walks on the beach, fine dining, and fantasy football – which one doesn’t fit?)

There are some great storylines around the NFL tomorrow. I’m not going to bother with predictions, because that’s a truly fruitless endeavor this year, but I will highlight a few of the games worth paying attention to.

1:00 Kickoffs

Giants at Redskins – Hey, any NFC East clash is worth tuning in for. This one is probably more meaningful for the Redskins than it is for the Giants, as every week becomes vital for a Redskins team fighting for a playoff spot. Look for a grind-it-out, defense-oriented, old-school football game. Should be a good watch.

Saints at Bucs– The Saints are fighting for their playoff lives. I don’t think they’ll make it, but this would not only be a big win against a division foe, but would be a confidence victory against another playoff contender. Are the Bucs legit? Their defense seems to be, allowing only 16.4 points and 274.7 yards per game, good for for third and fourth in the NFL, respectively. Will their second ranked pass defense be able to slow down the Saints top ranked passing attack, or will Drew Brees light them up like he did the Packers? A game with big playoff implications.

Panthers at Packers– Is Carolina for real? Can Green Bay do enough down the stretch to win the division? Will Brett Favre prepare the huge crow dinner he’s been cooking this year for the Packers’ organization Cajun style? (Editor’s note: Oh c’mon, Aaron Rodgers has been pretty damn good this year). Really, this boils down to Green Bay’s defense: If they don’t pick up their game, Green Bay is shot. For Carolina to be considered a legitimate threat in the NFC, they need to win games like these. This one could go either way, though its always tough to go into Lambeau.

4:00 Kickoffs

Falcons at Chargers – Who cares if they’re only 4-7 – the Chargers can still win the AFC West! God, what a disappointment the Chargers have been this year. At the beginning of the year, if I told you the Falcons might make the playoffs and the Chargers likely wouldn’t even make .500, you would have told me to get off the crack. (Editor’s note: The first step is admitting you have a problem, Pundit). Matty Ice and the Falcons are a great story – no one is dogging them anymore, huh? (Editor’s note: Groan. You’re all bark and no bite, Pundit).

Broncos at Jets – The Broncos probably won’t win this game, but a victory here would all but seal up the division for them. Despite the fact that they would only be 7-5. The AFC West is a joke. The Jets aren’t. And it’s not just because of that guy playing quarterback – they stuff the running game, and do a good job of churning out yards on the ground themselves. But if they have a weakness, it’s against the pass, and if the Broncos have a strength, it’s throwing the ball. The Broncos could use a good win, and the Jets still have the Pats nipping at their ankles – should make for a pretty good contest.

Steelers at Patriots– Brady who? Alright, so maybe we’re not there yet, but Matt Cassel has been nice. That guy Belichick can coach a bit, can’t he? I don’t really know what to think about the Steelers – they play good defense, they have a pretty balanced offensive attack, and I think Ben Roethlisberger is the real deal. Yet, if I was playing them, they wouldn’t scare me. I might be totally off here, but I just don’t see them as an elite team this year. I think they’re very good, but not elite yet – the Patriots need this more, and I’d put my money on them taking care of business against the Steelers at home.

Sunday Night

Bears at Vikings – Let’s play “Who wants to win the NFC North?” Contestant number one: You play tough run defense, run the ball well, and try desperately to keep your quarterback from having to make plays in the passing game. Contestant number two: you play tough run defense, run the ball well, and try desperately to keep your quarterback from having to make plays in the passing game. Can we just call this Matt Forte vs. Adrian Peterson and move on? And yet, the last time these two teams played, the score was 48-41. How the hell did that happen? A Vikings win gives them a big advantage over the Bears, who they already beat. (Actual Editor’s note: No, that’s incorrect. The Bears actually won the last game between these two, 48-41, and thus, a Bears win gives them a major advantage.) Still, it’s a divisional rivalry, and the Sixers will be over by the time it starts, so its worth a view, if for nothing else than to marvel at Adrian Peterson.

So there you have it. Some intriguing match-ups, and a lot of playoff shuffling will go on by the end of the day. So go ahead – see if you can do some lawn work. Try to rearrange the garage. See how much cleaning you get done. We both know that Sunday autopilot will kick in, and your ass will be on the couch, watching football.

Fight the urge if you must – you know it’s a fight you want to lose.

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More Eagles thoughts and NFL notes

Rant Jacobs

I keep watching the Eagles this season, though I’m not sure why; all they do is anger me.  I have one word that comes to mind when I think of their season thus far: bleh. They come out dull and bland, then they show some promise.  I think I learned how to handle situations like this in Sunday school, though.

 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other!  So because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I will spit thee out of my mouth.”

               – Revelation 3:15-16

(Editor’s note: I know I’m probably going to get struck by lightning for this one…but that’s what she said! Oh, snap).

Yep, since the Eagles are my excuse for not attending any church services, I figured I’d fit in some Bible time in my post to make up for it.  That quote from the Book of Revelation pretty much sums up what I feel like doing with the Eagles performance this Sunday (and their season as a whole).  Speaking of Revelation, I just had one myself:  The Eagles better wake the fuck up and smell the coffee, because the writing is on the wall and the 2008 season is sinking straight into the Schuylkill.

 It’s almost seems like they don’t want to win sometimes; like they got hired to look like they’re trying to win, but taught to lose the game.  It reminds me of the South Park episode when the kids were tired of playing baseball, so they started trying to lose the game, only the other kids were all trying to lose as well, so it became a contest to see who could lose better. I mean, isn’t that what this game seemed like? (Editor’s note: Whaddya wanna do?)

 So what needs to be fixed?  The defense played well, registering 8 sacks and allowing only 282 yards of offense against the Bengals.  McNabb has been playing well so far, but his 3 INT outing (plus a fumble) cost the Eagles the game.  His reads and decision making have been questionable, but so has the play calling and receiving corps.  The Eagles really need to be able to establish the line of scrimmage on offense, but Andy Reid is going to pass first anyway, so I say we need more passing options.

 When McNabb is on his game, he is a top NFL quarterback.  But McNabb needs his offense to be supporting him to do this, and this requires offensive chemistry.  Fortunately, McNabb has developed some chemistry with his ho-hum receiving corp.  Hell, McNabb has been working with average wideouts his entire career.  The problem is, it’s harder to run the offense with piss-poor receivers when you don’t rely on your legs like you used to.  Back in the day, teams struggled to defend the Eagles passing game because they had to waste defenders spying McNabb because of his ability to tuck the ball and run.  But after ACL surgery, at the grand age of 31 (going on 32 next Tuesday), McNabb isn’t the scrambler he once was.

 I understand that Andy Reid believes in development of his draft picks; I also understand that Reid believes in chemistry over pricey talent.  But besides Westbrook, why have the Eagles not compensated for McNabb’s transition to the pocket passer role?  It’s on the tongue of every Eagles fan:  WE NEED A PRIMETIME WIDEOUT!  In 2004, McNabb and Terrell Owens were UN-FUCKING-STOPPABLE.  You know what a great veteran receiver has done for us in the past, so why not keep it going?  That’s why The Pundit and I have started the “Help Donovan McNabb Fundraiser Drive”.  It’s an anti non-profit organization aimed at raising enough money to lure in a top tier receiver with a lucrative signing bonus. (Editor’s note: How about the “Andy Reid Brain Surgery Fundraising Drive?” Maybe then we would commit to a friggin’ rushing attack to take some of the pressure off of Mr. McNabb).

 NFL Football Notes

α: Eddie Royal has had a huge impact on Denver’s offense this year.  He should garner some consideration for offensive rookie of the year. Granted, Matt Ryan or Chris Johnson will probably win it, but Royal has played great.  He adds another weapon to Mike Shanahan’s scheme and is a great compliment to Brandon Marshall (and is a decent return man as well).  He already has 56 receptions this season.  In comparison, Brandon Stokely only has 71 receptions since starting for Denver last September.

 γ: Why are the Giants so good?   For one, they’re hungry, which is something that can’t be measured in yards or points. (Editor’s note: Only in Chunky Soup. Soon, you’ll be as sick of Chunky Soup jokes as I am of their damn commercials). They got it done last year against the Pats with one of the biggest upsets in NFL history, but they wouldn’t buy into the idea that they just got hot at the right time.  They persisted and kept playing hard.  A lot of this has to do with the team maturing, especially Eli Manning.  Eli’s play last postseason was phenomenal and has remained at a high level since. 

And as my friend The Pundit would say, the Giants bought into head coach Tom Coughlin’s system.  Quite simply, they execute the game plan as drawn up, week in and week out. It was a bit surprising to me when this team fully bought into Coughlin’s vision, as he is known to run his teams with a drill sergeant attitude. Not only does he seem to have the players’ trust, but executive backing as well, considering they have stood behind Coughlin’s decisions regarding team rule violations (see Plaxico Burress, Jeremy Shockey, etc.).

Plus, the defensive line, despite losing Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, has been superb.  Justin Tuck has been one of the best players in the NFL this season, and is a huge reason this team is 9-1. The Giants ability to get consistent pressure from their front four has allowed their offense to play loose. Essentially, the defense allows the offense to relax a bit, knowing that they will probably get bailed out if Eli starts acting 12 again and slinging INT’s all over the field.  Which he hasn’t as of yet; in fact, he’s been very, very good.

 δ: The Washington Redskins starting defense on Sunday night included 7 former SEC football players.  Wild. These SEC ball hawks really know how to fly around the football field.

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