Have you ever laughed at the words “model franchise” being used to describe the Philadelphia Eagles?
I suppose it would be an appropriate use of the phrase if a model franchise was one that always inevitably lost in the playoffs, failed to create a balanced offense in ten years, and kept its players’ fingers as bare as the limbs of a Fairmount Park oak tree in the middle of winter.
But there is one model franchise in Pennsylvania, perhaps the model franchise of the entire league: the Pittsburgh Steelers, having proved their cross-state “rival” unworthy of such a term.
Aside from playing in the same league and state, the two franchises could not be more dissimilar.
One team is the poster child for toughness as the other made Marshawn Lynch look like Jim Brown last year. One team will pick up the yard on fourth and one with burly linemen and tight ends, while the other might try to do so in the shotgun formation with four spread wide outs.
If you’re new to this NFL thing, one team wins Super bowls, the other does not.
So don’t be fooled when fans deem this the “Battle of the Keystone State” (how creative) with state bragging rights on the line, because I assure you they are not. One regular season win would not compensate for a 5-0 score in the franchise Super bowl count.
Nonetheless, both teams could seriously benefit from a win on Sunday.
But despite one franchise’s clear superiority to the other--despite my blatant jealousy towards the Steelers (yes I’m an avid Birds fan, couldn’t you tell?)--it is the Eagles who I like not only to win this matchup but also to be more of a contender come January.
The Steelers’ trophy room (or at least what I imagine it looks like) proves the old adage true: defense wins championships.
This is why I like the Eagles Sunday.
The Steelers are slowly evolving out of the offensive philosophies that have won them championships. A franchise known for running backs Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis has been one of the worst running teams in the NFL thus far and I don’t anticipate that to change just because of Rashard Mendenhall’s return the lineup.
This should create obvious passing downs for the Steelers that will play into the Eagles’ biggest strength: rushing the quarterback.
And although Troy Polamalu and James Harrison will also be back in the lineup for the Steelers, this defensive unit let the dreadful Oakland Raiders offense put up 34 points against them.
I like the Eagles to move to 4-1 for these reasons, but don’t worry, I will still recognize who owns the state.
Prediction: Eagles 27-17
I'll also take: Browns (+9) @ Giants, Bears (-5) @ Jaguars, Broncos (+7) @ Patriots, Chargers @ Saints (-4)