The New England Patriots will go down to Philadelphia to meet the Eagles in a Super Bowl rematch from two years ago.
You know the Super Bowl … the one where the Eagles beat the Pats and everyone claimed this was “the end of the dynasty” and the beginning of the Eagles’ long run at the top.
But since then, the Patriots have gone 22-6 while adding another Super Bowl banner to their resumé. The Eagles have gone 15-12.
Each team has changed a lot since that contest, both for better and worse.
The Eagles have gotten significantly less impressive on defense. Losing starters from every position of note, they’ve been a letdown in that department this year. Giving up 347 yards per game with 220 passing yards, they’re ranked 19th and 21st respectively in each category. Expect Tom Brady to take advantage of that spotty secondary and show the league he isn’t quite finished yet. Helping Brady accomplish that will be rookie first-round draft pick, N’Keal Harry. Harry has yet to see the field this season and was eyeing a return last week against the Ravens, but to everyone’s surprise, he was held out. The extra week to learn the offense should help the young receiver add the spark that this offense needs. His coaches and teammates have a good feeling about his return and what he can bring.
Big crowd around Mohamed Sanu. Asked about N’Keal Harry, he calls him a “special kid.” pic.twitter.com/aByDaDoI0w
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) November 14, 2019
Bill Belichick on rookie WR N'Keal Harry, who has yet to play:
“He's a lot better than he was at the beginning of the year……he’s a lot better than he was two weeks ago." #Patriots #WBZ (video from Training Camp) pic.twitter.com/yB4k2tSx0r
— Dan Roche (@RochieWBZ) November 13, 2019
Tom Brady via @OMFonWEEI when asked about people reading into his comments on N'Keal Harry: "I like N'Keal a lot. … He's extremely hard-working. I really love his tenacity every day.
— Ryan Hannable (@RyanHannable) November 13, 2019
If Harry ends up playing, look for the Patriots to get him involved early and often. Harry will be taller than almost every defensive back he goes up against Sunday afternoon, and Brady will see that and exploit it.
Looking at the other side of the ball, this Patriots’ defense is still very, very good. Much was made about Lamar Jackson “exposing” them two weeks ago, but that’s just false. The Pats’ one weak spot all year has been their rush defense and Jackson just took advantage of it using his superb set of skills.
But for all the “sky is falling” talk around the Patriots’ defense, they still rank first in points and yards allowed per game while sitting at second in passing yards allowed. And that “exposed” rush defense is still ranked 11th, so it’s possible they just had a bad game against a dynamic running quarterback against the Ravens.
Speaking of quarterbacks, that may be the biggest change for either team. Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles left for Jacksonville with Carson Wentz assuming his starting role. Wentz has been more than fine this year, but there are still whispers of the team not quite buying into him like they did Foles when they went on that underdog run in 2018. The pressure will almost certainly be on Wentz to perform on Sunday.
If Wentz loses to the same team that his back-up beat in the Super Bowl two years ago, will he also lose credibility among the fans and teammates?
Not helping the matter was the news that Alshon Jeffrey will be out for this weekend’s game. Jeffrey was a big target for Wentz and one that would no doubt test this New England secondary. Wentz will be going into this game with Nelson Agholor, who seems to drop every other ball thrown to him, and Jordan Matthews. With the receiving corps being suspect at best, tight end Zach Ertz is going to have to play a big role in the team’s offense. But with Bill Belichick using the “take away your No. 1 option” plan of attack, it may be tough sledding for the Eagles’ passing game.
Their one hope, as it will be for every Patriots opponent going forward, is to have success running the ball. Until New England shows they can consistently slow down their opponent’s running game, the Eagles should lean on that all day.
Wentz is certainly mobile and can take off if you let him, but he’s not nearly the athlete Lamar Jackson was, so who can say if he’ll have the same type of success? And with starter Jordan Howard officially ruled out, it’s unclear what the state of Philly’s running game will look like.
Sure, they signed free agent Jay Ajayi, but that’s hardly a name that’ll strike fear into this Patriot front.
With all the talk around this Patriots defense being frauds, “The Boogeymen” will be looking to prove themselves going against a quality opponent. With Brady and Belichick having a bye week to prepare for this Eagles team, it’s tough to bet against them this weekend.
The Patriots will come out with a chip on their shoulder Sunday at 4:25 p.m., and that’s something that has never worked out well for whoever they’re going up against. This should be a statement game by New England and a tough loss for the Eagles.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Eagles 17