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Patriots vs Eagles Week 1 Key Matchups: Some Things To Know

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
3 weeks ago at 8:07 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

Patriots vs Eagles Week 1 Key Matchups: Some Things To KnowBenny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots begin the 2023 season at home against the NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 4:25 p.m.

CBS will broadcast this week’s game which can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station, 98.5 The Sports Hub, with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

We here at are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2023 to analyze some of the game’s key matchups and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Some Quick Notes:

This week’s game will mark the 49th straight season that Bill Belichick has been a coach in the NFL. This is amazing longevity in itself, but coupled with the excellence he’s showed is the stuff of legend. 

Speaking of legends, the Patriots will honor Tom Brady at halftime. Brady will address the crowd, and fans will get the opportunity to send him off in style. I, for one, hope Brady puts on #12 one more time. 

The Eagles Are NFC Champs For a Reason

In many circles, Philly is the odds-on bet to repeat as NFC Champions, with many analysts picking them to come out on top this year in the Super Bowl. Howie Roseman has done a tremendous job of building a powerhouse roster. 

My opinion is that they have the best roster from top to bottom in the league. But this year, they had to replace seven key players (starters), including five on the defense and two coordinators on the coaching staff. It may take them a couple of weeks to firmly gel together, which could work in favor of the Patriots in Week 1. 

  • The loss of Miles Sanders (Carolina) may end up being the Eagles’ biggest loss. How good was Sanders? Philly may adopt a four-headed backfield by committee in trying to replace him. Don’t get me wrong, I like D’Andre Swift, but he’s not in Sanders’ class. Swift, Kenny Gainwell, Rashaad Penny, and Boston Scott will attempt to replace Swift’s production. 
  • Replacing one coordinator is tough; replacing both offensive and defensive coordinators is not easy. Again, I think both coordinators, Sean Desai on defense and Brian Johnson on offense, will succeed and be terrific coordinators, but right out of the gate, some kinks need to be worked out. 
  • The front seven lost Jason Hargrave, the defensive tackle, who signed a four-year, $84 million dollar contract with the 49ers. He’s been terrific and one of the best in the business. But Philly drafted Jalen Carter, who looks to be the heir apparent there. While he may not be an All-Pro in 2023, his ceiling is high. 
  • Linebackers T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White left to be replaced by 2nd-year player Nakobe Dean and veteran Zach Cunningham, who came over from Tennessee. Edwards will be a tough player to replace, and neither Dean nor Cunningham is as good as Edwards. Haason Redrick remains the SLBer.
  • Both starting safeties, C.J Gardner-Johnson, and Marcus Epps, are gone. Reed Blankenship came on strong down the stretch in 2022, but replacing Gardner-Johnson are big shoes to fill. Terrell Edmunds came over from Pittsburgh but had a very unproductive 2022. The three corners, James Bradberry, Darius Slay, and Avonte Maddox, are terrific.
  • Cam Jurgens, who will eventually be the replacement for C Jason Kelce, is being moved to right guard to replace Isaac Seumalo, which again are very big shoes to fill. Jurgens is slightly undersized for the position but has a lot of upside. However, Seumalo is one of the better guards in the league, and his presence will definitely be missed.

So, with the losses, are the Eagles weaker than a year ago? Nope. I think that all of their replacements will be just fine; their pass rush is outstanding, with 70 sacks a year ago leading the league by far. Kansas City was second with 55, and the Patriots and Dallas were tied with 54. 

Their offense remains explosive. However, bringing in so many different elements into the mix on Week 1 may present an opportunity for the Patriots to steal one. Week 1 of the regular season is always difficult to predict. If this game were a Week 4 or 5 game, I’d expect the Eagles to cruise to a big win. But perhaps there is a very brief window to win one before the Eagles start rolling. 

“So you’re saying there’s a chance.”

So now we can take a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge. First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs. Eagles Front Seven Edge New England

The Patriots’ running game is going against one of the best front sevens in the league, but the Eagles’ run defense was middle of the pack allowing 4.64 yards per carry (23rd) and 121.6 yards per game (16th). 

They have a big, talented group up front with Brandon Graham, Jalen Carter, Fletcher Cox, and Josh Sweat. 

Of course, the onus falls on the New England OL, which is finally practicing together after a spring/summer of illness and injuries.  If they can roll out a lineup with Trent Brown, Cole Strange, David Andrews, Mike Onwenu, and Calvin Anderson, they may have the ability to spring Rhamondre Stevenson to the second level, where I believe Dean in the middle will be the spot they try to exploit. 

Ezekiel Elliot may no longer be the home run threat he was early in his career with the Cowboys, but he still has excellent vision and the physicality to grind out the tough yards in third and short or around the goal line.  He and Stevenson should keep the game honest, which is what the Patriots need.      

Patriots WRs vs. Eagles Secondary Edge New England

“Are You OUT OF YOUR MIND?” Is the Patriots’ passing game getting the edge on the Eagles’ pass defense?  The Patriots have a real offensive coordinator again, and Bill O’Brien knows that calling long-developing pass plays would end in total disaster for the boys in blue. Philly’s pass rush is a tough test for the offense in Week 1, but I expect O’Brien to show some motion to free up receivers at the line of scrimmage.

I expect O’Brien will call plays that put Mac Jones in a position to succeed, unlike a year ago. Expect Jones to quickly get rid of the ball to Kendrick Bourne and JuJu Smith-Schuster. The team kept rookie Demario “Pop” Douglas under wraps during the preseason, and it will be intriguing to see what O’Brien has to take advantage of his speed and athleticism. Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki could figure greatly in this game by attacking the middle of the field. 

The key here is pass protection, the Patriots have to stay ahead of the chains and stay out of third and long situations. Otherwise, the Eagles front seven will take over, and that will mean that Jones has a long day.

Next up, the Eagles offense:

Eagles RBs vs. NE Front Seven Edge Philadelphia

The Philadelphia running game is tough to stop with RPOs and read options, and the guy who makes it all work is QB Jalen Hurts. Running behind an excellent offensive line, Hurts rushed for 760 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2022. He can hurt you with his arm and his legs. Bill Belichick said as much this week when he called him “arguably the best player in the league. 

Swift has never had the success that Sanders had, but he’ll be running behind a much better OL this year. Gainwell, Penny, and Scott will all factor in. But slowing down Hurts is the key. 

The Patriot run defense was good a year ago, but they struggled with mobile QBs. Adding the athletic Keion White and Marte Mapu was designed to address those deficiencies, but will Belichick trust the rookies right out of the gate? 

Eagles WRs vs. NE Secondary Edge Philadelphia

The Philly passing game featured Hurts throwing for more than 3700 yards and 22 TDs to his big three of WRs A.J. Brown (88 catches, 1,496 yards, 11 TDs) and DeVonta Smith (95 catches, 1,196 yards, 7 TDs) and tight end Dallas Goedert (55 catches, 702 yards, 3TDs). They also have Quez Watkins, who could see a bigger role in 2023. 

The key is stopping Philly’s (read Hurts) on early downs. Hurts and the offense feast on zone coverage, where his QB rating was north of 105 facing zone. The defense has to slow down the early RPOs and roll the dice with man coverage against the Eagles’ talented trio on 3rd downs. The Patriots’ pass rush with Matthew Judon, Josh Uche, and Deatrich Wise will have to get some pressure of their own. 

The secondary has rookie Christian Gonzalez, Jonathan Jones, who has missed a ton of time this summer, and Jack Jones, who has had his court case resolved at corner, who will have their hands full this week. The Patriots will mix and match the safeties, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, former Eagle Jalen Mills, and Mapu looking to slow down the Eagles offense. 

The starters saw very little time on the field in preseason, and new OC Brian Johnson could have some wrinkles of his own to throw out there. 

Special Teams   Edge Philadelphia

The Patriots’ special teams are in the midst of massive change this year, bringing in rookies at punter (Bryce Baringer) and kicker (Chad Ryland). Joe Judge returns to the STs to help embattled coordinator Cam Achord. 

Overall, the STs were sloppy a year ago, with far too many penalties and breakdowns. One bright spot was returner Marcus Jones who returns and whom the Patriots could use a big return or two from this week. 

The Eagles’ punting situation is still fluid, but they have a reliable kicker in Jake Elliot and very good returners with Boston Scott and Olamide Zaccheaus. The coverage units looked much better this summer, they’ll get their first test. 

Both rookie kickers have very strong legs, but in their first game, the nod goes to Philly. 

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking to improve this season and have made changes in all three game phases.  But will it be enough this week? We shall see.

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Slow The RPOs on Early Downs Look for the Patriots to show some different looks and combinations to try to slow down Hurts and the offense on early downs and take the LBs out of the no-win situation, whether to play run or pass.

They’ll need some penetration upfront from the big guys on the DL, but that is no easy task against the OL of the Eagles. 

Find a Rhythm on Offense The Philadelphia DL is arguably the best in the NFL, and the Patriots must find a way to keep the sticks moving. Mixing in some RPO and play-action under center for Mac Jones. The Patriots offense is going to be much better than people are giving it credit for, But much of it depends on having a healthy group protecting Jones. 

Win Third Down – The Patriots need to win third down on both sides of the ball if they want to pull this upset in Week 1. The defense will have to get off the field and try to generate a turnover or two, while the offense has to sustain drives and find a way to be much better in the red zone. 



Week 1 Matchups are always among the most difficult to predict because so many unknown factors come into play. As I wrote earlier, I think the Eagles would roll if these two teams met in a month. 

However, I think the Patriots hang in there and give the Eagles a tough game. But in the end, Philly is one of the two best teams in the NFC and is too much for New England to crack in the early season.  Eagles 28-20

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and I from discuss the latest Patriots news and breakdown game analysis


Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: AJ Brown Bill Belichick Brandon Graham D'Andre Swift Fletcher Cox Jalen Carter Jalen Hurts Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots Patriots Patriots edge rushers Philadelphia Eagles

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