Admit it, you love Cris Collinsworth. The NBC analyst is in Philadelphia, immersed in his final preparations for Sunday's Giants-Eagles game, and he knows what to expect from this NFC East battle.
"This is the game. This Giants-Eagles game kind of sets the tone for the rest of the season because I think those two teams, at the end of the day, are the two best teams in the NFC East," said Collinsworth on Friday at the NovaCare Complex, taking a break from his production meeting time with the coaching staff and various Eagles players. "I am really excited about this game. I think it's a great one."
It's one that Collinsworth has fully engaged himself with from the moment he jumped on an airplane and left Foxborough, MA following last Sunday's Bengals-Patriots game. The Man Who Replaced John Madden (and lived to thrive in the role) as NBC's Sunday Night Football color analyst has digested every conceivable source of information on both teams. He watches game film -- it takes him four hours to study a team's offense and another four to study a team's defense based solely on game film as he breaks it into four phases of film study -- and then reads scores of media updates, studies every fact and trend and numerical oddity and wraps up the information gathering by conducting interviews with coaches and players from both teams.
The information overload is then parsed into something workable for "the ultimate cram session" on Sunday morning when Collinsworth meets with Andy Freeland, NBC's football researcher and statistician, and all of those notes and all of that information is condensed into something that Collinsworth can use in the broadcast.
"That takes about two hours and then I'm ready to go," said Collinsworth. "I've been doing this for 20-plus years and everything that I've been told and that I've read, you kind of have a good feel for what is happening, versus just having a line that I've been fed. I spend most of the week absorbing a remarkable amount of data and information."
The result is that Collinsworth is totally prepared, and that he sits in the booth fully versed on both teams and completely unbiased with his views. And that's why, no matter where he goes, Collinsworth raises a reaction from fans. He is, in many ways, the broadcaster that America loves to, well, not like very much at times.
"I know there are Eagles fans who think I'm hard on the team, but honestly I don't think they hate me as much as some of the Giants fans and Cowboys fans," said Collinsworth, laughing. "That part of it is fun and funny to me. It's part of the job and what makes this enjoyable."
What does Collinsworth think of the Eagles? He singled the team out in a preseason broadcast and delighted most fans with his expectations for 2014.
"You know the team that I think will have a chance this year, is the Philadelphia Eagles," Collinsworth said during the broadcast. "I just feel like Chip Kelly and what they did in that first year with that offense, I know they didn't get it all in, and this year maybe a little bit more advanced Nick Foles. So I'm kind of keeping my eye on the Philadelphia Eagles."
Collinsworth is, frankly, astonished the Eagles have been able to "slice and dice and have found a way to make it work" to a 4-1 record because "you can't lose three offensive linemen for four games and expect to be competitive in the National Football League." He still thinks the Eagles could be a team on the rise late in the season.
"All you have to do is watch the playoffs, and it really does come down to who gets hot late. And if you had to say, 'Alright, which team in the NFL right now would you pick out and say, this team is likely to be a lot better at the end of the year than where they are now, I think it has to be Philadelphia,' " said Collinsworth. "They have injuries along the offensive line and they're going to get those players (left guard Evan Mathis, center Jason Kelce) back, defenses aren't going to hold down (running back) LeSean McCoy the way he's been held down so far, and defensively they've been playing without (linebacker) Mychal Kendricks, who has been Mr. Sunday Night Football. He's been unbelievable on Sunday Night Football. This is going to be an interesting team.
"They are really dangerous. When they get their players back and get everyone into shape and on the same page, could look like a completely different team than they look now."