GAME OVERVIEW ::
By Mike Johnson >>
- The Eagles offense is positioned to improve on what was already one of the top units in the league in 2022.
- Usage in the Philadelphia backfield will be the top storyline for fantasy football as we look to project the team for future weeks.
- New England has nowhere to go but up after a disastrous season and should benefit from stability and familiarity with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.
- Expect the Patriots to use more two tight end sets this season and to rotate their backs more than they did in 2022.
- Both defenses look primed to be very good this season and are loaded with talent as well as great coaching.
- This game has paths to being a sneaky shootout that most people will overlook.
HOW Philadelphia WILL TRY TO WIN ::
The Eagles offense was an absolute juggernaut in 2022, finishing in the top-3 in the league by almost any metric you can find. The Eagles may have the best offensive line in the league and have a gifted rushing quarterback, which led them to them having the NFL’s #1 ranked rushing offense by DVOA. Adding to that, they have two elite wide receivers and one of the more underrated tight ends in the league. Jalen Hurts has ascended to a truly elite level and I believe his best is still in front of him. For as impressive as the Eagles season was in 2022, most people probably still don’t understand how good it could have been. Several times during the season, the Eagles offense absolutely pummeled their opponent in the first half of the game to the point where they basically just played the second half with the goal of getting out in one piece. Realistically, the Eagles offense has the potential to reach another level entirely this year simply by being pushed more in what should be a more challenging schedule.
As we look at how the Eagles offense will operate, the largest unknown variable is their backfield. Last year, Miles Sanders was the clear lead back on early downs while Kenneth Gainwell filled in on passing downs and Boston Scott mixed in to give breathers and play in mop-up duty at the end of blowouts. This year’s personnel and training camp reports paint a potentially very different picture. Sanders is gone and the additions of Rashaad Penny and D’Andre Swift made it seem like the Eagles would once again feature a backfield with defined roles. The logical conclusion was that Penny would fill the Sanders role with Scott as his direct backup and Swift/Gainwell would fight it out for the passing down role. As things have played out, however, it appears possible that Swift and Gainwell are leading the backfield as we enter the season. I have felt that this was the best approach for the Eagles since they acquired Swift, but it is exciting to hear the reports that it actually might happen. If Swift/Gainwell operate in a 1a // 1b type of situation – with both being used both on early downs and passing situations – this Eagles offense becomes an absolute nightmare to deal with. Watching Eagles games last year, the one clear issue they had was their predictability based on personnel. Having backs who are multi-dimensional on the field at all times could be the skeleton key to this offense becoming truly unstoppable. Philadelphia operated at a brisk pace when games were close last season, and the emergence of Swift and Gainwell to lead the backfield should really let them put their foot on the gas now.
This matchup with the Patriots defense in Foxborough should be no pushover. Despite a disappointing season in the win column in 2022, the defense performed at a high level and operated as a top-10 unit against both the run and the pass. That unit returns almost everyone and New England used their first three picks on defense in the NFL Draft, including a first-round pick on highly touted cornerback Christian Gonzalez. While this is a tough matchup, this Eagles offense averaged 35 points per game during their three-game playoff run against the Giants, 49ers, and Chiefs. The Patriots notoriously play man coverage at one of the highest rates in the league, closing in on 50% of their defensive snaps, and the addition of Watson (who excels in man coverage) is a good sign that they won’t be changing that trend anytime soon. Watson had better be ready because AJ Brown is the type of player who can absolutely destroy man coverage. Likewise, heavy rates of man coverage leave a defense vulnerable against running quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts. I expect an aggressive game plan from the Eagles as they look to finish what they started last year. They are a team that can put up points on anyone and given their fast pace and high pass rate in 2022, along with the massive contract they gave Hurts this offseason, this is a team who is going to come out swinging.