Outside of Packers-Lions and 49ers-Ravens on Thanksgiving, Week 12 of the NFL schedule is pretty lame in terms of matchups. In fact, there is only one matchup on Sunday or Monday featuring two teams with winning records: Chicago, beginning life without Jay Cutler, at Oakland. I pondered previewing that game, but the New England-Philadelphia matchup is too tantalizing to pass up.
The Pats and Eagles were preseason Super Bowl favorites along with Green Bay, and it’s still possible those two could meet in Indianapolis. New England has bounced back from a rough stretch to win back-to-back games and needs to win here because the three other AFC teams at 7-3, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Houston, are all favored to win this week.
The Pats would have to finish a game ahead of Pittsburgh to get the No. 1 AFC playoff seed, while the head-to-head tiebreaker wouldn’t come into play between New England and Baltimore or Houston. The remainder of the New England Patriots schedule is vastly easier than the other 7-3 teams.
The disappointing Eagles are 4-6 but suddenly have life, at least in terms of winning the NFC East, as Philly’s 17-10 win in New York last week pulled the Eagles within two games of the Giants and Dallas in the division.
The good news for the Eagles is that they have the best division record compared to New York and Dallas—they split with the Giants this season but already have beaten the Cowboys once (and Redskins once). So don’t rule out an Eagles division crown if they can win out. Their toughest games after this one are home vs. the Jets in Week 15 and at Dallas in Week 16. So a run is possible.
Philly and New England haven’t met since 2007.
Patriots at Eagles Betting Storylines
Brady has a current streak of 26 straight games with at least one touchdown pass.
And it’s probably now time to call Rob Gronkowski the NFL’s top tight end. He had four catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns on Monday. “Gronk,” now a cult fan-favorite in New England, has five TDs in the past three games. The former Arizona star has 20 touchdowns in 26 games, surpassing Mike Ditka's mark of 31 for the fewest games needed by a tight end to reach 20 touchdowns. He is within three of the single-season tight end record of 13 touchdown receptions held by Antonio Gates and Vernon Davis. Gronkowski has 17 red-zone TD catches in the past two seasons, leading the NFL.
Vince Young, meanwhile, stepped in for an injured Michael Vick last week in his first start in a year and led Philly to that big win at the Giants. Young engineered an 18-play, 80-yard fourth quarter drive that gave the Eagles the go-ahead touchdown. It was Philly’s longest TD drive in terms of plays since two days before 9/11 and their longest in terms of minutes (8:51) since 2005.
Young’s rating in the fourth quarter was 128.8. Vick’s fourth-quarter QB rating this season is 25th in the NFL (73.6).
Young's outing—he completed 23-of-36 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns to go with three interceptions—has allowed the Eagles to try and not rush back Vick from his broken ribs, although the team is optimistic he can play this week (he was to try and throw Tuesday).
Coach Andy Reid made it clear that Vick will start if healthy. He was listed as "questionable" on the Friday injury report even though he didn't practice all week. By Saturday, however, he was downgraded to "out" and did not travel with the team on Saturday.
It’s also not clear yet if the Eagles No. 2 WR Jeremy Maclin will play after missing Week 11 with shoulder and hamstring injuries. Riley Cooper, who caught the game-winning TD vs. New York, would start again if Maclin can’t go. No. 1 WR DeSean Jackson suffered a bruised foot in the Giants game but will play this week.
The Pats had a few offensive line injuries against the Chiefs. Center Dan Connolly, who has been playing in place of Dan Koppen, left portions of Monday’s game with recurring groin problems. Tackle Matt Light left in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury and didn’t return. Rookie Nate Solder replaced him. Safety Patrick Chung (foot) did not play in Week 11 against the Chiefs, and undrafted Sterling Moore started in his place for the second straight week.
Patriots at Eagles Betting Odds and Trends
New England opened as a three-point favorite with the total at 50.5 on NFL odds. About 70 percent of the early action is on New England.
The Pats are 6-4 ATS this season overall and 3-2 on road. Philly is 4-6 ATS overall and 1-4 at home. "Over/under" records: NE 5-5, PHI 5-5.
New England is 4-0 ATS in past four vs. teams with a losing record. Eagles are 1-7 ATS in past eight home games. The "over" is 5-1 in New England’s past six following a win by at least 14 points. The "over" is 5-2 ATS in Philly’s past seven following an ATS win.
Patriots at Eagles Predictions and NFL Preview
The Pats have had some trouble against the NFC East this year, squeaking by the Cowboys in Foxborough and seeing their 20-game home regular-season winning streak end at the hand of the Giants.
But no team plays better after Thanksgiving. Since 2001, New England has an NFL-best 61-15 (.803) record in games on or after Thanksgiving, including a 6-1 record in 2010.
If Vick plays—and especially if Maclin does, too—I like Philly to pull the upset here. If he doesn’t, I like the Patriots to win by a touchdown. Both teams have had their issues against the pass, so take the "over" (it also helps that it will be unseasonably warm).
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks Web site.