New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Keys to the Game

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The Patriots come off their bye week and into a Super Bowl LII rematch with the Eagles this Sunday.  Here are a few things the Patriots need to do to bounce back from their first loss of the season and get back into the win column.

Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report
Protect the ball

Turnover margin is typically a good indicator of victory.  The team that takes care of the ball better is generally going to find themselves on the right side of the final score, more often than not.  For teams that are on the road, ball security is even more important.  We saw that two weeks ago in Baltimore. 

The Patriots have the most takeaways in the league with 27, resulting in a league-best +17 turnover differential.  They have only turned the ball over 10 times this year, tied for 5th lowest in the league.  However, New England has turned the ball over in 7 of their 9 games.  Last year, the Pats had turnovers in 10 of their 16 regular season games, but had a stretch in the middle of the season where they went four consecutive games without one.  A stretch like that right about now would be very beneficial.  

The offense is not the type of Patriots offense that we are used to.  They have not shown the explosiveness, and quick-strike, big play ability that we’ve grown accustomed to.  That makes it more difficult to overcome drives/possessions that end in turnovers.  Ball security is at the top of my list for Sunday.
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Hold Philly to under 80 rushing yards

This is the area where I’d like to see the biggest improvement.  The Patriots defense has now been shredded in back to back games by opposing rushing attacks.  First, Nick Chubb, followed by the entire Baltimore Ravens offense. 

While Philadelphia’s run game doesn’t have the same potency as Cleveland and Baltimore, they still have some talented runners.  Jordan Howard ran for over 3,300 yards in three seasons with Chicago. He didn't get a ton of touches early in the season, but the Eagles have started to lean on him more as of late, and he has been rewarding them. He's averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has six touchdowns on the season. 

Rookie Miles Sanders is also averaging over four yards per carry and has big play potential; evidenced by his 65-yard touchdown run against Buffalo a couple of weeks back.  Five of New England's previous six opponents averaged more than four yards per carry against them.  They'll need to tighten things up sooner rather than later.

Score in the Red Zone

The Patriots are currently 23rd in the NFL in points per Red Zone trip.  Just half of their trips into the Red Zone are ending in touchdowns.  For the past decade or so, that number has traditionally been better than 60%.  Two times in the first half of the loss at Baltimore, the Patriots settled for field goals inside the 10 yard line.  If they punch just one of those into the endzone, it's a tie game at halftime and maybe things shake out differently; maybe they don't.  

Bottom line, you can't go on the road and continue to come away with field goals in the red zone.  You won't beat good teams that way.

N’Keal Harry (not necessarily a key to the game, but something I'd like to see)

FREE N’KEAL HARRY! 

Give the man a chance.  One, I want to see him in action, and see what he’s capable of doing.  Two, I’m sick of hearing people call the guy a bust, when hasn’t played in a single game yet.  He was injured.  It’s not like he was a healthy scratch for the first eight games of the season. 

I understand bringing in Mohamed Sanu helps to address the hole at wide receiver, but it doesn’t fully solve the problem.  Harry may not either, but he at least deserves an opportunity.  I don’t need him to be out there for 85% of the snaps right away.  I’d like to see him get 15-20 snaps, a few targets and a few opportunities to make a play; particularly in the Red Zone, where his size could be an advantage. 

Even if he doesn’t quite have a full grasp on the offense yet, you could run same basic patterns with him and let him use his athleticism to get open; kind of how they used Josh Gordon.  If not now, then when?


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Boston Sports Syndicate: New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Keys to the Game
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