Few thought the Philadelphia Eagles were anywhere near Super Bowl caliber this year, but at least they were expected to be somewhat respectable. New coach Chip Kelly had been an innovator and a winner in his previous jobs. His preseason purge of proven star players raised a few eyebrows, but he had been given the benefit of the doubt -- plus a hefty multi-year contract. Surely the mad genius in the city of brotherly love had a plan that we doofus NFL fans failed to comprehend.
And everything was semi-OK for a while. The Eagles were holding their own, hovering around the .500 mark. It would take time for his systems to be fully grasped and properly executed by the team.
And then the wheels fell off. At home, Philly got torched by 4 touchdowns courtesy of the Tampa Bay Bucs. 45-17 in their own house. How embarrassing. Just yesterday on Thanksgiving, they gave up another 45 to the Lions in another lopsided loss to the Motown puddy-tats. 45-14 on national TV. Yow. Ninety points allowed in the last two games to sub-par teams. Ouch. Next up, they travel to New England to face the Pats. Good luck with that. Kelly can smirk all he wants, but eventually Philly ownership is going to wonder just what kind of fine mess they got themselves into by hiring this guy and giving him control over player personnel. Things are not going well -- to say the least.
The Green Bay Packers seem to be an enigma as well. Remember, they started off the season 6-0. Cheeserland was content. Lambeau leaps abounded. All was as expected in Green Bay.
And then they took a tumble as well. They got beat 29-10 in Denver, which was also undefeated at the time. No shame there. The following week, the Packers would lose 37-29 at Carolina. The Panthers were also undefeated -- still are. No shame there either.
Next up they had the woeful Detroit Lions coming to Lambeau. Time to get back on the right track again. But something most unexpected happened. The Lions went into Green Bay and eked out a win against the Packers. Nobody saw that coming. Certainly not the bookies. The Packers were an overwhelming favorite. But they lost to the Lions -- THE LIONS -- at home for the first time since Daddy Bush was occupying the oval office. This was not supposed to happen.
The Packers would recover nicely the next week, beating a very good Minnesota Vikings team on the road. But then they came back home and lost to the Bears. THE BEARS!!
[The cheeseheads have to be wondering what's going on with their heroes? Sure, they lost wide-receiver supreme Jordy Nelson early on, but every team has injuries. The Patriots have been decimated both at wide receiver and their O-line, but they keep finding a way to win. And this is Green Bay, dammit. It's not like they have any other teams to root for.]
The make it or break it crossroad for the Packers will likely come next Thursday night when they visit the Lions. Two Thursday games in a row for both teams. Seems fair enough. The Motowners have won their last couple games, though at home against a below average team and one that is in freefall (Raiders and Eagles).
The Lions pretty much already eliminated themselves from the postseason after a horrific start. They're playing for, ahem, cough, cough, Detroit pride, and maybe a few jobs are on the line. But aren't they always in the NFL?
But if the Packers at least temporarily right their ship with a win in Detroit, their playoff scenario would become a little rosier. Lose, and they'd be back in a dogfight with the other riffraff of the NFC. The only two good teams appear to be Arizona and Carolina. The Cards are 8-2 and visit the woeful San Fran 49ers this Sunday. Make that 9-2. The Panthers are 11-0. Nuff said.
Either way, the NFC road to the Super Bowl -- and what else matters? -- is going to go through Phoenix or Charlotte for the Packers. If they get that far.
The difference between the Eagles and Packers, other than the obvious this year? The fans in one city won't hesitate to express their disapproval of bad play by their team. They can raise hell with the best, or worst of them. The other ever booing their heroes? Not a chance. They could lose every one of their remaining games -- including being swept by the lowly Lions -- horrors -- and wind up missing the playoffs entirely. But they'll always be held in high esteem by their faithful flock.
Guess who's who?