The Eagles are confident they can score points on the Patriots’ defense. The Pats gave up 18.5 points a game and the Eagles 18.4. Because of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s uncanny ability to quickly find the available receiver, Philadelphia must exert pressure with its front four, leaving more defenders to mix and match pass coverage. So it is a good sign for Philadelphia that the Eagles compiled 33 of 38 sacks with their front four in the regular season (35 of 42 including postseason). Defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan can collapse the pocket, allowing edge rushers to harass from the outside, as did defensive end Brandon Graham, who led the team with 9.5 sacks.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Patriots S Patrick Chung vs. Eagles TE Zach Ertz. Chung is one of the Patriots’ most versatile and trusted defenders, but he’s coming off a tough game, especially early on against Jacksonville when he allowed an easy touchdown to TE Marcedes Lewis. Chung will very much be in the mix covering Ertz, who not only led the Eagles with 74 catches for 824 yards and eight scores during the regular season, but had a game-high 93 yards on eight catches in the NFC title game.
–Patriots Gs Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason, and C David Andrews vs. Eagles DTs Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan. Cox, who had 5.5 sacks during the season, is the linchpin of Philadelphia’s line. Often unblockable, he can wreck a game. Jernigan is also a big help, and has recovered from an illness. Andrews will likely have to help on Cox, but the line will have to work to keep the pocket clean for QB Tom Brady.