The Eagles (5-4) host the Patriots (8-1) on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
To the predictions:
Reuben Frank (4-5)
There are two things the Eagles have to do if they're going to have any chance of beating the Patriots Sunday. They have to be able to run the ball effectively throughout - let's say 40 times for 160 yards will do it - and they're going to have to pressure Tom Brady consistently. Even if Jordan Howard can't play, I think the Eagles can run the ball effectively. The Patriots are allowing an NFL-worst 5.6 yards per carry over the last six weeks, and teams have been running at will against them.
The only run defense the Patriots really have is building a big early lead, and I don't think that'll happen Sunday because the Eagles have been better early in games recently and the Eagles are generally much better defensively at home. The Eagles have the second-most sacks in the NFL over the last five games, and they're ninth in rushing over the same span. Harrass Brady and pound the rock. That's the magic formula.
Eagles 23, Patriots 20
Dave Zangaro (4-5)
I initially wanted to pick the Eagles in this game because I do think it's winnable. I really do think the Patriots' 8-1 record is inflated by the competition they've faced. And if the Eagles were healthier, I would have picked them. I still think the Eagles' defense will be able to hold the Patriots in check, but I have no confidence that the Birds will be able to score. Alshon Jeffery is out, which means the Patriots can focus all their energy on taking Zach Ertz out of the game. And initially I thought this was going to be a Howard game and now his status is in question. It wouldn't shock me if the Eagles pull off the upset, but there's too much evidence that tells me they won't.
Patriots 17, Eagles 13
Derrick Gunn (3-6)
Both teams are coming off byes and are well-rested. The Eagles are riding a two-game high. The Patriots are still seething from being embarrassed by the Ravens in Baltimore. A ticked-off New England squad, plus Bill Belichick having extra time to fix the problems on his team and preparing for what's to come is not good for the opposition.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, they enter this showdown shorthanded. Darren Sproles is done for the year with a torn hip flexor muscle. Jeffery has an ankle injury and isn't expected to play in this game. Plus, Howard has a shoulder issue and is questionable. The big question for the Birds is can they establish their run game against the Patriots similar to what they did previously against two good run defenses Buffalo and Chicago?
The Eagles cannot turn the ball over. The Patriots are No. 1 in the league in takeaways with 27. Two of their 19 INTs have been returned for touchdowns and so has one fumble recovery. Can the Eagles' defense, still without Nigel Bradham, contain Brady? The Patriots don't get much production from their tight end position. The Pats' four tight ends combined have just 18 catches for 242 yards and one touchdown. And their running game has been lethargic. Doug Pederson is 1-0 vs. Brady/Belichick, but this time it doesn't look good.
Patriots 27, Eagles 23
Ray Didinger (4-5)
I know what the numbers say and they say never pick against the Patriots, especially when they are coming off a loss (they are 44-8 in that role since 2002) and when Belichick has two weeks to prepare. He is 14-5 off the bye as the Patriots coach. Plus they are the Patriots and they just know how to win.
So why do I think the Eagles can pull this off? Am I having flashbacks to Super Bowl LII or something? Maybe a little. But I do think the Pats' 8-1 record is a bit inflated by playing a lot of lousy teams and when they faced Baltimore they got rolled. The Ravens exposed some cracks in the Patriots' No. 1-ranked defense and while Carson Wentz isn't Lamar Jackson he is mobile enough to give New England problems.
I don't see the Patriots running the ball against the Eagles - Sony Michel is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry - so Brady will be in shotgun all day. If the Eagles' pass rush, which has reappeared lately, can get some pressure on the Patriots' quarterback and throw off the timing of their passing game, I look for the home team to hang in this one and steal it late.
Call me crazy but ...
Eagles 27, Patriots 24
Andrew Kulp (6-3)
The Patriots are 8-1, boast the top scoring defense in the NFL - allowing 10.9 points per game - the No. 2 scoring offense, and the best turnover differential by eight! Practically sounds like one of the best squads ever assembled.
Except their eight wins have come against opponents with a combined 24-51 record (only the Bills are above .500, and even the Eagles beat them), including five teams with two wins or less. And the Pats have beaten those five teams by a combined score of 174-35 with a plus-10 turnover differential, which really has those rankings in the previous paragraph out of whack.
The Patriots are a good team with an opportunistic defense and a quarterback who knows how to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers. But they aren't some impenetrable force because they can knock off Washington or the Jets (even the Eagles did that, too.)
I could into greater detail busting New England down a peg, though the fact is the Patriots are the reigning Super Bowl champs, they'll be back in the playoffs this year and likely with a first-round bye. By no means do I believe the Eagles, who have their own problems, will whip this team. But they're home, unafraid of the Patriot mystique, and I've got a nice lead in these standings here, so what the heck, I'm taking the Birds.
Eagles 23, Patriots 21
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