Avonte Maddox

5 matchups to watch as Eagles host Patriots in NFL Week 11

5 matchups to watch as Eagles host Patriots in NFL Week 11

The Eagles (5-4) are back from their bye week with what might be their toughest game of the season against the Patriots (8-1) at the Linc.

The last time these two teams played against each other in a game that mattered, the Eagles won 41-33. But a lot has changed since then.

Here are five matchups to watch on Sunday:

Tom Brady vs. Jim Schwartz

No, the Patriots didn’t win Super Bowl LII — I remember that pretty clearly — but Brady did have a big statistical game. He threw for 505 yards with 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. That’s the most passing yards ever in a playoff game. I know they lost and I know that was nearly two years ago, but Brady carved up the Eagles that night. His numbers this season aren’t nearly as incredible. In nine games, he has 2,536 yards with 14 TDs and 5 INTs, but he’s still capable of having a big game.

“Yeah, he's a tough competitor and gives them a chance to win every week,” Schwartz said. “He doesn't make many mistakes.”

So it’ll be on Schwartz to find a way to force him into a few mistakes on Sunday. Maybe that means blitzing, maybe that means showing a few looks for which the Patriots won’t be prepared.

There will be pressure on Schwartz, with an extra week to prepare, to figure out a way to slow down Brady more on Sunday than he did in the Super Bowl less than a couple years ago.

Julian Edelman vs. Avonte Maddox

The Patriots’ top receiver this season has been Edelman, who missed Super Bowl LII 18 months ago. In 2019, the 5-10 slot receiver has 63 catches for 663 yards and four touchdowns. To put that in perspective, the Eagles’ top two receivers (not including tight ends) are Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. They have a combined 66 catches for 635 yards and six touchdowns. Edelman is a real threat.

Maddox returned for the Bears game before the bye and will be given a tough task on Sunday in Edelman. Edelman has been consistently good this season but also has two 100-yard games.

Stephon Gilmore vs. ???

The Patriots are famous for taking away their opponents best player and they do this in a few different ways. Gilmore is their best corner, so it would make a lot of sense if they just match him up against the Eagles’ best receiver. But Alshon Jeffery’s status is in question. So there could also be the possibility that the Patriots decide to put Gilmore on tight end Zach Ertz, a possibility offensive coordinator Mike Groh didn’t dismiss earlier this week. It’ll be interesting to see what the Patriots decide, especially if Jeffery doesn’t play.

It’s worth noting that the Eagles will probably use a lot of 12 personnel (two tight ends) in this game. And they already use that personnel package more than any other team in the league. It’s something the Patriots have struggled with. More on that from NBC Sports Boston.

Doug Pederson/Mike Groh vs. Bill Belichick

This is where Pederson needs to be innovative. The Eagles will have to have a few scenarios in their minds of how the Patriots want to defend them and have wrinkles ready to throw at them. In a lot of games, I think the coaching matchups are overblown; the players win or lose games. But the most intriguing thing about this game is the chess match that will go on between Belichick and the Eagles’ offensive staff, which includes Carson Wentz. The Patriots’ defense is an opportunistic bunch, leading the NFL in takeaways. So Wentz will have to be careful with the ball, but Pederson’s play-calling needs to be better in this game. Should be fun to watch.

Eagles’ run game vs. Patriots’ run defense

Before the bye week, we watched the Ravens run for 210 yards against the Patriots in their huge 37-20 win in Baltimore. Now, 61 of those yards came from Lamar Jackson and the Eagles won’t have that type of run game production from their quarterback this week. But the point is that I think the Eagles can run on the Patriots.

While they have the 11th run defense in the NFL, giving up 99.1 yards per game, you have to remember that they’ve been up on teams. In four of their nine games, the Patriots have given up fewer than 60 rushing yards. But in those four games, the Patriots have outscored their opponents 74-14 in first halves, including three first-half shutouts. Many teams got behind them and were forced to abandon the run.

And, overall, the Patriots are giving up 4.7 yards per carry, which ranks 26th in the NFL.

The Eagles have found success running the ball this season and they should try to get that run game going against the Patriots.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

How long has it been since Eagles' secondary was healthy?

How long has it been since Eagles' secondary was healthy?

Jalen Mills was thinking back, trying to remember the last time the Eagles had their full secondary together.

It had to be Jacksonville last year, right? Before I got hurt?” he said. “No wait. Rodney (McLeod) got hurt Week 3. Has to be the Colts game, right? That’s when Rod got hurt. He got hurt Week 3, I got hurt Week 8, (Ronald) Darby got hurt Week 9. We haven’t all played together since the Colts game.

Bingo.

It’s been more than 13 months since the Eagles had a healthy secondary.

They’ve played 23 consecutive games with one of their starters missing.

At least one of their starters.

On Sunday, when the Eagles face the Bears at the Linc, the band will finally be back together.

I just think it’s always good to have your best guys out there,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “And those guys, they’ve battled for us, they give us a lot of flexibility on defense, so it’s good to have those guys back out there. It’s been a while since we had the real full group out there. So I think it’s exciting because at this point in the season we need it.

Since McLeod’s knee injury against the Colts started this unbelievable avalanche of secondary injuries, the Eagles have used 18 different starting lineups and 16 different starting defensive backs.

In 23 games.

They haven’t used the same starting secondary more than two games in a row during that span.

But with Mills and Darby at corner, McLeod and Jenkins at safety and Avonte Maddox expected to be avalable to play in the slot, the Eagles are finally at full strength.

It is a good feeling,” McLeod said. “It’s been a long time coming since we’ve all been out there. We shared a lot of moments together, been in a lot of battles with one another and the bond and the familiarity is there. It’s good to have all of us back healthy first and foremost to be able to help out this defense and help out this team. It’s crazy that it’s been a year and a half since we all touched the field together. It’s such a good feeling.

Mills made his 2019 debut in Dallas, Darby returned from a four-game layoff Sunday in Buffalo and this Sunday at the Linc Maddox should be back for the Bears after missing four games.

Cre’Von LeBlanc, the slot in the postseason last year, is the only remaining injured defensive back. He’s been out since suffering a foot injury early in training camp and won’t be back any time soon.

It was the quartet of McLeod, Jenkins, Darby and Mills — along with slot Patrick Robinson — that was in place during the Super Bowl run two years ago.

We’ve got that chemistry,” Mills said. “We’ve played on the big stage together. Then you add Avonte, who’s so versatile, can play corner, nickel or safety, and it’s definitely a comfort level having us all together. It makes a difference.

Of that group, only Jenkins has started more than 13 games over the last two years. Only Jenkins and Rasul Douglas haven’t missed multiple games with injuries.

The rash of defensive back injuries over the last two years has been unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

McLeod, Mills, Darby, Maddox and Sidney Jones have missed a combined 62 games over the last two years.

It’s left the Eagles with guys like De’Vante Bausby, Chandon Sullivan, Jonathan Cyprien, Dexter McDougle, Tre Sullivan, Josh Hawkins and of course Orlando Scandrick playing meaningful reps.

Now they’re all back. No more excuses. They need to play like the big-time secondary we saw two years ago.

Here’s a look at the 18 different starting secondaries the Eagles have used since last year began:

3    Maddox / Douglas / LeBlanc / Jenkins / Graham 
2    Darby / Mills / Jenkins / McLeod
2    Darby / Mills / Jenkins / Maddox
2    Jones / Douglas / LeBlanc / Jenkins / Graham
2    Maddox / Douglas / Jenkins / Graham 
2    Darby / Jones / Maddox / Jenkins / McLeod
2    Douglas / Jones / Sendejo / Jenkins / McLeod
1    Darby / Mills / Graham / Jenkins / McLeod
1    Darby / Mills / Jenkins / Graham
1    Darby / Mills / Jones / Jenkins / Maddox
1    Darby / Mills / McDougle / Jenkins / Maddox
1    Darby / Douglas / Maddox / Jenkins / T. Sullivan
1    Jones / Douglas / Maddox / Jenkins / Graham
1    C. Sullivan / Bausby / Jenkins / Graham
1    Darby / Douglas / Maddox / Jenkins / McLeod
1    Douglas / James / Jenkins / McLeod
1    Douglas / Mills / Scandrick / Jenkins / McLeod
1    Darby / Mills / Jenkins / McLeod

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

The scariest 20 seconds of Avonte Maddox’s life

The scariest 20 seconds of Avonte Maddox’s life

After taking a friendly fire hit from teammate Andrew Sendejo while playing the Packers on Sept. 26, Avonte Maddox was sprawled out across the 5-yard line at Lambeau Field as his legs writhed in pain. 

Above his waist … nothing. 

For about 20 seconds, Maddox couldn't move his upper body. Finally, thankfully, mercifully, feeling came back. 

“‘OK, I’m not paralyzed,’” Maddox relayed his thoughts from that moment on Wednesday, over a month after the hit. “That’s when I started smiling.” 

And that’s when his focus shifted immediately back to the game, which had just over a minute remaining.  

Maddox, 23, is known as a jovial guy. He’s always smiling, laughing, cracking jokes. So once he realized he wasn’t paralyzed, he made a conscious effort to smile and joke with his teammates. He knew exactly how to let them know he was going to be OK. 

After the huge 34-27 win in Green Bay, his teammates, including Sendejo, said that Maddox’s behavior as he was taken off the field in a stretcher eased their minds. 

“Yeah, they know how I am as a person,” Maddox said. “I’m always smiling, always joking around. If they know they can get a smile out of me, then it’s at ease, make sure they ain’t worried about me. They got a game to finish. We wanted to come out with a victory, which we did. I came out all right as of now, so we’re good.” 

Maddox suffered a concussion and a neck injury and has missed the last four games. But he has been cleared and returned to practice last Friday. Maddox was a full participant to begin this week and fully expects to be back in action this Sunday against the Bears. 

And he’s also 100 percent. Maddox said with the severity of head and neck injuries, he wouldn’t be playing if he was anything less. 

On Wednesday, he bragged about pulling in a one-handed interception and scoring a touchdown. 

In the moment, as he was being taken off the field in a stretcher toward a waiting ambulance, all Maddox could think about was returning to the game. He wanted to keep playing, but he obviously couldn’t. So he began to ask those around him in the tunnel to check the score of the game on their phones. But have you ever tried to use your phone in a stadium full of 77,509 people? Cell service wasn’t working. 

That’s when Maddox heard loud cheering from the capacity crowd. He knew the Packers were driving. He knew it was a home crowd. So he feared the worst. 

“So I’m like, ‘ah s—, they’re at home,” he said. “They probably just scored.” 

But that’s when someone told him they thought it looked like the Eagles were running the other way. He didn’t find out until later at the hospital that Nigel Bradham picked off a pass and the Eagles won. 

Maddox’s stay in the hospital was brief. In fact, he made it back on the plane ride home. Since then, he’s just been eagerly waiting to play again. It sounds like that will come on Sunday. 

Despite how scary this whole incident was, Maddox has no pause about returning to the football field. 

“I’m good,” Maddox said. “I know this, my dad always told me, ‘you go out there and play scared, that’s when bad things happen.’ I wouldn’t put myself back on the field if I didn’t feel I was 100 percent ready. I feel ready, so that’s something I don’t think about.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles