Looking ahead to Saturday's divisional round playoff between the Eagles and the Falcons, Inquirer columnist Bob Ford and Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz get together to break down what really matters in what promises to be a great meeting between two great teams from two great cities that have such respect for one another.
Bob Ford: Jeff, always good to catch up with you. First, though, I was trying to get some research straight. Can you help me? Was it the Falcons who blew a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl and Georgia that blew a 13-point lead in the national title game or was it the other way around? Need to get this right.
Jeff Schultz: Hi, Bob. Good to hear from you. I see your career is moving in a new direction — you're doing research.
I can't remember the scores of the games you asked about, although I do have a vague recollection of the Falcons and Georgia holding leads late in recent championship games. This is something you don't have to worry about in Philadelphia, although kudos to Temple for winning the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.
Bob Ford: Hey, Florida International is tough. It's not just Florida. It's like Florida and other countries. Getting back to wins, though. I see just one championship for the Braves in 1995 and none for the Falcons and none for the Hawks. And, just to be accurate, how many NHL teams relocated to the Northwest Territory because business would be better? Was it two or three?
Jeff Schultz: Yes, we have warehouses full of ticker tape, waiting to be used. But it occurred to me that the Falcons came into the NFL in 1966 and their string of championship-less seasons still is shorter than the Eagles. How does that happen? Actually, and maybe I miscounted, Philadelphia's four corners of misery — the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers — have combined for exactly one championship in the last 35 years. How does the Philly fan base simultaneously excel at both arrogance and failure? By the way, what the hell is a Flyer?
Bob Ford: Beats me. What was a Thrasher? Did they kick the covers off the bed every night? Anyway, let's get nitty-gritty into this Saturday game. People want inside information, and we're just the guys. In Philly, where he is a homeboy, people want to know what gives with Matt Ryan. He was MVP with 38 touchdown passes and seven interceptions last season, but had 20 and 12 this time around. I know Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu with their 13 combined drops have made Torrey Smith look like Mr. Goodhands, but what happened to the Ice Man?
Jeff Schultz: The brown thrasher is the Georgia state bird, not to be confused with Philly's finest, the loading dock, Winston-smoking pigeon.
OK, on to the game. The real "Matty Ice" on this team right now is kicker Matt Bryant. He's made 8 of 9 from 50-plus yards, and I think he's even older than you. The other Matt has taken a step back with the offense. Some blame new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who's almost as unpopular as Kyle Shanahan was in 2015, until Shanahan became brilliant a year later, until the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl and nobody wants to talk about that. By the way, speaking of offense, can you send me some new Eagles stats? The sheet I have references Nick Foles. It must be a few years old.
Bob Ford: The thrasher? What's the state animal? Possum? Yeah, folks here are pretty bummed that Carson Wentz tore up his knee, and are trying to convince themselves Foles can get the job done. Don't think anyone would still second-guess trading away Sammy Bradford, though. I mean it wasn't like trading away a 22-year-old Brett Favre. What team would do that?
So, I see the Falcons started 3-4 and then won seven of their last nine to make the postseason. So which team are they?
Jeff Schultz: Ken Herock drafted Favre and Deion Sanders. Not sure if those guys ever stuck in the league, but they couldn't make it here. Anyway, in the first six games this season, they almost lost to Mike Glennon, beat Aaron Rodgers, but lost to Jay Cutler. Go figure. The offense functions best when it centers on runs and passes to backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, but the defense is now the team's strength. I figure if they can smother the Rams, who led the NFL in scoring this season, they can do the same to Philly with a backup quarterback.
By the way, are there still jails in the stadiums there, like in the old Vet? Is there one for the drunks in the cheap seats and one for the white-collar crime convicts in the suites? I love Philadelphia. It's such a melting pot of malfeasance. (Go ahead. You can use that.)
Bob Ford: You are so out of touch. There are no cheap seats anymore. And I love Atlanta, land of such deep, creative thinkers that every street is named Peachtree.
Well, enough of this frivolity. Let's get right to it. Who will win? If I were uninvolved and sitting in Las Vegas, I wouldn't touch this game. Neither team inspires real confidence at the moment. But I do like the Eagles at home (let's face it, they're due) and I think Nick the Quick will spaghetti-arm his way into franchise lore. Something like 23-16, Eagles.
Jeff Schultz: I love the "they're due" reasoning. That strategy always works well in Vegas. "ONE MORE ROLL! ONE MORE ROLL!" The Eagles haven't won a home playoff game since the 2006 season. The Falcons haven't won a road playoff game in … a week. We agree on 23-16. But I'll take the Falcons by the same score.