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Eagles-Patriots: Beat writers predict Sunday’s outcome

The 8-1 Patriots. The 5-4 Eagles. Super Bowl LII rematch. Who ya like? The Inquirer's Eagles beat writers weigh in with their predictions.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz points to a receiver during to the Philadelphia Eagles practice at the NovaCare Complex on Thursday. A big game by Wentz Sunday would go a long way in helping the Eagles beat the 8-1 Patriots.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz points to a receiver during to the Philadelphia Eagles practice at the NovaCare Complex on Thursday. A big game by Wentz Sunday would go a long way in helping the Eagles beat the 8-1 Patriots.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

It’s kind of a rematch of Super Bowl LII, but more than that, it’s a key game for both teams with playoff aspirations.

The Eagles are coming off two wins, the Patriots are coming off their only loss, and both teams had a bye last week.

Here’s how the beat writers see Sunday’s 4:25 p.m. game at the Linc:

Les Bowen

If the Patriots are as good as their record and some of their stats, this will be cover-your-eyes ugly, the kind of beatdown the Eagles took at Minnesota and at Dallas. New England’s 37-20 loss to Baltimore in its most recent game provides reason to wonder if the Pats are as good as that record and those stats; after romping over the Steelers in their opener, they didn’t play any good teams until the Ravens.

There is a path to an Eagles victory here, involving running the ball, never turning it over, chewing up clock with long drives that end in touchdowns, keeping Tom Brady off the field for extended periods. Whether that path is viable might hinge on whether the 4.7 yards per carry the Pats are allowing is legit — they just don’t play the run well — or it’s the product of outscoring teams 87-17 in the first quarter, 153-48 in the first half, and not caring much about stopping the run after that. New England opponents average just 21 runs a game, probably because they fall behind so far, so fast.

This would be an enormous win for the Eagles, with Seattle next on the docket, but I can’t talk myself into predicting it. Alshon Jeffery has labored this entire season, and now he has a bad ankle? If I’m the Pats, I load up the box against the run, put Stephon Gilmore on Zach Ertz, and dare Carson Wentz to complete anything longer than a screen.

The last time Brady saw Jim Schwartz’s defense, yes, he lost, but he also threw for 505 yards. That Eagles defense certainly was better than the one Brady will face Sunday. Brandon Graham might need to come up with several strip-sacks this time.

Prediction: Patriots 29, Eagles 20.

EJ Smith

Will this be one of the rare times that Bill Belichick’s Patriots get caught lackadaisical coming off a bye week? It could be, but I certainly won’t be wagering my pristine prediction record on the line for it.

The Patriots enjoyed a very easy schedule in the first half of the season, and the Baltimore Ravens exposed some of the issues the Pats have stopping the run. They gave up 210 rushing yards, including 115 to Mark Ingram. The problem is, the Ravens have proven to be one of the most difficult teams to prepare for this season, and they’ve got generational speed at the quarterback position.

» READ MORE: Eagles-Patriots scouting report and prediction | Paul Domowitch

The Ravens’ run game is centered around the threat of Lamar Jackson breaking a game open, and has a lot more window dressing than the Eagles. Baltimore got New England’s big, strong linebacking corps in space and capitalized on it. The problem is, the Eagles’ running game is a lot more north-south. The Patriots haven’t seen an offensive line like the Eagles', but they’re well-equipped to handle it.

In the five games the Eagles have won this season, they’ve averaged 149.4 rushing yards. In losses, they’re averaging 100. If the Eagles can continue riding their running game and the defensive line can get to Tom Brady, they’ll have a chance. They’re at home, they’re healthier than they’ve been in a while, and they’re in the playoff hunt. But despite all that, I’m not picking against Belichick’s Patriots, who are 14-5 coming out of the bye week.

Prediction: Patriots 34, Eagles 24

Jeff McLane

The Patriots coasted in the first eight games, beating their opponents by a combined score of 250-61. But when they had to face a team with some heft on the road in Week 9, they lost in convincing fashion to the Ravens, 37-20. Even the best teams are bound to lose, but there’s still a little mystery as to how great this New England unit may actually be.

Its defense has allowed only 10.9 points a game, three passing touchdowns and five completions on throws over 20 yards. The Patriots have surrendered 4.7 yards a carry on the ground, which should play to one of the Eagles’ offensive strengths. But it’s difficult to see Bill Belichick giving the Eagles room to do what they do best. Doug Pederson will need to scheme up something new to counter his counterpart.

Zach Ertz will likely draw extra attention, which could create mismatches for Dallas Goedert. It’s safe to assume that Pederson will try and match up Miles Sanders vs. a linebacker in the passing game. Whatever wrinkle it is, it better work or the Eagles could be in for a long day.

As Les noted above, keeping Tom Brady off the field will be paramount. But the Patriots offense that torched Jim Schwartz’s defense in Super Bowl LII looks significantly different. Rob Gronkowski is out, but Julian Edelman is in. New England has struggled to maintain any consistency on the ground, which they’ve typically been able to transcend. But Brady’s line is beaten up, and he just doesn’t have the same receiving options he once had.

But I just can’t bet against Belichick (even if I did predict an Eagles win in the Super Bowl). The Patriots are 14-5 after the bye under the coach and have lost two in a row only six times in the last decade. I know I shouldn’t base my prediction on past teams, but Belichick and Brady have a track record that is unavoidable and a team that is still among the upper echelon. I don’t think I can say the same about this Eagles squad.

Prediction: Patriots 27, Eagles 23

Paul Domowitch

The easy thing here — and maybe also the smart thing — would be to just slap an “L" on this game and move on.

The Patriots are 8-1. They have the best head coach in the history of modern civilization and probably the best quarterback as well.

Their defense has put up some eye-popping numbers. They’re first in points allowed and second in total defense, and already have 19 interceptions and 32 quarterback sacks.

The Patriots have the highest halftime scoring margin — plus-105 — in the league. The Eagles, meanwhile, have given up the sixth most first-half points (128). But in their back-to-back pre-bye week wins over the Bills and Bears, they gave up just seven first-half points.

Here’s the thing. The Eagles have beaten exactly as many teams with winning records as the Patriots — two.

Without Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady’s numbers are down across the board. His two go-to receivers are a slot guy (Julian Edelman) and a running back (James White). And Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins effectively took away White in Super Bowl LII.

The Patriots’ offensive line is weaker than it’s been in a while. They can’t run the ball. Tom Brady has only been sacked 15 times, but that’s more a credit to his ability to get the ball out than it is to the protection he’s received. If the Eagles secondary can hold their coverage for just a little bit, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham could have some fun Sunday.

Yes, New England’s defense has been incredible. But look at who they’ve played. None of the eight teams they’ve beaten is ranked higher than 19th in scoring or total offense.

Unless Bill Belichick completely outcoaches Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz, I like the Eagles’ chances. This prediction will self-destruct in 20 seconds.

Prediction: Eagles 23, Patriots 20