The New England Patriots defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Philadelphia Eagles destroyed the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday to set up a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX between the Patriots and Eagles. Here are our quick thoughts for the game.
The Patriots are considered the home team for this game and will get to choose their jersey color. The Eagles are considered the road team and will call the opening coin toss.
Kickoff is at 6:30 PM ET on Sunday, February 4th on NBC.
The Eagles don’t have starting quarterback Carson Wentz, but it might not matter
Philadelphia lost their starting quarterback with three games left in the regular season and he was replaced by Nick Foles who has been rather inconsistent.
Foles completed 63% of his passes and threw 4 touchdowns in his first start in the place of Carson Wentz against the New York Giants, but then combined for 23 of 49 for 202 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions in week 16 and the first third of week 17 before the Eagles put in their back-ups.
He was quiet in the divisional round but completed a respectable 77% of his passes for 246 passing yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. He did enough to lead the Eagles to victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
But then Foles erupted against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game in a nearly flawless performance. If the Foles that dominated the Vikings shows up for the Super Bowl, the Eagles could very well be the favorite due to their stout defense.
And if the Foles that bounced around the NFL from 2014-17 shows up, then the Patriots could win in a cake walk.
The Eagles have a top 10 offense
Other than Foles at quarterback, the Eagles have a pretty deep rotation of players on offense, even though they haven’t really produced much on an individual level. Tight end Zach Ertz leads the team with 824 yards from scrimmage, while Alshon Jeffery leads the team with 120 targets. Nelson Agholor has 775 yards from scrimmage and ranks third on the team with 95 targets, while Torrey Smith has 427 yards from scrimmage and ranks fourth on the team with 67 targets.
It’s clear that the Eagles don’t have the best completion rate to the outside and that they rely heavily on their production to receivers in the middle of the field (Ertz and Agholor) and with their running backs. Blount leads the Eagles running backs with 816 yards from scrimmage, followed by Ajayi with 499 and Corey Clement with 444.
There are a lot of players that can produce on this offense, but no one really seems to take over the game. The Eagles had only five 100+ yard games by a single player in the regular season (Blount in week 4; Ajayi in week 11; Ertz in week 12; Agholor in week 13; and Smith in week 14). For comparison, the Patriots accomplished that feat 10 times.
The Eagles aren’t the best at any facet on offense, but they’re good enough that the Patriots can’t simply expect to remove one player and stall the Philadelphia offense; there are too many pieces. They rank 3rd in the NFL in points scored and 1st in red zone scoring.
The Eagles have a top 5 defense
The Eagles are built to dominate on defense. They have four pass rushers capable of getting after the quarterback in addition to two great defensive tackles in Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan. They are also strong at linebacker with Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks capable of playing all over the field.
Philadelphia ranks 3rd in the NFL in DVOA against the run because of their strong defensive front seven and also 7th in DVOA against the pass because they have a strong secondary. There’s no real weak point anywhere on the defense because everyone is slightly above-average or elite at their roles.
Malcolm Jenkins is one of the best safeties in the league and he pairs well with Rodney McLeod. Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby as the starting cornerbacks, with Patrick Robinson in the slot and Rasul Douglas playing, too. Corey Graham comes in for heavier dime packages and he’s very versatile.
The Eagles rank 3rd in the NFL on third down defense and 5th in takeaway rate. They stop drives quickly and turn the ball back over to the offense. They rank 4th in the NFL in points allowed and 20th in red zone defense.
The Patriots and Eagles have very important players that spent time on both teams
The Eagles have running back LeGarrette Blount, pass rusher Chris Long, and linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill on the roster. Blount leads the running backs in snaps this year, but he’s technically behind Jay Ajayi in the depth chart because Ajayi was a midseason acquisition. Long is the third player in the Eagles pass rush, behind Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, and ahead of rookie Derek Barnett. Grugier-Hill leads Philadelphia in special teams snaps.
The Patriots have running back Dion Lewis, who has been one of the Patriots most dynamic players on offense all year; wide receiver Danny Amendola, who has been one of the Patriots top receiving threats in the playoffs; safety Patrick Chung, who is one of the most important players in New England’s secondary; and cornerback Eric Rowe, who is the team’s nickel corner.