Why Eagles Fans Should Root for the Patriots, and (Almost) Enjoy It

Why Eagles Fans Should Root for the Patriots, and (Almost) Enjoy It

Most of us are naturally inclined to root against the Giants. Just look
at what's on the line. Not only are the Birds' division rivals in the
NFC East, there's also the interstate rivalry with New Yorkers. As the
Cowboys have floundered for much of the past decade, the Giants have
replaced them as the Eagles' chief antagonists. Cheering for the Giants
is akin to pulling for the villain's plot to succeed in a Batman
flick.

However, some fans find themselves in a
troubling position as Super Bowl XLVI approaches, because the New
England Patriots are not exactly a likeable bunch of characters either.
They have a bit of a dynasty going on up there, the road for which was
paved -- in some minds -- by cheating. They dashed Philadelphia's title
dreams in Super Bowl XXXIX, the face of the franchise is married to a
supermodel, and the city of Boston has been exceptionally fortunate in
this millennium, winning championships in all four major sports within
the past seven years.

How do we root for that?

Thing
is, that's a whole other conference. The Eagles can't control what
happens in the AFC, so a Patriots victory, while insufferable for a few
days, will fade. However, the Birds could have prevented the Giants from
reaching this point, and should they win on Sunday, you will hear about
it -- from their fans, from our fans, from the media. It's going to be
everywhere, all offseason, all summer, during next season's tilts...
forever.

Okay, so the overwhelming majority of you
have already chosen not to align with the enemy, but you're
understandably still on the fence about New England. Truth is, they
aren't so bad once you get to know them. Really. In case watching a
rival go down in flames isn't quite motivation enough, here are a few
reasons you might get a modicum of enjoyment out of a Patriots
victory.

Former Eagles on the roster
If you're
looking for a sentimental angle, a pair of former Birds will be in
uniform for the Patriots: journeyman special teams ace Tracy White, and
one-time training camp darling Kyle Arrington.

White
was with Philadelphia for the 2008-09 seasons until he was traded to New
England for an undisclosed draft pick in 2012, which as it turns out
will be a sixth-round pick. Not bad. After attending Eagles' training
camp in Lehigh, Arrington spent 2008 on Tampa Bay's practice squad, and
played in the club's opener the following season before being released.
He wound up with the Pats, and has started in 31 games (including
playoffs) over the past two years. He tied for the league lead in
interceptions this season with seven.

Sure, those
two guys are a thin premise for cheering on New England, but perhaps not
when you consider who will be standing on the other sidelines: Stacy
Andrews, one of the most ridiculed free agent signings in Eagles
franchise history. No way you want that bum to get his ring,
right?

The
Patriot Way
It may sound like some cheesy cliche,
similar to Joe Banner referring to the Eagles' organization as the "gold
standard," but Philadelphians would embrace the tenets of the Patriot
Way. It's a true team-first concept up there in a world of me-first
professional athletes.

When Randy Moss started
causing a ruckus in the locker room, the Patriots dealt him to Minnesota
mid-season, despite the fact that Moss had caught 50 touchdown passes
in 52 games with the club. When expensive free agents such as Albert
Haynesworth aren't cutting it, the Patriots admit their mistake in the
most public way possible, clearing that roster spot for somebody who
gets it.

This is an organization that has taken a
permanent sideshow in Chad Ochocinco, and amidst the worst season of his
NFL career, incredibly has him toeing the company
line.

What you get is a roster somewhat lacking in
star power, instead assembled with players who buy in to their system.
Yes, they have Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Vince Wilfork -- that's
some legitimate greatness right there. They also have 18 undrafted
players, guys like Danny Woodhead and Arrington, carving out key roles.
They make homes for veterans such as Brian Waters and Shaun Ellis who
are maybe past their primes, and several of their best players are
overachieving castoffs who nobody really wanted, for instance Wes Welker
and even Brady.

It's a humble collection of athletes
that place the team's goal above all else. They don't make a lot of
noise in the media, they just go out and win football games. It's hard
not to respect that philosophy, especially in this day and
age.

Belichick is a mad scientist... and it's
fun to watch!
On Sunday, a diminutive kick
returner/wide receiver will fill in at nickel cornerback. An offensive
lineman will line up at tight end on certain run downs. A tight end will
take handoffs out of the backfield -- and these are just the
unconventional formations that we've seen already. Who knows what Bill
Belichick might have in store for the Giants.

No head
coach in the NFL is better at finding unique roles for his players. He
turned Troy Brown from a Pro-Bowl wide receiver into a full-time corner
in the twilight of his career. He allowed linebacker Mike Vrabel to
become a staple of the offense's goal-line package, catching 10
touchdown passes in his career. Long before Andy Reid pegged Dan Klecko
as the Eagles' fullback, the defensive tackle by trade had experimented
at the position in New England.

Heck, Tom Brady could
surprise punt the ball on third down, or the Patriots could attempt to
convert a 4th and 2 on their own 29-yard line. We wouldn't even count on
their running out the clock should things get out of hand -- after all,
they're far more efficient through the air.

Their
brand of football is a breath of fresh air in the copycat world of
professional sports. There's an extra level of intrigue when Julian
Edelman is trying to cover Victor Cruz, when Aaron Hernandez might be
more dangerous at running back than he is at tight end, and when the
idea is in your head that they really might attempt a pass to Nick
Solder, in the Super Bowl of all games.

That is
football, my friends, and Bill Belichick gets
it.

History
It may come as a small
consolation, or none at all, but what the Patriots have managed to
accomplish in the salary cap era may never be duplicated. You
understandably may not like the team or its fans one bit, but it may be
time to consider shifting from disdain to appreciation as the
Belichick-Brady combination head toward their final act. Both men are
among the greatest of all time at their respective jobs, and you
witnessed a run that's felled NFL records, nearly produced the league's
first 19-0 season, and featured a solid number of future Hall of
Famers.

One day, your grandchildren could be asking
if you ever saw Tom Brady coolly slide step in the pocket and deliver a
tight spiral as he operated one of his many game-winning drives, or
stare at you in wonder as you try to explain how a franchise won three
Super Bowls in four years during the age of parity. You'll talk about
the Tuck Rule Game and Spygate, but also Adam Vinatieri hitting three
championship-clinching field goals, and their intense rivalry with
Peyton Manning's Colts, which produced some of the finest contests ever
played on the gridiron.

Again, it may not provide
much comfort right now, but it's got to be better than being on the
wrong side of history. If the Giants should win for the second time in
five seasons, it will solidify the greatness of their head coach Tom
Coughlin, who was eternally on the hot seat during his tenure. It will
build on the legacy of Eli Manning, quite possibly the goofiest elite
quarterback the game has ever seen. It will create a legend out of their
front four, a group that will have once more catapulted New York to the
promised land using the old mantra "better late than
never."

The Patriots winning yet again has got to be
better than being constantly reminded that the Giants would then have
four Super Bowl Championships -- two against the most dominant franchise
of an era -- while Philadelphia has zero. A three-trophy lead is enough
as it is without them adding another.

Simply put,
who wants to live in a world where a division and regional rival has
ultimate bragging rights for a full year? Not I, and I hope not you
either.

NFL Notes: Luck has successful right shoulder surgery, owner says

NFL Notes: Luck has successful right shoulder surgery, owner says

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has undergone surgery on the right shoulder that's bothered him the past two seasons.

Colts owner Jim Irsay announced Thursday on Twitter that Luck was recovering from successful outpatient surgery. Irsay says Luck will be ready for the 2017 season.

Luck was listed on the Colts injury report throughout this season and missed several practices, with coach Chuck Pagano saying the team had a plan for keeping Luck healthy while he dealt with a sore throwing shoulder.

Luck missed two games early in the 2015 season because of the shoulder injury. He threw for 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns this past season after signing a six-year, $140 million contract in June.

Roethlisberger chasing Brady 
PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger intended for the moment to be private. The camera following him to midfield and the microphone tucked inside Tom Brady's shoulder pads ended up making that impossible.

Their brief exchange before Brady and the New England Patriots visited the Pittsburgh Steelers in October provided a snapshot into a rivalry that never was. They bro-hugged. They lamented the left knee injury that forced Roethlisberger out the lineup on that warm late fall afternoon.

And then Roethlisberger made an uncharacteristic request : a signed Brady jersey to hang on the wall in Roethlisberger's home office next to Hall of Famers Dan Marino, John Elway and Jim Kelly.

"I consider him one, if not the best of all-time," Roethlisberger said.

A group Roethlisberger does not include himself in.

Not even with as many championships as Brady's longtime friend and occasional foil Peyton Manning (two). Not even with a spot in the top 10 in just about every major statistical category out there on Roethlisberger's still growing resume. Not even with a bust in Canton one day alongside Brady and the rest of the guys whose jerseys adorn the walls of his home almost assured regardless of what happens in Sunday's AFC title game.

The reason is simple: rings. Brady has four, including two he earned while carving a path through the playoffs that included victories in Pittsburgh in 2001 and 2004. Roethlisberger has two, neither of which required Roethlisberger or the Steelers to take out Brady along the way.

It's why Roethlisberger just shakes his head when asked if he's part of the "gold standard" label that he so eagerly attaches to Brady.

"Not as (his) level," Roethlisberger said. "Obviously, with all the Super Bowls he has."

This weekend provides Roethlisberger his best - and maybe his last - chance to do to Brady what Brady has done to so many others over the last 16 years. Even if the last thing Roethlisberger wants to do is get pulled into the "star quarterback vs. star quarterback" narrative that fueled so many showdowns between Brady and Manning through the years.

"It's obviously bigger than the two of us," Roethlisberger said. "I know he is used to it, with the Peyton Manning and Tom thing. This is two football teams that have won championships. Us going against each other is more than just one man. We aren't playing tennis. We are going out there to play a football game with 11 guys at a time."

Salute to service award finalists
HOUSTON -- Falcons coach Dan Quinn and Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva are the finalists for the NFL's Salute to Service Award.

The winner of the honor, presented by USAA, the official military appreciation sponsor of the league, will be announced during NFL Honors the night before the Super Bowl. Both Quinn's and Villanueva's teams, of course, are still in the running to play in that game on Feb. 5.

Quinn and Villanueva were selected for their exceptional efforts to honor and support members of the military community.

Last spring, Quinn hosted a "Rookie Club Olympics" for which he invited 100 military members from Fort Benning, Georgia to the Falcons' training facility to participate. He created the event as a way for NFL players and the military community to unite and work together as a team.

"The military represents team on the highest level," says Quinn, who in his second year as Atlanta's coach and has it hosting the NFC championship game Sunday against Green Bay. "It's an honor to be up for this award that recognizes the standard of excellence set by our nation's military and encourages our community to give back and support service members and their families who serve our nation."

Quinn also stages a military day at training camp and hosts 20 military members at each Falcons home game throughout the season. He also provided an opportunity for families of fallen soldiers with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) to attend the Falcons' Salute to Service game on Nov. 27. All 63 families attending were given a VIP visit at practice and were provided a one-night hotel stay in Atlanta courtesy of Quinn. Each player wore the initials of a fallen hero on his helmet during the game and during practice; the families were given a replica helmet of that player with a personalized note in honor of their hero.

Last offseason, Quinn led four Falcons players on a weeklong USO tour through the Pacific.

Villanueva grew up as a military child, living in the United States and Europe, where he played high school football. He then attended West Point, where he was a tight end, and was commissioned in the Army in 2010.

Promoted to captain in 2014, Villanueva was deployed three times. He received the Bronze Star Medal and the Bronze Star Medal for Valor for heroism in combat.

For the first time, NBC Sports regional networks add live, local Major League Baseball streaming

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AP

For the first time, NBC Sports regional networks add live, local Major League Baseball streaming

STAMFORD, Conn. – January 19, 2017 – NBC Sports Regional Networks today announced an agreement with MLBAM to stream local market MLB games, as well as pre- and postgame shows, beginning with the 2017 regular season. This new streaming offering is available at no additional cost to authenticated pay TV subscribers of NBC Sports Group’s CSN regional sports networks (RSNs). This local initiative advances NBCUniversal’s implementation of “TV Everywhere,” which strives to make quality content available to authenticated customers both in and out of the home, and on multiple platforms.

CSN’s local streaming allows authenticated viewers in their respective markets to live stream games and related programming that is carried by their pay TV provider of the Chicago Cubs (CSN Chicago), Chicago White Sox (CSN Chicago), Philadelphia Phillies (CSN Philadelphia), Oakland Athletics (CSN California) and San Francisco Giants (CSN Bay Area). Game broadcast schedules will be announced at a later date.

“This is a home run for our local sports fans,” said David Preschlack, President, NBC Sports Regional Networks, and NBC Sports Group Platform and Content Strategy. “We are constantly looking for ways to better serve our fans and provide comprehensive coverage of their favorite teams. With the addition of MLB in-market streaming rights, they don’t have to miss a pitch.”

The addition of MLB authenticated in-market streaming completes the local streaming portfolio for the NBC Sports Regional Networks, which also includes local NBA and NHL live streaming. The RSNs first introduced NBA streaming in 2014 and last fall announced the addition of NHL in-market streaming, beginning with the 2016-17 season. 

The NBC Sports Regional Networks now have partnerships for in-market streaming of the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, San Jose Sharks, San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s (CSN Bay Area/CSN California); Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox (CSN Chicago); Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals (CSN Mid-Atlantic); Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Flyers and Philadelphia Phillies (CSN Philadelphia); and Boston Celtics (CSN New England).

Authenticated CSN subscribers can access live MLB, NBA and NHL games, as well as other sports programming, anywhere in the United States.  During the 2017 MLB season, all in-market MLB games will be streamed on the respective local CSN regional network site on PCs as well as on the NBC Sports app—NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets and connected TVs. The NBC Sports app is available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.