Tag Archives: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Don’t Look at Mock Drafts Just Yet: Eagles Playoff Scenarios

If the NFL playoffs started right now, the Eagles would unfortunately be on the outside looking in, as the seventh seed in an NFC field that includes six teams.

Thankfully the playoffs will not become official for 14 days.

The easiest way for the Eagles to get to January is to win their final two games and have the Cowboys lose one, realistically at home to the 10-4 Indianapolis Colts next week.

A few other scenarios exist, but they are a bit less likely as Detroit, Seattle, or Green Bay would have to lose both of their final two games while the Eagles win both of theirs.

Green Bay faces the lowly Buccaneers next weekend, so let’s rule them out.

Seattle has two tough games at Arizona and home against the Rams, who play all opponents tough and beat the Seahawks earlier in the season, but it is difficult to envision them dropping two straight considering their strong play recently.

That leaves Detroit, the current leader of the NFC North by way of a tiebreaker over the Packers. The Lions will likely be heavy underdogs in the Week 17 bout at Lambeau, but in order for that game to matter to the Eagles, they would need to lose on the road to the struggling Bears next weekend.

Is that possible? You decide. I don’t trust Jay Cutler as far as I can throw him, but the Lions certainly didn’t look like world-beaters in a narrow win over Minnesota today.

Still, the Eagles easiest road remains a backdoor NFC East title with the Cowboys following a December tradition and dropping a pivotal game late.

For all of the issues that went wrong tonight, the Eagles should be far superior to their remaining opponents in the Redskins and Giants.

If help comes, it ideally comes next week by way of the Colts, but stranger things have happened (Think Week 17 in 2008 with the Raiders and Texans opening up a door for them).

Tonight hurt, but it was not a death sentence, and with the birds playing a day early on Saturday, a win will put the pressure squarely on the Cowboys who have struggled at home.

Hope NIck Foles gets cleared, beat a bad Washington team, and bite your nails on Sunday.

The Eagles need help, but it ain’t time to look at mock drafts quite yet.

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Eagles-Colts History Lesson: The Birds Lost a Game but Found a Quarterback

The Eagles are in Indianapolis for a Monday Night showdown against the Colts tonight.

The last time they traveled to Indianapolis, not counting a preseason game in 2009, was for a Sunday Night showdown in November 2006. There is a certain novelty to playing AFC teams since you have to wait four years to play the same team again and typically eight years before returning to the same city.

When appropriate, I would like to provide a recent history lesson on gameday about the Eagles particular opponent, and we have one here that I feel both connects past, present, and future.

The date was November 26, 2006, and the eventual Super Bowl champion Colts were rolling at 9-1. The same could not be said about the Eagles. Andy Reid’s squad entered the contest with a 5-5 record, but it felt a lot worse. They had dropped four of their past five games and a week earlier lost starting quarterback Donovan McNabb to a torn ACL in an ugly home loss to the Titans.

A McNabb sports hernia injury helped derail the 2005 season, and the general consensus was that if he was lost for any significant amount of time, the season was over.

Jeff Garcia was the Eagles next man up. Garcia at one time was a very successful signal-caller for the 49ers, but over the past few years leading up to 2006, he had lost starting jobs in San Francisco, Cleveland, and Detroit.

Garcia had played okay when called upon to relieve McNabb the previous week, but many folks did not trust him to move the ball and were calling for then fan-favorite A.J. Feeley.

The scrappy veteran did have one thing going for him though. He was familiar with Reid’s west-coast system, and back then, Reid was decently good at tailoring schemes to some of his players .

The night, as expected, was ugly. A full box score and recap is available here.

Joseph Addai gashed the Eagles for three first half touchdowns, and the visitors were down 21-0 in the second quarter before you could blink an eye. For a normally stout Jim Johnson defense, it was an embarrassing performance as the Colts posted 420 total yards in a 45-21 victory.

Peyton Manning was only responsible for 183 of those yards and honestly had a pretty pedestrian night. Garcia — based on raw numbers — actually outperformed him.

Eagles-Colts 2006

This brings us to the major point of the post. Garcia got the Eagles on the board with a touchdown pass to L.J. Smith in the second quarter and found Reggie Brown in the third quarter for another. He took care of the football and only threw four incomplete passes the entire game.

After the final whistle, the big story was how poorly the Eagles defense played and how Reid was headed for a second consecutive losing season, but another plot was now scratching the surface.

The Eagles might not have been good enough to beat a powerhouse Colts team, but if a few issues could be cleaned up, they had a quarterback capable of beating some NFC teams to keep their dwindling playoff hopes alive.

Garcia did just that. The next week he led the Eagles to an epic Monday Night victory over the Panthers (more on that in a couple months) and proceeded to win three consecutive NFC East road games to capture the division crown.

From the aforementioned Colts game through the end of the season, Garcia went 122-for-200, 1513 yards, 11 touchdowns, and only two interceptions.

The run under Garcia ended at the Superdome with a 27-24 loss to the Saints in the second round of the playoffs after again beating the Giants one week earlier. Garcia would sign with Buccaneers in the offseason and lead them to the playoffs the following season.

A January 6, 2008 Philadelphia Inquirer article about his time in Tampa Bay still hangs in my room to this day.

Jeff Garcia Picture

You could say I really liked Jeff Garcia.

Who didn’t like Jeff Garcia though? Philadelphia was in the midst of a miserable sports winter. The Phillies had just missed out on what would have been their first playoff berth since 1993. The Flyers were in the midst of one of their worst seasons in franchise history, and the Sixers were having a falling-out with long-time franchise icon Allen Iverson.

The city needed hope, and a fiery red-head came to the rescue just in time.

This is a dangerous hypothetical path to go down, but the Eagles missed the playoffs the following year in 2007, going 8-8. Had Garcia not turned 2006 around, it would have been three straight years of no playoffs. Would Andy Reid have survived that? If he hadn’t, what are the odds that Chip Kelly would be here today? Would Nick Foles be playing somewhere else?

Those questions bring me to tonight. Eight years later, we are back in Indianapolis, and instead of Manning-Garcia, it is Andrew Luck vs. Nick Foles. The average age of the quarterbacks that night were 33. Tonight, that number is 25.

Both teams are expected to be contenders this season, and I even picked the Colts to win the Super Bowl. Much like Manning-Garcia, Luck is the perceived star. Akin to Manning, he was the number one overall pick in the draft while Luck and 86 other players heard their names called before Foles in the same draft class.

Foles’ numbers are for the most part better than Luck’s through the early portions of their careers, but most football people will tell you that Luck is the far superior player.

Tonight, we get to see them go at it head-to-head. I called for a narrow Colts victory before the season. I badly want to be wrong, but a shootout loss where Foles matches Luck, similar to what he did against Drew Brees in the playoffs last year, would not be the worst thing in the world.

Nearly eight years ago, the Eagles lost a game in Indianapolis but temporarily found a quarterback. Tonight, they have an opportunity to show the football world that they have a quarterback for years to come.

An Eagles History Lesson: The Great Collapse of 2012 That Ended the Andy Reid Era Began Against the Steelers

Fifty years from now when someone not yet born does the current equivalent of typing “2012 Philadelphia Eagles” into Google, one will likely reach the immediate conclusion, “Wow, that team was really awful.”

They would be correct, except there is a bit of a catch. The Eagles finished the season 4-12, their worst record since 1998 when they were 3-13 in Ray Rhodes’ final year running the show before Andy Reid was hired.

The 2012 team scored the fourth lowest number of points in the league and surrendered the third highest. They were terrible, but there was a time early on when they weren’t.

The Eagles play the Steelers tonight in a preseason game, and while it doesn’t count, it is the first time the two teams have met since October 7, 2012. I find that if you watch sports long enough, you begin to internalize what other teams mean to you and automatically link that to said team.

For example, regardless of what they do in the coming years, the New York Mets will always be synonymous with their September 2007 choke job for me.

The Steelers, to me, are the team that helped begin an eight-game losing streak that would end the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia.

The 2012 Eagles were poorly coached, poorly constructed, and not particularly likable, but by way of some talent and a spunky Michael Vick playing quarterback early on, they somehow won their first two games, each by one point. The only other time the birds had started a season 2-0 under Reid was back in 2004 when they went to the Super Bowl.

An ugly loss in Week 3 followed, but Week 4 was more of the same. Two weeks after beating the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, the Eagles knocked off the defending champion Giants by two points with another fourth quarter comeback.

They easily could have been 0-4 but instead were 3-1 and sitting in first place in the NFC East.

A win at Heinz Field the following Sunday would have made the birds 4-1 for only the third time in the Reid era, yet no one was particularly excited. They figured it was too good to be true and were about to be proven correct.

The Steelers carried a 10-0 lead into halftime as a fumble by Vick on the Pittsburgh 1-yard line prevented the Eagles from getting on the board. They came alive though with an early touchdown in the third quarter and took a 14-13 lead with less than seven minutes remaining as Vick found Brent Celek for a touchdown from two yards out.

It looked like the Eagles might pull off another Houdini act, but this time, their defense couldn’t hold one more time.  The Steelers converted a key third and long deep in their own territory and another third down on the Eagles side of the field. They controlled the ball for six and a half minutes, setting up a chip shot field goal for Shaun Suisham as time expired.

Right down the middle.

16-14 Steelers.

Back home the following week, the Eagles blew a 10-point lead with five minutes remaining and lost in overtime to the 1-3 Detroit Lions.

Honestly, they deserved to be 0-6 but were one or two plays from somehow being 5-1. The reality was that they were 3-3, which wasn’t good enough for a desperate Reid who Andy Reid’d nearly as hard as he Andy Reid’d 21 months early when he gave Juan Castillo the job. This time, he threw his defensive coordinator overboard in a last-ditch effort to stop the bleeding.

The decision only made the cut deeper though. For the first time in 14 years, Reid lost a regular season game following a bye week. The Eagles would proceed to lose eight consecutive contests before beating Tampa Bay 23-21 on a last-second touchdown.

Four wins by a combined total of six points. The bottom had fallen out. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie had no choice but to fire Reid, a guy many previously believed would be his ‘coach for life.’

As a result of driving back to State College after covering Penn State road games, I missed more games during the 2012 season than I have in most other seasons combined (I did watch this one). Conventional wisdom suggests that is a good thing given how south the season went, but not seeing them every Sunday still made me sad.

That team easily could have gone 0-16, but could the dumpster fire have been prevented had they just beat Pittsburgh?

I do not normally spend a ton of time thinking about the 2012 season, but when it comes to mind, I get hung up on it because in my opinion, it is an interesting case study in organizational behavior.

More inside information would be needed to really explore it, but it is not every day you see an absolute control freak in Reid lose complete control of a situation.

If the Eagles had came up with a stop against Pittsburgh on that final drive, would the meltdown against Detroit seven days later have still happened? Furthermore, could the entire losing streak have been avoided?

The great and also infuriating thing about sports is that we will never know and can only infer.

Conventional wisdom says no — an ugly stretch was coming either way. The Eagles were a bad team getting a few lucky breaks early on, and then things caught up with them. The collapse probably would have happened anyway. Still, in a 16-game season, 4-1 is a lot different from 3-2 and dare I say it, 5-1 leaves way more margin for error than 3-3.

To completely fail to acknowledge other factors would be ignorant. A series of poor personnel decisions in the years leading up to the 2012 season put the keys in the ignition on the road to Reid’s firing, but the loss to Pittsburgh and embarrassing defeat to Detroit revved the engine.

What if?

What if the Eagles had escaped the steel city with a victory? Would Chip Kelly be on the sidelines tonight when the squads play an exhibition game 22 and a half months later. Would Reid still be here instead of Kansas City?

I do not know the answer to that, but I do know that what may seem like a harmless game a half century from now was a damn important one in Eagles history.