Well the bye finally arrived for the Patriots and it came at a good time. The bye allows the Patriots to recharge about half way through the season, but also allows them to heal some bumps and bruises and gives N’Keal Harry and Isaiah Wynn an extra week to work on getting themselves back into game shape and action. Wynn will be a welcomed sight as Marshall Newhouse has struggled mightily since taking over as the starter. Moreover though the bye allows them to do some self scouting and work on things they need to fix for the stretch run.
The bye also allows some extra work for a tough slate of games coming up, starting with the Eagles, who suddenly find themselves within reach of the NFC East lead. With that in mind here is what’s happening heading into week 11’s matchup with Philly.
Looking at the Eagles’ roster there are some people with ties to the Patriots. On the roster they have Jordan Matthews who didn’t make it through training camp with the Patriots last year, as well as Kamu Grugier-Hill who was drafted by the Patriots, but also didn’t make it through training camp. Philadelphia also has Cre’Von LeBlanc, who like the previous two players mentioned, did not make it through training camp during his summer with the Patriots as an undrafted rookie.
Looking back on the Ravens game, there are a lot of people who were quick to attack the defense of the Patriots, while staunch defenders were quick to point out even all-time great defenses have one bad game per year. Looking at it from a neutral perspective though, the Patriots are not as bad as they showed in Baltimore, but also are likely not an all-time great defense. They are a very good defense. One that can win them games against good teams, be at the top of the league this year, and still make statements with incredibles stretches.
Again looking at it neutrally, the Patriots have an outstanding defense. There is no denying their success early on, because regardless of whom they have played they have flat out dominated like no defense should when facing a professional team. There is no denying that they will have more big moments and plays coming up, but I think there is room for improvement and some weakness in the depth up front when facing power run games.
The Patriots have a very good-to-great defense. It will continue to help win them games and allow them to go far and potentially get home field. The Baltimore game is likely an outlier with a team that matches up well with them because of a very unique offense they faced for the first time. It likely isn’t an all-time great defense. All can be true. None have to be discrediting anyone.
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Focusing on the Eagles playmakers and there are a lot of weapons for Carson Wentz. The top options though are Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, and rookie back Miles Saunders. Of course there is also Dallas Goedert, Jordan Howard, and Nelson Agholor who has had less of an impact lately. But focusing on the main three, there is a lot of talent.
The top three options give the Eagles a playmaker at different levels and positions. Ertz lines up in the slot a lot and is a big body who moves well and knows how to get open. Jeffery is a big play guy who separates well and does great with jump balls. Saunders is the guy who burst on to the scene as a good back who can do it all catching three passes in each of his last four games. With those three in mind this will be a good test for the defense in a hostile environment against a team starting to find its groove.
One thing that is crazy to note is that neither one of these teams have a top 10 offense (as far as yards per game). Heck, the Patriots rank 15th and the Eagles fare even worse as they rank 20th. Despite the Patriots ranking 15th in yards, they still are averaging 30 points per game due to their defensive and special teams output. The 30 points per game ranks them second in the league. Conversely though, both teams rank in the top eight defensively with the Patriots in the top spot and the Eagles at eight.
Hard to believe a matchup of two teams who just two years ago played a Super Bowl that finished with a score of 41-33 now features two teams that have been propped up by their defenses thus far, but the NFL is a game built on adapting on the fly and with your personnel.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Eagles 17
This game should be interesting to see how the Patriots offensive line holds up against the Eagles who feature some dominant players in their front seven with Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox both very good getting pressure on the quarterback, while Derek Barnett provides a push as well. If the Patriots can continue the promise they showed against the Ravens in that small stretch with their uptempo offense, protect Brady and bring the same defensive intensity they have all season, they will have a very good chance to win
–David Albiani is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @david_albiani