This is where the season unofficially ends if it hasn’t already. The Eagles remain a desperate team, but that won’t be enough to carry them past the Patriots. New England certainly isn’t unbeatable. Its defense is suspect, especially against the pass, and Tom Brady can be got behind an offensive line that has been porous at times.
With Michael Vick likely out, the Eagles will once again have to rely on Vince Young at quarterback. He looked like a world-beater on the Eagles’ game-winning drive last week against the Giants, but that hardly wipes away the first three quarters when he chucked the football all over North Jersey. So I’m not sure if the Eagles will be able to exploit the Patriots’ secondary, especially if DeSean Jackson and/or Jeremy Maclin can’t go, or are limited by nagging injuries.
The Eagles best chance rests with their pass rush. If Jim Washburn’s front four can get after Brady, the defense has a chance to limit his effectiveness. But the defensive line is going to need some help from the back seven. The Steelers and Giants have shown that Brady and company can be slowed by man-to-man defense. But the Eagles don’t appear to be going that route, and with cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha now doubtful with a knee injury, Juan Castillo will have to scramble to find matchups that aren’t lopsided. I’m not sure that is possible with the Eagles’ mediocre group of linebackers and safeties and little-used corner Brandon Hughes being pressed into duty. This one could get could ugly, but the Eagles hang for a while before New England pulls away in the fourth quarter. Patriots, 34-21.
What goes right: The Eagles’ offensive line keeps Young from getting beat up for the second straight week.
What goes wrong: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski can’t be stopped.
This was always going to be a tough game for the Eagles. Now take out Vick, add health concerns around Maclin and Jackson, and maybe remove Asomugha from the game plan and the task looks even more daunting.
The Patriots have two outstanding tight ends, including Gronkowski, who has been unstoppable in recent weeks. Asomugha probably would have helped there, but the Eagles were left scrambling when the corner got hurt on Thanksgiving Day. Yes, the next man steps up, but Hughes isn’t going to be as versatile as Asomugha, and you can bet Brady will look for the third-year player who might be making his first career start. Even with Asomugha on the field, the Eagles would have a tough time against the NFL’s number four scoring offense.
On the other side of the ball, Vince Young looked great at the end of last week’s game and the Eagles have to hope it carries over, because if he throws three interceptions against the Patriots it won’t be 10-10 in the fourth quarter this week. Having either Maclin or Jackson would be a big help, but the best strategy would seem to be giving the ball to LeSean McCoy and trying to keep the Patriots offense off the field.
The Patriots can be thrown on – they rank last in the league in passing yards allowed, but they only give up 20.3 points per game, 10th in the NFL, thanks to tough red zone defense and 20 take aways. Could the Eagles win? If they control the clock, limit turnovers and play defense like they did against the Giants, it’s possible. But the Patriots have that killer look about them again, and it’s hard to steal wins from New England in November. Patriots, 28-20.
What goes right: The Eagles offense uses lengthy drives to help limit Brady's opportunities.
What goes wrong: Brady is still too much for the defense, shredding the secondary when he gets his chances.