Tag Archives: Fletcher Cox

 Patriots Week 11 Report Card, Defense Steps Up In 17-10 Win Over Philly 

Steve Balestrieri
November 19, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

Patriots are 9-1 and heading home to Face Dallas

The Patriots gutted out a tough,17-10 road win against a tough NFC team in Philadelphia on Sunday. After allowing a touchdown early in the second quarter, the defense shut them out the rest of the way and held them to just 152 yards from that point on. The defense had a turnover and five sacks from five different players.

The offense was another matter as they looked nothing like a team that had two weeks to prepare for Philadelphia. The last time they faced them with a two-week window they rolled up over 600 yards of offense. On Sunday afternoon, they didn’t get half of that. 

This is who they are right now, they can’t run behind the offensive line and they can’t hold up for long in pass protection. That means it puts an inordinate amount of pressure on the quarterback to work through his progressions really fast. The wide receivers had a tough night getting any kind of separation from the Eagles secondary who played outstanding in coverage. 

So, check out our grades and let’s take another look at the Eagles game.

Quarterback: C

Tom Brady struggled with the punchless Patriots offense on Sunday and the numbers played that out. He completed just 26 of 47 passes on Sunday for just 216 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs. The offensive line can’t open up any holes for the backs and can’t protect the QB. The wide receivers have a dearth of speed to get separation. 

That puts a lot of the onus on him and they don’t have the offensive playmakers to make it happen right now. Will things get better? Yes, Josh McDaniels can find a combination to make things work while N’Keal Harry and Isaiah Wynn round into form. But right now the offense has zero identity. It is a struggle. 

All you need to know about how Brady feels about the offense right now is the way he approached his post-game press conference. He knows that they don’t have the talent to get into a shootout with anyone right now. And they’re relying on the defense. “I don’t think it matters what I think. It matters what we do.”

Running Backs: C

The running game can’t get going, the blocking from the offensive line just isn’t there. They try to run to the edge and there are frequently one or two defenders hitting the backs deep in the backfield. Against a tough Eagles front seven, the Patriots managed 75 yards on 21 carries and a Brady kneel down. Sony Michel had 10 carries for 33 yards for a 3.3-yard average which is exactly his season average. James White had 5 carries for 20 yards and Rex Burkhead had 5 for 14. 

They have a deep and talented backfield with nowhere to run. 

Burkhead had two catches for 34 yards, the big one being where it looked like he was about to be tackled for a loss in the backfield, he kept his balance and rolled down the sidelines for a gain of 30-yards. James White had four catches for just 16 yards while Sony Michel had two for 11. 

Wide Receivers: C

The wide receivers had a rough time getting separation from an Eagles secondary that is rounding into form. Nearly everything on every down was contested. Julian Edelman, as always led the way with five catches for 53 yards. He also threw the only touchdown, a 15-yard double pass to Phillip Dorsett. 

Mohamad Sanu had only two catches for 4 yards, a disappointing game for him. Phillip Dorsett had three catches for 33 yards and a score, while rookie N’Keal Harry had his first NFL action with three catches for 18 yards. Jakobi Meyers had one catch for 7. 

Tight Ends: C

Ben Watson had a nice game with three receptions for 52 yards on four targets. Matt LaCosse made his return to the field and had a forgettable game. He had two catches for three yards.  LaCosse nearly turned the ball over with a fumble and Watson was flagged for holding. The blocking in the running game remains inconsistent.

Offensive Line: C-

The offensive line was getting pushed around in the running game, Fletcher Cox was immovable in the center. The pass protection was spotty at best. Marshall Newhouse was turnstiled several times by Derek Barnett, and he gave up some run stuffs but he wasn’t alone. Brady was being pressured constantly. The coaches called so many screen passes to slow down the Eagles and Brady continues to get the ball away so quickly, Philly ended up with one sack. But that doesn’t mean the OL played well. 

Tony Romo kept repeating that Isaiah Wynn will right the ship during the telecast. In the running game it may have a domino effect, they could then bring Newhouse in as an extra tight end on short-yardage, but the pass protection is not good. 

The Patriots were only one for three in the red zone and when they had to run the ball at the end of the game, the Eagles knew they had to run the ball and stopped them from doing it twice. 

 Defensive Line: A-

The defensive line made a nice comeback week, going against one of the best offensive lines in football, the Eagles running backs combined for only 64 yards on the ground against the Patriots defense. Carson Wentz added 17 more on a few scrambles but overall it was a tremendous effort. 

They had the one hiccup where the Eagles drove the ball 95 yards in nearly 10 minutes of clock that they looked like they were passive and slow. But once Bill Belichick pulled them aside and made his adjustments, in the final nearly 43 minutes of the game, Philly had a total of 152 yards, and 30 of those were in the final garbage-time drive with 30 seconds to go in prevent.   

Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy had excellent games and were penetrating upfront and disrupting things at the point of attack. The play at the Eagles two-yard line was a standout. Guy split the double-team block and nearly had a safety. Great penetration. This was exactly what the doctor ordered. 

Linebackers: A-

The linebackers returned to form as well against Philadelphia and were outstanding on Sunday afternoon. It begins with Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, they were all over the field and dominated upfront. Van Noy had a sack, a tackle for a loss (TFL) and two quarterback hits. Hightower had a sack, a TFL, and three quarterback hits. 

Elandon Roberts had a sack, a TFL, and a QB hit. Chase Winovich had three tackles and two QB hits. Only Jamie Collins had a quiet night for this group as he was used in coverage for much of the game. He had a pass defensed.  

The Patriots wanted to pressure Carson Wentz and they did so with five sacks and seven QB hits. Mission accomplished.

Secondary: A

The secondary was as solid as ever as they held Carson Wentz and the Eagles to just 174 yards net passing. The Eagles wide receivers were banged up and the ones who did play were held in check.  Eagles WRs had six catches for 75 yards. Zach Ertz did most of the damage with 9 catches for 94 yards but as good as he is, he didn’t make any catches at critical moments as the Patriots rotated Stephon Gilmore on him on third downs, which was a brilliant move. 

With Pat Chung out, Terrence Brooks filled in and did a good job, playing down low and defending against the tight ends. Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, and J.C. Jackson were all excellent. Wentz on several occasions would look and have nowhere to throw.   

Special Teams: A

Jake Bailey continued his outstanding rookie season, averaging 47.6 yards per punt and put the Eagles in bad starting field position time and again. He put six punts inside the 20 and forced Wentz and the Eagles to start from the 12 (twice), the 6, 5, and 3-yard line. That is just outstanding work. Belichick traded up to get him in the 5th round this year (with the Eagles), and he’s been a steal. 

Nick Folk was 3-3 on field goals, none of them far but with the gusty winds in Philly on Sunday, nothing was a given. The coverage units were very solid once again.

Coaches: A-

The Patriots coaching staff made a number of good moves in this game. After giving up a 95-yard drive, Belichick called the defense over and Philly offense sputtered the rest of the game and was shut out from that point on. Putting Gilmore on Ertz for third downs was brilliant as they took him away.  

With all of the hand-wringing over  Josh McDaniels play calling, he’s more like Merlin right now, the offense is smoking and mirroring right now. McDaniels is pulling out all the stops trying everything to get the offense going. He and Brady drew up a play to get James White involved and boom! They go to it on first down and it works. McDaniels had them go uptempo early in the 3rd quarter and they got their only touchdown of the day. 

Great job by the Patriots coaching staff on Sunday. Nothing came easy but they put their players in the best position to win. 

 

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

 

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

Patriots – Eagles Week 11 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 14, 2019 at 8:51 am ET

The Patriots head back out on the road and come off of their bye week to face the Philadelphia Eagles in a big game for both teams.

The Patriots are trying to stay ahead of the Baltimore Ravens for the top spot in the AFC while trying to keep some distance between themselves and the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East. Philadelphia got off to a slow start but is locked in a tight divisional race with the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East and won their last two games to go into their own bye week at 5-4. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and 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.

The Patriots (8-1) are coming off their bye week. But in their last game, they were defeated by the Ravens 37-20.

The Eagles (5-4) are coming off their bye week. In their last two games they defeated the Buffalo Bills and the Chicago Bears.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2019 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Eagles have met twice in the Super Bowl with the Patriots winning SB XXXIX and the Eagles winning SB LII.

During the regular season, the two teams have met 12 times with Philadelphia holding a 7-5 edge overall. The last regular-season meeting was in Foxboro in December 2015 with the Eagles winning 35-28. 

 

Here is 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 – Razor’s Edge Philadelphia

The Patriots running game has not had the production that was envisioned this summer. It is plodding along averaging just 92.9 yards per game, just 23rd in the NFL. That isn’t good enough. Sony Michel is averaging only 3.3 yards per carry. Against Baltimore, he had just four carries but that may have had more to do with the Ravens jumping out to an early 17-0 lead that forced the Patriots to abandon the running game a bit.  

Philly’s run defense is playing very good thus far in 2019 allowing just 87.3 yards per game, good for 4th best in the NFL. Buoyed by the big men upfront Fletcher Cox and Teddy Jernigan inside and Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham at the edge with a group of athletic linebackers at the second level. 

Expect to see more what the Patriots did in Baltimore two weeks ago and using Rex Burkhead and James White running occasionally out of the shotgun formations to keep the Eagles defense honest, but this won’t be a big Sony Michel week.            

Patriots WRs vs Eagles Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game has been given a boost by the addition of Mohamad Sanu. He and Julian Edelman give Tom Brady a pair of inside receivers that can move inside or outside, depending on the matchups. With an extra two weeks in the Patriots system, Sanu should be farther along in his development. Phillip Dorsett rounds out the top three at WR while Burkhead and White out of the backfield add the extra dimension for defenses to account for. Ben Watson at tight end should see more looks in the passing game down the stretch. 

The Eagles pass defense has been middle of the road allowing 239 yards per game (16th). Their strength is again up front where they’ve logged 24 sacks on the season. Graham, Cox, and Barnett can be very disruptive. Their secondary hasn’t been good, they’ve been banged up but are getting healthy and rounding into form. 

Look for Brady to try to slow down the pass rush and account for less than stellar pass protection by getting the ball out quickly to Sanu and Edelman. If the Eagles pass rush begins to get home, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the offense go to an uptempo, hurry-up mode that slowed down the Ravens front seven. 

Philadelphia has been susceptible to the deep ball this season, something that isn’t necessarily a strength of the Patriots offense but I’d imagine they’ll test the waters a few times to try to loosen them up. Will we see N’Keal Harry this week? And how much, if at all will he play???? Inquiring minds want to know.

Next up the Eagles offense:

Eagles RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Philadelphia

The Philadelphia rushing attack has been featured in their last two games against the Bills and Bears and Philly has held the ball for 77 minutes compared to 44 for their opposition in those two contests. They feature Jordan Howard (525 yards, 6 TDs), Miles Sanders (336 yards, 1 TD) and Darren Sproles running behind one of the best offensive lines in football. 

The Patriots defensive front seven took a big hit in the Baltimore game, getting gashed by the Ravens ground game. While some of that was playing the wrong schemes, they’ve had some uncharacteristic tackling issues as well. They will be looking to slow down that running attack this week and get back on track where they’ve been prior to the past two games. On the season, the defense is 11th against the run, allowing 99.1 yards per game.

Look for the Eagles to run more of their 12 personnel looks this week with two tight ends. They’ve been successfully doing that lately and Carson Wentz is always a threat to scramble. The dreaded RPOs (run-pass options) that Philly runs and ripped the Patriots in SB LII will an area to watch. 

If the Philly guards get to the second level and are able to attack the Patriots linebackers there, it will be a long afternoon for the defense again. The Patriots will be looking to stuff the run at the point of attack. Look for them to be more aggressive this week and ditch some of the two-gapping style we saw in Baltimore. 

Eagles WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

The Philly passing game has been beset by injuries and inconsistency. They wanted to base the passing game on DeSean Jackson but he’s been hurt. Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor have been bedeviled by drops at inopportune times. However, they boast two outstanding tight ends in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert and those two will be a handful to cover, especially on third down and in the red zone. 

The Patriots secondary has been outstanding this season. Stephon Gilmore has been showcasing his talents since early this summer. Jonathan Jones is having a Pro Bowl type of season and J.C. Jackson as well as Jason McCourty have been very solid. 

When Philly has struggled, it has been because of protection issues for Wentz. The Patriots with 32 sacks this season have the capability to be very disruptive and force Wentz into scrambling behind the line. The key to this week will be how well they cover Ertz and Goedert. Ertz is one of the best tight ends in the league and Pat Chung, who’s been banged up will draw him…if he’s available. The Patriots secondary can handle the wide receivers, but the key here will be the tight ends. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Philadelphia

The Patriots special teams are now on their third kicker Nick Folk who they hope won’t be forced into making a pressure kick from long distance at this stage of his career. Punter Jake Bailey has been outstanding in his rookie season, skying long punts and getting better and better and pinning opponents inside the 20. The coverage units have been excellent although the return game has been only so-so.

The Eagles have Jake Elliott who hasn’t missed a field goal this season… hmm. Cameron Johnson has also done a terrific job at pinning the opposition inside the 20. The Eagles have Sanders and Sproles returning kicks and punts respectively. But because of Elliott and his consistency, they get the nod here. 

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking to improve to 9-1 and this should prove to be a fascinating matchup of two very good teams. The inconsistency that plagued Philly seems to have been eradicated and Doug Pederson is a very game-plan specific coach. Look for different looks and formations that the Patriots haven’t seen given that he’s had two weeks to prepare.  

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Spread Them Out – Look for the Patriots offense to once again go to a more spread look and hit the quick passing game with an uptempo look. Using only three wide receivers as they did in Baltimore isn’t the answer, so look for Jakobi Meyers and fellow rookie N’Keal Harry to get some play this week. 

As always this is a Julian Edelman, James White type of game for Tom Brady. Those two will be targeted a lot by Brady and the Eagles defense. The “X-Factor” in this one is Mohamad Sanu. If he shows more of the development that we expect at this point, then he should be in line for a big day. 

Run Defense Has to Rebound – The Eagles running game will present a huge test for the Patriots defense. This game will hinge on the play of the offensive and defensive lines this week. While that sounds cliche, it is especially true this week. The Patriots front seven has to be more aggressive in attacking the running schemes of the Eagles and try to blow plays up in the backfield. 

Win Third Down – The Patriots struggled both offensively and defensively on third down in Baltimore. That will have to change this week. Offensively they have to keep the chains moving and wear down that front seven of the Eagles. On the defensive side, allowing Philly and Wentz to have those easily manageable third downs (3rd & 2, 3rd & 3 or less) is a recipe for the tight ends to kill them in the short passing game. 

They have to get the Eagles in those 3rd and long situations where they can bring pressure on the QB, something they’ve been excellent at doing this season. Forcing Wentz to have to throw in those longer situations, plays to the strength of the secondary.

___________

Prediction: 

We’ve already said this is a fascinating matchup and this should be one of the best games to watch this week. We expect a really great, close game although not quite as high scoring as the last time these two teams met. 

I think both teams will move the ball at times and struggle at others. The experience factor with Brady will play a huge role here, he’ll lead the offense to a late score and the Patriots defense returns to form with a big stop as New England returns to the win column.  Patriots 27-24

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour returns home to Foxboro next week as the Eagles will become Patriots fans as the Dallas Cowboys visit Gillette Stadium.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and breakdown game analysis

 

Patriots 2019 Opponents, Getting to Know the Philadelphia Eagles

Steve Balestrieri
November 13, 2019 at 9:42 am ET

For the third game in a row, the Patriots will be facing a team that is coming off a bye, this week it is the Philadelphia Eagles. But the Patriots are also coming off of a bye week as the teams get ready to lock horns in Philadelphia during Week 11.

 It is interesting to note that although the Patriots could use the time off to heal up some injured players and to get newcomer Mohamad Sanu as well as injured rookie N’Keal Harry better acclimated to the New England offense, the Patriots have often appeared sluggish in their return to the field after a bye. That type of start could be a bad harbinger of things to come this week. 

So, let’s take a look at the 2019 version of the Eagles and see what is going on in Philly with Doug Pederson’s team before Sunday’s matchup.

The Offense is Changing Their Identity:

The Eagles, much like the Patriots have done in the past saw that some things weren’t working and rather than slam their heads against the wall, have adapted and in particular, the offense has been changing. 

At the beginning of the season, Philly was basing their offense around a deep group of wide receivers beginning with DeSean Jackson, who they had brought back to be the deep threat for their offense. The only question this summer was if there would be enough passes to go around. 

But Jackson has been hurt and Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor have been very inconsistent with a lot of drops at key times. Jeffrey, in particular, has looked like he’s been laboring out on the field.  

So, the Eagles have been running a lot of 12 personnel lately. Running behind arguably the best offensive line in football, with three outstanding backs in Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, and Darren Sproles, the offense has been chewing up the clock and the opposition. 

Howard has run for 525 yards with 6 TDs while Sanders has 336 yards and a score while adding an additional 22 catches for 305 yards out of the backfield in the passing game. 

In their 12 personnel package, they can throw to two excellent tight ends in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. With the RPO game that Patriots fans will remember from the Super Bowl, this will be a huge test for the Patriots defense. 

Eagles Front Seven Present a Tough Matchup:

Philadelphia’s strength is their front seven and the ability to shut down the running game. Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Derek Barnett can get after the QB and disrupt things for the passing game. 

Going against a Patriots offensive line that has been under-performing for the most part this season, This is another big matchup that will go a long way in deciding the game. While the Eagles secondary has had their share of injuries, they’re beginning to get healthy. But if there is a weakness in the defense, it is the pass defense. 

Look for the Patriots to try to slow down the pass rush and tire out their better players by going with quick, short passes to the wide receivers which will hopefully open up some holes for the running game. But Philly’s run defense is excellent allowing just 87.3 yards per game, good for 4th in the NFL.

Expect the Unexpected With Philly:

Doug Pederson runs a very game-specific offense. Their game plan will have a set of different formations and looks that Pederson specifically installs for each opponent. He is guaranteed to throw something at the Patriots that they probably haven’t seen much of, if at all this season. 

How well the Patriots can recognize and react to those formations will go a long way in determining the outcome. And with two weeks to prepare for this one, Pederson should get pretty creative. 

Philly Searching For Consistency: 

The Eagles have been up and down this season and at just 5-4, this start was unexpected as many picked them to be one of the teams to watch in the NFC. Philly began with a close win over Washington then dropped consecutive games against the Falcons and Lions. A big win over Green Bay on the road followed by a stomping of the Jets appeared to have them on the right track.

Then came big losses at Minnesota and Dallas which left them at 3-4. But then they turned it around in Buffalo with a big win over the Bills before beating Chicago before their bye week. 

Did they right the ship in their last two big wins or will their inconsistent ways return this week? This is a big game for both teams but may be an even bigger contest for the Eagles as they’re still chasing Dallas and have already dropped a game against their divisional rivals. This should be one of the games to watch this week.  

With all of the talk of a “Super Bowl Rematch”, I’m not buying it. Both teams are pretty different from the last time they met. And that game is nearly two years removed since they last met. While it sounds good from a media perspective, I doubt that the teams will be looking at it as such. The game has big enough implications for each team as it is. 

We’ll have our keys to the game and key matchups later this week. Stay tuned… 

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New England Patriots – Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl LII Key Matchups

Steve Balestrieri
February 2, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

And then there were two. The Patriots and the Eagles rightfully face off for the Super Bowl LII bragging rights for the final game of the 2017 NFL season. The teams are remarkably evenly matched. Each is the #1 seed in their respective conferences. Both were 13-3 in the regular season. Each had a close playoff game and a blowout.

The Eagles had a close win over Atlanta and blew out the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. The Patriots blew out Tennessee and then had a close, come-from-behind win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

During the season the Patriots scored one point more than Philadelphia offensively, 458-457, while the Eagles defense bested New England by a single point defensively 295-296. Even? I don’t know how it gets any closer.

This year’s Super Bowl will be broadcast by NBC on Sunday, February 4, at 6:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on NBC Channel 10. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michelle Tafoya 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.

The Patriots (15-3) came back from a 10-point 4th quarter deficit with Tom Brady firing two touchdown passes to Danny Amendola to beat Jacksonville 24-20.

The Eagles (15-3) blew out the Minnesota Vikings 38-7, by scoring 38 unanswered points. Nick Foles threw three touchdowns and the Eagles punched their ticket easily.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Eagles are meeting for just the 14th time. Philadelphia leads the all-time series 7-6. The two teams met once in the Super Bowl already with New England beating Philadelphia 24-21 in SB XXXIX where Deion Branch took home MVP honors with 11 catches for 133 yards.

Here is 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 – Razor’s Edge Philadelphia
The Patriots running game has been extremely effective with Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead as a dynamic 1-2 punch that is effective in the passing game as they are in the running game. Lewis will be the main guy in the running game and he’ll have a tall order this week.

Philadelphia had the #1 rush defense in the league in 2017 allowing only 79.2 yards per game. The big men in the middle, Fletcher Cox, and Timmy Jernigan make it very hard to run inside, especially where the Patriots like to run by stuffing up everything at the point of attack.

In order for the Patriots to be successful, they are going to have to remain balanced. So play-action passing is key here. Josh McDaniels will have to get a bit creative here, mixing in some draws and Jet Sweeps to take advantage of their aggressive pass rush, but this will be some tough sledding this week.

Patriots WRs vs Eagles Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game will tremendously benefit by having Rob Gronkowski cleared for this game. Although he’s been practicing, as of right now (late Weds. night), he still hasn’t cleared concussion protocol.

Tom Brady can spread the ball around with Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and out of the backfield with James White, Lewis and Burkhead. But having Gronkowski out there and healthy makes it all go.

Philly’s pass defense is built around that terrific front four (read seven). They can freely mix things up and substitute. Their subpackage pass rush is especially effective where they move Brandon Graham inside next to Cox and have Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Derek Barnett as edge guys. Protection for Brady will be the key here as the Eagles don’t get tons of sacks but DO get tons of pressure.

One area to watch, Philly will probably play much more man coverage in this game. They played a lot of zone during the season and the Patriots, if Brady has time to throw will attack the linebackers with play action and Ronald Darby on the perimeter. Look for them to take some shots down the field early.

Next up the Philadelphia offense:

Eagles RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Philadelphia

The Eagles have two very good and varied backs in LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi in the running game. Philly is using both in a committee approach and goes with the hot hand They are very effective at running the ball averaging 132.2 yards per game.

The Patriots run defense has been terrific down the stretch and into the playoffs. With Malcom Brown and Kyle Van Noy healthy again as well as the addition of James Harrison, they slowed the running games of both Tennessee and Jacksonville.

The Eagles will want to run to take the pressure off of Nick Foles and give him the option of play action as well. While the Eagles will get their yards on the ground, I look for them to slow down the running game and force Foles to beat them.

Eagles WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England
The Eagles passing game was a question mark after Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL. But Foles has answered his critics with a pair of playoff wins, including a blowout conference championship win where he carved up the NFC’s best defense in Minnesota. The RPO (run-pass option) we’ve all heard about is their bread and butter and Foles has Zach Ertz as the team’s leading receiver at tight end and their go-to guy. But Alshon Jeffrey, Torrey Smith, and Nelson Agholor give them plenty of weapons to throw the ball to.

The Patriots defense has been very good down the stretch and the strength is the secondary with Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler and Eric Rowe at corner. Jonathan Jones who recently went on IR may have been a better matchup with Agholor because of his speed but it will be interesting to see how they line up.

The key for New England is to keep generating pressure with their front four, where coincidentally the Patriots have had 11 sacks in their two playoff games, something no one is mentioning. And relying on their corners to remain in tight coverage. Containing the RPOs (something Jax ran) requires discipline and gap control. The chess match here should be a fascinating one. Watch for Trey Flowers here, he’s primed for a big game. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Special Teams continue to be among the best in the NFL. Stephen Gostkowski had a very solid season and his pooch kickoffs consistently put opponents deep in their own end. Ryan Allen was the underrated difference in the conference championship game, pinning the Jags deep in their own end ….field position here will be key.  Pro-Bowl ST player Matthew Slater on the coverage units.

The Eagles are very solid on Special Teams with kicker Jake Elliott and punter Donnie Jones. The coverage units are very good as well but no one’s STs units have been better than New England’s down the stretch.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

Well, here we go… .This one should be a Super Bowl worthy of its name. As we pointed to above, the teams are evenly matched and both, being the #1 seeds have earned the right to be here.

I look for a high scoring game, it may not begin that way, but like the 2003 game with Carolina and New England, I see things heating up. This one will be a back and forth affair. I see Agholor and Amendola having big games for each team. The key for each team will be field position and not be turning the ball over.

But in a close game like this, I don’t ever bet against Tom Brady and I think he gets it done once again with a late score to bring home Super Bowl victory number six. Cue up the Duck Boats Marty, there will be a parade next week. Patriots 31-28

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Who are the Players to Watch for the Patriots vs Eagles

Steve Balestrieri
December 5, 2015 at 8:51 am ET

The Patriots and Eagles are set to meet in Foxboro on Sunday afternoon and this is a big game for both teams. The Patriots have an opportunity to clinch the AFC East and move a step closer to getting that all-important bye week and homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs.

The Eagles despite a 4-7 record are very much in the hunt for the NFC East, just a game back of the Washington Redskins and New York Giants. So the narrative that Philly is just playing out the string in the 2015 season is premature. But having lost three in a row, especially the way they lost the last two games has them in desperation mode. They need a much better effort this week if they’re going to challenge for the division.

We already broke down this game with our Key matchups breaking down the offensive, defensive and special team’s units for this week as well our keys to the game.

Now it is time for our players to watch for this week. Each team has a few players to keep an eye on as this matchup plays out.

Scott Chandler: The big tight end has had somewhat disappointing numbers in 2015. He’s brought in 19 catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns on the season. After a spring and summer where he, Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady were so visible working together on the side, we were expecting huge numbers from the trio. But that hasn’t played out that way.

Chandler hasn’t been used nearly as much as expected and has suffered from some drops. With Gronk’s injury to likely keep him out at least two-to-three weeks, now is the time for Chandler to assert himself. He should see more looks from Brady in the passing game now and he can attack the seams of the defense, something that may happen on Sunday. For Chandler, stats mean little and he told the media this week that he’s only focused on 10-1 and wants to taste the postseason for the first time.

Key Stat- Of Tom Brady’s 294 completions this season, 143 of them or 49 percent go to tight ends and running backs. With a beat-up wide receiver position, that number may increase down the stretch; Chandler could be a major factor in the NE offense if he can produce in the next few weeks.

LaGarrette Blount: The Patriots big running back has found precious little room to run as the carousel at the offensive line position has really hampered the offense’s ability to run the football. Blount is at his best when he can reach the second level with speed, as there his size and physicality makes him a very difficult player to bring down.

With the depleted weapons around Brady in the passing game, Blount may see a big uptick in his carries this week. Danny Amendola may return on Sunday, but if he were to miss this game, 74 percent of Brady’s production would be missing from the passing game. So the pressure will be on Blount and the offensive line to produce.

Key Stat: Philadelphia’s run defense is currently ranked 27th in the league allowing 126.6 yards per game. But they were among the better teams in the early season against the run. In the last five games, the Philly defense has allowed 828 yards on the ground for an average of 165.6 yards per game. This is the time for Blount to get some yardage and take some pressure off the receivers.

Jamie Collins: The Patriots uber-athletic linebacker has missed the last four games with an illness and proclaimed himself good to go for this week. Collins lost a lot of weight during his illness which we heard rumors of mono but the team and Collins have remained mum on this.

With Dont’a Hightower probably sidelined for a week or two with a knee injury, Collins will be looked to cover the backs and tight ends in the passing game. With the tremendously fast tempo that the Philly offense operates, it will be curious to see how much Collins can play this week.

Key stat: Until Hightower went down in the Denver game, the Broncos rushing game only gained 46 yards on 15 carries. After he left, Denver rushed 16 times for 133 yards. With DeMarco Murray and Darren Sproles this week, Collins will be looked to as always to provide that penetrating element to disrupt things in the Eagles backfield.

Tom Brady: Brady is always a key player to watch whatever the game, whoever the opponent. Brady remains the gold standard of NFL QBs, leading the league in passing yardage (3600), touchdowns (28), and passer rating (106.7), while only throwing four interceptions.

The fact that Brady continues to do it while his supporting cast of receivers and offensive line is decimated with injury defies description. Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly snorted when asked about the NE injuries. “Did they lose Brady,” Kelly quipped on a conference call with Boston media this week. “Because that is what would truly effect them.”

Key stat: Nobody turns the page faster than Brady after a Patriots loss. After the heartbreaker in Denver in OT, Brady is poised to get back to work. In his career after a Patriots loss, Brady’s record is a ridiculous 40-8. Look for him to be very sharp on Sunday.

Fletcher Cox: The Eagles big defensive lineman is perhaps their best player on the defense. Bill Belichick called him one of the best defensive linemen in the league this week. With 6.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss he’s been very disruptive inside. He’ll be going against Josh Kline who struggled with Denver’s Derek Wolfe last week.

Key Stat: One of the areas that most affects Brady and the Patriots passing game is inside pressure. Brady’s ability to step up in the pocket and make throws separates him from many of the other QBs in the league. Cox will be looking to push the pocket inside which will limit that and allow edge rushers, such as Connor Barwin to have the ability to either force an errant throw or get a sack.

Sam Bradford: Chip Kelly made a trade for the oft-injured Bradford this offseason bringing in the former Sooner QB for Nick Foles and thus far, it hasn’t worked out. Bradford started very slowly this season before suffering a sprained AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder and a concussion against Miami.

Key Stat: Prior to going down in the Miami game, Bradford showed signs of really coming around and getting the Eagles offense going. Against Dallas and Miami he was 44-61 for 531 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

With a sore shoulder and having missed two plus games, Bradford won’t have the luxury of being rusty when Sunday rolls around. The Eagles need a win and Foxboro is a tough place to place for opponents, especially for those from the NFC, which are 10-45 against New England since 2002.

Brent Celek: The Eagles tight end could be a big target for Bradford on Sunday. While Zach Ertz is a very talented player for Philly, he’s been battling concussion issues and is probable for Sunday. If he’s not fully back to speed this week, the reliable and steady Celek could be the outlet for Bradford against the Patriots.

Key stat: When Ertz went down with a concussion during an awful three-game losing skid, Celek remained a steady reliable performer. He hauled in a team high seven passes in the Week 11 loss to Tampa and on Thanksgiving caught a touchdown pass from Mark Sanchez.

On the road and facing teams like New England that can get after the quarterback (35 sacks), a reliable tight end is sometimes a QB’s best friend. Celek will bear watching this week.

Eric Rowe: The Eagles rookie cornerback will be making his first NFL start on Sunday and he’ll be going against Brady and the Patriots. Rowe came in for Nolan Carroll when the Eagles best corner broke his ankle and was victimized by the Lions Calvin Johnson. But “Megatron” does that to the most experienced of NFL corners so now Rowe has to have a short memory and regroup.

Key Stat: The Eagles defense the past two games has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 46-of-67 passes for 583 yards with 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions for a passer rating of 135.1, both games allowing 45 points.

With those type of numbers and being a rookie making his first NFL start, Rowe will have a bullseye as Brady will look to pick on the rookie right away on Sunday. This will be a big opportunity for Rowe to be playing for the future, not so much 2015 but for 2016 and beyond as he’ll be in the spotlight this week.

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