Monday night was a great night of sports watching for me, as I watched three games, one in person and two on TV, and all three were good wins for Philly sports fans. I was in North Philly for the 7PM tip-off of 19th-ranked Temple’s rout of Bowling Green. Then I was back at my parents’ house in the suburbs to see the Bears knock off the Vikings, keeping the Eagles’ hopes of a first-round bye alive, and the Sixers pick up a nice win in Portland.
The Bears-Vikings game was the best of the bunch and, ironically since it was the only game that didn’t involve a Philly team, it was the game I was rooting for the most. The Eagles lost to the Raiders in mid-October and they were just 5-4 in mid-November. They’ve had their three best offensive players (McNabb, Westbrook, Jackson) each miss at least one game due to injury. The offensive line and linebacking corps have been patched together with whatever they could find (Jeremiah Trotter? Winston Justice? Moise Fokou?) all season. And yet, despite it all, they’re now just one win away from a first-round bye and a home playoff game in the divisional round.
The Birds have won six in a row, and with the recent slides of the Saints and Vikings, they might be playing the best football of any team in the NFC. A note of caution: if the Eagles lose to Dallas, then they may have gone the whole season without beating a team with a winning record, as their “best” wins right now are against the 8-7 Giants and Broncos.
That being said, the offense has looked so good that it’s hard to imagine they couldn’t keep that going against higher quality opponents. We’ll see on Sunday, as the Cowboys have surrendered the fewest points of any team in the NFC. If the Eagles are going to take the coveted 2-seed, then they’ll have to earn it by going into Dallas and picking up what would be their most impressive win of the season. If they can do that, we have a title contender on our hands, if not it’s most likely “wait ’till next year.” Another note of caution: center Jamaal Jackson is done for the year with an ACL tear. It looks like the plan is to move Nick Cole to center and insert Max Jean-Gillies at right guard. Hopefully this isn’t the one offensive line issue that will finally ruin the unit.
If anyone missed the Vikings-Bears game, the second-half (and overtime) was a classic. As much as I don’t like Brett Favre, he will always be interesting to watch. All of the off-season hoopla that surrounded him and Jay Cutler just added to the spectacle of them playing gun-slinger against each other in a tight game. Favre led the Vikings back from a 23-6 deficit to tie it at 23. Cutler and the Bears answered quickly, 30-23. Favre still had 5 minutes to work with, and he got it done with 16 ticks left, on a perfect pass to Sidney Rice, tied at 30. It went back and forth in the OT before Cutler ended it with a long strike for the game-ending score, 36-30.
That game-winner was set-up by an Adrian Peterson fumble. On Saturday night, me and Bry debated who is the best back in the league, Peterson or Chris Johnson. He said Johnson, I said Peterson. But if Peterson keeps fumbling, I’m not so sure. He also needs to stay healthy. I think it’s a push right now and it’s something to watch in 2010.
The Sixers somewhat shockingly went into Portland and beat the excellent Blazers, 104-93. Nights like these are the reason I wanted Iverson to come back. It felt like old times, sitting on my parents’ couch, watching AI drive by defenders to the rim, or pull up and knock down an 18-footer. He scored 19 on 7-11 shooting, in his return after missing four games with an injury. And yes, in the old days you would’ve had to tie one arm behind his back to get him to only shoot 11 times, but flashes of the old AI were there. And speaking of flashes of old times, Elton Brand scored 25 points with 9 boards. I won’t suggest that this game is a sign of anything, but having Lou Williams, Iverson, and Iguodala playing together worked well in this one. The Sixers were definitely able to take advantage of the Blazers missing their centers, Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla, as they drove to the basket repeatedly without fear of a shot-blocker waiting for them. And, of course, it probably didn’t hurt that Willie Green missed the game with an ankle injury!
Finally, those nationally-ranked Temple Owls got off to a slow start but turned it on to overpower and blow away Bowling Green, 64-39. The Owl defense has been great. The talented trio of Ryan Brooks, Lavoy Allen, and Juan Fernandez will lead this team to the tournament for the third straight season. I’m not sure how they’ll fare against Kansas on Saturday, but this bunch will be a tough out all season, and certainly in March.