Although there has been some decent turnover since the last time these two teams faced off, New England Patriots fans would love nothing more than to get some revenge on the Philadelphia Eagles, who handed them one of the most scarring losses in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era in Super Bowl 52. Brady and several players on the Patriots have admitted that they haven’t gotten over this loss and with both teams coming off of byes, they should be well rested and ready to go at it.
It’s a big game for both sides as there are a lot of implications on the line; The Patriots are trying to hold control of the number one playoff seed in the AFC while the Eagles are looking to win their third straight game and gain the first place in the NFC East over the Dallas Cowboys. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the three keys for a New England victory.
Expose the Eagles secondary
The Patriots come into this game after finding some success and consistency in the passing game — especially with Mohamed Sanu who is coming off a career-high in catches and yards. With Jalen Mills now back for a few weeks, the Eagles have gotten a bit better but the secondary as a whole of Ronald Darby, Avonte Maddox and Sidney Jones have been super inconsistent and have been known to give up big plays.
Not to mention, it is the same secondary minus Corey Graham that saw Brady throw for 505 yards in the Super Bowl. Out of its nine games this season, the Eagles secondary has allowed a 100-yard receiver seven times so expect another high target count for both Sanu and/or Julian Edelman.
Get the swagger back on defense
After the “Boogeymen” got torched for 210 yards on the ground and a season high 37 points, a week off should bode well for the Patriots defense. With the Eagles coming into this game fielding arguably the worst set of wide receivers in the league and missing number one running back Jordan Howard, the unit should be in a prime position to get back on track. There are still a few things that need to be taken care of, however.
First, the Patriots have to find a way to slow productive running back Miles Sanders down. The rookie leads Philadelphia in yards from scrimmage and his been a big-play weapon in both the passing and the running game. Furthermore, New England needs to slow down the two-headed tight end monster that is Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert — something head coach Bill Belichick pointed out during a press conference earlier this week.
“I think they play two tight ends more than any other team in the league,” said Belichick. “Those two guys combined play a lot. It’s usually Ertz in 11 personnel but not always. Goedert plays in there a decent amount too, and obviously they’re both on the field when they go to 12. They’re interchangeable. They’re able to move guys around to different spots. [...] They can do several different things and run the same play from different formations and different looks, so it’s the same but it doesn’t really look the same to the defense.”
The Patriots fell behind 17-0 against the Baltimore Ravens and had to play catch-up the entire game. Starting quickly will therefore be a key for the team today against Philadelphia, for two simple reasons (other than playing the game on New England’s own terms): it would put pressure on quarterback Carson Wentz and the offense to move the football through the air — something that plays in the hands of the defense — while also eliminating teh crowd factor to a certain degree.