Battle of the Birds

It’s hard to believe we’re sitting here talking about the Eagles in the NFC Championship game after the season they had. On at least two different occasions I was convinced the season was over. The first time was after the Ravens debacle, when McNabb was pulled and the team imploded. How did the Eagles respond? By coming back four days later and destroying the Cardinals on Thanksgiving, kicking off a three-game winning streak that put them back in the hunt . . . until the second occasion when I (and almost everybody else) thought the season was over: the Washington game. We all know what happened after that: the Eagles bounced back to annihilate Dallas and Tampa Bay lost at home to Oakland. Absolutely improbable, but here we are, and through two playoff games, the Eagles have proven that they belong here.

Not too many people gave them a chance to beat the Giants, but the game played out pretty much how I thought it would. I knew that if the Eagles contained the running game and forced Manning to beat them, he would fold, and that’s exactly what happened. The Eagles were actually fortunate to have the lead at halftime as the offense had not done much, but once again, the defense came up huge and kept them in the game until the offense found its rhythm. And like the Minnesota game, the Eagles took over and dominated the second half. The defense allowed nothing but a field goal, and McNabb fought through the fierce wind to lead the Birds on three more scoring drives, making several key third down throws in the process.

So here we are, in an NFC Championship game that NOBODY predicted: the Battle of the Birds. It’s only a shame that the higher seed automatically goes to the division winner, because the Eagles, having the better record, could have hosted the game, and there’s no way the Cards would have won in frigid Philly. I still believe the Eagles will win, so do most experts (as the Eagles’ road favorite status will attest to), but this game will not be as easy as people think, primarily because the Eagles have played two brutally physical playoff games while the Cardinals have had a relatively easy time of it, but also because we will not see the same Cardinals team that the Eagles blew out in November. They will be at home, on eight days of rest, and brimming with confidence after two impressive victories over Atlanta and Carolina. Also, they are no longer one-dimensional after discovering that Edgerrin James is still on the team, so as I said, this will not be easy.

Still, this game, like most games this time of year, will come down to defense, which is where the Eagles are the far superior team. It’s no coincidence that the top three defenses in the league are still playing on Conference Championship weekend. The lone exception: the Cardinals, whose defense was in the middle of the pack. Meanwhile, the Eagles defense has given up 14 points or less in six straight games. The last team to score more than that on them? Arizona. So I’m expecting a fairly high scoring game in this one. Both offenses are capable of putting points on the board, but the red-hot Eagles defense will hold Arizona down enough to secure the win. Eagles 28, Cardinals 20.

As for the AFC Championship, another team of birds, the Ravens, travels to Pittsburgh, where their season will end. I just can’t see Baltimore staying in this game unless Pittsburgh completely self destructs, like the Titans did last week. Flacco has had a nice rookie season, and even though he has already seen the Steelers twice, I don’t think he has any idea what he’ll be walking into on Sunday evening. Baltimore’s great defense may keep it close for a while, but Pittsburgh’s defense is even better, as is their offense, which will eventually pull away. It would not surprise me if Baltimore fails to score a TD in this game, but I’ll give them the benefit of a defensive touchdown. Steelers 20, Ravens 10.

And on to the All-PA Super Bowl I predicted at the beginning of the season!

Writer, traveler, photographer, hiker, film/TV addict, amateur chef, casual gamer, and occasional tennis & saxophone player . . . in real life I do web design.

Posted in Football, Sports

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Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

Another prairie dog shot, this one in the iconic standing pose. Not as sharp as I would have liked, but not too bad for handheld at a 250 mm focal length.

#animals #devilstower #nationalmonuments #NorthAmerica #Photography #prairiedogs #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #wildlife #Wyoming Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

There is a giant field beneath Devils Tower that is entirely covered with prairie dogs. I was so mesmerized by the little critters with their cute screeching noises that I almost forgot I was there to visit the tower.

#animals #devilstower #nationalmonuments #NorthAmerica #Photography #prairiedogs #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #wildlife #Wyoming Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

This shot only features the top of Devils Tower, but I liked the variety of colors in the landscape.

#DevilsTower #Wyoming #NationalMonuments #travel #buttes #landscapes #photography #UnitedStates #NorthAmerica #RoadTrips #hiking #colors Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

A closeup shot of climbers scaling Devils Tower.

Pretty soon, climbing will no longer be necessary because, according to a sign I saw at the site, they are apparently installing an elevator to the top. Although it would be neat to see the top of the tower, I think it’s unfortunate that they are going to ruin its appearance with an elevator apparatus. I’m glad that I was able to see Devils Tower in all its natural glory before this happens.

#buttes #devilstower #hiking #nationalmonuments #NorthAmerica
#Photography  #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming #climbing Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

A view of Devils Tower from my hike around the base. This is the opposite side of the tower from the shot I posted yesterday. The black dots in the sky are birds.

#DevilsTower #Wyoming #NationalMonuments #travel #buttes #landscapes #photography #UnitedStates #NorthAmerica #RoadTrips #hiking Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

A lifelong dream sparked by 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' was finally realized when I visited Devils Tower last August--40 years (and many plates of sculpted mashed potatoes) after I first saw the tower on film. I had no idea as I hiked around Devils Tower that just two days later there would be a 40th anniversary screening of the film at the tower itself. Just missed it!

#DevilsTower #Wyoming #NationalMonuments #CloseEncounters #travel
#buttes #landscapes #photography #UnitedStates #NorthAmerica
#RoadTrips Deadwood, South Dakota - August, 2017

I chose to stay in Deadwood during my three nights in South Dakota because I was a huge fan of the HBO show and have always been fascinated with the Wild West. I thought it would be cool to walk in the footsteps of Deadwood’s famous residents.

The drive in to town was interesting, as I steadily climbed the Black Hills while passing “Bighorn Sheep Crossing” signs. I only had time to explore the main strip because I spent most of my visit taking day trips out of town, so it’s not really fair to render a judgment without having taken the time to fully check out everything Deadwood had to offer. Still, I found it to be kind of a disappointment, mostly just your average casino town, which isn’t really my cup of tea.

Nevertheless, I saw several points of interest during my walks around town, such as the spots where Wild Bill was shot and where his assassin was caught, the Bullock Hotel that was built by Seth Bullock after the events of the show, and a few establishments named after notable people and places such as Charlie Utter and the Gem Theater. The recreated “gunfights” in the middle of town were also neat.

#deadwood #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #SouthDakota #Travel #UnitedStates #wildwest #historictowns #blackhills #oldwest Mount Rushmore, South Dakota - September, 2017

This is a zoomed-in view of Mount Rushmore from a lookout point a couple of miles away on Iron Mountain Road, a scenic mountain drive that I highly recommend taking before heading to the monument. If you go south to north, you will drive through a tunnel that perfectly frames Mount Rushmore; makes for a memorable photo. This shot may not look like a panorama due to its more squarish shape, but it was stitched together from two different photos.

#IronMountainRoad #MountRushmore #nationalmonuments #NorthAmerica
#panoramas #Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #SouthDakota #Travel
#UnitedStates #mountains Portland, Oregon - August, 2017

The view from my apartment during my stay in Portland last summer.

#NorthAmerica #Oregon #panoramas #Photography #Portland #Travel #UnitedStates Yellowstone National Park - August, 2017

Yellowstone Lake, the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America.

#yellowstonelake #nationalparks #NorthAmerica #panoramas #Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming
#YellowstoneNationalPark #yellowstone #lakes #water Yellowstone National Park - August, 2017

The Grand Prismatic Spring, one of Yellowstone's most stunning features, is the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world. It's difficult for a ground-level photo to do it justice, but if you climb the hill visible in the background of this shot, you can get a nice bird's-eye view of its beauty.

#GrandPrismaticSpring #nationalparks #NorthAmerica #panoramas #Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming
#YellowstoneNationalPark #yellowstone #hotsprings #MidwayGeyserBasin Yellowstone National Park - August, 2017

Vertical panorama of the Dragon's Mouth Spring in the Mud Volcano area of Yellowstone. Pictures don't do justice to this remarkable thermal feature, but you can see how it got its name as smoke appears to shoot out of a gaping mouth.

#dragonsmouthspring #nationalparks #NorthAmerica #panoramas
#Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming
#YellowstoneNationalPark #yellowstone #hotsprings Yellowstone National Park - August, 2017

This is a portion of Hayden Valley featuring rolling hills. Hayden Valley is one of the two prime locations for spotting wildlife in the park (the other being Lamar Valley), and one of the most popular destinations in the entire park.

#nationalparks #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming #YellowstoneNationalPark #haydenvalley #panoramas #hills Yellowstone National Park - August, 2017

This is Lamar Valley, one of the two prime locations for spotting wildlife in the park. The other is Hayden Valley. I saw wildlife in both locations, though Hayden Valley had much more.

#nationalparks #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming #YellowstoneNationalPark #lamarvalley #panoramas
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