The Super Bowl LII rematch is here!
Like the Philadelphia Eagles, the New England Patriots have an extra week to prepare for this big matchup as well.
Let’s break it down …
EAGLES PASSING GAME VS. PATRIOTS PASS DEFENSE
PHI- 91.7 PASSER RATING (17/32), 219.7 YPG (21/32)
NE- 45.8 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (1/32), 150.2 YPG ALLOWED (2/32)
No Alshon Jeffery, that might be a problem.
The Patriots’ pass defense is already arguably the best in the NFL and Jeffery’s absence decreases the depth the Eagles have at the wide receiver position dramatically.
Jeffery, who has caught 34 balls for 353 yards and three touchdowns, didn’t practice all week due to an ankle injury he suffered against the Bears.
Mack Hollins hasn’t caught a pass since Week 4 and Nelson Agholor, who had 168 yards receiving through three games, has only recorded 114 yards since Week 4.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside will start in Jeffery’s absence, with the newly acquired Jordan Matthews on the other side. This is Matthews’ third different stint with the team. He was a second-round pick in 2014 and remained with the Eagles until 2017 when he was part of the package that landed them Ronald Darby from the Buffalo Bills. Matthews was with the team for 14 games last season and spent the summer with the San Francisco 49ers before being released. Matthews had 20 receptions for 300 yards and two touchdowns last year.
Jordan Matthews time. pic.twitter.com/URwDtpSzJV
— Brian Gonzalez (@Bonzo_17) November 5, 2019
The move to sign Matthews was made after the Eagles placed DeSean Jackson on injured reserve with his core muscle injury.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) November 6, 2019
Without Jackson’s speed, Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh discussed how the Eagles can replace his chunk plays.
“It isn’t going to be just one guy that does that. We have plenty of good players that are out there in the huddle with Carson and we have to find ways to create those explosive plays that you talk about, get guys open, and help them get open and then make the plays when the plays are there to be made.”
Due to the lack of production at the wide receiver spot, the Eagles have turned to Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert and their 12 personnel packages to move the ball through the air. The Patriots, however, have allowed the least amount of yards to tight ends so far this season.
Ertz is coming off of his best game of the season against Chicago, hauling in nine receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. He expects to be concentrated on.
“The biggest adjustment will be mentally since I’ve seen it already,” Ertz said. “I had never seen it that drastic before (the Lions), in terms of, I would go in motion and would see two guys following me to the other side.
“And you don’t know exactly where the double team is coming from on each and every play, so being able to see that consistently for 60 minutes, watch that film again this week, finding success first and second down. I know they won’t double me on first and second down with the threat of the run and if we’re in third-and-short they probably can’t do that.
“I think the biggest adjustment for me is going to be the mental side of it, don’t let it frustrate me, view it as a sign of respect and just go.”
New England has surrendered just three passing touchdowns all year.
EAGLES RUNNING GAME VS. PATRIOTS RUN DEFENSE
PHI- 4.2 YPC (19/32), 127.3 YPG (11/32)
NE- 4.7 YPC ALLOWED (26/32), 99.1 YPG ALLOWED (11/32)
Jordan Howard is not cleared for contact yet. He suffered a shoulder stinger against the Bears.
Despite the personnel limitations, Pederson has a plan.
“One of the things that we’ve done a good job here with is obviously coaching everybody, coaching all our players, regardless of our opponent. This is a really good football team, a good defense. But regardless of that, we still have to coach and we still have to play the game.
So we have to get our guys prepared, whoever they are, and go play and give it our best on Sunday.”
Pederson is confident in Miles Sanders if Howard doesn’t play.
“I think we would handle it fine. I do. It’s obviously — again, he’s played a lot of football for us. I mean, a little bit more in a number two role, but he’s played a lot.
But I think we have to be smart as coaches and make sure that he doesn’t wear out say in the second half of the game or whatever.
I think he’s capable and very capable of handling the load.”
PATRIOTS PASSING GAME VS. EAGLES PASS DEFENSE
PHI- 91.7 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (17/32), 239 YPG ALLOWED (16/32)
NE- 91.9 PASSER RATING (16/32), 273.9 YPG (7/32)
The Eagles have to get after Tom Brady.
And the Patriots’ offensive line can certainly be had, especially along the interior with left guard Joe Thuney, center Ted Karras and right guard Shaq Mason.
Brady is dead last in the NFL when pressured this season, completing just 28 percent of his throws. He is also off the mark a league-high 51 percent of the time when the heat comes.
Fletcher Cox has picked up his play following a slow start. He is the key on the defensive side of the ball. Brandon Graham will also be instrumental on third down
Brady has a tendency of getting the ball out quickly and has receivers in Julian Edelman and Mohamad Sanu who win their releases off the line of scrimmage and get open in a hurry, but the offensive line isn’t as reliable as it usually is. They rank 23rd in ESPN’s pass block win rate stat. The Patriots sustain their blocks for 2.5 seconds or more 54.5 percent of the time.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz praised Brady and his evolution throughout his career.
“To see him evolve over the course of his career, and he’s not the exact same player he was the year before. I think that’s one of the reasons he’s stayed around. He’s done things a little bit different from year-to-year, whether it’s been his training or the way they run the offense or where he’s going with throws and things like that. He’s not the most mobile guy, but he can be hard to bring down sometimes.
If I wake up in a sweat at four in the morning, a lot of the time it’s [DE] Brandon Graham missing him in the Super Bowl on the last play. Everybody thinks about the play that Brandon knocked the ball out of his hand, but it’s like, you don’t think of Brady that way, but he is effective sliding around the pocket, and that doesn’t happen by accident. He works really hard at it and that’s one of the reasons he’s been successful and also makes it hard when guys do have maybe one skill-set, you can take that skill-set away and they have a hard time adapting. He’s lived through that over the course of however many years it’s been, 1999. I think he came in in ’99. He came in in 2000? And 2001 he played. In ’99 he was the fourth quarterback. Wow.
Yeah, he’s a tough competitor and gives them a chance to win every week. He doesn’t make many mistakes.”
The Eagles are finally healthy in the secondary. Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills, the starters on the outside in Super Bowl LII, are both back and have a couple games under their belts. Avonte Maddox will be important in the slot.
Having everybody back has given Schwartz some more flexibility with his secondary.
“Well, it never hurts to have your guys back in there. And then it had increased use of a couple different packages that we really had not gone to this year. This last game, we played some four corners in the game, which is something we really didn’t have enough personnel to be able to do.
But getting [Eagles CB] Jalen Mills back, getting [Eagles CB Ronald] Darby back and [Eagles CB] Avonte [Maddox] back, even having [Eagles CB] Cre’Von [LeBlanc] on the horizon somewhere, somewhere hopefully soon, it does give you a little bit more flexibility and be able to match-up different ways.”
PATRIOTS RUNNING GAME VS. EAGLES RUN DEFENSE
PHI- 3.8 YPC ALLOWED (6/32), 87.3 YPG ALLOWED (4/32)
NE- 3.3 YPC (29/32), 92.9 YPG (23/32)
Sony Michel is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry in his sophomore season after going for 4.5 yards per tote. The Patriots’ offensive line is struggling and he’s not breaking tackles.
New England head coach Bill Belichick believes he’s seen improvements.
“I think he’s improved a lot. I think it’s more play to play. Look at the play and we’ve gone over the reads, we’ve gone over how he reads it. You want to try to understand what a player sees. There’s a lot to see. Some guys focus on one thing more than another. We’ve talked to him a lot about what his keys are, what his reads are, what the progression of the reads are. You don’t just look at one guy after you get past that guy. After you deal with that particular block or that particular defender, you’ve got somebody else to deal with. We’ve talked a lot about that, and I think he’s improved a lot.”
Michel is ranked 47th out of 49 qualified running backs in elusive rating, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Eagles’ run defense is still among the NFL’s best and I expect Michel to be limited. The back to watch for the Patriots will be James White coming out of the backfield.
PREDICTION: This game is going to come down to if the Eagles can run the football and get after Tom Brady. The Eagles are 4-1 when they run the ball 30-plus times, but the Ravens are the only team in the NFL so far that has run it over 22 times against New England. That was also the the Patriots’ first true test, the Eagles will be their second.