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Eagles Will Beat Dallas: Roll On, Super 5, Roll On

Published: January 9, 2010

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As my four regular readers know, I met Donovan McNabb, or as he is referred to in this space, Super 5, three weeks ago. He is my favorite athlete is the history of Philadelphia sports.

Today, Rich Hoffman of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote a piece saying that Super 5, barring a run to the Super Bowl, will not be back next year.

I am a big fan of Rich Hoffman. He is the best Philly columnist since the legendary Bill Lyon. I happen to agree with him here. I have said, repeatedly since April, that the Eagles will not bring Super 5 back without at least a conference championship.

Here’s where Rich and I differ: I believe that the Birds get it done this year. And it starts Saturday.

Yeah, I know, the Cowboys have exercised the December demons. They finished the season 3-2, including a win over the NFC’s top seed, New Orleans.

They swept the Eagles, including a 24-0 shelling in the final week of the regular season. In 19 third meetings involving teams with a regular season sweep in NFL history, the team that finished the season sweep has won the third game 12 times.   

Tony Romo dumped that bad luck heifer Jessica Simpson.

The Cowboys got this, right?


Because we have Super 5.

Look, 3-2 is nice, but the Eagles were 6-1 down the stretcha fact everyone seems to be forgetting. Andy Reid has never (AND THE ROCK MEANS) ever lost his first playoff game. Wade Phillips has never won his first playoff game.

Romo is playing well, but he’s never won under the playoff crucible.

Super 5 has won nine times in the playoffs. He, also, has never lost his first playoff game.

The Cowboys haven’t won a playoff game since 1996, but, really, that is more a function of circumstance. They had some really bad teams in there, and some really bad coaches too, so we’ll throw that one out. The bottom line is, this game will come down to one thing: the play of Donovan McNabb.

Here’s the thing. He wasn’t very good last week. There has been an enormous amount of negativity around him and the team this week. There is some sentiment that it is time to move on. His back is against the wall.

Every timeevery single timeMcNabb has been backed into a corner, he comes out fighting. Last year, he played seven of the worst quarters of football I have ever seen from any player, at any position. He was benched at halftime in that brutal Baltimore game.

How did he respond? Oh, all he did was light up Arizona for 260 yards and four touchdowns to kick off a stretch where the team finished the regular season 4-1 to make the playoffs and go to the NFC Championship for the FIFTH time in his career.

Speaking of NFC Championships, let’s go to the 2004 game. The Eagles were in their fourth one in a row, and there was talk that McNabb should be traded because he was going to lose AGAIN. Michael Vick and the Falcons, fresh off beating Brett Favre in Lambeau, were going to come to the Linc and beat the Eagles, too.

What did McNabb do then? Well, he didn’t lose there, either, winning 27-10.

At the end of the regular season that year, the Eagles sat their regulars for the last two games, and there was talk that they would be rusty and McNabb would lose the first playoff game. McNabb was so rusty that he outdueled Daunte Culpepper for the win, 27-14, throwing for 286 yards and two touchdowns.

Earlier that year, the Eagles lost to the Steelers, and all the focus was one the “argument” that McNabb and Terrell Owens had on the sidelines. All week, the talk was about McNabb’s lack of leadership, Owens’ lack of respect, and how the team would come apart. What happened?

He had 345 yards and four touchdowns. Against the Cowboys. In Dallas. Including a 14.1 second, Playstation-esque, if I hadn’t seen it and you told me about it I wouldn’t have believed it scramble.

And now we have Tony Romo. The up and coming Dallas superstar is going to pass McNabb by, right? He will shred the Eagles defense, right? McNabb will struggle and choke, just like he always does, right?

When I met McNabb, he had a friend with him. I told them what a big fan I was, about the article I wrote calling him the greatest player in Philly sports history of my lifetime, and how I was so sick of the haters.

His reply? “We love the haters. They make us stronger.”

So count him out. Write him off. Call him a choker. I won’t. Not now, not ever.

Eagles 38, Dallas 24.

Stone Cold Lead Pipe Lock.

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Review of Wachovia Center, Home of the Philadelphia Flyers

Published: December 24, 2009

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Review originally published on Stadium Journey .  

The Wachovia Center is the home of the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers.

Built near the soon to be demolished Spectrum, it is part of the massive Philadelphia Sports Complex, which includes Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL’s Eagles, and Citizens Bank Park, home of the two-time defending National League champion Phillies.

The first of the three to be built, the Wachovia Center is all glitz and glamour, but it lacks the Spectrum’s soul.

Here is the FANFARE rating for WACHOVIA CENTER:


Food and Beverage: 5 (out of 5)

Wow! You name it, it’s here. You like cheesesteaks? Check. You like good BBQ? Check. You like Chickie’s and Pete’s crab fries? You better, because if you don’t, you and me are gonna fight.

It’s all here. Tremendous selection in food and beer, including a gluten free beer, reasonably priced at a little over $7 on average. There are two full bars, PJ Whelihan’s—no food served but full bar service—and the AT&T Pavilion.

The Pavilion has Campo’s (Cheesesteaks) and Chickie’s and Pete’s (sandwiches and crab fries. Just get some, trust me.) It also has a full bar which serves, for the outrageous price of $11, a hand cut roast beef sandwich with sides.

It’s probably the best roast beef sandwich you’ll ever have. It is literally hand cut before your eyes, but I have a hard time justifying paying 11 bucks for a sandwich. The Pavilion is open two hours before and after each game which makes it a great place to hang out.

Atmosphere: 3

The Spectrum was intimate. You and 19,000 of your closest friends would go and get behind the Flyers and will them to victory sometimes.

The Wachovia Center is nice. It’s very pretty. It has lots of fun stuff to do. But it won’t ever scare anybody. Teams used to be afraid to play the Flyers in the Spectrum. Not here. It’s too nice. Wouldn’t want to mess anything up.

You look up in the rafters and the same banners hang, along with a couple of new ones, but it’s not the same. You got your pop-a-shot basketball games and your air hockey tables and hockey-in-a-bubble style foosball games. All your modern arena doodads and hoohah, but it just ain’t the same atmosphere. And that’s kind of sad.

Neighborhood: 1

Um, yeah, see, there really is no neighborhood, per se. The arena is part of the Philadelphia Sports Complex as mentioned above, which consists of three full-sized sporting venues (four, if you count the Spectrum, now closed and soon to be demolished) and parking for each.

There is a run of the mill Irish pub attached to Citizens Bank Park (yawn) and one attached in the hotel behind Citizens Bank Park (YAWN.) The closest neighborhood bar, Chickie’s and Pete’s is a 20- to 30-minute walk, which is tough to do after a Flyers game.

But it might be worth it. More on that later, but not close enough to really be considered part of the stadium’s neighborhood. Special mention to the Chickie’s and Pete’s Taxi Crab, which will drop you off before and pick you up after games if you valet park with them for 10 bucks.

Fans: 5

Philly fans have a certain reputation. The Flyers fans, like hockey fans in most towns, have their own special twist. During opening introductions for the opposing team, when the arena announcer says the player’s name, the fans all yell “SUCKS!” after. So you get this:

Goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, SUCKS

Center, Vinny Prospal, SUCKS

And so on. Childish? Maybe. Awesome? Definitely. The arena and the atmosphere might be different, but the fans are the same.

Access: 5

This arena is right off I-95, the main interstate on the East Coast. It is easy to find. There is more parking than you will know what to do with, and it starts at $15. Like with most of the new arenas, bathrooms are plentiful, with family changing rooms in select locations. They were surprisingly clean.

Return on Investment: 3

You’ll have fun here; there is a lot to do. You can even watch a hockey game if you want. Bars and games abound; tickets and food are decently priced.

Extra Points: 5

Chickie’s and Pete’s ( ) gives this the full five points here. In fact, if I could give more, I would. Not really close enough to walk (and not really feasible, either. You WILL be towed if you park here and go to the game), it really can’t be included in the neighborhood (Its website claims to be walking distance. It’s not. To quote the comedian Steven Wright, “Everything is within walking distance if you have the time.”).

But, it is absolutely part of the whole picture. As mentioned above, you can valet park your car here for $10. The Taxi Crab will drive you to the Wachovia Center, then pick you up and bring you back after. The Crab Fries must be eaten to be believed. If you like seafood, this is the spot. If you like bar food, this is the spot. If you like giant TV screens almost one and a half stories tall, this is the spot.

How about video game playing pods? The new addition, PLAY2, has Amusement Pod Entertainment Centers, or apecs. You can reserve an apec and play PS3, Wii, or Xbox 360 games with your friends or against groups in other apecs. Or you can just hang out at the bar and watch people play in the apecs, or listen to the DJ. Seriously, this is a crazy great place.

It was rated “Best Sports Bar on the East Coast” by ESPN, and it lives up to it. They have “Beer Towers,” a three-foot (or so) tall container of beer with a tap on it. It holds 120 ounces for $25 (domestic) or $30 (imported). It is the ESPNZone without all the annoying glitz. It is your neighborhood bar with lots of makeup on, looking all hot at the club on a Friday night. You have to come here. Forget the arena. Just come here.

FANFARE Total: 27 (out of 35) 

The lack of a neighborhood notwithstanding, the Wachovia Center is an overall fun place to see a game. Is it worth a special trip to Philadelphia just for that? Not even close. But if you are in town, it is a must stop. Well, Chickie’s and Pete’s is, anyway.

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M&T Bank Stadium: The Not Quite As Hot Little Sister

Published: December 23, 2009

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Review originally published on Stadium Journey .

Remember that super hot girl from high school that everyone was in love with? You know the one. Always had the huge crowd around her locker, and she was a nice person to boot. Remember her little sister? Remember thinking she might eventually get to be like her big sister, only she never quite measured up? Oh, she was alright, I guess, but standing next to her sister, boy, not even close.

Camden Yards is the hot girl. M&T Bank Stadium is the little sister. It would be better off in another part of the city, or, even better, in another city to avoid the comparisons.

Here is the FANFARE rating for Baltimore’s M&T BANK STADIUM:

F ood & Beverage: 4 (out of 5)

In a word: eh. I mean, it’s alright. One extra point is given for a few specialties, the obligatory Maryland Crab cakes, veggie burgers and burritos, a decent BBQ stand and gluten free pretzels, which is a neat trick. They have a stand from Attman’s deli where you can get a decent, not great, pastrami sandwich. They have a full bar inside the stadium called the Talon Pub. The beer there, as well as throughout the stadium has a good, not great variety for an average price around eight bucks. There is nothing in the stadium I’d say you have to try, but anything you do try will be better than average. Like I said, in a word, eh. In three words, good, not great.

A tmosphere: 5

The atmosphere here is terrific. The sightlines are amazing, and the giant TV screens at either end are a sight to behold. The seating is second to none, not a bad seat anywhere. It has a remarkable history for such a young stadium. Part of that may be from the grand history of football in Baltimore. NFL, USFL, Super Bowls, all won in this city. The vibe is here and is palpable. Adding to it on the way into the stadium from Oriole Park is RavensWalk, games, food and fun.

N eighborhood: 5

Space does not permit the description of the greatness of this area, as long as you walk towards Oriole Park and turn RIGHT, not left when you pass it. (Turning left can put you in a shady part of town.) The stadium is a 15-20 minute leisurely stroll from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. But before you get there, you have to pass Pickles. If you are a Ravens fan, or like to be with hometown fans, or just like $2 draft beers on game day, Pickles is the spot. The food is generic pub food, but, come on, $1 a beer, who cares about the food? There are a number (a large number, I stopped counting at 10) of bars also very close to the ballpark, so if you need something fancier than Pickles, you have lots of options.

I feel compelled to also mention the ESPN Zone at the Inner Harbor. Great place before, during or after any sporting event.

F ans: 5

Baltimore fans, as a rule, are intelligent and involved. They were a solid four points here, with my thinking that a five point score would require more of an edge. A little touch of crazy, if you will. Then I met this guy:

That is not a plastic raven attached to his hat, it is a stuffed raven.

The man has a dead, stuffed bird attached to his hat.

Five points.

A ccess: 4

This stadium is right off I-95, the main interstate on the East Coast. It is easy to find. Parking is plentiful but not at all cheap. You will pay a minimum of $20 to park. The closer you are, the more you will pay, as much as $50. There are plenty of clean bathrooms.

R eturn on Investment: 3

This is a great stadium in which to watch a football game, but not much else. I mean, you can eat and drink and be full while you do it, but the best thing going on here is the view from your seat. Not a lot to do inside other than that. Outside is another story.

E xtra Points: 1

In a word, OK. If you want to watch a football game and then hang out at the harbor later, this is a good place. If you are looking for the full, interactive, all inclusive game day experience that many other parks offer, this is not the place. Great neighborhood, and great sightlines though.

FANFARE Total: 27 (out of 35)

Good, not great. It pales in comparison to its big sister, Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It is miles better than Memorial Stadium was, and way better than that disaster to the south in DC. But I left feeling like I needed more. If my team was playing, I would go back, but only if my team was playing.

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Two Venues. Three Games. Twenty Three Inches of Snow. Twenty Four Hours.

Published: December 22, 2009

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As a correspondent for Stadium Journey , a website dedicated to being the premier sports venue review spot in the United States, I get to do a lot of fun things. I get to go to sporting events, which I love. I get to write, which I love. But this past weekend, from Saturday, December 19th, 2009 to Sunday December 20, 2009 offered a unique opportunity.

As the Mid-Atlantic correspondent living in Northern Virginia, I am assigned to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC. My original plan was to review Lincoln Financial Field for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday the 20th. I would drive up Sunday morning, catch the 1pm game, then drive back.

Easy, right?

Then, I saw that the Sixers were playing the Clippers Saturday night. So I figured I could kill two birds with one stone by driving up Saturday afternoon, review the Wachovia Center for the Sixers, stay with family, then catch the Eagles and go home.

A little more effort, but certainly doable, right?

Then, seeing that the Flyers were playing the Rangers at one on Saturday afternoon, I decided I would go for the trifecta. I would go up Saturday morning, catch all three games in 24 hours, then be back home to VA in time to see Russell win Survivor. Easy, right?

Wrong. And not just about Russell winning Survivor.

Towards the beginning of the week there was talk of a little snow. Only 2-4 inches were expected in DC, with a dusting in Philly. No problem. Well, as everyone knows, that went from a dusting to calls for up to a foot in DC and 6-8 inches in Philly within a matter of days.

So I adjusted my plans to go up to Philly on Friday. I’d beat the storm, and 6-8 inches of snow is nothing to deal with, really. Cake.

I went to sleep Friday and dreamed of scenes from the movie “The Day After Tomorrow.” The forecast had been adjusted to over a foot in Philly. I woke up to several inches on the ground already. They were now talking about a couple of feet of snow.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought about bagging the whole thing and going home. But the forecast for where I’d be driving to was even worse. So I cleaned off the car, went and bought some sweatshirts for warmth and headed to Chickie’s and Pete’s.

When I got there, I spoke with the manager, Tom, and told him what I was doing. He was extremely accommodating. I valet parked my car with them and took the Taxi Crab  over to the Wachovia Center. I exchanged numbers with the driver. My plan at this point was to stay at the Center all day and take the Taxi Crab back after the Sixers game.

This is where it gets interesting.

I have no tickets. For any of the games. So I begin looking for a, uh, broker. By this point, it is wicked cold and snowing like crazy. I am walking around the Philly Sports Complex looking for tickets. It is clear that I do not have on enough layers. Soaked to the bone, I walk around for almost an hour before I find a ticket in my price range (read: as close as possible to “free”).

I get inside and it is well worth it. I am sitting four seats left of the Flyers bench. I am so close, I can hear Flyers Head Coach Peter Laviolette ripping into his team after an early Rangers goal. I can see the spittle land on Danny Briere’s nose.

This is my first ever Flyers game in person, and my second NHL game in person. I am a big fan, but never had a chance to go before. I’d always argued with people who said that hockey cannot be truly appreciated as well on TV. My argument was always that I had never been to one, and I love hockey.

I was wrong.

Go see a game. Now.

So with about 90 seconds left in regulation, I get a call from Bob, the driver of the Taxi Crab. He tells me that the weather has deteriorated to the point that they are shutting down operations. He will be picking me up after the Flyers game, which they lost.

I go outside, and it is even colder, and windier, and it is snowing so hard, I swear it was coming up from the ground, which had around nine inches of snow on it.

I wait for Bob for what seems like three days. Soaked, and not a little annoyed at the weather, I climb aboard.

The time is 4:00 pm.

I get back to C & P’s and retrieve my keys from Tom. I go outside and begin digging my car out (I brought a shovel.). While I am digging, a couple of guys walk by in the snow, and I could swear that one of them sounds like Donovan McNabb. I look up, and it kinda looks like him, but it’s hard to tell, seeing as how we are in near blizzard conditions.

So I say, “Hey, is that Don?”

He says, “Yeah, man.”

If you want to know how big a thrill this is for me, see here.

Donovan was gracious enough, in a driving snowstorm, to chat with me for a few moments, pose for a picture with me, and even take my card, saying he would check the stuff I write.

Totally worth digging my car out of what is now eleven inches of snow.

I drive to the Wachovia Center and park. The time is now 5:00. I go to the box office and buy a $10, upper level ticket. I really am tired now, thinking, this is the Sixers, I don’t want to be here now.

I take a nap in my car. When I wake up at about 6:00 (the game starts at 7:30), there is a guy stuck next to me trying to get his car out. I get out and dig and push and dig and push and dig and push. A few other guys come over and push and we get him out. They walk away, he stops and gets out of his car and asks if I have a ticket. When I tell him I do, he says, “Well, here’s a better one.”

Turns out he works for the Sixers, and he hands me a ticket 10 feet from the Sixers bench, eight rows behind the basket. Allen Iverson is taller in person than he seems on TV. He later tells me, after we exchange cards and stories, that any time I am in town and need tickets, to give him a call.

There are, approximately, and this is just a rough guess, twenty-seven people there, what with there being well over a foot of snow on the ground and no signs of it letting up. One of them never – never – stopped yelling, from the upper deck, at Clippers guard Sebastian Telfair.

“HEY TELFAIR! YOU SUCK!” Silence for two seconds. “I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME!” Raucous laughter from the crowd.

I love Philly fans. It helps that I am one. I yelled at Sixers Head Coach Eddie Jordan not to put Samuel Dalembert back in, because he sucks . I figured he was new, maybe he didn’t know. Fortunately, Sammy fouled out quickly between getting lit up by some dude with male pattern baldness named Chris Kaman. (The Telfair guy said, “HEY KAMAN! YOU HAVE MORE POINTS THAN HAIR ON YOUR HEAD!” Awesome.)

Shockingly, the Sixers lost. I met up with my boy Dennis, who I hadn’t seen since high school twenty years ago, and made a great contact with the Sixers. Overall, a good night, I’d say.

The drive back to my cousin’s place was dicey. When I got there, I had to dig out a parking space. There was twenty inches of snow on the ground, and it was still coming down. It took me almost an hour.

It was midnight. I collapsed into bed.

The Eagles game was pushed back to 4pm, so I had time to rest up and dress properly. I had hand warmers in my pockets. I can’t wear gloves because I need my hands free to take notes and pictures for Stadium Journey. I find a, uh, broker and buy a standing room ticket, because who sits at football games anyway?

This is my first time at the Linc. (See the review on Stadium Journey when it posts later this week to see what I thought.) The 49er fans are vigorously heckled, but nothing too bad, unless you count the drunk guy who screamed, fifteen times, at the top of his lungs, two inches from a 49ers fan’s ear, a seven letter word that rhymes with “glass bowl.”

I don’t. That’s mild. Here is the harsh stuff, especially in the comments.

I leave at halftime. I have nearly four hours of driving, and I don’t know what the roads are like, plus I want to listen to Merrill Reese on the radio.

I hesitate to say that this was the greatest weekend of my life because I am married (that was a pretty good weekend) and have three kids, who have given me years of great memories. I’ve been to a Daytona 500 and a Super Bowl. I’ve had some great weekends.

This one was up there.

I have to sleep now.

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Week Four NFL Picks Against the Spread plus Two College Picks

Published: October 3, 2009

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No coin flip picks this week.

The good news is that I was 9-7 versus the spread in the NFL last week and 1-0 in college. The bad news is I missed my first STONE COLD LEAD PIPE LOCK(tm) and UPSET SPECIAL. From now on, maybe I’ll just stick to one SCLPL per week, as I got cocky with the Steelers, who are one more loss away from being dead to me.

The coin flip option is still available.

As usual, the following picks are for recreational purposes only. Don’t gamble on my advice. I’m just an idiot with a computer. Home team in CAPS:

Oakland(+9) at HOUSTON: There will be a lot of death threats this week. We will start with Houston, who should have pounded Jacksonville last week. Take the Texans and give the points.

Houston, if you don’t cover, you are DEAD to me.

Tennessee (-3) at JACKSONVILLE: I don’t like Jacksonville. I don’t like the team. I don’t like the coach. I don’t like the city. I don’t like the fact that they lead the league in guys with hyphenated last names. Titans get their first win of the season and cover the three. STONE COLD LEAD PIPE LOCK(TM).

Baltimore (+2) at NEW ENGLAND: So I spent the last week in Baltimore trying not to get shot in broad daylight, and everybody thinks the Ravens are like the second coming of the 72 Dolphins. Look, the Ravens are a fine club.

They are probably going to win 11 or 12 games. This will not be one of them. Patriots giving only two points at home? That’s like stealing. Take the Pats, give the two, and despite an earlier promise that I would stick to one per week, I am making this one also a STONE COLD LEAD PIPE LOCK(tm).

Ravens winning in Foxboro. Pssh.

Cincinnati (-6) at CLEVELAND: Cleveland is going to Derek Anderson at QB. I don’t care if they start the ghost of Joe Montana (insert laugh track here), as long as Eric Mangini is coaching there, I will NEVER pick the Browns to win anything, except the worst team ever championship. Take the Bengals and give the six. Whoa, did I just say take the Bengals minus six? Wow. The Browns must really suck.

NY Giants (-8.5) at KANSAS CITY: The Giants are the quietest 3-0 team ever. The Jets are getting all the press in New York, while they Giants just go out and pound people every week. Kansas City is horrible, yes, but great teams pound horrible teams, and that is what the Giants will do here. Take the Giants, give the points, repeat until January.

Detroit (+10) at CHICAGO: I cannot, cannot pick the Bears. I’m sorry, Jay Cutler just makes me nauseous. I can’t do it. No logic, just don’t like the guy. Take the Lions plus ten.

Tampa Bay (+7.5) at WASHINGTON: Jim Zorn. Dead man walking. Take the Bucs plus the points, UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK.

Seattle (+10) at INDIANAPOLIS: Seneca Wallace, you are not quite dead to me, but that’s only because I remember how great you were at Iowa State. Having said that, you have no shot this week. None. Indianapolis wins and covers the ten.

NY Jets (-7) at NEW ORLEANS: In a battle of unexpected 3-0 teams, the Saints are somehow favored by a touchdown. Really? Jets cover the seven. They might even win.

Buffalo (+1.5) at MIAMI: Everybody who had the Dolphins at 0-3, raise your hand. Liars. Miami gets it done at home this week, take them minus the points.

Miami, last chance. You lose this week and you are DEAD to me.

St. Louis (+9.5) at SAN FRANCISCO: The 49ers would be 3-0 if they hadn’t gotten Farved last week. They played well enough on the road to beat a very good Minnesota team. I shudder to think what Mike Singletary did to them this week. They will take it out on the Rams, who seriously may not win a game this year. Niners win big, take them, give the points.

Dallas (-3) at DENVER: No love for the 3-0 Broncos? They are an inexplicable home underdog to the Cowboys here. Why is everyone so in love with Dallas? I don’t get it. I think that Denver, somehow, goes to 4-0 here, but even if they don’t, they will cover the three, take them plus the points.

San Diego (+6) at PITTSBURGH: Man, I don’t like this one. Not one bit. I think the Steelers win a close one, even without Willie Parker. Like a Republican voting for John McCain, hold your nose and take San Diego plus the points.

Green Bay (+3.5) at MINNESOTA: Despite what ESPN will tell you, there is really not that much juice for this game. Now, Farve at Green Bay? That will be Must See TV. This is just a big divisional game. Vikings win as AP goes for 250 and three touchdowns, take Minnesota minus the points.


Florida State (-3.5) at BOSTON COLLEGE: FSU’s wild inconsistency will pay off this week. After getting manhandled physically at home by a South Florida team that is better than people think, FSU bounces back with a teasing beatdown of Boston College. Then they will revert to the mid-major they have become again the next time that they play. Take FSU minus the points.

Virginia Tech (-13.5) at DUKE: It’s funny, but if I’m Virginia Tech, I take being favored by only 13.5 at Duke as an insult. I think Frank Beamer’s boys will too. VT beats Duke like they stole something, take them minus the points.

LAST WEEK: 9-7 NFL, including 1-1 STONE COLD LEAD PIPE LOCK(tm), 0-1 UPSET SPECIAL. College, 1-0.


NFL 24-23-1.




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Week Three NFL Picks Plus One College Pick

Published: September 25, 2009

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So I’m thinking I may just start flipping a coin.

I mean, after an 8-8 week (plus missing on the college pick), it can’t be any worse, right?

Well, I did hit on both the UPSET SPECIAL and STONE COLD LEAD PIPE LOCK(tm) again, so I’m still perfect, 4-0 on the season there. Maybe I’ll save the coin for next week if things don’t improve.

As usual, you are an idiot if you gamble with my picks. They are for recreational purposes only. Home team in CAPS:

Kansas City (+9) at PHILADELPHIA: I’m telling you right now, if the Eagles don’t beat Kansas City by three touchdowns, there will be riots in the streets. I don’t care who is starting at quarterback, I don’t care if Brian Westbrook doesn’t play. The Chiefs are an awful football team. I would take the University of Texas minus nine over Kansas City on the road. Eagles win big, STONE COLD LEAD PIPE LOCK(tm).

Tennessee (+2.5) at NY JETS: Rex Ryan gave a game ball to Fireman Ed (that one dude who sits on that other dude’s shoulders and leads the “J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS” chants) last week on behalf of the fans. It will be insane in the Meadowlands Sunday. Tennessee absolutely, positively HAS to win this game. They won’t. Buddy’s boy’s boys go to 3-0, take the Jets, give the points.

Jacksonville (+3.5) at HOUSTON: OK, Houston, which is it? Are you the team that beat Tennessee or the team that got worked by the Jets? What’s that you say? You’re playing Jacksonville this week so it doesn’t matter? Oh, alright, cool, we’ll check back next week, Houston beats J-ville by a WHOLE lot, give the points.

Cleveland (+13) at BALTIMORE: Only Kansas City prevents the Browns from being the worst team in the AFC. For the second time in three weeks, I’m gonna say something I rarely say: take the Ravens and give the THIRTEEN. Wow, that is a lot of points. Fortunately for me, Eric Mangini coaches the Browns, and he’s an idiot.

NY Giants (-6.5) at TAMPA BAY: Byron Leftwich. Cadillac Williams. Kellen Winslow Jr. OK, there, now I can name three guys on the Bucs. They still suck. Take the Giants, give the points.

Washington (-6.5) at DETROIT: Detroit has to beat somebody at some point, don’t they? Yeah, and it may even be this week. Take the Lions plus the points.

Green Bay (-6.5) at ST LOUIS: Look, don’t get me wrong here, the Rams are awful. AWFUL. But why is everybody so in love with the Packers now? They were 6-10 last year. I don’t get it. Take the Rams plus the points.

San Francisco (+6.5) at MINNESOTA: San Francisco is for real. Will they beat Minnesota in a battle of the NFC’s two best running backs so far? Well, let’s not go crazy here. But they will cover the nigh-touchdown spread, take the Niners and the points.

Atlanta (+4) at NEW ENGLAND: The Pats need to get it in gear. Losing to Atlanta at home will not sit well with Lord Vader, er, I mean Bill Belichick. Pats win and cover the four.

Chicago (-1.5) at SEATTLE: Really? The Bears? Jay Cutler? Really? Seattle, with Seneca Wallace at QB, beats the Bears. UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK.

New Orleans (-6) at BUFFALO: It is getting harder and harder to pick against The Greatest Show On Turf: Part Two, This Time, It’s Personal. But I am a sucker for home underdogs getting six or more. Grit your teeth and take the Bills to cover in a shootout.

 Miami (+6) at SAN DIEGO: Two teams that are real close to being dead to me square off here. Miami needs this game badly. So do the Chargers. I believe the Chargers win and cover. I think. Yeah, take the Chargers. I think.

Pittsburgh (-4) at CINNCINNATI: So I’m listening to the NFL radio channel today, and everybody and their mom is picking the Bengals to not only cover, but beat the defending world champs. Uh, what? Mike Tomlin is 8-1 all time in the regular season the week after a loss. Those eight wins are by an average of nearly two touchdowns, and include two shutouts. This is what we call a “trend.” Take the Steelers to lay the smackdown on the Bengals, give the four. In fact, make it a bonus second STONE COLD LEAD PIPE LOCK(tm).

Denver (-1.5) at OAKLAND: The Raiders made me sweat it out against Kansas City last week. Is it possible that Josh McDaniel goes to 3-0? It sure is. It’s not LIKELY, but it’s possible. Equally unbelieveable, the Ray-dizz go to 2-1, take them plus the points.

Indianapolis (+2.5) at ARIZONA: Uh, is that a misprint? Peyton Manning is getting points? Against ARIZONA? Colts win big, people, stop with this Arizona nonsense, come on. Get a grip.

Carolina (+9) at DALLAS: The day I give nine points with the Cowboys is the day I wear a Cowboys Jersey to Lincoln Financial Field. Not happening. Plus, Carolina is gonna win at least one game this year, why not here? Take the Panthers plus the nine.


Washington State (+45) at USC: Washington State is a bad team. They have lost 16 of their last 19. They haven’t beaten USC since 2002. They won’t beat them this week either, but 45 points is just a little ridiculous, don’t you think? Me too. Take the Cougars to lose by SIX TOUCHDOWNS and still cover. That’s just silly.

LAST WEEK: 8-8 NFL, including 1-0 STONE COLD LEAD PIPE LOCK(tm), 1-0 UPSET SPECIAL. College, 0-1.


NFL 15-16-1.




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Week Two NFL Picks Against the Spread (With a Bonus College Pick)

Published: September 19, 2009

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What a terrible start for the year. I was 7-8-1 last week versus the number (thank you, Brandon Stokely. Jerk.).

On the plus side, I did hit on both the STONE COLD LEAD PIPE LOCK(tm) and UPSET SPECIAL of the week.

Again, picks are for recreational purposes only. If you are trying to make money off my “expertise,” you are a moron. Home team in CAPS.

New Orleans (pick em) at PHILADELPHIA: Never again. Never again will I pick against my Eagles. I learned my lesson last week. So just know coming in that every week I will be picking the Eagles-what? Kevin Kolb is starting? Sigh. OK, let’s talk this out then.

NO was 2-6 on the road last year straight up, and this is a straight up game. Their two wins were over Kansas City and Detroit, who combined for 30 losses last year. The offense is prolific, but so is the Eagles defense. The Saints defense is awful, and the Eagles still have Brian Westbrook.

Hmmm. Now that I talk it out, Kevin Kolb doesn’t scare me as much as I thought here. As long as they keep the Saints below 20 points, Eagles win big. Take the Birds.

Oakland (+3) at KANSAS CITY: Remember when KC was the toughest place to win on the road? Yeah, not so much anymore. This is a team that lost by ten to Cincinnati and gave up 54 (yes, FIDDY FO) points to Buffalo last year, both at home. I like the Raiders a lot here, take them plus the three.

Houston (+6.5) at TENNESSEE: Houston is terrible. I still cannot believe anybody picked them to go to the Super Bowl. The 6.5 is going to get pounded, Tennessee wins big here, take them and the points.

New England (-3.5) at NY JETS: As an Eagles fan, I am having flashbacks to the Buddy Ryan era watching his son in New York. I love his attitude. I love how he has, like his father did with Dallas, decided to pick on the division bully. Also, the Pats did not look great last week in a game they should have dominated. Take the Jets and the points in the UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK.

Cincinnati (+9) at GREEN BAY: Whoo, that’s a big number. Chad Johnson (I’m not calling him the other name. It was cool when it wasn’t actually his name. Now it’s just dumb.) said this week that he would do the Lambeau Leap if he scores a TD. He’ll do it twice. Take the Bengals and the points.

P.S. Cincy, you burn me again this week, and you are DEAD to me. Do you hear me? DEAD.

Minnesota (-9.5) at DETROIT: Eighteen losses and counting. Detroit is really, really bad. But here’s something I bet you didn’t know: they were 7-9 versus the number last year. Against Minnesota, they covered twice. They do it again here. They might even win. Or they might give up three bills to Adrian Peterson. Either way, take the Lions and the points.

Carolina (+6) at ATLANTA: Carolina got worked like a Malaysian slave child last week. (You can use, that, it’s ok.) Atlanta covers the six with ease. AJ Feeley, come on down.

St. Louis (+9.5) at WASHINGTON: Remember when the Rams were “The Greatest Show On Turf?” Remember when Marc Bulger was a viable fantasy quarterback? Remember when Steven Jackson went number one in a lot of fantasy leagues? Sad. Oh, yeah, remember that the Redskins still have Jason Campbell? We will see Colt Brennan this week. Take the Rams and the points.

Arizona (+3) at JACKSONVILLE: I can admit when I’m wrong. Jacksonville looked a lot better last week than I thought they would. Arizona, on the other hand, didn’t. To quote their old coach, “THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE.” Take the Jags, give the three.

Seattle (+1.5) at SAN FRANCISCO: This will be a great game. Two teams that are better than you think will play down to the last minute. I like Seattle here with the points.

Tampa Bay (+5) at BUFFALO: Man, did Tampa stink it up last week or what? The Bills, on the other hand, should have beaten New England. Five is a lot here, but since I can’t name more than three guys on the Bucs, I’ll give the five and take the Bills, with a queasy feeling in my stomach.

Cleveland (+3) at DENVER: Stinker of the week. Denver, somehow, goes to 2-0 here. I wonder when Josh McDaniels’ deal with the devil expires. Take Denver and give the three.

Baltimore (+3) at SAN DIEGO: This is a possible AFC Championship preview. (Calm down, Steeler fans, I said possible, not likely). I really like San Diego a lot. I think they could go to the Super Bowl. The three points is a gift. If not for the next game, I might be locking this one up. Give the three, take the Chargers. They win bigger than you think.

NY Giants (+2.5) at DALLAS: Really? Dallas is favored here? The Giants were 3-1 against the number as underdogs last year. Yes, the one loss was at Dallas, but man, the Giants are the best team in the NFC. I’m not drinking that Cowboys Kool-aid, sorry. Giants win here, STONE COLD LEAD PIPE LOCK(tm) of the week.

Pittsburgh (-3) at CHICAGO: Jay Cutler sucks. Period. Chicago got robbed like a Prada store with Winona Ryder in it. Steelers win, Steeler style, like 10-6, with two field goals and two safeties. Give the three.

Indianapolis (-3) at MIAMI: Miami is as close to a must win here as you can be in week two. They will definitely cover the three, so take them and the points.


Texas Tech (+17.5) at TEXAS: The Red Raiders cost Texas dearly last year with their upset in Lubbock. The Longhorns and Colt McCoy get revenge here, Texas wins HUGE, three touchdowns huge.

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2009 Fearless NFL Predictions: Week One Picks Against the Spread

Published: September 10, 2009

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The NFL is back!

Here are some predictions for the year. All picks are for recreational purposes only:

NFC East champ: Giants (No. 1 seed)

NFC North champ: Vikings (No. 2 seed)

NFC South champ: Saints

NFC West champ: Seahawks

NFC Wild Cards: Eagles and Packers

NFC Champ: Eagles over Giants

AFC East champ: Patriots (No. 2 seed)

AFC North champ: Steelers (No. 1 seed)

AFC South champ: Colts

AFC West champ: Chargers

AFC Wild Cards: Dolphins and Ravens

AFC Champ: Steelers over Ravens

Super Bowl Champ: Eagles over Steelers

MVP and Comeback Player of the Year: Tom Brady

Offensive ROY: Knowshon Moreno

Defensive ROY: Brian Orakpo

Not that it will happen, but the team with the best chance to go undefeated: Steelers

Not that it will happen, but the team with the best chance to go winless: Chiefs

Team that is better than you think: Raiders

Team that is not as good as you think: Colts

Team that is exactly as bad as you think: Chiefs

Best team to miss the playoffs: Bears

Worst team to make the playoffs: Saints

Over/Under on:

Week Terrell Owens goes off on Trent Edwards: Four

Week Eagles fans call for Andy Reid to get fired and Donovan McNabb to get cut: Two

Week Jim Zorn or Wade Phillips gets the dreaded “vote of confidence:” Eight

Week Brian Westbrook gets hurt: Two

Week Vikings fans regret having Brett Favre because he just threw three of those “God-why-did-he-throw-that, head-in-your-hands” interceptions: Six

Week Norv Turner has that “deer in the headlights” look: One

Week the Cowboys lose a game because of their scoreboard: Seven

Week I stop doing these picks because I’m lazy: Five

This week’s games (Home team in CAPS):


Tennessee (+6) at PITTSBURGH

The Steelers are going to win a lot of games this year. None will be by a lot. Except this one. Opening night, Super Bowl presentation, crowd in a frenzy. Steelers win big here, take them and give the six.


Philadelphia (-1) at CAROLINA

Somebody explain to me how the Eagles are favored here. The offensive line has not played together yet, we don’t know how the defense is gonna look, and Jonathan Stewart is going to play for Carolina.

The Birds are notoriously slow starters under Reid, he is 4-6 in his career on opening day. This will be a good year, but not a good day. Take the Panthers and the point at home.


Miami (+4) at ATLANTA

A battle of two teams that are better than you think, unlike the Chiefs, who are who we thought they were. I like Atlanta to win a close game. Take the Fins and the points though.


Kansas City (+13) at BALTIMORE

I normally stay away from double-digit favorites in the NFL. But Baltimore is awfully good, and the University of Florida would beat KC three times out of ten.

The Chiefs won’t go winless, but it will be close, and they will get blown out a lot, including this week. Take the Ravens and give the 13. I can promise that you won’t be hearing ”give the 13” a lot from me this season.

Denver (+4) at CINCINNATI

I don’t like this game. These are two bad teams. Cincinnati is slightly less bad and is at home. The key will be the Cincy running game, if anybody cares, and if you do, you need counseling.

Take the Bengals and give the four, you won’t be hearing THAT a lot this year, either.


Minnesota (-4) at CLEVELAND

I hate Eric Mangini. The Browns have no chance of keeping Adrian Peterson under 150 yards. Favre will only throw two picks.

THIS IS THE STONE COLD LEAD PIPE LOCK(tm) OF THE WEEK. Take the Vikings minus four in a blowout.


NY Jets (+5) at HOUSTON

Houston, somehow, has become a sexy dark horse Super Bowl pick this year, kind of like the Vikings last year. And we know how well that worked out for Minnesota. Take the Jets and the five and laugh all the way to the bank. Quick, before somebody sees you.


Jacksonville (+7) at INDIANAPOLIS

I hate Peyton Manning. However, the difference between him and Eric Mangini is that Manning is actually good at what he does. Jack Del Rio may not make it through the entire season in Jacksonville. Take the Colts, give the seven.


Detroit (+13) at NEW ORLEANS

Detroit has lost a staggering 17 games in a row. I smell the UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK(tm). But not here. Take the Saints, they win big, give the points.


San Francisco (+6.5) at ARIZONA

Ah, here it is, I knew I smelled the UPSET SPE-never mind. Arizona? Your fairy godmother called; she wants her glass slipper back. Take the Niners and the points.


Dallas (-6) at TAMPA BAY

Ah, the home underdog. The six is tempting. If it was seven, I would take it in a heart beat. Then again, I’m not sure I can name three guys on Tampa’s team. Is Doug Williams still there?

Take the Cowboys minus six. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.


Washington (+6) at NY GIANTS

The Redskins have lost four of the last five in the Meadowlands by an average of almost 17 points. This is what we call in the business the “ka-ching trend(tm).”

The Giants are the best team in the NFC. Take the Giants, give the six, and be glad you are only giving six.  


St. Louis (+8.5) at SEATTLE

The Jim Mora era will be ushered in with a close win over an awful Rams team. The 8.5 is too big a number, take the Rams and the points.


Chicago (+3.5) at GREEN BAY

This just in: Aaron Rodgers is really good. Packers win an instant classic by a field goal. Don’t get caught by the half point, take the Bears and the points.


Buffalo (+10.5) at NEW ENGLAND

The Patriots are going to struggle this year. Buffalo will play well until TO goes off on somebody. I like Buff-what? Tom Brady is back? And Marshawn Lynch is not playing? Oh, never mind, take the Pats at home and give the points.


San Diego (-9.5) at OAKLAND

Eagles fans everywhere owe the Silver and Black a debt of gratitude for helping put them in the playoffs last year. I’m gonna be honest, the spread here annoys me, because I love nothing better that the double digit home dog. Still, Chargers win, but Raiders cover, take the Raiders and the points.

It’s gonna be a great year. LET’S GIT IT ON!

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Washington Redskins’ Season Preview 2009

Published: September 10, 2009

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The 2009 Washington Redskins look eerily familiar to the 2008 version, which, depending on your perspective, can be a good or a bad thing.

The optimist says that they are returning a defense that has added two key pieces in free agent tackle Albert Haynesworth and LB Baby Freak (which is what he will be called in this space) Brian Orakpo. The defense was already very good in a lot of ways, and will have CB DeAngelo Hall for a full year with a chip on his shoulder.

Quarterback Jason Campbell also has something to prove, with the team trying to trade for Jay Cutler and draft Mark Sanchez. He is also in a contract year, which pushed Haynesworth to a tremendous season last year. The team started 6-2 last season, and if they can recall that magic, they should be in good shape, maybe 10-6 or 11-5 shape.

The pessimist says that they still have Jason Campbell, and there is a reason that they tried to replace him. Clinton Portis is a high mileage back, and Ladell Betts is not an adequate replacement should Portis go down, or simply wear down.

They have no receivers beyond Santana Moss, TE Chris Cooley only scored one touchdown all year, and, despite the 6-2 start, they finished 8-8. Oh, did we mention the fact that they play in the toughest division in football?

On defense, yeah, they were ok, but they produced very few turnovers. If DeAngelo Hall is so good, why were the Raiders so eager to let him go? Orakpo is a beast, but he is playing a position that is new to him. How will he handle covering the likes of Jason Witten, Kevin Boss and Brian Westbrook?

Jim Zorn is a lame duck. Unless he wins the Super Bowl, you know Triple J (Jerry Jones Junior, Dan Snyder) will be throwing wads of cash at Mike Shanahan or Jon Gruden next year. And they are not winning anything. The pessimist has them at 5-11 or 4-12. If not for the defense, it might be even worse.

The realist knows that the truth is somewhere in between. Here is the realist’s preview.


Offense. Now entering his fifth season, Jason Campbell has never been in the same offensive system for two years in a row, until now. He will benefit greatly from the rare continuity that Head Coach Jim Zorn brings to the table. Zorn’s positivity is a big plus, but being undermined by the owner negates it to a large extent. (“No, you can’t suspend Clinton Portis; I don’t care what he says to you.” Triple J didn’t really say that. Not to my knowledge, anyway.)

Portis is a beast. He is still an elite back in this league that is capable of going off for 200 yards on any given Sunday. With the return of LG Derrick Dockery from the sixth circle of Dante’s inferno, er, I mean, Buffalo, and LT Chris Samuels coming in trimmer than he has been in a long time, the offensive line looks to be improved after being decimated by injury in the second half of last year.

Look for Portis to have a big year, as, well, he really is the best choice they have on offense.

The receivers are relatively nondescript. TE Chris Cooley is a Pro Bowler who needs to figure out how to get into the end zone more. WR Santana Moss is a good player, but there is a significant drop off after him. Antwaan Randle-El is listed as the second receiver, but it will really be second-year man Malcolm Kelly. Randle-El is more of a slot receiver, and should get some Wildcat type looks as well.

Bottom line? This offense will be very good on the ground, and in the air is a huge question mark. If Campbell can keep the turnovers to a minimum, it could be pretty good.


Defense. This is truly the strength of this team. The defense last year was fourth in the league in yards allowed, and sixth in scoring. Their issue was with turnovers.

Their turnover differential was zero. Yes, 0.0, good for 17th in the league. For a team with a stated desire to win championships, that is not good enough.

The line is better on paper with the addition of the $100 million man Albert Haynesworth. But as Skins fans know all too well, the game is not played on paper.

The knock on Haynesworth is that he plays well only when he has incentive to do so, such as, being in a contract year, like he was last season in Tennessee. Thus, the $100 million question is, will he continue to play at a high level, or will he be content with the money and go back to taking plays off, of which he has been accused in the past?

New LB Brian Orakpo was an amazing DE at the University of Texas. But he is being asked to transition to play a new position, strong side LB. While he certainly has the physical ability to do so, he is being asked to make this change at the game’s highest level. He has looked phenomenal in preseason when rushing the passer, but that is what he does.

We will find out early about his cover skills as the team opens at the Giants and Kevin Boss.

The secondary will be great. Period. CB DeAngelo Hall feels disrespected around the league, and has said that he feels like he is starting over with something to prove. Given a full offseason and training camp in this system, he will have a big hand in changing that turnover ranking.

CB Carlos Rogers is now two years removed from shredding his knee and is also in a contract year. Look for him to force his share of turnovers as well.

FS LaRon Landry is a star in the making. Defensive coordinator Greg Blache expects Landry to get at least six interceptions and more.

“Creating turnovers for us,” said Blache when asked what his goals were for Landry. “Having six-eight picks. Some devastating plays where he’s got some of these highlight kind of hits and breakups on the ball, and at the end of it him taking a trip to Hawaii as a Pro Bowl safety as opposed to being an alternate.”

No pressure or anything, LaRon. Oh, and Greg, the Pro Bowl is in Miami this year. Just so you know.

The special teams are nothing special, no pun intended. They won’t win many games, but they won’t lose many either.


The pick. If the Redskins were in another division, say, the NFC West, they would be the clear cut favorites and looking at 11 or 12 wins. But they are in the NFC East, and they have a brutal schedule, particularly in the second half. Another late season collapse will lead to a 7-9 record, a last place finish, and both Jason Campbell and Jim Zorn being shown the door.

Mr. Gruden? There’s a Dan Snyder on line one for you.

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Four Teams That Can Derail The Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl Train

Published: September 5, 2009

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I am already on record predicting the Eagles to win Super Bowl XLIV. Since that prediction, the Eagles have lost Jim Johnson, Stewart Bradley and Cornelius Ingram. They have added Michael Vick, and may be starting a rookie at free safety.

A rookie may be replacing Brian Dawkins.

So, naturally, I will not be cutting them an inch of slack. I will not be changing my prediction. Super Bowl or bust.

SI’s Don Banks disagrees. He thinks the Eagles will miss the playoffs. But he is a mook, who cares what he thinks?

I believe that the Eagles are a top five team. Here, in order, are the four teams I believe pose the greatest threat to the Eagles Super Bowl chances.

1. New York Giants

The Giants are not the best team in the NFL. But they may be the best team in the NFC, and they are in the same division as the Eagles, making them the biggest threat.

They have a great defense, a great running game and a Manning at quarterback. (Yeah, I know it’s the wrong Manning, so what?) They have championship experience and know how to win. They will not have the Plaxico Burress issue distracting them this season.

In fact, I think that it is highly likely that they will win the division with the Eagles getting in as a wild card.

But the Giants have not beaten the Eagles in the playoffs since Bill Clinton was in office. The Eagles are 2-0 versus the Giants in the playoffs, having beaten them at the Linc in 2006 and in the Meadowlands last year. Since 2001, including the playoffs, the Eagles are 12-6 versus the Giants.

They also lost their defensive coordinator. All Pro DE Osi Umenyiora recently walked out of camp for a day because he felt that new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan was disrespecting him. How long until Tom Coughlin goes off on somebody for showing up five minutes early for a meeting instead of ten minutes early?

The Giants are a great team. They may have a better regular season than the Eagles. But the Eagles will beat them in the playoffs. Again.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

The defending champs are still the best team in football. They return intact, plus get Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall for the entire season. They should avoid the slow start they had last year. This is a ridiculously good football team.

They are well coached. They are battle tested, having won two of the last four Super Bowls. They have the most clutch quarterback in football not named Tom Brady, and an otherworldly great defense.


For some reason, the Eagles own them. The Birds are 46-27-3 all time versus the Steelers. They even won the only postseason meeting between the two. (OK, it was in 1947. I’m just sayin’.) They are 2-1 versus the Steelers since 2000.

I’m not saying the Eagles are better. I’m saying the Eagles can beat them. If they meet in Super Bowl XLIV, they will.

3. New England Patriots

He’s baaaaaaack.

The most analyzed knee in the NFL is back to wreak havoc on the league. Tom Brady’s return makes the Patriots a Super Bowl threat.

They have the best coach in the NFL over the last decade in Bill Belichick. They have the best receiving corps in football outside of Arizona. And their defense is always tough.

Granted they have questions at running back, but they always have questions at running back. Laurence Maroney is listed as the starter, but BenJarvis Green-Ellis and Fred Taylor will see time there as well.

Brady’s knee was shredded less than 12 months ago, and as of now they have only undrafted rookie Brian Hoyer as a backup. They are rumored to be looking at AJ Feeley, but ESPN”S Adam Schefter reports that deal is unlikely to happen.

If Brady’s knee holds up, they will be dangerous. If not, they will be beatable. Either way, in the tougher AFC, they will be battered and bruised by the time they get to play the Eagles in the Super Bowl.

4. Baltimore Ravens

They have their usual ferocious defense, and Joe Flacco now has a year under his belt at QB. They are very well coached and well assembled by GM Ozzie Newsome. The offensive line may be one of the league’s best. Did I mention the defense? It’s pretty good.

But they have major questions at RB and WR. Derrick Mason changed his mind about retirement, but one has to wonder how enthusiastic he’ll be by, say, week eight. The defense is good enough to win a lot of games by itself, but can that propel them to the Super Bowl? They did it before in 2000, but this defense is not as good as that one, which was arguably the best ever.

This offense is better than that one also. Do they have enough to get by the Steelers and Patriots? Maybe. Do they have enough to win it all? I think not.

Honorable mentions

Green Bay and Minnesota are sexy picks this year. San Diego and Indianapolis are always in the mix, and should be this year as well. But all four are all in the next tier of teams behind the four mentioned above.

My official prediction? In a game for the ages, the Eagles beat the Steelers, 20-17 in Super Bowl XLIV.

Stone Cold Lead Pipe Lock(tm).

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