On Sunday, the Patriots (7-3) will try to extend their two game winning streak in the City of Brotherly Love when they face the 4-6 Philadelphia Eagles. New England is on a short week, but coming off a dominant 2nd half in a 34-3 win over the Kansas City Chiefs Monday night. The Patriots struggled to find offensive rhythm against KC in the 1st half, but Brady and Belichick did their usual adjustments to keep this team in the hunt for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.
The Eagles were the team that everyone hyped up in the preseason. This included media members and even their own player “cough cough” Vince Young. The “Dream Team” has been a nightmare not for opponents, but for Philly fans themselves. One of the main reasons is that the Eagles have blown five 4th quarter leads this year. However, Vince Young and company found a way to win against the Giants in New York last week without quarterback Michael Vick and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Now, you can maybe add star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to the list. Asomugha was carted off the practice field on Thanksgiving with a left knee injury and is questionable to play at 4:15 EST Sunday afternoon.
Here are my keys to the game against the Eagles on Sunday:
Keep Shady in the Sunlight: With Michael Vick’s inconsistencies at quarterback this season, LeSean “Shady” McCoy has been the core focus of this Eagles’ offense and their ability to gain rhythm during the game. Philly averages 168 yards rushing per game, which is the best in the National Football League. McCoy already has over 1000 yards this season and ten touchdowns. If the Patriots’ top ten rush defense is going to contain him and make Vince Young beat them, they have to tackle him on the first effort. Once this guy breaks the first two levels of the defense, he is tough to stop.
Spread the Ball Out: With the injury to Asomugha as well as fellow cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Tom Brady and the passing attack will be spreading the ball out against the defense coached by former offensive line coach Juan Castillo. Even though Philly spent a lot of money on pass rushers such as Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin, they do not have much in the linebacker department. Despite the improvements of rookie Brian Rolle and Lamar Cheney, there is not one guy that an average fan can recognize in the Philly linebacker core. Look for those great tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to get the ball early and often in this game.
He Just Wins Games: All I have heard from Patriots’ fans this week is that they would rather see Vince Young than Michael Vick on Sunday. Well, be careful what you wish for. Young may be like a Tebow where he does not put up great numbers, but all he does is win. Young is 31-17 as a starter in the NFL and it showed up last week. Despite three interceptions, Young led a 16 play drive in the 4th quarter, making some crucial third down conversions on the drive culminating in the game-winning score. Plus, with the injuries to Maclin and Jackson, the Patriots have to look out for Tebow’s former teammate, Riley Cooper. Young and Cooper looked on page Sunday as Cooper had five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown.
PREDICTION: The Patriots’ offense over the last few games has not had a consistent rhythm, at least in the first half of games. Even though the Eagles’ record does not reflect it, they still have a lot of talent on the roster. I think even with Vince Young, Philly hangs around in this game. Despite Young’s troubled Titan past, he still knows how to win. The Patriots can take advantage of the fact Young is prone to interceptions. That is where Kyle Arrington plays a huge role with his league leading seven interceptions!
As for the Patriots’ offense, I think they find their groove against a team that struggles to close off games, especially at Lincoln Financial Field. New England continues to win and their defense continues to progress into December.
PATRIOTS 31 EAGLES 24