This point of the season is fun, because every NFL team has been punched in the mouth at least once. That’s significant, as Rocky would say, because that’s when plans get changed.
The New England Patriots might be changing some game plans after getting hosed by the Ravens in their previous outing. By now, you should know the Apollo Creed character in my story refers to the Patriots.
We, of course, are Rocky Balboa…despite the unrealistic fight sequences in the 1976 classic movie, there’s a lot of mystique about underdog determination which still rings solid in the mentality of Philadelphia sports teams.
I thought it would be fun to preview the upcoming signature game in the Rocky franchise with a perspective from the Creed camp, aka Patriots.com:
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (8-1) at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (5-4)
Sunday, November 17, 2019 at 4:25 p.m. ET. Lincoln Financial Field.
Since becoming Patriots head coach in 2000, Bill Belichick has recorded a 14-5 mark in the regular season coming off a bye.
SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS
By Paul Perillo
When the Patriots run – Edge: Eagles
It will be interesting to see if the bye week did anything to improve the Patriots sagging run game. Sony Michel is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and in his most recent game was a mere afterthought with just four carries. The Patriots instead went exclusively out of the shotgun with James White and Rex Burkhead getting the snaps, and they had some success on the ground albeit while chasing a 17-point deficit. It will be interesting to see if Josh McDaniels decides that tactic is worth pursuing on a more regular basis after the bye. Meanwhile the Eagles defense, which has been hit hard by injuries up front, has performed well against the run. Philly allows an average of just 87.3 yards per game on the ground despite losing mammoth defensive tackles Malik Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway for the season. Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan man the inside spots in front of linebackers Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nathan Gerry. It’s not the most dynamic front seven in the league but it has been effective against the run.
When the Patriots pass – Edge: Patriots
It didn’t take long for Tom Brady to develop a rapport with his newest wideout Mohamed Sanu. The pair connected 10 times in the Week 9 loss in Baltimore including a touchdown, and the Patriots offense seemed to find some rhythm with the no huddle attack, particularly in the middle of the game. Brady has had some trouble dealing with spotty pass protection throughout the season despite the fact that he’s only been sacked 15 times. Periodic breakdowns have forced him into more throwaways than normal and the offense hasn’t always looked smooth as a result. Julian Edelman (63 catches, 663 yards, 4 TDs) has been the lone constant in the passing game while White (44 catches, 404 yards, 1 TD) has provided a steady presence out of the backfield. The Eagles secondary has struggled all season long, allowing 239 yards per game and 16 touchdowns. Ronald Darby hasn’t played at the level he’s shown in the past while Jalen Mills, Avonte Maddox and Sidney Jones have struggled as well. This is a secondary Brady should be able to exploit, assuming the line can handle the likes of Cox, Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett.
When the Eagles run – Edge: Patriots
The Eagles have developed their version of a thunder and lightning-type backfield with Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders. Howard has come on as of late with 525 yards rushing and six touchdowns while the speedy Sanders has 336 yards and a 65-yard touchdown to his credit. Both average 4.4 yards per rush, and now they go against a defense that allows 4.7 yards per attempt and is coming off a dismal showing in Baltimore. Howard is the workhorse but his straight-forward style seems more conducive to the kinds of backs the Patriots have bottled up in the past. Sanders has the versatility that has given the linebackers some trouble, however, both in the running and passing game. New England’s linebackers will also have to deal with the mobility of Carson Wentz, who likes to escape the pocket especially on third down. For two weeks the Patriots have heard about the problems stopping the run and it would be surprising to see the Eagles power up and run it all evening against a defense that had been dominant prior to the Ravens game.
When the Eagles pass – Edge: Patriots
Wentz showed some signs of life in his last outing after some uneven performances in the first half of the season. He’s completing only 63 percent of his throws but has 15 touchdowns against only four picks and his team won two straight heading into the bye. Injuries played a role in the Eagles stagnant passing game with DeSean Jackson (IR) and Alshon Jeffery missing time. Jeffery and Nelson Agholor are capable targets and Zach Ertz is one of the most dangerous tight ends in the league. Wentz also uses tight end Dallas Goedert effectively, particularly in the red zone. The Patriots secondary, led by Stephon Gilmore, has been outstanding, and the pass rush has been equally effective with 32 sacks. This matchup could come down to the Eagles offensive line and its ability to keep Wentz comfortable in the pocket. Most of the Eagles passing game struggles start with protection issues, forcing Wentz to escape the pocket too often. Look for that to continue Sunday evening.
Special Teams – Edge: Eagles
The Eagles have a solid kicker in Jake Elliott, who has yet to miss a field goal this season. Meanwhile, the Patriots are working in newcomer Nick Folk, who replaced Mike Nugent in Baltimore and made all four of his kicks, although the longest were a pair of PATs. The coverage units on both side have been adequate while the Eagles return game features Sanders handling kickoffs and the ageless Darren Sproles still doing the job on punts. The Patriots use Brandon Bolden (kicks) and Gunner Olszewski (punts), although the rookie was inactive in Baltimore due to an ankle injury and Sanu took his place. Both punters, Jake Bailey and Cameron Johnston, have been effective in pinning teams inside their 20 all season. Although not much stands out either way in terms of special teams, the Eagles earn a slight edge due to Elliott’s steadiness.
TALE OF THE TAPE
|2019 REGULAR SEASON||NEW ENGLAND||EAGLES|
|Divisional Standings||1st||1st (tied)|
|Total Yards Gained||3,301||3,123|
|Total Offense (Rank)||366.8 (15)||347.0 (20)|
|Rush Offense||92.9 (23)||127.3 (11)|
|Pass Offense||273.9 (7)||219.7 (21)|
|Points Per Game||30.0 (2)||24.9 (13)|
|Total Yards Allowed||2,244||2,937|
|Total Defense (Rank)||249.3 (1)||326.3 (8)|
|Rush Defense||99.1 (11)||87.3 (4)|
|Pass Defense||150.2 (2)||239.0 (16)|
|Points Allowed / Game||10.8 (1)||23.7 (18)|
|Sacks Allowed / Yards Lost||16/117||20/107|
|Sacks Made / Yards||32/214||24/158|
|Total Touchdowns Scored||33||27|
|Penalties Against / Yards||56/484||59/522|
|Punts / Avg.||48/44.6||34/47.6|
|Turnover Differential||+17 (1)||-12 (18T)|
Well that was fun, going along with Apollo Creed’s logical argument why the Patriots should prevail against the Birds. But the Champ missed one big detail: the Eagles can go the distance with their newly-concentrated offense and a defense which is getting healthier and better. And, let’s be realistic, Paulie, we got more to gain than they got to lose. Y’know?
* * * * * * * *
BRISUKSEGG FANTASY FOOTBALL LEAGUE BUZZ
EYE finds its updates where it can.
Since I can’t get into ESPN.com as a fantasy spectator only, I get my FF news on the scuttlebutt wire.
Fortunately, I found this comment from Dutch Rubb which sums up the current state of the BSE:
“BSE Heating up…..Weak #11 will decide a lot……big game between Hopper and GK……winner prolly guaranteed the playoffs. Broz against ATV. ~Broz already in the playoffs, but ~Broz can help out the rest of us by beating ATV. If he wins ATV prolly in also…….rest of us scrambling for the final spot……….5 losses and you have a chance……….6 and you probably done.”