Defending NFC Champions Look to Avoid Super Bowl Hangover

Defending NFC champions the Philadelphia Eagles came within a few quarters of winning the second Super Bowl in team history. A challenge that the Eagles ran into this offseason was one every team that reaches the big game has to deal with the following season. Some of the strong veteran players from last year’s team took advantage of the success to sign big deals in free agency.

Philadelphia and coach Nick Sirianni will still feel they have much to prove. The Eagles took the NFL by storm last season, but staying at the top is seldom easy for any team.

It seems like a distant memory when the New England Patriots were one of those teams as well. Since Tom Brady retired, the Patriots have tried to tread water and find themselves again. New England coach Bill Belichick hopes making offensive changes will revitalize quarterback Mac Jones. The Patriots will be in for a stiff test in Week 1.

Eagles, Patriots Have Been in Some Wars

 

Philadelphia will be 4-point road favorites when the Eagles take on New England at 4:25 p.m. Sunday at Gillette Stadium. The Eagles have an 8-7 lead in the all-time series. Philadelphia and New England have met twice in the Super Bowl.

The Eagles won Super Bowl LII 41-33, while New England won Super Bowl XXXIX 24-21. The Patriots won the last meeting between the teams, 17-10, on Nov. 17, 2019. New England and Philadelphia first met in the 1973 season, but play infrequently due to being in opposite conferences.

Belichick Admits Mistake, Turns Back the Clock

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Bill Belichick

The New England Patriots fell out of the AFC East race last season because of a poor offense. Matt Patricia, former Patriots Defensive Coordinator and Detroit Lions head coach, didn’t work calling offensive plays. So, instead, the Patriots brought back former Patriots assistant Bill O’Brien.

New England brought in several veteran players at skill positions by signing wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott will form a one-two punch in the backfield with Rhamondre Stevenson. What the Patriots are hoping is that O’Brien will be able to help New England improve from a team that was last in red zone efficiency last season to produce more points. Playing Philadelphia in Week 1 will be a stiff test, but it should have the Patriots figure out where they are at.

Eagles Pass Rush Has Reputation to Protect

 

Defending NFC champions Philadelphia gave opposing quarterbacks nightmares last season. The Eagles finished with the third most sacks in NFL history in a season. Philadelphia was the first team to get more than 60 since San Diego recorded 61 in 2006.

The Eagles did lose defensive tackle Javon Hargrave in free agency. Philadelphia rolled the dice to replace him. The Eagles drafted talented Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter. Carter fell in the draft despite his potential because he was involved in a fatal car accident last offseason that resulted in the death of a Georgia staff member and teammate. The Patriots’ offensive line still has some flaws. Expect Philadelphia to attack them.

Jones Has Charges Dropped

 

Prosecutors dropped charges against New England cornerback Jack Jones. Jones had found himself in hot water in the offseason after a bag at the airport with his name on it was discovered to have two guns and ammunition. While it is still possible that Jones could be suspended, his return would give the Patriots more depth.

New England has Christian Gonzalez and Jalen Mills listed ahead of him on the depth chart at right-side cornerback. Jonathan Jones is listed as the starting cornerback on the left side. New England is expected to have another strong defense this season. The Patriots will want to have all hands on deck to keep winning.

Secret, Secret

 

The Philadelphia Eagles had several head-scratching names slotted on the depth chart in different positions. The one that caused some confusion was how the Eagles listed their first-team running back. Philadelphia had Kenny Gainwell, D’Andre Swift, Rashaad Penny, and Boston Scott listed as first-team players.

The Eagles acquired Swift in a trade with the Lions in the offseason and signed Penny away from Seattle. Philadelphia let last season’s leading rusher, Miles Sanders, leave in free agency. The Eagles are hoping one of those four players will establish themself as a starter.

Philadelphia’s offense is dynamic enough that any of those four players should be able to carve out roles for themselves. While Sanders played a significant role in the regular season last year, he didn’t have much impact during the Super Bowl for the defending NFC champions.

Hurts Hopes Fourth Season Will Be Best One

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Jalen Hurts

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts finished second in MVP voting and took a big step forward last season. Hurts finished with a career-high 3,701 passing yards and threw 22 touchdown passes. What was most important for Hurts was he didn’t make many mistakes. He only threw six interceptions in 15 starts.

Hurts was 14-1 as a starter. He was also able to utilize his legs well, running 165 times for 760 yards and 13 touchdowns. Philadelphia hopes it can protect Hurts and get him through most of the schedule unscathed.

Belichick May Be in the Hot Seat

 

The worst thing that ever happened to Belichick was seeing Brady win a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay. The Patriots’ plan for a quick rebuild has been slowed by inconsistent quarterback play. Jones regressed last season, only throwing 14 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in a season plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness.

New England went 12-4 in Brady’s final season in 2019. Since then, New England has finished with a 25-25 record. The Patriots’ fanbase is also antsy because the other teams in the AFC East have quickly improved. The Jets added superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers, while the Bills developed Josh Allen into a star quarterback. Making the playoffs will be difficult for New England this season, but starting the season with an upset home win over Philadelphia could be the spark the franchise needs to move forward.