Know your Eagles enemy: The New England Patriots

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The bye week has come and gone and the once second place Eagles find themselves in a tie with the Cowboys for first. Of course, the Cowboys are technically in first due to their win over the Eagles, but the division is there for the taking.

The Eagles stay home for a second straight game on Sunday, and host some team they beat in Super Bowl 52.

The Patriots are also coming off a bye and are 8-1, losing the game before the bye against the Ravens. Before we get into the matchup, let’s take a look at their offseason moves and how they rank this season.

Key arrivals: 

Wide receiver N’Keal Harry (first round draft pick),
Linebacker Jaime Collins (free agency – Browns),
Tight end Benjamin Watson (out of retirement),
Defensive end Chase Winovich (second-round draft pick),
Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (trade – Falcons),
Kicker Nick Folk (signed two weeks ago)

Key departures: 

Tight end Rob Gronkowski (retirement),
Tight end Dwayne Allen (released – signed with Dolphins),
Cornerback Eric Rowe (free agency – Dolphins),
Offensive Tackle Trent Brown (free agency – Raiders),
Defensive tackle Malcom Brown (free agency – Saints),
Wide receiver Chris Hogan (free agency – Panthers),
Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (free agency – Bears),
Defensive end Adrian Clayborn (free agency – Falcons),
Wide receiver Josh Gordon (waived – claimed by Seahawks)

2019 ranks:
  • Yards per game: 366.8 (15th)
  • Passing yards per game: 273.9 (7th)
  • Rushing yards per game: 92.9 (23rd)
  • Yards allowed per game: 249.3 (2nd)
  • Passing yards allowed per game: 150.2 (2nd)
  • Rushing yards allowed per game: 99.1 (11th)

As you can see, the Patriots’ defense has been the biggest reason for their success so far.  They are allowing 10.9 points per game while scoring 30. Sounds like a pretty dominant team, right? 

Let’s take a look at their eight wins and those teams’ points per game/points allowed per game (with the final score in parenthesis):

  • Steelers: 21.4/20.1 {defense has been MUCH better since the trade for Fitzpatrick [sad face]} (33-3)
  • Dolphins: 13.2/29.8 (43-0)
  • Jets: 14.4/26.4 (30-14)
  • Bills: 19.3/16.7 (16-10)
  • Redskins: 12.0/24.3 (33-7)
  • Giants: 20.3/28.9 (35-14)
  • Jets: 14.4/26.4 (33-0)
  • Browns: 19.0/24.6 (27-13)

The Patriots’ only loss is to the Lamar Jackson led Baltimore Ravens, in which they lost 37-20. Did the Ravens provide the blueprint to beat the Patriots? 

While Wentz isn’t the dynamic runner Lamar Jackson is, he is arguably a much better passer. The stats may not show it, as they both have almost identical numbers this season, but with Jackson’s threat to run the ball for an 80 yard sprint every play, the passing game opens up for him.

Wentz can move, as we’ve seen his Houdini acts throughout the season. He and Pederson can still take from what Jackson did against the Patriots’ defense and incorporate it in to the game plan. 

No Big Plays?  No Problem

The Eagles offense has struggled to make big plays this season. The last one was the 65 yard touchdown by Miles Sanders, but before that? DeSean Jackson’s touchdown in week one. The Patriots’ defense is excellent in limiting big plays, so don’t expect the Eagles to get their act together on those.

However, the Ravens also were limited in big plays. Their longest score on offense was a 12 yard rush from Gus Edwards. The other three offensive touchdowns came from three yards, five yards, and one yard respectively.  Jackson only had 163 yards passing but added 16 rushes for 61 yards. Those rushes extended drives and wore down the Patriots’ defense on key downs. 

This is how the Eagles can manage the Patriots’ top ranked defense. The Eagles’ offensive line must set the tone as the Ravens’ offensive line did.  The Ravens were able to run for 210 yards on the Patriots, with 61 coming from Jackson, 115 from Mark Ingram, and 34 from Edwards and Justice Hill. The Eagles can almost replicate that production with a combination from Wentz, Howard, Sanders, Sproles, and Scott. The key to this game on offense is in the ground game and Doug Pederson must show a commitment in that aspect. 

Déjà vu?

Tom Brady is having a good year this season. He has more yards than he did through nine games last season, less interceptions, but also less touchdowns. His passer rating through nine games last season was 84.8, this season it’s 93.1 

He has nine receivers with over 100 receiving yards, but only one has over 600. Newcomer Mohamed Sanu can help out with that receiver production, but he already played the Eagles this season and mustered 16 yards. His familiarity with this Eagles secondary can help him get better numbers, and may lead to Brady hitting over 300 yards just for the fifth time this season.

Tom Brady having success against the Eagles secondary? Hmm sounds familiar…

But what also sounds familiar is the Patriots’ offensive line having issues protecting Brady. 

While he’s only been sacked 12 times on the season, he’s been pressured into quick throws. The Ravens’ defense was able to scheme zone blitzes all game against the Patriots to pressure Brady into bad throws. He’s already been blitzed more times this year than he did all of last season. This is where the Eagles need to attack. 

Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, and Fletcher Cox are going to demand a lot of attention from the Patriots’ blocking scheme, so it will be up to players like Tim Jernigan, Anthony Rush, Albert Huggins, Josh Sweat, and Genard Avery to make sure the pressure gets to Brady. If the pressure can get to Brady, maybe we’ll see a strip sack at a key point in the game.

Wait, what did you say?  We’ve seen that before?  Then we’ll have a case of déjà vu.

For some history and game predictions, check out the next page!

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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