The New England Patriots suffered their first loss of the season in Week 9, falling to the Baltimore Ravens by a score of 37-20. They then had a bye last week, and now, they are preparing to try and avenge their Super Bowl 52 loss when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
Of course, the two clubs are hardly the same as they were two years ago, as the Patriots are now defending Super Bowl champions and Philadelphia hero Nick Foles is no longer even on the Eagles’ roster, but this remains a big game.
It’s certainly bigger for Philly than it is for New England, as the Pats are well on their way to locking down a first-round bye while the Eagles are fighting just to make the playoffs, but the Patriots would certainly like to rebound from their Week 9 loss.
So, here are two X-factors for New England against Philadelphia:
N’Keal Harry’s Impact
When the Pats drafted N’Keal Harry in the first round back in April, making him the first wide receiver the club had chosen in the first round since 1996, lofty expectations were placed on the Arizona State product.
Harry was expected to be a rather key piece in the Patriots’ aerial attack, but a preseason ankle injury quickly thwarted those dreams and resulted in the rookie immediately being placed on the injured reserve list.
The youngster seems ready to make his debut this Sunday, and it couldn’t come at a better time.
Why? Because the Eagles have one of the worst secondaries in football, and their cornerbacks have regularly been getting beat down the field all season long.
Harry has the athleticism to be a downfield threat, and while he still needs to get his bearings after missing so much time, it would not be the least bit surprising to see Tom Brady throw a couple of deep balls his way to test Philly’s defensive backfield.
Sony Michel’s Efficiency
Sony Michel has not had a very good sophomore year, as he has rushed for just 482 yards while averaging a meager 3.3 yards per carry.
While the Eagles have a horrendous pass defense, their run defense has actually been pretty stout thus far in 2019, as it ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game.
Obviously, Philadelphia relies heavily on its ability to stuff the run, so if the Patriots are able to get Michel going early, it will open up their passing game and make things nearly impossible for the Eagles defense.
Michel doesn’t even have to have a monster game with 100 yards; he just needs to be a heck of a lot more efficient than he has been through the first nine games.
As a matter of fact, Michel has only had two games this season where he has averaged four yards per carry, and one of them came against the Ravens, when he toted the ball four times for 18 yards. So, that barely even counts.
The 24-year-old did, however, rush for 91 yards while logging 5.7 yards per attempt in a win over the Washington Redskins in Week 5, so if he can come close to that production against Philly, the Pats will be sitting pretty.