NFL Report: Rematches are never easy
Rematches are all that remain on the Eagles' schedule. It's Dallas Sunday in the regular-season home finale at Lincoln Financial Field, Washington six days later at FedEx Field, and the New York Giants in the final regular-season game Dec. 28 at MetLife Stadium.
Rematches are all that remain on the Eagles' schedule.
It's Dallas Sunday in the regular-season home finale at Lincoln Financial Field, Washington six days later at FedEx Field, and the New York Giants in the final regular-season game Dec. 28 at MetLife Stadium.
The Eagles beat all three opponents the first time they faced them this season and are 7-2 in NFC East games under coach Chip Kelly. The one thing we really do not know about Kelly, however, is how well he handles these rematch games.
His three rematch meetings in the NFC East last year were all distorted by a game of musical quarterbacks. Matt Barkley started for the Eagles in a rematch loss to the Giants, and Kyle Orton started for Dallas when the Eagles won to clinch the division in the season's final game. In between, Nick Foles beat Washington after Michael Vick had done the same in the season opener.
Kelly, who only had one rematch game during his long career as a college coach, provided some insight into how he views these repeat meetings as his team prepared for the first-place showdown with the Cowboys.
"I don't really think it's a challenge," Kelly said. "I think everybody has the same thing. They have the same amount of time to prepare for us, and we have the same amount of time. Just go play. I think you can paralyze yourself by trying to overanalyze it. They think that we know that they think this, so then we think that they think that this will happen."
OK. So keep it simple seems to be his message.
Still, it's not easy beating a team twice in the same season in the NFL. For proof, we offer some numbers on the NFL head coach Kelly probably respects more than any other, and with good reason.
In 15 seasons with the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick has compiled an overall record of 191-72, including the postseason. That's an impressive .726 winning percentage. When facing an opponent for a second or third time, however, Belichick is 41-20, a .672 winning percentage. That's still great but an indication of how difficult it can be even for the best in the business.
The math becomes even more interesting when you examine just Belichick's postseason record. Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez, who played divisional games for five seasons against Belichick and the Patriots, said the winningest active coach in the NFL is brilliant at changing things up in second and third meetings.
Belichick's rematch playoff record, however, is pedestrian by his standards. He has an 18-8 overall postseason record, but he is only 9-8 in rematch playoff games, as opposed to 9-0 when playing an opponent for the first time that season.
The Patriots' two Super Bowl losses were rematch games with the Giants, and John Harbaugh and the Ravens have eliminated the Patriots twice since 2009 in rematch games.
Belichick is 4-8 in his last 12 rematch playoff games, and that includes a loss to Sanchez and the Jets in January 2011 just six weeks after New England had won, 45-3, against New York. That should serve as a warning to the Eagles that their lopsided Thanksgiving win against the Cowboys has zero meaning Sunday.
Unusual trade bait
There are some obvious coaches whose jobs are in jeopardy once the 2014 season ends. The Jets' Rex Ryan is the surest bet on the board to be gone, but the most surprising name sitting on a coaching hot seat is San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh.
Yes, the 49ers are in the midst of a disappointing season, and, yes, they just lost to Oakland, the wretched team on the other side of the bay. But Harbaugh's 48-20-1 record - with a trip to the Super Bowl and three trips to the NFC championship game - during his four seasons makes for a nice resumé.
These things, of course, do not matter when the owner does not like you, and, by all accounts, Harbaugh's relationship with 49ers CEO Jed York is beyond strained. The Raiders, of all teams, are reportedly ready to make a run at Harbaugh, and that job would become more attractive if the team moves back to Los Angeles, which is another rumbling making the rounds.
Michigan also reportedly made overtures to the former Wolverines quarterback, but university officials apparently believe Harbaugh wants to remain in the NFL. College might be the best place for Harbaugh because his fiery personality likely wears thin on a lot of people over the course of time. In college, if you are sick of a player or vice-versa, the relationship is over in five years or less.
Harbaugh has a year left on his contract with the 49ers, so they could resolve the issue by trading their coach.
RG3 in green?
The odds of the Eagles trading up to get Oregon's Marcus Mariota are long, but it is intriguing to think about what another dual-threat quarterback might look like running Kelly's offense.
Robert Griffin III has fallen so far out of favor in Washington that he could probably be had for cheap after the season. Griffin, provided he's healthy, could be the perfect fit for Kelly's zone-read system. It should at least be something to consider.
TOP EARLY GAME
Houston at Indianapolis
If the Texans win, something they've never done in 12 trips to Indianapolis, they will put the Colts in a position where they will have to win when they travel to Dallas next week. Should the Colts win, their game in Dallas loses a lot of meaning, because they will have wrapped up the AFC South with little chance to earn a first-round bye.
TOP LATE AFTERNOON GAME
Denver at San Diego
Even after a home loss to New England last week, the Chargers still hold the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC right now. They cannot, however, afford a second straight home loss to Peyton Manning and the Broncos. They close the season on the road against San Francisco and Kansas City.
Dallas at Eagles
The Eagles carved up the Cowboys on Thanksgiving with perhaps their best overall performance of the season. The Eagles will be going for their third straight win over the Cowboys, something they have not accomplished since 2004, when they were in the midst of winning 9 of 10 against them. The Cowboys have won four of the last five played at the Linc.
New Orleans at Chicago
Bet ESPN wishes it could flex this game for another, even though the Saints are tied for the lead in the NFC South (disg)race. The Bears, who will be making their fifth and thankfully final prime-time appearance of the season, no doubt wish they were in the Saints' wretched division.