A huge AFC/NFC matchup is in store on Sunday afternoon as the New England Patriots head to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Philadelphia Eagles. This will be only the 15th time these two franchises have ever played against each other with the Eagles holding the all-time series lead 8-6. The most recent game was Super Bowl LII where the Eagles bested the Patriots 41-33 in an all-out shootout on the NFL’s biggest stage. While that game will always be remembered for the “Philly Special” and the inexplicable benching of then Patriots’ Cornerback Malcolm Butler, in the aftermath the Patriots went on to win Super Bowl LIII while the Philadelphia fell short in their attempt to defend their title.
The Eagles (5-4) enter this game coming off their bye week. While they are a ½ game behind the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East, they have been wildly inconsistent this year beating teams like the Packers while barely being able to get by teams like the Redskins and losing inexplicably to the Atlanta Falcons. With the strong play of teams in the NFC West and NFC North, Philadelphia’s time is running out for them to make a late season push to the playoffs.
For the Patriots (8-1), they are also coming off their bye after losing in Week 9 against the Baltimore Ravens. In that game, New England’s offense got off to a slow start and their defense couldn’t contain the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson. While doom and gloom have surrounded Foxboro with the Annual “The Patriots are Done” Festival, there were several positives to take out of that game particularly the integration of Mohamad Sanu into the offence.
Both teams are fighting for playoff position so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – PATRIOTS: Both Quarterbacks are statistically even to this point in the season. However, the edge goes to the Patriots Tom Brady knowing that his football career is close to the end and that he needs to rise to the occasion once again and lead New England towards another playoff push.
Running Backs – PUSH: There is a slight statistical edge for the Patriots’ running backs from total yards from scrimmage and touchdowns scored standpoint over the Eagles’ backs. However, there is not enough of a difference to give either team a definitive advantage. The Eagles’ Running Backs, led by Jordan Howard, have done most of their damage on the ground while the Patriots group has been balanced between running and passing.
Wide Receivers – PUSH: Injuries and roster changes have left both teams with significant question marks at the wide receiver position. While the arrow could be pointed up for the Patriots with the addition of Mohamed Sanu and the return of N’Keal Harry, it must be demonstrated on the field vs. on paper.
Tight Ends – EAGLES: The Eagles’ Zach Ertz is currently the leading receiver for Philadelphia with 527 yards on the season which is significantly more than the bodies that New England keeps tossing out on the field.
Offensive Line – PUSH: Surprisingly, the Patriots have protected their quarterback better than the Eagles but Philadelphia’s line has been slightly more productive in the running game.
Defensive Front Seven – PUSH: The Patriots were handed a dose of reality in Week 9 but they have had a week to work and get their fundamentals in order. While the Eagles have a slight edge over the Patriots in Run defense, the Patriots are getting to opposing passers more consistently.
Secondary – PATRIOTS: While the Patriots will certainly be tested through the air, they have been playing at an elite level allowing the lowest opposing QB Rating and Completion Percentage all while still leading the league in interceptions.
Special Teams – EAGLES: While statistically even in just about every major category, the edge goes to the Eagles because of the inconsistent play from the Patriots Place Kicker position.
Coaching – PUSH: “Holy Crap” you say…..however respect is due where respect is due. In almost all areas it’s very easy to point out where Bill Belichick is a better coach than Doug Pederson. The thing is though that in the biggest game where these two coaches have opposed each other, Pederson won. This could be some extra motivation for the Patriots coach to step up his game on Sunday.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Line: Patriots -3 ½
Key’s to a Patriots Victory:
1) Get Off to a Faster Start: In a blink of an eye, the Patriots were down 17 points in Week 9 and while they made a valiant effort to get back into the game, at the end of the day getting down by that much so quickly rarely leads to a successful outcome. New England needs to get off to a much faster start this week and whether that means taking some risks on 4th down early or going with an up-tempo offense, they can’t afford to fall behind so quickly in the game.
2) Controlling the Eagles Defensive Line: With a patchwork offensive line, the Patriots need to figure out a way keep the Eagles defensive line in check in order to keep the down and distance manageable and 2nd and 3rd down. If they allow the Eagles’ Fletcher Cox to get matched up one on one with the Patriots’ Guards, it could be a long afternoon for Tom Brady.
3) Expand the Circle of Trust: Clearly Tom Brady will get the ball to Julian Edelman and newly acquired Mohamad Sanu. However, there needs to be a conscious effort to keep Philip Dorsett involved and to start working in both Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry into the offense. A no huddle spread offense could pay dividends to wear out the Eagles pass rush.
On paper this is a very even match up which should provide a very entertaining, yet stressful, game. Look for one of the Patriots new-faces to make a key play down the stretch.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 26 – Eagles 23