NFL Game of the Week: New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Story posted November 14, 2019 in Sports, CommRadio by Connor Griffin

A long-awaited Super Bowl rematch is right around the corner.

The New England Patriots (8-1) travel to Lincoln Financial Field to square off with the Philadelphia Eagles (5-4) on Sunday. It’s the first time these teams have met since the underdog Eagles beat Bill Belichick and company in 2018’s Super Bowl 52.

Roughly 650 days have passed since that classic showdown, and it’s safe to say that a lot has changed for both of these franchises. The road has certainly been more pleasant for the Patriots, which have a 22-6 record since (including a redeeming Super Bowl victory). For Philadelphia, things have been a bit more turbulent. A 4-6 start to the 2018 season was followed up with a 3-4 start this year, but the Eagles reeled off two solid wins over the Bills and the Bears before heading into last week’s bye.

New England doesn’t have anywhere near that type of momentum, despite having one of the most impressive first halves of the NFL season. After a dominant 8-0 start, the Patriots were embarrassed by Lamar Jackson’s Ravens two weeks ago. Baltimore won the contest 37-20, sending the Patriots into their bye week with the team’s largest loss since 2014.

The Ravens were able to run all over the Patriots in that matchup. What had been such a stout defensive unit for New England all season allowed 210 yards on the ground. Baltimore’s 5.1 yards per carry in the game caused many to question just how good this Patriots defense is, considering it had been dubbed the greatest in Belichick’s tenure as head coach.

Regardless, the defense isn’t impenetrable like it appeared to be through eight games. The Patriots benefitted from an incredibly weak schedule early on, and their poor defensive performance in their first real test should bode well for Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders. The thunder and lightning backfield duo has been trending upward in recent weeks, and if the Philadelphia offensive line can continue to create holes, then the Eagles should have no problem establishing an effective rushing attack on Sunday.

On the flip side, it should be an enormous struggle for New England to get anything going in the run game. Sony Michel has underperformed this year, as has the Patriots backfield as a whole. Now they’re set to face the fourth-best rushing defense in the league—a unit that’s only allowing 87.3 rushing yards per game. With that being said, Tom Brady will have to carry much of the load for the offense if the Patriots want to make this game competitive.

In fairness, that’s exactly what Brady did in that 2018 Super Bowl. The veteran threw for 505 yards: the most ever in a postseason game. It’s tough to see Brady producing another astounding performance in this one when you look at the people he’s throwing to nowadays. He no longer has Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola or Chris Hogan: three critical pieces from that team two years ago. If the Eagles can contain Julian Edelman, it’s going to be a tough ask of Brady to make plays. He simply doesn’t have as much talent on the outside as he once did.

The quarterback on the opposite side of the field has also lost some productivity at the wide receiver position. Nelson Agholor has come back down to Earth after two remarkable seasons, and Alshon Jeffery has only shown glimpses of his former self. Thankfully for Carson Wentz, though, Philadelphia’s got a two-time All-Pro at tight end. Zach Ertz played a major role in the win over the Bears, and he proved to be a human cheat code in third-down situations. Expect much of the same against New England this week.

All things considered, this game comes down to Philadelphia’s ability to hold on to the football. The Eagles coughed up the ball up many times toward the beginning of the season, but they have gotten the turnovers in check since. Carson Wentz has done a good job all year of not throwing interceptions, and it will be interesting to see if this holds true against Stephon Gilmore and a defense that’s ranked No. 1 in turnover margin.

If the Eagles don’t turn the ball over, they should be able to sustain much longer drives than the Patriots. With a superior run game on top of a reliable target like Ertz, Philadelphia will have far more success in extending possessions when needed and will ultimately wear down this New England defense. The game may not be a 41-33 shootout like last time, but nevertheless, it will end with another Eagles victory.

Prediction: Philadelphia 24, New England 16

 

Connor Griffin is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email cfg6@psu.edu.