New England Patriots Can Attack Eagles’ Achilles’ Heel


The New England Patriots have to tools to take advantage of the Eagles’ biggest weaknesses .

As they travel up to a surely frigid Gillette Stadium for a mid-afternoon duel with the New England Patriots, this year’s Philadelphia Eagles season has looked like a twelve-week game of “Dizzy Bat”.

(If you’re not familiar with the game, you’ve probably seen Bills fans playing it.)

Philly started the season with an 0-2 record, then came out on top over a Jets team that, at the time, sure looked like a wild-card shoe-in. Then the Eagles lost by a field goal to division rival and perpetual dumpster fire Washington before boat-racing the New Orleans Saints 39-17 and embarrassing another division rival by blowing the doors off of the New York Giants 27-7.

That was Week 6, and the Eagles sat at 3-3.

They’ve won one game since then.

Surely there’s no need to recap the absolute bloodbath at the hands of the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving day, a 45-14 loss that was well in the bag for Detroit by halftime. Philly’s lost their last three games by a combined score of 110-50.

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What’s wrong with the Eagles? Heck if anyone really knows, but there’s one specific part of Philly’s game that’s been dragging them down all season long, and it just so happens to be one of the strongest parts of the New England Patriots’ game.

For all of their flaws, the Eagles defense is phenomenal at creating takeaways. Make a joke about playing in the same division as the Eli Manning, Kirk Cousins, and Tony Romo/Matt Cassell/Brandon Weeden/whoever suits up for Dallas this week if you want, but Philly’s caused 21 turnovers on defense this season. Only the Jets, Giants, and Panthers have more takeaways on the season.

This is a good statistic!  Generally, a team with a zillion takeaways on defense gets more chances to score on offense! That should fit right into Chip Kelly’s wheelhouse, where more plays = more opportunities to score. Right?

One tiny problem: the Eagles, statistically speaking, give the ball back to the other team every time they cause a turnover on defense.  Philly has 21 giveaways on the season so far. That’s tied with the suddenly miserable Atlanta Falcons, and only the Colts, Titans, and Lions are giving the ball away more often. And those three teams have all given the ball away 22 times each.

Quick math: 21 takeaways, minus 21 giveaways, equals a turnover differential of…zero.

Which, to be fair, a turnover differential of zero isn’t that bad. It’s actually about mid-pack for this year’s NFL season.  The wretched Baltimore Ravens, for example, have a pathetic 9 takeaways, compared to 19 giveaways, for a differential of -10. Only the Dallas Cowboys give the ball away more often.

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Even so, the fact that the Philadelphia offense is giving the ball away at the exact same rate as the defense is making plays and forcing fumbles or intercepting the ball has to be so dang frustrating for the defense. They’re going out there and making a few game-breaking plays per game, and then the offense is, on average, going out there and fumbling or throwing away each and every single one.

How do the Patriots stack up in the turnover department?

New England is tied for fifth in the league in turnover differential with Green Bay and Cincinnati at +6, with 15 takeaways on defense and 9 giveaways on offense. Tom Brady has only thrown four interceptions on the season, but the offense has fumbled five times. Still, if you do the math, that averages out to less than one giveaway per game, and four of New England’s nine turnovers have come within their last three games.

There’s way more that’s not going right for the Philadelphia Eagles than anyone knows, and goodness knows the Patriots have enough of their own injury issues to make things tough. Just look at the injury report, it’s ugly.

A game when the Patriots are going to be playing without wild card tight end Rob Gronkowski, and probably won’t have the services of Dont’a Hightower on defense and might not get linebacker Jamie Collins or receiver Danny Amendola back on the field is going to be anything but a cakewalk.

Next: Looking at Life for Pats after Tom Brady

But there’s a reason there’s a double-digit point spread on this game, and losing the turnover battle against a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots team that takes care of the rock could put the Eagles on the wrong side of the scoreboard really fast.

Just ask the Miami Dolphins.