(CBS Philadelphia) — The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles have a few things in common going into this Sunday’s rematch of Super Bowl LII. Each team is embroiled in a somewhat unexpected division race. Each team has a formerly potent offense that can’t seem to stay in gear from week to week. And each team is coming off a Week 10 bye.
The Patriots lost their last game to the surging Baltimore Ravens, ruining a perfect record. That same Sunday the better-than-expected Buffalo Bills beat the woeful Washington Redskins to get to 6-2. They’re now 6-3. While the Patriots aren’t exactly in danger of ending their AFC East title streak, which currently stands at 10, they haven’t run away with the division either. A two-win difference in November certainly qualifies as a division race in the AFC East.
The Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, both 5-4, are tied atop the NFC East, in a season where 8-8 could win the division. Philadelphia should be happy with the situation, given the walloping Dallas laid on them a month ago. And let’s not forget their Week 2 loss to the 2-7 Atlanta Falcons either. The Eagles have showed the uncanny ability to beat good teams and lose to bad teams. The rest of their schedule lays out nicely for a playoff push, with four should-win and three could-win games. Who knows what will actually happen?
Offensive inconsistency has plagued both teams so far. The Pats are putting up just 366.8 yards per game, middle of the pack among NFL offenses. Tom Brady remains a top-10 quarterback in terms of yards and completions. The assimilation of Mohamed Sanu, who had 10 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens, will only help. The team isn’t struggling to score either, averaging 30 points per game, second only to the Ravens. The problem is the running game. Sony Michel and James White are each gaining just 3.3 yards per carry, which shouldn’t really scare the Eagles’ imposing front seven. White, at least, is a threat in the passing game.
The Eagles have found some success on the ground in recent weeks with Jordan Howard. His 23 attempts for 96 yards against the Bills were both season highs, and his 19 attempts for 83 yards against the Chicago Bears approached season highs as well. The Ravens proved that committing to the run could be the key to attacking the Patriots’ defense. Carson Wentz isn’t as mobile as Lamar Jackson, of course, but he can be a threat to make plays with his legs on occasion.
The Eagles passing game has underwhelmed to date. Wentz finds himself in the bottom half of starting QBs, throwing for 228.6 yards per game. His 6.8 yards per completion is even worse. DeSean Jackson hasn’t seen the field since Week 1 leaving the offense missing a deep threat. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor have been inconsistent, each pulling in just over 30 catches, while dropping more than they should. Only Zack Ertz, with 46 catches for 527 yards so far, has proved reliable from the tight end position.
Both offenses, despite struggles, should find opportunities to move the ball. For the Eagles, a solid commitment to the run, as the Ravens just proved and as the Eagles have displayed lately, can expose what has been a very strong Patriots defense. For the Patriots, a passing game that pushes the ball into the Eagles’ secondary can also pay dividends.
Through a quirk of scheduling, the Patriots and Eagles have both had an extra week to think about their upcoming matchup… and heal. Every NFL team faces its fair share of injuries this time of year. The Patriots are thin at tight end, with starter Matt LaCosse dealing with a sprained MCL and Ryan Izzo a concussion. Offensive line injuries have hindered the Patriots’ offense all season, with starting center David Andrews and projected starting tackle Isaiah Wynn both out long-term. The bye week didn’t help their status.
The Eagles have issues at wide receiver beyond under-performance. The team had been waiting for the oft-injured Jackson to return to the field and add a deep threat on offense. But he was placed on injured reserve last week, basically ending his season. Jeffery hasn’t recovered from a Week 9 ankle injury, leaving the Eagles a little short on play-makers against a stout Patriots defense. But things on the injury front could be a lot worse for both teams.
The Patriots play the Eagles Sunday @ 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS.