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Week 13 X-Factors: Patriots vs. Eagles

Congratulations, Brandon LaFell, you are now The Guy.
Congratulations, Brandon LaFell, you are now The Guy.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots skill player group is decimated at every position, but no one is going to feel sorry for them moving forward. The Patriots still have 5 games left and control their destiny for the top AFC seed. The Patriots will be getting players back for the playoff run, which could swing the favor their way in a win or go home scenario. The Patriots need the guys they have now to step up and do the best they can to replace the production that's sitting on the sidelines. On the other side of the ball, the Patriots defense needs to force the Eagles QB to beat them with longer developing passing routes.

Brandon LaFell: By circumstance, Brandon LaFell has moved from the #4 target to the likely #1 target this week. LaFell's normal spot is lining up to the offense's left, which means he'll draw either rookie Eric Rowe or someone even further down the depth chart. There will be opportunities for him to produce if he can get into Eric Rowe's head. He just needs to beat him downfield one and Rowe will starting playing conservative, which opens up the door for crossing routes, in-cuts, slants, and back-shoulder fades. If LaFell is capable of producing at the level he did last season, the Patriots should be fine this week at receiver.

Logan Ryan: Ryan drew the assignment of Demaryius Thomas last week and performed well in that game. This week he probably will draw the assignment of Jordan Matthews. Matthews is the Eagles top target when they do pass and he can be a handful to cover for most teams. Fortunately for Ryan, Matthews lacks vertical separation speed and the Patriots will have a safety over the top in case Matthews does go vertical. I don't think the Patriots will double Matthews all day since they didn't do so with Thomas last week. If Ryan can have a similar day on Matthews as he did on Thomas, the Eagles won't be doing much on offense.