Sunday, January 3, 2016

NFL Picks Week Seventeen: The one time I'm rooting for the Eagles

Well, this is awkward.

I often tell people that while the first team I ever learned to hate is the Dallas Cowboys -- an uncontrollable emotional response that can be traced to Emmitt Smith's "Separated Shoulder Game" in 1994 -- the team I hate the most is a much closer rival. The Philadelphia Eagles lie just 90 miles south of New York City and over the years have been the root of so much pain and animosity. I was not alive for the Miracle at the Meadowlands, but I remember all too well the frustration of the Miracle's second coming, as do I remember all of the other difficult losses, thrilling victories and countless epithets thrown my way when I've so much as dared to enter Lincoln Financial Field. The hatred runs so deep that there is almost nothing on this Earth that could every get me to actually root for these Eagles on a Sunday in which they face my Giants.


This weekend, as the curtain falls on another fruitless campaign for the Giants -- as well as the Eagles -- we come to one of those ultra rare moments when these rivals are facing off and, for some obscure, highly complex reason, I'm actually hoping the Eagles fly.

How could this be? How did we come to such a pass? What confluence of events could possibly have led me astray to this unholy desire?

The answer stretches across nearly a decade of NFL history, as we look to Week 8 of the 2007 season, when the Giants and Miami Dolphins played in a rainy 13-10 snore-fest at Wembley Stadium in London. The game, which I told my father "set football back in England 10 years" was the first of the NFL's annual international series, which has now grown to as many as three games in London each season. While some teams, the Rams and Jaguars specifically, play there annually, the rest of the league seems to have been taking a steady rotation. The Giants, however, have not been back.

The next step in this comes 18 months ago, when my sister and her husband moved to London for his job. I visited them once in February and will be there again one month from yesterday, but I always made them one solemn, perhaps unnecessary promise.

"If the Giants ever play in London while you're living there, I will be there."

This seemed largely empty to me, not because I wouldn't want to hold up my end of the bargain, but because of 32 teams cycling in and out of the UK, the Giants visiting over the few-year stretch they expect to be across the pond seemed somewhat remote. Light shined at the end of the tunnel a few weeks ago, however, when the NFL announced next season's UK matchups, and stated that on Oct. 23, the Rams would play whichever NFC East team finished in the same spot in the divisional standings that they did.

Essentially, it all boils down to this. The Rams are locked into third place in the NFC West. The Giants and Eagles, meanwhile, are currently tied for second in the NFC East. The Giants and Eagles face each other this afternoon in the final game of the season. Whomever loses books a trip to London this October. There is a chance, after all these years, for the stars to align. And for that to happen, for me to share a once-in-a-lifetime moment with my sister, brother-in-law and my new nephew who was wearing a Giants knit hat from his first days as he slept in his crib, one thing must happen.

The New York Giants must lose to the Philadelphia Eagles today.

I won't lie. It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel downright dirty to pull for it. But sometimes we must make sacrifices or do what feels completely and utterly wrong for the greater good. As we wind down what has been a drudgery, a frustrating gauntlet of a season for the Giants, who could have won as many as five or six more games than they did, there is one appropriate and somewhat ironic way to end the campaign. And it just might lead to a more exciting 2016 10 months from now.

There you have it. Fly, Eag-- Ah, who am I kidding? I can't bring myself to say it. Whatever. Just do it. And if it happens, well, let's never speak of it again after today.

Last week: 4-12-0
Season: 117-118-5

New Orleans (+4) over ATLANTA
NY Jets (-3) over BUFFALO
Detroit (even) over CHICAGO
CINCINNATI (-7.5) over Baltimore
Pittsburgh (-10) over CLEVELAND
Washintgon (even) over DALLAS
INDIANAPOLIS (even) over Tennessee
New England (-10) over MIAMI
Philadelphia (+3) over NY GIANTS
HOUSTON (-6.5) over Jacksonville
DENVER (-8.5) over San Diego
KANSAS CITY (-6.5) over Oakland
ARIZONA (-6.5) over Seattle
St. Louis (-3.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
CAROLINA (-10.5) over Tampa Bay
GREEN BAY (-3) over Minnesota

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