Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Talk about misguided NFL depression

By John Gottlieb

Unbelievable! There's nothing like a bitter Steelers fan trying to tear down the Eagles, who just clinched an improbable playoff berth.

About the tortoise race metaphor or the opinion that there are only two "2006 Pittsburgh Steelers" in the NFC Conference, what do these things even mean?

What, there are only two squads in the NFC that AREN'T playoff teams? The 2006 Steelers aren't making the playoffs, so does this make sense to anyone other than Mr. Trexler?

Are you trying to say that the Eagles don't play defense like the Ravens or have the offensive firepower of the Chargers? Okay, but does that make them any less of a playoff team? It's not breaking news that the AFC is better than the NFC, but I don't think they're going to call off the Super Bowl.

If that's the case the Patriots should've just stayed home instead of playing St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans.

I'm not even an Eagles fan and everyone can tell where Jared's allegiances lie, but we all know that it doesn't matter what the sport, momentum can carry you to a title and nobody is hotter than the Eagles.

Just ask the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, who rode Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver and Anthony Reyes to the World Series, the 2005-06 Miami Heat, who fought back from two games down to beat the Dallas Mavericks, the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who changed the face of a series and a rivalry with a guy named Dave Roberts, or the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning, who reeled off an 11-game winning streak and picked up at least a point in 18 straight games in the last 1 1/2 months of the season before marching to the Stanley Cup.

Then there is the team that Jared raves about, the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, who were 7-5 before winning their final four regular-season games. And who did they beat? The Super Bowl champs, who will be sitting home after next week's regular-season finale, beat one playoff team (Chicago 11-5). The others were against Minnesota (9-7), Cleveland (6-10) and Detroit (5-11).

You can make an argument that if Carson Palmer wasn't hurt on the first offensive play of the AFC Wild Card Game or if Nick Harper made a different cut with the ball after Jerome Bettis' fumble in the AFC Divisional Playoff that Cincy or Indy might have been playing for the title.

Now let's take a look at the Eagles: Before their four-game winning streak started the Eagles were 5-6 and had lost their starting quarterback two weeks earlier. Then they go though a stretch where they play three straight road games in December against NFC east opponents...with Jeff Garcia.

Everyone, including myself and Eagles fans all over, thought the season was over when Donovan McNabb went down with a horrible knee injury to the Titans in Week 11, and now they are going to win arguably the best division in football when they beat Atlanta this weekend.

Garcia certainly is no Roethlisberger, who the aforementioned author insists will be one of the greatest signal callers in NFL history, but he doesn't seem to be doing too bad. Remember that Big Ben was just 9-of-23 for 123 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions for the worst passer rating by a winning quarterback in Super Bowl history (22.6).

Garcia has done exactly what Philadelphia has needed. He gets the ball to Brian Westbrook, makes some plays with his legs and keep the mistakes to a minimum. He's completing 62 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and TWO interceptions.

And three of the last four games have come against teams that go into Week 17 with a chance at making the playoffs, and almost assuredly two of them will.

The Eagles have a dominant running back, a well-balanced offense and a defense that has improved each week of the season, creating turnovers and making big plays.

If Philadelphia wins the Super Bowl this year it will be exactly like last year's Super Bowl champs. Both teams won with a great running game, a solid defense and two quarterbacks that weren't expected to lead their teams to the promise land.

So Mr. Trexler what do the Eagles have to do to be the "2005 Pittsburgh Steelers" or the "2006 Pittsburgh Steelers" for that matter?

Sounds like someone is a little bitter that after this week's loss in Cincinnati, all the Steelers have to look forward to is Alan Faneca, Willie Parker, Troy Polamalu and Casey Hampton playing in a meaningless football game in Hawaii.

Calm down, there's always next year for the Steelers.

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