The year has turned, snow is in the air and the music of the playoffs is in our hearts. Our Birds will be making the push to a Superbowl and we decided to chat with our pals over at 3DPhillySports about what could be a cinderella story. Joining us to break down Saturday’s game as well as the league-wide goodness are Derrick Alvarez, Dave Bennett, Randy Jobst. Hank and I give our take as well.
First, the Birds!
The Eagles are in the playoffs! Does this make Chip Kelly Coach of the Year?
Derrick: If I had the option, I’d probably split the vote up. One half for Bruce Arians, the other half for Chip Kelly. If I had to pick one though, I’ll go with the team that made the playoffs and beat Bruce Arians on their way there. Great season for the Birds.
Randy: It makes him a great candidate to win the award, but you can make a serious argument for several other coaches too. Andy Reid took a 2-14 team and turned them into an 11 win team in just one season. Ron Rivera went into the season as the coach we were all waiting to get fired. Fast forward a few months and he is watching the opening round of the playoffs from his couch, but only because his team earned a first round bye. You also have to consider how dominate Seattle was at times this season. Chip is very deserving, but so are those other three mentions as well. This award is a toss-up this year. I hope Chip gets it, but I wouldn’t be offended if he didn’t.
Hank: He has to be. He’s brought in a system that is, if not wholly unprecedented at the NFL level, at least a truly genuine attempt to rethink the formula that leads to success in the NFL. It’s a passing league, and the Eagles’ offense is putting up ridiculous numbers while leaning on the run.
Vince: I think there’s some good candidates but Chip has to be the guy. He’s doing some pretty wild and innovative stuff in what has been a league based on parity while shattering records along the way. If I had any money, I’d bet it on him.
Which player on the team (outside of Foles and McCoy) is most pivotal to the team’s success?
Derrick: Desean Jackson. If a team is able to even hold him under 50-60 yards then they have an excellent chance at defeating the Eagles. He’s a home run hitter that has had one helluva season in 2013.
Randy: Trent Cole. This defense depends on a good pass-rush and Cole is the most capable of wreaking havoc on an opposing backfield each week. When he gets shut down with just one blocker, this defense struggles to get much penetration. When he gets after the quarterback early, the defense appears to be a top-10 group, just ask the Bears.
Hank: I think it’s either Jason Peters or Evan Mathis. For all the success that Fletcher Cox or Brandon Boykin had on defense this year, none of this would be possible without stellar performances on the offensive side of the ball. That starts with the offensive line, specifically the left side. Mathis is a rock, and Peters is a monster. If you’re a DC trying to scheme against this team, good luck picking a player that matches up well against them.
Vince: Fletcher Cox. I’ve been saying for weeks now that the defensive line is the true heart of our defense and when they’re not beating opposing lines, we’re sunk. That was the case in Dallas where I think we slipped away with an undeserved win. This week the Saints have two Pro Bowl guards protecting a Pro Bowl quarterback. It’s prime time, Fletcher. Get it done.
Are you happy the Eagles drew the Saints over the 49ers?
Derrick: Yes. I’ll take a team that is 3-5 on the road, who also struggled to beat the Bucs and Falcons mind you (this would have made them 1-7) over a team that has marched to two consecutive NFC Championships. Drews Brees always scares me, but force 2 turnovers from him and I think the Eagles have a first-round W.
Randy: This is the playoffs. I don’t care who you play, everybody is good at this point. The 49ers are a mediocre passing offense at best, but the Saints are a mediocre running offense at best. Both teams have their strengths and their weaknesses and either way you are going to face an elite receiving tight end. I’m happy with the Saints here because it means the 49ers and Seahawks could face-off next weekend. That’s a good thing for everyone in the playoffs who don’t reside in San Fran or Seatle.
Hank: No. Chip beat Harbaugh a couple of times in the college ranks, and frankly Kaepernick is two tiers below Brees right now. I think the Eagles’ passing D, which remains the team’s biggest weakness, would have a much easier time handling the 49ers. Look for a shootout next Sunday, and don’t get caught up in that in the dome / out of the dome crap. This Saints group is gonna show up in full force, weather be damned. Look for Jimmy Graham to go 18 catches for 200+ and at least one TD.
Vince: I think that this was the best possible thing that could happen. The Saints on the road makes the entire NFC picture a little weaker so at this point you hope a blind cinderella gets a nut. That’s the expression right?
How far do you expect the Eagles to go?
Derrick: I really have no expectations, just enjoying the ride from a team that I thought would win 8 games max. I’ve got high hopes though.
Randy: It’s ridiculous to expect the Eagles to win this week and be one of the final eight teams left. We all had this team pegged as a 8-win team at best. However, if they do come out of this weekend with a win I really like their chances against Carolina. Regardless of what happens, this has been a great season and everything the Eagles accomplish from here on out is like a bonus round in my mind.
Hank: I would not be surprised if they got bounced by the Saints in the first round. I WOULD be surprised if they got to the NFCCG.
Vince: I was a doubter on this team all season, but screw it. I’m all in. I think this team should be in the NFC Championship game. They’re good at putting up points and generating turnovers. Hell, if Seattle loses this team is a coin flip from the Super Bowl as they play at home for the Conference. Time to call up Tom Coughlin?
Does it bother you seeing Andy Reid in the playoffs?
Derrick: Not at all, but I’m not sure I want to see him make it too far in the playoffs or the phone lines on Philly talk radio will be going nuts, and not in a good way.
Randy: You know it really doesn’t. I have nothing but love for Andy Reid. His work in the red zone is embarrassing at times and we all wished he would run the ball more, but at this point that is a Kansas City problem. Big Red tried to bring home a Lombardi Trophy to Philly, but he just couldn’t get it done. He’s still a class act who loves the people around him. Plus he is still the best interview on draft day. I will continue to root for him when it doesn’t affect the Eagles.
Hank: No. We knew he was still a decent coach, but he was past due for a change of scenery. He walks into a team that’d LOADED with talent, of course he could make it to the dance. Berry, Hali, Alberts, Charles. We’re talking explosive players there. Couple that with a more-or-less ideal quarterback for his system, and suddenly it would have been a surprise if Andy didn’t make it this year.
Vince: Yes. Yes it does. Not because he himself is in, but it’s the manner in which he’s done it. I feel like a crazy person for yelling at him to run the ball for years and now that he does it he’s coaching one of the best teams in the league. I say this in the name of Correll Buckhalter: Fuck you, Andy.
Which playoff team is the biggest surprise this year?
Derrick: Honestly, Riverboat Ron and the Panthers getting the 2 seed and bye week is probably the biggest shocker to me.
Randy: I had the Chiefs projected as the 6th seed in the AFC before the season started so I’d be lying if I said seeing Kansas City in the playoffs is surprising. I was also a huge Mike McCoy fan so I don’t think the Chargers season is a major shocker either. I would say the Panthers are the biggest shock to me. They came into the season with a nice front seven, but a terrible secondary and an average offense with one good target. Give credit to the job the offensive staff has done to turn this team into an efficient unit this season. I had them pegged as a 6-win team.
Hank: Has to be Carolina. Their defense improved dramatically, and it seems to have caught a lot of people off guard. I always thought Cam was gonna be a really, really good player at the NFL level but feared he would suffer from a lack of help. Not so for the Panthers this year. Credit to Rivera and *cough* Sean McDermott for engineering such an impressive turnaround. They’re making the most of their talent (did anybody know who Greg Hardy or Charles Johnson were before last year?) and still have room to grow.
I honestly have to say the Packers. Green Bay is decimated
and they made the playoffs after starting Senece Wallace, Scott Tolzien, and Matt Flynn for seven games. Remember when we made the playoffs on the back of Jeff Garcia? I think this is just as wild.
Which match-up this weekend do you think will be the best game?
Derrick: San Fran/Green Bay. -5 degrees up in Lambeau is must-see TV.
Randy: This one is a no-brainer for me, it’s the 49ers-Packers game. They played a thriller in Week One, plus we saw the Colin Kapernick show take flight in last year’s postseason. Aaron Rodgers is back and has officially shaken off all the rust. Both teams are still pretty flawed, but I wouldn’t want any part of them either. I think this game tops even the Bears-Packers game from last week.
Hank: Saying it’s Eagles v. Saints would be a cop out, so I’m going with Green Bay and SF. Last year’s NFCCG was one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever seen, and their regular season matchup this year was an offensive explosion. Look for fireworks at the tundra this Sunday.
Vince: I actually think that San Fran should beat Green Bay by a solid margin so I’m going to go with Kansas City and Indianapolis. Indy’s a team that has had some serious ups and downs, but if they show up this game will be a ton of fun. You’ll have the first Deacon Jones Award winner Robert Mathis and Andrew Luck trying to upset a very sturdy Chiefs team in Indy. I think it’s a down to the wire matchup.
You’re making the odds in Vegas: Who’s your favorite to win the Super Bowl?
Derrick: Broncos, who is going to stop their offense? Peyton is long overdue for that 2nd ring. I think he evens things up with his brother in Eli’s home stadium.
A lot has changed to make this a much more difficult answer. The Patriots lost Rob Gronkowski for the season and the Seahawks can’t seem to get Percy Harvin healthy. Both of those teams looked like obvious Super Bowl picks to me when all was well, but right now they are both very beatable.Really every team has its limitations right now. Can Peyton Manning deliver in the January cold? Can the Patriots score enough points to go on another playoff run? Are the Bengals good enough to win a Super Bowl without their two best defensive players(Atkins and Hall)? Do the Panthers have enough fire power to win in the postseason? Same goes for the Seahawks.This really is a season where you just try to survive each week. Nobody is dominant enough to expect to win any playoff game right now. Each game should be a dog fight and the most clutch offenses and defenses will come out on top.
I’ll stick with my preseason pick, the Seahawks, because of the home-field advantage and their defense, but I’m not very confident in that pick. Hell I’m almost inclined to pick the Eagles here because they protect the football, run the ball well and the
Vince: Seattle. The best complete team in the league with the best home field advantage will likely play in a cold Super Bowl. Not to know Peyton in the cold, but rather I’m knocking the reliance on the passing game in the cold. Seahawks win. The Peyton legacy takes a tough hit. And Marshawn Lynch lives in a house made of skittles.