PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Eagles are on a two-game winning streak as they take on the 8-1 New England Patriots coming out of the bye week. With injuries still a big concern for the Birds, will they be able to keep the winning streak going?
CBS3’s football experts have your weekly breakdown and predictions. And make sure to watch the Eagles-Patriots game at 4:25 p.m. Sunday on CBS3.
A familiar face is back with the Birds now that wide receiver DeSean Jackson is out for the rest of the regular season. Will Jordan Matthews — in his third stint with the Eagles — be able to make an impact for a depleted wide receiving corps?
Sports director Don Bell: ABSOLUTELY. Why? He catches the ball. It’s that simple. Matthews has always been reliable and fearless working in tight spots. Also, he has a great rapport with Carson Wentz — both on and off the field. Chemistry matters.
Sports reporter Lesley Van Arsdall: Sure, Matthews will help, but don’t expect any miracles. The positive is his familiarity with Carson Wentz and the offense. The negative is that he’s just not a burner, big-play receiver and that’s exactly what this offense is missing.
Reporter Pat Gallen: Depends on your definition of impact. Will he run decent routes and catch a few passes each week? Probably. But there’s also a reason he was unemployed after being cut by the 49ers. He’ll never come close to making up for the loss of DeSean, but he’s a pro who knows his role and can help in small ways. I wouldn’t expect more.
Reporter Dan Koob: Will he clap his hands in the huddle in sync with his new teammates, and run briskly to his assigned spot for the play? Will he stay onside? If so, he’ll grade out better than Mack Hollins. Matthews’ familiarity will help and he says he’s faster than before but I’m withholding confidence until I see it.
Sports producer Andy Wheeler: I think it’s certainly possible. He’s not been as good in his career as being drafted in the second round would indicate, however, he has shown tremendous chemistry with Carson Wentz. As long as we temper our expectations, I think he can absolutely help the team.
The Eagles’ offense has a tough task ahead of them on Sunday as the Patriots’ defense only gives up 249 yards/game and 10.9 points/game – best in the league. What can Wentz and the offense do to penetrate this defense and put points on the board?
Bell: A closer look at the numbers and game situations reveals that the Patriots have taken advantage of some quarterbacks who are borderline starters: Josh Rosen, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Luke Falk, Josh Allen, Matt Barkley and Colt McCoy. Most fans couldn’t pick these guys out of a lineup. So, yes, the Patriots’ defense is good, but the numbers are inflated.
Carson and the offense have a real chance at winning this game if they stay committed to the run. The Patriots have struggled against the ground game in tight games. See Bills –135 yards — and Ravens — 201 yards — for more.
Van Arsdall: I’m sure everyone will say the key is to establish the run with Howard and Sanders. And while that’s true, I think the bigger key is Zach Ertz. He finally had a big game in Week 9 against the Bears. Get him going again and you’ve got a shot against the Pats’ defense.
Gallen: There’s really no way to beat the Patriots other than to run, run, run and maybe take a few play-action shots. Jordan Howard has been limited in practice this week, which would probably be a death knell should he miss the game. If he misses the game, along with Alshon Jeffrey, it’s probably going to be a chore to score.
Koob: They have to continue to run the ball effectively. This Pats’ D is a nightmarish construction for the Eagles. Studs all over the secondary and a strong front-seven. The Birds aren’t throwing for 350 yards Sunday. The offensive line will need to come to play.
Wheeler: They can try and do what the Ravens did when they were able to beat the Patriots a few weeks ago. However, Carson Wentz isn’t near as mobile as Lamar Jackson. I think the coaching staff has had the entire bye week to come up with a game plan. As long as the offense can play error-free and not turn the ball over, there is a chance the Eagles can move the ball enough to win.
The Patriots’ offense is putting up 30 points/game, which is second in the league. What must the defense do to keep them out of the end zone?
Bell: NFL defenses have been answering this question the same way for 20 years: Make Brady move off his spot. Pressure is key against the Patriots. However, it’s easier said than done.
Van Arsdall: Hit Brady. Rattle him. And that’s a very tough task because Brady is very good at getting rid of the ball quickly and avoiding trouble. But just ask Brandon Graham — if you can hit Brady wonderful things are possible.
Gallen: The offensive numbers are a bit misleading because the Patriots’ defense has been historically great. The Pats’ D is responsible for four touchdowns on its own, plus an insane 27 takeaways. As a team, they’re plus-17 in turnover margin so they’ve given the offense so many more opportunities to score.
My point is, it’s actually the Eagles’ offense that can help keep Brady and the Patriots from running up the scoreboard — just by holding onto the ball as long as they can.
Koob: I’m not blown away by this version of Brady. Receiver Mohamed Sanu helps them diversify their pass offense but there’s a reason the Pats have brought in so many wideouts this year. They’re not as good offensively and their schedule has been middle-school-bathroom-toilet-paper soft. Curious to see what they draw up coming off their own bye.
Wheeler: They are going to have to get lucky and force Brady into a mistake and get a turnover or two. I am not very optimistic they will be able to stop them at all.
Who on the Patriots will cause the most problems for the Birds in their first rematch since Super Bowl 52?
Bell: The Eagles’ linebacking corps flies under the radar. That won’t happen on Sunday. Expect Brady to pepper the Birds with plenty of pass-catching running back James White. He moves the chains and offers a matchup nightmare for every linebacker in green.
Van Arsdall: The coach, Bill Belichick. The mastermind has had two weeks to prepare for the Eagles and has a stellar record coming out of the bye week. That being said, the last time Belichick had two weeks to prepare for the Birds he left as a loser and the Eagles left with the Lombardi Trophy. But Belichick is always scary, especially with extra time to prepare.
Gallen: Jamie Collins has been ridiculous this year with six sacks, three picks, two forced fumbles and a touchdown. He had a ho-hum game against Baltimore in their loss, so he’s looking for blood here.
Koob: Brady, for reasons probably explained above and below.
Wheeler: Brady. He’s the greatest player in the history of the game. He has a line that protects him, offensive weapons all over the field and the Eagles have had issues all over the defense. Brady also seems to still be holding a grudge. This has the potential to be ugly.
Bell: Wait, is this the part where you expect me to pick AGAINST the Patriots? I may have been born at night, but I wasn’t born LAST night. Over the last five years, New England is 4-1 after the bye with an average victory margin of 21 points. Patriots win 27-19.
Van Arsdall: Patriots win 31-17.
Gallen: I’ve been pretty good in this space this year, but this is the most unsure I’ve been since the Lions game. Initially, I thought this could be a win, but the Eagles just seem too banged up right now. No Nigel Bradham and potentially no Howard and Alshon. Ugh.
Patriots 28-24. (But I reserve the right to change my mind before Sunday Kickoff!!)
Koob: The Pats are the Pats. I think their defense is for real and their offense is not. Birds squeak by, 24-23.
Wheeler: Patriots win 42-14.