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August 19, 2021

Five over/unders for Eagles' preseason game vs. Patriots

Eagles NFL

A week of entertaining practices at the NovaCare complex has led to the Eagles' second preseason game, where they'll host the New England Patriots after a handful of joint workouts, drills and run-throughs.

The Eagles offense took a notable turn for the better when up against New England defenders, which begs the question of what exactly that might mean. Is the Patriots' defense worse than the Eagles' is? Were the Eagles skill players and Jalen Hurts simply waiting to turn it on against competition from another squad? Was this improvement inevitable as the team builds its chemistry and body of work together?

We'll find out a little bit more tonight at 7:30, when the two teams do battle and fans can get another glimpse of the Eagles at full speed. The Patriots are +1.5 favorites according to several sports books, via Pickswise. As we do for every game, we've compiled some over/unders to help you get amped to follow along when things kick off later tonight.

[A quick reminder for those new to our over/unders: Unless it's explicitly stated, these are my own numbers based on how I think the players/teams will perform on Sunday — and the advice that follows is where I would put my money if I had to. Most are not actual numbers you can bet on, but we'll let you know when they are.]

Total points: 38.5

Over at Pickswise this is the over/under for the game. With 40 points scored in the first preseason game the Eagles played in — a loss to the Steelers — and with the starters likely to play a little longer this time, perhaps a full quarter if not more, there should be a little more offense early on. At least the Eagles hope so.

With these teams knowing each other a little better than most teams would heading into a preseason game, there also is a chance the offense has a little bit of an edge. While it's dangerous to bet the over in a mundane exhibition game that is sure to be painfully boring by halftime, the over makes sense here.


Jalen Hurts passing attempts: 10.5

This one is simple but you never know. He completed three of his seven passes over two series in the first preseason game, and we expect to see a little bit more from Hurts this time. Will he throw more than 10 passes?

The first team offense ran exactly 10 plays a week ago, and only two of them were designed runs. One would think there would be a little bit more attention given to the ground game as the preseason wears on, with so many talented running back vying for roster spots behind Miles Sanders (who may or may not play in this one — more on that in just a second).

If the Eagles do elect to run it more with Hurts in the game, there's a chance he is less active throwing the ball. Still, it wouldn't be surprising to see the first team trot back onto the field to start the second quarter and if that happens, we'll bang the over.


Miles Sanders snaps: 0.5

Sanders sat out last week for various reasons. For one, his job is secure. Additionally, in his third NFL training camp, the Eagles know what they have in their stud running back, and have seen him every day in practice across the street. Why would they risk injury in a meaningless game when he is getting all the reps he needs already?

On the other hand, there's no replacement for the speed of the game with live hitting and there would be some benefit to having him hit the field, even for a carry or two, just to get in the groove a bit for September. There is also a strategy behind his not playing, as the Birds have a totally new offense they are implementing and they may not want to give opponents any kind of tip as to how they'll use their top running back.

If the Eagles wanted to keep him out for Game 1 of the preseason, the thinking here is they'll probably do it again in Game 2. A lot of the sport's elite players forego playing in preseason games and this might be the safe move for a variety of reasons.


Zach Ertz targets: 3.5

Last week, veteran tight end and staple of the rumor mill Ertz played more than expected and had a pair of catches in the first quarter. Why? Well there is a chance, at least if you believe our beat writer Jimmy Kempski, that the Eagles are trying to raise his profile and his value as they intend to trade him before the cutdown to 53. 

With one of the darlings of training camp, converted tight end Tyree Jackson done for at least eight weeks — and with Hurts and Ertz building trust and chemistry — there does appear to be a chance the team sticks with him and his inflated salary if they don't get a return on him they deem worthy.

Regardless, expect Ertz to be a key piece of the offense at least for a few series Thursday night.


Time of possession: 25 minutes

The Eagles only had the ball in their hands for 18 minutes and 45 seconds in their first preseason game. And while that gave the defense (mostly the reserves) plenty of time to show what they can do, the offense was out-snapped a ridiculous 80-to-42.

In this game there may be a concerted effort for the offense to have more plays, with more runs and perhaps more conservative play-calling. The Eagles have a lot of tough decisions to make offensively about which final receiver will make the 53-man roster, which running backs will get snaps and carries, and who to carry to back up the offensive line.

The Eagles should make an effort to keep the ball for more than 42 plays in this one.


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