SPORTO: Death In Dallas


BY MIKE WOLVERTON SPORTS GUY What the fuck was that? The high-powered Eagles scoring machine put up a goose egg in Big D Sunday. I would tell you what was wrong with the Eagles’ offense, except every time I looked up Dallas had the ball. If you went to the bathroom when the Eagles got the ball, by the time you got back, Patrick Crayton would be catching an 8-yard slant (this happened to me three times). I was playing Candyland with my kids, and even though my oldest romped to Candy Castle with relative ease, our game still had more drama than Eagles-Cowboys. I’m not going to bash Donovan, because the entire Philadelphia Media Machine will spend all week crushing him. But it is easy to envision a “Brett Favre scenario” approaching (without the multiple retirements). The Packers moved on from Favre because Aaron Rodgers was “ready.” Well, Kevin Kolb looked ready when he played earlier this year, and McNabb has one year left on a contract that he wants extended. If the offense looks bad again next week in Dallas, the decision makers may determine that it is time, especially if McNabb makes a big deal about a contract extension. Then you’ll see him somewhere else in 2010, and what has been a great era in Eagles football will end in miserable fashion.

Can the Eagles make adjustments to give themselves a chance in Dallas Saturday night? Of course they can, but it is a tall order. The offensive line offered McNabb little protection, and the defense was porous. This will be Andy Reid’s chance to show what a good coach he is, and that he deserves the three-year extension he was given last month. Elsewhere, NBC exercised its “Flex Scheduling” rights early in the week to put the Bengals-Jets game on Sunday Night Football. Technically, the NFL determines the Sunday night matchup after “consulting” with the networks, but we know who pulls the strings. In this case, the act of moving the time of the game changed the nature of the game itself. In its originally scheduled 1 PM time slot, the Jets would face a Bengals team with something left to play for (they’d need a win and a Patriots loss to claim the #3 seed instead of the #4). In the nighttime slot, if the Patriots had won their 1 PM game, the Bengals would be a team with no advantage to gain, and would rest some of their best players to prevent injury, just like the Colts, Saints, Chargers and Cardinals did (I know the Patriots lost, but this was not a foregone conclusion). The Jets, who needed to win to advance, might do so over a team that becomes weakened solely because the time of the game was moved.

So what, you say. Well, this would be a New York-based league and a New York-based television network combining to give the New York Jets a competitive advantage for making the playoffs, where a New York team will draw better television ratings (and make more money for everyone!). This at the expense of the franchises in Pittsburgh, Denver and Houston. There is a reason that soccer leagues have everybody play at the same time the final week…so nobody gains an advantage from knowing results of other games. In this case, the Jets not only gained an advantage, they were handed it at the last minute by the “league.” Predictably, the Jets smashed the disinterested Bengals, 37-0. Cedric Benson didn’t play, Carson Palmer was pulled in the 3rd quarter. Bengals WR Chad Ohcocinco said, “Next week will be a lot more serious”. So the Jets made the playoffs with their final two wins coming against Colts and Bengals teams that laid down for them. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh and Houston finished with the same record and closed with two tough, hard-earned wins but will be rewarded with nothing. I hope the league office gets the TV numbers they are hoping for.

This sets up four playoff games next week, three of which are rematches of blowouts from Week 17 (Jets/Bengals, Eagles/Cowboys and Packers/Cardinals). Although the Eagles scoreline was the least ugly of the three (24-0 compared to 33-7 and 37-0), the Birds would also seem to have the smallest chance of turning things around. The other two losers had rested their stars and will be at home; the Eagles were going all-out Sunday (I think…) and will be on the road this week. The only positive I can conjure is that the Igs often play their best when things look the worst. And Donovan runs hot-and-cold, and boy was he cold on Sunday. Regrettably, I talked a little trash to my Dallas friends before the game. I’m sure I’ll hear it this week. If you face a similar problem, just respond that the Eagles didn’t want to tip their hand and were saving all their good plays for this week. Most Dallas fans will be thick enough to fall for that.

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