The 2023 season kicks off with the Patriots hosting the defending NFC Champs the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles enter the season with realistic expectations of a championship, while the Patriots are trying to reclaim their previous status as perennial contenders. It’ll be the first glimpse of the Bill O’Brien/Mac Jones offense and a chance to see how the Patriots’ multitude of tweeners all fit together on defense.
Eagles: 8 wins (including Super Bowl LII); Patriots: 7 wins (including Super Bowl XXXIX)
Patriots Offense vs. Eagles Defense
For the Patriots to be successful this year, the offense needs to return to the efficient model utilized in the early 2000s. They do not need to be a high-flying affair, but rather a competent and consistent offense. The defense will be good enough to keep this team in most, if not all, games, and the offense needs to keep from being the reason the team loses.
This game will be determined up front. The Eagles boast a ridiculously deep front seven littered with high-end pass rushers. The Patriots’ offensive line should be solid at four out of five positions at some point this season; unfortunately, it might not be game one. The Pats have dealt with a slew of injuries across the offensive line throughout the preseason. The lack of continuity and practice time may be apparent against the Eagles front.
A positive? The Eagles were among the bottom of the league in running games and stunts up front with their defensive line. If the Pats are going to be successful, it will be because of the big hogs winning their one-on-one match-ups.
The Patriots will need to lean on their running game to keep the offense on schedule and to keep the Eagles offense off the field. This game should feature a lot of Rhamondre Stevenson, while also giving Ezekiel Elliott a healthy workload in his Patriots debut. The Patriots may try to take advantage of the interior of the Eagles ‘defense with a steady dose of power and dive runs.
The Patriots may not find a lot of success passing to the boundaries, as the Eagles return stalwart corners James Bradberry and Darius Slay. Mac Jones should be able to find success in the middle of the field against a reworked safety duo. Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki should be in for a busy day.
Patriots Defense vs. Eagle Offense
The Eagles return a majority of starters from a top offense a year ago. They feature depth and talent up front, as well as a top-three wide-receiver duo. The quarterback is one of the best in the league. Their backfield took a hit after Miles Sanders left after a career year. The Patriots defense will have to be the strength of this team, and they will be tested immediately in week one.
The Patriots must pick and choose their spots to be aggressive against this Eagles offense. Sending extra defenders to rush the quarterback will leave the defensive backs manned up against a talented receiving corps. The Patriots lost a sticky cover man in Jack Jones this week. Jonathan Jones and rookie Christian Gonzalez face a challenge as the top corners against A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith. The Patriots can get away with intermittent man coverage calls, but can’t make a habit of it on Sunday.
The Patriots should be able to find success if they can get Jalen Hurts to throw while on the run. Hurts’ numbers last year while scrambling were below average. The key is to limit his ability to turn a scramble into a long gain on the ground. The Patriots should focus on sending interior pressure while keeping an athletic body on Hurts as a QB spy. The Pats can use the likes of Mack Wilson, Marte Mapu, Adiran Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, and Kyle Dugger as QB spies, while also giving multiple looks from different personnel groupings.
The Patriots will roll out rookies at both kicker and punter this year. Both Chase Ryland and Bryce Baringer feature booming legs, but may struggle with consistency early in their careers. Baringer can help the Patriots win the field position game even when punting from deep in his own territory. The Patriots reloaded the roster with special teams stalwarts after a down year in the game’s third phase. The Eagles have a steady kicker in Jake Elliott, but should not have an edge elsewhere on special teams.
The Patriots will need to play a very smart and efficient game on both sides of the ball to win the season opener. On a day when New England will be celebrating the legacy of The Goat, its fans may be left wishing for his presence on the field again. The Eagles will be able to harass Jones as the offensive line tries to find its footing.
The key to the game will be in the turnover battle. New England will need to steal a few possessions if they want to win this game. The Patriots will be able to keep up with the Eagles otherwise. Expect the Patriots to keep it close in the first half before the Eagles pull away late. Eagles win 28-20.
Speaking of Tom, how lucky were we!? Congrats GOAT. You deserve it.