November 16, 2019
The Eagles will host the Patriots on Sunday in the first meeting between these teams since Super Bowl LII, when Philly upset New England to claim their first ever Lombardi Trophy.
There will be a lot of different names and faces involved in this one, but it's a rematch nonetheless. Now, as we do every weekend, let's take a look at some key numbers to watch in the form of our five over/unders.
That's the current total being offered over at Bovada, and based on our writers predictions, it seems pretty spot on. Despite four of our writers taking the over compared to two taking the under, the combined average is just slightly over at 46.3. Of course, these picks were made before we were certain that the Eagles would be without No. 1 wideout Alshon Jeffery or running back/return man Darren Sproles — not to mention before we knew Jordan Howard hadn't yet been cleared for contact. And to top it all off, the Eagles will be going against a Patriots defense that has allowed just 10.9 points per game.
As for the Eagles defense, they've seemed to really struggle in every game they've played against teams with above-average quarterbacks. Their losses this season have come at the hands of Matt Ryan, Matt Stafford, Kirk Cousins and Dak Prescott, who are all decent NFL quarterbacks at minimum. Their wins this season have come against Case Keenum, Aaron Rodgers, Luke Falk, Josh Allen and Mitchell Trubisky, with the obviously outlier there being a win over Rodgers. Well, in that game, the defense allowed close to 500 yards (including 414 through the air) and allowed 27 points. Odds are, they won't be able to win a shootout against the Patriots, largely because New England's defense won't allow them to get into a shootout in the first place.
So what does that mean for Sunday? Well, it's looking like the under is the safe bet here, even if I had the game going over in my prediction. The Eagles will be shorthanded on offense going up against the top defense in the NFL, and on defense the Eagles have looked better since getting their secondary healthy. Add to that the possibility of strong wind gusts at the Linc, and I'd stick with the under here.
Brady is averaging just over 280 passing yards per game this season, and he's surpassed the above number in just four of his nine games this season. And while the Eagles have been getting crushed for their secondary play this season, they're actually 16th in passing yards allowed, so they haven't been that terrible. Sure, that's been aided by some games against truly terrible quarterbacks — you know who you are, Luke Falk — but they've also had some truly terrible games themselves — they gave up at least 325 yards to both Case Keenum and Kirk Cousins.
Therefore, it's looking like it really comes down to which Eagles defense shows up. Over the last two weeks, they've looked better, but with those two games coming against Josh Allen and Mitchell Trubisky, it's kind of tough to get a read on whether it's the Eagles' D playing better or just that the quality of their opponents is lower.
Ultimately, I think Brady and the Pats are going to get the better of the Birds on Sunday, and the likeliest way they'll do that is through the air. The Eagles still have a very stout run defense, and Bill Belichick likes to exploit a team's weakness. I think we all know where that is, even if it's been slightly better in recent weeks.
In case you haven't heard, the Eagles have some issues at running back. Darren Sproles has been shut down for the season, and more importantly for Sunday's game, Jordan Howard is questionable with a shoulder injury and hadn't yet been cleared for contact as of Friday's practice.
Enter Jay Ajayi, who the team signed on Friday to help them deal with these backfield injuries. Ajayi was a crucial member of the Eagles' Super Bowl winning team in 2017 but was let go in free agency this summer after tearing his ACL last season — not to mention the team drafting Miles Sanders, trading for Howard and signing Sproles.
On Friday, before the team had even officially signed him, Doug Pederson was asked about Ajayi potentially playing in Sunday's game against the Patriots. And, surprisingly, he said he could foresee him getting some action, which is helped by the fact that he's familiar with the team's system. But getting on the field for a few touches and actually contributing are two very different things, and in Ajayi's case, just seeing him back on the field a year after tearing his ACL feels like a win.
Sunday feels like a big game for Sanders, who has looked better and better as the season has progressed, but has looked his best as the lightning to Howard's thunder. When asked to do more, he's looked overwhelmed at times. He won't be able to get away with that against the Pats, as the team doesn't have Howard to rely on. Instead, it seems like Sanders will be the lead and Ajayi will be the change-of-pace back.
This kind of all comes down to how much the Eagles run the ball. Given the state of their receivers, it's probably going to be quite a bit.
The Eagles have done a good job at protecting the ball over the last two week, turning it over just once in total. Unsurprisingly, they were 2-0 in those games. But the two games before that, they looked like a completely different team, turning it over seven times. Any guess what their record was those weeks?
The Patriots on the other hand are forcing turnovers at a remarkable rate, averaging three per game, and recording at least one in every game and at least two in seven of nine games. That's not great news for the Eagles. Worse yet, the Pats have been averaging close to four takeaways per game over the last month-plus. If this game plays out like I'm expecting, the Pats could be up early on the Eagles, forcing Carson Wentz into more passes than he'd like with a banged up receiving corps. And that's never a good thing, especially against this defense.
I'm hoping they mention it somewhere between 33-41 times on Sunday, but even that doesn't feel like enough.
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