Tom E. Curran's Patriots-Eagles Preview/Review: Survive and advance
PREVIEW: Coming into this five-game gauntlet of competent opponents, I figured Philly was as good a challenge as any. They’d won two straight, ran the ball with competence, have had success against the Patriots in winning their last two meetings so they know New England’s not invincible. But the closer we get, the more dinged up the Eagles have gotten so that now — even though they’re on the road — I feel like the Patriots are going to have their most impressive win of the year.
REVIEW: Well, the Patriots got their ninth win of the year. I don’t know if it qualifies as “most impressive” given the lack of offensive punch and the fact Philly was shorthanded but on the road against a competent team, they used special teams, defense and smarts to walk out with a 17-10 win.
When the Patriots Ran
PREVIEW: Last time out, the Patriots ran the ball more effectively than they had all season. To get rolling downhill, though, they had to go up-tempo, feature James White running out of no-huddle and basically put the Ravens front-seven on a treadmill. The Eagles – except for a gashing by the Cowboys – have been stout against the run in Jim Schwartz’ attacking defense. Expect the Patriots to give their obligatory effort at getting Sony Michel moving early then go to the up-tempo style with White and Rex Burkhead getting the reps at running back. Advantage: Eagles
REVIEW: Still staggering along in the running game but that was somewhat to be expected against this Philly front. They ran for 74 yards on 22 carries and Sony Michel had 33 on 10 runs. They’ve only been over 4 yards per carry twice in 10 games. Advantage: Eagles
When the Patriots Passed
PREVIEW: The Eagles have amped up their pass rush in the past five games and they do a good job getting heat right up the middle (thanks to Cox) but the Patriots are going to be too fast for Philly. If the Patriots go spread and up-tempo it should be pitch-and-catch bonanza. The big issue will be cashing in when they get close and not settling for field goals, a real weak spot for the Patriots offense. Advantage: Patriots
REVIEW: Tom Brady only took one sack, but he was whacked around pretty good (six quarterback hits) and the majority of his completions were within 0 to 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. Julian Edelman had an uncharacteristically tough day with two drops — one in the end zone — but still made four big drive-extending catches and threw the touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett for the Patriots' lone score. Dorsett was having a decent day before taking a whack on the touchdown and being forced to the sidelines. It was a much quieter day for Mohamed Sanu, who had just two catches for four yards. The best catches of the day were made by Ben Watson and a catch-and-run by Burkhead but Brady finished 26 for 47 for 216, a fairly anemic 4.6 yards per attempt. Advantage: Eagles
When the Eagles Ran
PREVIEW: People need to settle down with the notion the Patriots are bad against the run. A unique scheme by Baltimore resulted in the Ravens putting up what was — for the Ravens — an average amount of yards (210). Yes, a lot. No, not a normal attack. The Eagles were making big progress on the ground over the last month, especially in their last two games against Buffalo and Chicago. But starter Jordan Howard suffered a stinger against Chicago and still hasn’t been cleared for contact. The Patriots have to stop the chunk runs they’ve allowed and that means better tackling by their secondary players. Fixable. Advantage: Patriots
REVIEW: On the Eagles lone scoring drive, Philly was ultra-productive on first down. But after that 95-yard odyssey, the Patriots settled in and held Philly to 81 yards on 21 carries, 17 of those coming on Carson Wentz scrambles. Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton combined for a fumble recovery and both of them had a solid day up front. Advantage: Patriots
When the Eagles Passed
PREVIEW: Philly is cooked at wide receiver. Zach Ertz will be the option that Carson Wentz is left working the ball to and the Patriots are going to make sure he has plenty of company. Wentz has been reached for 10 sacks in the Eagles past three games so expect the Patriots to speed him up, lock down in man coverage and keep him close to 200 yards passing for the day. Advantage: Patriots
REVIEW: Big pass rush day for the Patriots getting to Wentz for five sacks. Ertz finished with 94 yards on nine catches but he didn’t have a reception in New England territory all game and the Patriots kept him in check. Twelve of Wentz’ 20 completions went to his tight ends. Wentz was 20 for 40 for 219 and the touchdown pass to Dallas Goedert, which the Eagles only got after it was ruled he had possession before Jonathan Jones wrestled it away. Advantage: Patriots
PREVIEW: The Eagles have a solid kicker in Jake Elliott who’s made every field goal attempt and missed two PATs so far this year. Their punter is fine, looks a little like Bill Burr and has dropped 13 of his 34 punts inside the opponent's 20. Nick Folk was solid in his first appearance for the Patriots and the kickoff coverage issues the Patriots have had were cleaned up as Jake Bailey’s been doing a nice job dropping them close to the goal line. Patriots coverage crew right now is outstanding. Still, Folk being newly-minted as a Patriot makes one a little leery. Advantage: Eagles
REVIEW: Folk was 3 for 3 on his field goals. He’s been drama-free through two games. He and punter Jake Bailey had excellent days. Bailey dropped six of his eight punts inside the 20 and averaged 47.6 yards per punt. The Patriots annihilated the Eagles in the field position battle and their kickoff coverage has quietly and steadily improved all season. Sanu had a nice punt return of 14, but the Patriots still seem to be seeking a steady answer to who they want back there since Gunner Olszewski’s been injured. Advantage: Patriots
PREVIEW: Bill Vinovich and his crew will be in charge. The Eagles and Patriots are two of the league’s cleaner teams. The Patriots have had the second-fewest flags thrown on them (65); Philly is sixth (69). By contrast, the idiot Browns have had 112. Vinovich and Co. did Dolphins-Patriots earlier this year and a tidy nine penalties were walked off all day.
REVIEW: The 49-yard pass interference call on Jason McCourty on Philly’s first play of the game was the lone big gaffe. The Patriots had mostly misdemeanor penalties aside from that and finished with six penalties for 89 yards. Philly was flagged seven times for 39 yards. The Patriots caught a break when a Matt LaCosse fumble was wiped out by officials, saying his forward progress was stopped before the ball started to come out. It looked like that should have gone the other way.
Prediction & Line
PREVIEW: Patriots favored by 4.5. Total is 45.
Patriots 26, Eagles 13.
REVIEW: The Patriots covered and the game went under. Nailed both sides.
Patriots 17, Eagles 10