Last week’s New Miracle in the New Meadowlands was incredible. In the NFL, you are only as good as your next game. So, while Eagles fans have been celebrating and dancing in the streets or thumping their chests screaming “We’re Number One”, Eagles coaches have been devising a game plan for the Minnesota Vikings. The Las Vegas oddmakers don’t perceive the Vikings (+14.5) as much of a threat subsequent to their beat-down at the hands of the Chicago Bears at University of Minnesota in the Snowglobe Bowl (not actually one of the 35 college bowl games). Even fans headed to the game or planning to watch on national TV Sunday Night are more concerned about Michael Vick being NFL Offensive Player of the Week (for the third time) or asking about the concussions of Jason Avant or Brett Favre. In true Philadelphia fashion, many fans are more anxious about the Dallas Cowboys next week than the Eagles securing a playoff spot this week.
Three major issues for this week’s games against Minnesota, in order of importance.
1. With a win, the Eagles improve to 11-4, keeping on pace to secure the #2 seed in the NFC with home field advantage. Depending on what the Green Bay Packers (facing NY Giants), New Orleans Saints (vs. Atlanta) and Chicago Bears (NY Jets) do Philadelphia could slot into #2 behind the Atlanta Falcons. Should the Eagles notch their 11th win, they maintain control of their fate. With a loss, they need the other teams to lose and would still have to win against Dallas next week.
2. Eagles injuries are mounting and they must not incur additional losses – especially on defense. MLB Stewart Bradley is out until at least the first week of postseason due to a dislocated elbow. Rookie Jamar Chaney has filled in nicely so far and hopefully he is gaining valuable experience on a weak linebacking corps. WR Jason Avant has been cleared to play, passing his post-concussion tests. Rookie safety Nate Allen and DE Brandom Graham are definitely out for the season and have been placed on IR. CB Assante Samuel is back but Dimitri Patterson’s play has been sporadic at best and questionable at worst. Last week he was completely ineffective on a Giants goal line effort, affording the WR a five-yard berth where the receiver stood at the goal line. Offensive linemen have some bumps and bruises but will likely remain the same group that started last week. Special teams returner Jorrick Calvin has been placed on IR with a severe back injury.
3. Brett Favre. Like him, revere him, hate him, tired of him, whatever your personal feeling. Favre has been a warrior in the NFL for 20 seasons. This man is arguably one of the Top Five QB of all time NFL history but all of his battle scars, fatigue, age, injury and courage have left him a shell of himself. Shrouded in four announced retirements from three separate teams over the past four years, Favre’s accomplishments have been overshadowed by his off-field publicity. Reference the “Sexting Scandal” or the “Pilgrimage to Mississippi” during Training Camp but Brett Favre deserves respect. “Braveheart” withstood slings, arrows, bullets, linebackers and everything that can befall an NFL quarterback in 20 seasons. He has played with broken bones, broken limbs, broken skulls, broken clavicles, inflamed joints and even while enduring personal problems… but he showed up every week. Tip a hat to Cal Ripken but no one was trying to tear Ripken’s head off over 2,662 games! Favre ended his NFL-record consecutive start streak at 321 (297 not including playoffs) two weeks ago. He then returned to the helm last week to play two quarters before getting pounded to the frozen turf and suffering another concussion.
Fans are clamoring that they want to see Favre play, despite expecting the Eagles to win. Favre may have played his last NFL snap as it appears his latest streak of consecutive starts is likely to end Sunday. At one. Vikings interim head coach Leslie Frazier (who spent the 1999 through 2002 seasons as Andy Reid’s secondary coach) said Wednesday morning he hasn’t formally ruled Favre out for the Eagles but said he’s proceeding as if rookie Joe Webb will make his first NFL start at the Linc Sunday night.
“Right now, we’re looking at Joe Webb potentially being the starter, with [veteran journeyman signed two weeks ago off the street] Patrick Ramsey backing him up,” Frazier said Wednesday morning from Vikings headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minn. Frazier originally ruled Favre out for the Bears this past Monday night with a shoulder injury suffered against the Bills on Dec. 5. That injury kept him out of the Giants game a week later, ending his consecutive-games-played streak.
“I’m never ever going to say Brett’s not going to be ready to go ever again,” Frazier said. “He wants to play. If he can play, he will. We’ll see what happens.” Eagles fans may be disappointed if Brett Favre is unable to play Sunday. Favre’s 62.2 passer rating against the Eagles is the worst of the 32 NFL teams he’s faced in his 20-year career. In 13 career games against the Eagles, he’s thrown 14 TD and 21 INT with a 5-8 record. In his last nine starts against the Eagles, Favre has thrown 6 TDs and 15 INTs. Only three quarterbacks have ever thrown more passes against the Eagles than Favre — Phil Simms, Troy Aikman and Joe Theismann. Of the 28 QBs who’ve thrown at least 100 passes against Philly since 1960, Favre’s 62.2 passer rating ranks 20th — just behind former Giant Dave Brown.
One of the most notorious interceptions of Favre’s career came in the waning seconds of the Eagles’ 2003 playoff win over the Packers at the Linc. After the Eagles had sent the game into overtime after Donovan McNabb’s infamous fourth-and-26 completion to Freddie Mitchell, Favre threw a floater that Brian Dawkins picked off at the Eagles’ 31-yard-line and returned 34 yards to the Green Bay 35. Six plays later, David Akers sent the Eagles to the NFC Championship Game with a 31-yard field goal.
If Favre is unable to play against the Eagles because of his concussion, rookie Joe Webb would make his first NFL start. Rookie quarterbacks are 4-14 against the Eagles during the Andy Reid Era. The highest passer rating by a rookie quarterback against the Eagles since 1997 is the 110.8 mark recorded by Patrick Ramsey in an Eagles 34-21 win over the Redskins in 2002. Ramsey is now backing up Favre and Webb, but he hasn’t started a game since 2005 – five years and four teams ago.
The last quarterback to make his first NFL start against the Eagles was John Beck, with the Dolphins in 2007. Beck was 9-for-22 for 109 yards in the Eagles’ 17-7 win at the Linc. Beck is now No. 2 with the Redskins, behind Rex Grossman and ahead of McNabb. No rookie has ever passed for 300 yards against the Eagles, although Norm Snead came close. In 1961, three years before he joined the Eagles, Snead threw for 296 yards two months into his rookie year, but the Eagles won 27-24. Matt Ryan (277) and Cade McNown (255) also surpassed 250 yards as rookies against the Eagles, Ryan in a 27-14 loss at the Linc in 2008 and McNown in a 20-16 loss in 1999 at Soldier Field. The Vikings have lost 5 straight games to the Eagles and 8 of the last 9. The only Vikings QB to beat the Eagles since 1988 - Brad Johnson, who did it in 1997.
The game itself is like a two-sided mirror image of teams going in completely opposite directions. The Eagles are gunning for a playoff spot (#2 in NFC with home field advantage) and have come off one of the greatest comeback wins in Philadelphia history. They are riding high with their hot quarterback (offensive player of the week for the third time) and sport speedy, talented weapons at most skill positions. If they can shore up their offensive line and defensive backfield issues, the Eagles could actually improve their running game and become super-multi-dimensional on offense.
The Vikings have already fired a coach (Brad Childress), traded for and then cut a legend (Randy Moss) and have no idea who their quarterback will be in 2011. Adrian Peterson is questionable. Favre is already 43. Tavaris Jackson was the leading candidate but is shelved and without a 2011 contract. Joe “Bacciagalupe” (translates loosely into “Webb”) and Patrick Ramsey are extreme longshots. Could former Eagle Donovan McNabb (now listed third in Washington) prove an offseason interest for the shipwrecked Vikings?
Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier has a lot to decide in these last two games. He needs to either blow up on reinvent this team in 2011. Oh… and the team is homeless as repairs to the collapsed Metrodome have barely begun. Are they heading to Los Angeles? Will ownership try to build an open air stadium in Minneapolis or will they pay rent to use a combination of Target Field and University of Minnesota before deciding what to do? Will the Norsemen be Nomads? Will there even BE football in 2011 or will the Lockout shut the sport down?
EAGLES 37 VIKINGS 20
This is the time of year when we reflect upon our lives, spend time with our families and feel thankful for what we have and also what we may no longer have. Brett Favre has given 20 seasons of his life to the NFL. He should be respected. He should be appreciated. He should be honored.
For those younger fans ask for stories of the Favre legend. For everyone, look at Favre’s lifetime football achievements. Check the old video from over the years and his NFL records. Number-crunchers and filmroom gurus alike agree that Favre is an unquestioned legend no matter how you choose to see it.
This guy has been a gunslinger, a Super Bowl Champion, a fierce competitor, a swashbuckler, a locker room leader, a field general and a true warrior. He is a Braveheart-esque hero in an age of “me first” reality-show narcissists who scream “Show Me the Money” and then mail in their performance. The man just loves to play the game, he loves to compete no matter what the odds or conditions and he is an example of what should be the American work ethic. Give Favre his due and then let him walk off into the sunset. He will be in the Hall of Fame and NFL lore forever. We are witnessing a living legend.
Happy Holidays to all. Feel free to check my related article:
The Eagles signed kick returner Gerard Lawson Friday morning to replace Jorrick Calvin, who was placed on Injured Reserve Thursday with a season-ending back injury. Lawson, who played for Hartford in the recently concluded United Football League season, averaged just 14.4 yards on eight kick returns during the 2008 and 2009 seasons with the NFL Cleveland Browns. A defensive back by trade, he joined the Browns in 2008 as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State. He has one career punt return, which he returned four yards.
The Browns released Lawson last summer after he was arrested near the team’s Berea, Ohio, training camp on Aug. 8 and charged with DUI following an incident in which he drove into a parked car and then left the scene of the accident. According to a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Aug. 17, Lawson accepted a plea arrangement in which several charges were dropped and he agreed to one year of probation, 72 hours of an alternate to jail program and 20 hours of community service. He also had his driver’s license suspended for sixth month, ordered to attend two MADD meetings and pay a $500 fine. The Browns released Lawson two weeks later. Now he’s an Eagle and may be sharing return duties with Jeremy Maclin or DeSean Jackson.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org