Eagles vs. Patriots: Full Philadelphia Game Preview

Douglas J Miller@@seDougtiveFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2015

Eagles vs. Patriots: Full Philadelphia Game Preview

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    The Philadelphia Eagles are walking through the flames following their third consecutive defeat as they travel to Gillette Stadium to take on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

    The city of Philadelphia can celebrate greatness, but the fans are also known for tearing into struggling teams. And right now the Eagles are struggling to live up to expectations. Philadelphia gave up 45 points for the second week in a row as it lost to the Detroit Lions 45-14 on Thanksgiving Day.

    With the loss, Philadelphia drops to 4-7 on the year and sits in third place in the NFC East. However, the Eagles cannot just pack it in yet, as they are only one game behind the division leaders. The Washington Redskins beat the New York Giants 20-14 last week to take the top spot with a 5-6 record in a poor division. Meanwhile, the Cowboys' playoffs hopes are crushed with the loss of Tony Romo for the season with yet another injury.

    On the other side, the Patriots are playing some of the best football in the league, as they won their first 10 games of the season. But New England suffered its first loss of the year as it fell 30-24 to the Broncos last Sunday night in Denver.

    The Broncos took home the overtime victory as Denver’s defense got the ball back to Brock Osweiler and the offense with a chance to win the game. Then C.J. Anderson found room on the outside and sealed the game with a 48-yard scamper. But the main concerns for New England leaving the game centered on the health of its tight end, as Rob Gronkowski left the game with an injury to his right knee.

    The Patriots suffered their first defeat of the season and even more injuries, but they will continue to be a dangerous team so long as Brady is under center and Bill Belichick is roaming the sidelines. Meanwhile, the Eagles are in free fall, and Chip Kelly’s job security is coming under scrutiny following bold offseason decisions and a string of losses.

    Let’s take a look at some of the important notes and matchups heading into the Week 13 clash between the Eagles and Patriots.

    Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.

    Time: 4:25 p.m. ET

    TV: Fox

Week 12 Results and Recap

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    The Eagles continue to regress, as they surrendered 45 points to the Lions in a humiliating defeat in front of a national audience on Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field.

    Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson combined for three scores on the day, as Detroit rolled to an easy victory. The quarterback put together a career day, completing 27 of 38 passes for 337 yards and five touchdowns. This is now the second week in a row that Philadelphia’s defense surrendered five touchdowns through the air.

    Stafford found Theo Riddick in the first quarter to jump out to a 7-0 lead as the tailback gained separation from linebacker Mychal Kendricks for an eight-yard score. Then the Eagles put together their own drive as they marched 80 yards to tie the game with a two-yard touchdown reception from Brent Celek. But that was the last sign of life from Philadelphia.

    Detroit exploded in the second quarter to establish a 24-7 lead at the half. Golden Tate started the onslaught, fooling Walter Thurmond by stopping on a dime and then walking into the end zone for a two-yard score.

    Then Megatron went to work on Philadelphia’s rookie corner, Eric Rowe. Stafford found his favorite target in the back of the end zone for a 25-yard pass with only 12 seconds remaining in the half.

    On the other side of the break, the Detroit put together a 12-play drive that covered 80 yards and soaked up eight minutes. Philadelphia’s defense could not get off the field, and Megatron took advantage of isolation coverage against Rowe to haul in his second touchdown of the day. Immediately afterward, Mark Sanchez got hit in the pocket and fumbled the ball, giving Detroit possession at the Eagles 14-yard line. It only took the Lions four plays to find Johnson in the end zone once against to seal the victory.

    Joique Bell and Jordan Matthews added touchdowns in the fourth quarter for their respective teams, but the game was already decided. The Lions won their third straight game, while Philadelphia looks worse every week and showed little fight. Now after losing three straight games, the Eagles travel to Gillette Stadium to take on the Patriots.

News and Notes

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    Chip Kelly Rumors

    As Philadelphia continues to lose, head coach Chip Kelly will be on the hot seat, and his ability to coach at the NFL level will come into question.

    Similar to college greats in the past such as Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban, many argue that Kelly’s style does not work against NFL defenses. With several high-profile collegiate openings available, Philadelphia’s head coach is being linked with jobs before actually being ousted from his current post.

    One of the rumors centered on Kelly returning to the Pac-12 to take control at the University of Southern California, but the coach denied any interactions with the college program, according to ESPN.com’s Phil Sheridan.

    "I've never spoken to anybody from USC," Kelly said. "I've never emailed anybody from USC, I've never had a phone call from anybody from USC."

    Although the job is now filled at USC, people will continue to wonder if Kelly is lining up a safety plan in case the Eagles decide to move on from him. However, the NFL head coach insists that he is only thinking about his current position.

    “I’ve been totally committed [to the Eagles] since Jan. 16, 2013, and that hasn’t changed,” said Kelly.

    Holding Players Accountable

    Losing results in questions from both the outside and inside, and the locker room is starting to point fingers in Philadelphia.

    Following three straight defeats, there is plenty of blame to go around for the Eagles. But Malcolm Jenkins does not think players are being held accountable for their mistakes and poor play so far this season.

    "The one area on our team that we don't do a good job is really holding guys accountable for what they do on the field," the safety said on WIP-94 FM Monday, according to Sheridan. "We'll talk about it in our specific units, in the defensive back room, D-linemen, O-linemen, whatever. But as a team, we never really hold anybody accountable for what they do on the field."

    The coaching staff may decide to address problems in position meetings rather than in front of the entire team, but the players could take responsibility to correct things on their own as well. When the team is struggling, veterans such as Jenkins can help the coaches by assuming a leadership role.

    With the playoffs almost out of reach, the next five weeks will show the level of commitment each player possesses and how much control Kelly and his coaches have over the locker room.

Latest Injury News

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    Sam Bradford

    The Philadelphia Eagles may see the return of their starting quarterback this weekend, as Sam Bradford looks like he is set to line up under center this weekend against the Patriots.

    Bradford missed the last two games due to a play against the Dolphins that injured his left shoulder and gave him a concussion. He practiced some last week, and his status was in question right up until Thanksgiving Day, but his shoulder injury forced Mark Sanchez into the starting role again.

    After another week's rest, all signs point toward a steady and timely recovery. Philadelphia's official team injury report lists Bradford as a full participant in practice both Wednesday and Thursday, so the quarterback may be healthy enough to return this weekend against New England.

    Offensive Line

    Philadelphia's offensive line changed a lot before the season and continues to rotate as injuries pile up. Jason Peters left the game early last week with an ankle injury, which forced Lane Johnson to left tackle and Dennis Kelly to fill in on the opposite side.

    The Eagles suffered more concerning news, as Jason Kelce found his way onto the injury list due to an ailing knee, but the center played through the pain and did not miss any action against Detroit. However, both Peter and Kelce participated fully in practice Wednesday and Thursday and look poised to bring consistency to Philadelphia's offensive line.

    Skill Positions

    The list of players with concussions continues to get long as Josh Huff suffered a head injury recently to join Ryan Mathews and Zach Ertz. Fortunately for the Eagles, both Huff and Ertz look like they will be ready to play this Sunday. Meanwhile, Ryan Mathews did not practice the last two days as he recovers from a groin injury as well as a concussion.

    At this time of year, not a single team is fully healthy in the NFL. But Philadelphia continues to see changes in its roster following an offseason that saw a massive overhaul. The Eagles need some form of consistency in order to salvage anything this season.

Key Matchup

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Philadelphia's defense took a lot of heat the last few weeks, but Chip Kelly's offense is not excused from the blame as well. The Eagles only scored a combined 50 points through the last three weeks, which means they average less than 20 points per game.

    In order to keep up with New England's offense, Philadelphia needs its offense to show up this Sunday, and it all starts with the offensive line. The O-line has been a major letdown for the Eagles this season as they deal with injuries and regular contributors not living up to expectations.

    If Bradford is able to play this weekend, the offensive line will need to protect the quarterback. At times, Bradford can look like a deer in the headlights, which is understandable given his injury history.

    However, Philadelphia's offensive line will face a tough task against New England's pass rush. The main battle will take on the left side of the line against Chandler Jones. He is the Patriot's best pass-rusher with 10.5 sacks on the year, despite not getting to the quarterback the last two weeks.

    The health of Jason Peters is a major factor heading into this weekend. If Peters is not fully healthy, Jones should be able to exploit the 33-year-old left tackle. In the case that Peters cannot play the entire game, Lane Johnson would shift over to the left side of the line, where he has struggled so far. Additionally, that would mean Dennis Kelly would play right tackle, which creates weakness on that side of the line.

    The battle in the trenches is equally as important in Philadelphia's run game. Kelly relies on a lot of outside runs with stretch or sweep plays. This means that the tackles are responsible for clearing out the edge and creating space for the tailbacks.

    The health of Peters and the ability of Philadelphia's offensive tackles to control Jones and company will be major factors this weekend. Returning from injury, Bradford will want a clean and comfortable pocket to operate from; without one, it could be a long day for the Eagles.

Matchup X-Factor

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia defense has been surprising this season, as it has overshadowed the offense and carried the team through the first few victories. But the defense has surrendered 45 points in each of the last two games, and one of the glaring weaknesses was the inability to generate a consistent pass rush.

    In order to slow down Tom Brady this weekend, Philadelphia needs a big performance from its front seven. Given time, Brady can pick apart any defensive secondary. However, the Eagles could make it difficult for Brady if he does not have a comfortable pocket to operate from.

    Defensive coordinator Billy Davis needs to return to some of his creative blitz packages, but he also needs to rely on the talent of his big guys up front. In particular, the Eagles need to utilize the pass-rushing ability of Vinny Curry.

    The defensive end sacked Matthew Stafford twice last weekend and looks to have the fastest jump off the snap of any of the linemen. Curry has seen inconsistent playing time this season, despite racking up nine sacks just last season. So far this season, the 27-year-old only has 3.5 sacks.

    On the other side, New England's offensive line has seen an alarming amount of turnover due to injuries. The Patriots surrendered three sacks last week to the Broncos and rank middle of the pack in the NFL after giving up 16 sacks on the year.

    Davis will likely try to confuse and change things up against Brady this weekend to force the quarterback out of his comfort zone. Fresh off a two-sack game, look for Curry's speed and quickness to make an impact this weekend.

Prediction: Patriots 30, Eagles 14

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Philadelphia enters a tough stretch of the season after losing three straight games that most would consider winnable. Now, the Eagles travel up to Foxborough to take on arguably the best team in the NFL.

    New England lost its first game of the season last week against Denver and will want to rebound and re-establish its hold on the AFC. This week presents major playoff implications, as Philadelphia is, somehow, still alive for a playoff spot and New England will want to stay in position for a first-round bye.

    Additionally, Tom Brady strikes fear into any defense on a normal week, but he will be even more determined coming off a loss to the Broncos. The future Hall of Fame quarterback will likely pick on rookie cornerback Eric Rowe this weekend in his first career start. Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford torched the Utah product last week. This week, Brady will look for favorable matchups to attack rather than rely on his normally favored target, Rob Gronkowski.

    On the other side, this week may see the return of Sam Bradford. The starting quarterback seemed to turn things around with productive performances against the Cowboys and Dolphins before being knocked out of action for the last two weeks. It is uncertain whether this injury will set back the offense's progress under his command or he can step back in and operate comfortably.

    Expect this game to start out slow as these unfamiliar opponents feel each other out, but then New England will quickly establish dominance. If Philadelphia's offense does not click immediately, the Eagles defense could be in for a tough game against Patriots. Playing from behind will force Bradford into bad decisions and leave the defense on the field for a long afternoon.

    The Eagles will travel up to Foxborough, only to return with their fourth consecutive loss. Chip Kelly will face more pressure as they face their toughest matchup of the season in Week 13.

    Prediction: Patriots 30, Eagles 14


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