The Eagles are once again underdogs heading into the playoffs, but Cris Collinsworth isn’t among those counting the Birds out.
“I do give them a big chance,” Collinsworth, who will be calling Sunday’s Eagles playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks on NBC, told the Inquirer. “They are at home, and their defensive line is still as good as any in the NFL. Seattle’s offensive line played one of their best games against San Francisco, they will need another one here.”
This will be the third season in a row the Eagles open up a playoff run on NBC. In fact, Collinsworth and broadcast partners Al Michaels and Michele Tafoya will have called five of the Eagles’ last seven postseason games on Sunday. They’ll call an sixth next week, if the Birds defeat the Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings, giving NBC an Eagles-49ers divisional round game.
The Eagles have also made several appearances on Sunday Night Football over the years, and as a result, a small but vocal part of the fan base has strong opinions about Collinsworth. Much of the anger originates from Super Bowl LI, when Collinsworth garnered some heat (and some light trolling by former Eagles defender Chris Long) by incorrectly predicting two Eagles touchdown catches would be overturned. There was a petition signed by more than 150,000 people demanding Collinsworth be removed from calling future Eagles games due to his “constant fawning over Tom Brady and the Patriots,” and Birds fans chanted, “Shut up Cris Collinsworth!” during a replay of the game shown on the Jumbotrons along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during the team’s Super Bowl parade.
“Believe it or not, I love Eagles fans,” Collinsworth said. “I know they have had their moments with me, but I would always rather deal with honest opinions than BS from anybody.
“They have heard a few of my honest opinions, and believe me, I have heard a few of theirs. All good.”
Michaels and Collinsworth got to see the Eagles in Week 7 during their blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys. But in many ways it’s an entirely different team they’ll see Sunday, thanks to a slew of injuries that have forced third-stringers and practice squad players like Greg Ward and Boston Scott into the starting lineup.
Even for a seasoned broadcaster like Michaels, all the new faces require a lot of research and adjustments heading into the game.
“Some of these guys were wearing ‘Hello, my name is’ name tags a few weeks ago. Now they’re in the NFL playoffs. We’ve got to get to know them well so we can bring their stories to life for the audience,” Michaels said.
Fans shouldn’t expect crazy camera angles or in-your-face graphics during Sunday’s broadcast. Fred Gaudelli, the executive producer on Sunday Night Football, said apart from a pylon cam and a marker cam, NBC’s postseason broadcast won’t be much different from the regular season.
“Playoff games are more focused on properly documenting the why, where, when and how a team is winning or losing. Why is this player having a great day or poor day? What is it about this strategy that has this team in front? Or what adjustments need to be made?” Gaudelli said.
Gaudelli and Michaels, along with Sunday Night Football director Drew Esocoff, opened the Linc back in 2003 when the trio were with ABC. 17 years later, Gaudelli said, the stadium is as impressive as ever, but it’s the energy from the stands that makes it among the best places to broadcast in the NFL.
“The best part of televising a game in the Linc is the Eagles fans. They are wildly passionate and their passion swings both ways on a seemingly play-to-play basis,” Gaudelli said. “That makes it fun.”