Monday Night Football gets a marquee Week 2 pre-season match-up as the Philadelphia Eagles travel to Foxboro to take on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Both teams undoubtedly have Super Bowl aspirations for the upcoming season, but historically both Andy Reid and Bill Belichick have treated pre-season tune-ups as meaningless for preparation. However, with word circulating out of Eagles camp that the Philadelphia starters may be extended into the 3rd quarter, this Monday evening clash could very well serve as an August edition of a Super Bowl preview.
Reid’s Eagles are coming off a gritty victory against their cross-state rivals from Pittsburgh in Week 1. Though they started sluggish, the Eagles possess great depth at many skills positions and rode that to a convincing second-half performance. Against New England however, it’ll be on the starting line-up to raise their performance against a potent Patriots line-up, and by all accounts Reid’s side should be ready for a big test.
For the Patriots, they’re expected to be without starting running back Stevan Ridley for this contest. Expect the likes of Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen to step in and fill the void. New England’s usually prolific attack looked out of sync against the Saints in Week 1 of the pre-season and the players are focused on improving their output. While the New England starters won’t play into the third quarter like Philadelphia’s, look for Belichick to allow Brady and Co. to play well into the second quarter to try and establish some rhythm in the passing game.
Though both coaches have often exuded a general disdain for pre-season action in years past, Reid and Belichick seem to be using this marquee match-up as a measuring stick for their respective squads. Both teams have incredibly high hopes entering the 2012-2013 campaign, and though this is just an exhibition contest, it has the feel of something much bigger.
Eagles vs. Patriots Spread and Betting Odds:
Philadelphia Eagles +1.5 (-110)
@ New England Patriots -1.5 (-110)
Over 40.5 (-120)
Under 40.5 (+100)
Eagles vs. Patriots Pick:
In the lead-up to this match, the Eagles conducted something most teams never do in pre-season; prepare and game-plan for their upcoming opponent. Coach Reid analyzed the Patriots throughout the week and will be looking to win this match on the shoulders of his starting players. After a sluggish start to last season, perhaps the Eagles are taking a different approach to the pre-season this time around. It remains to be seen how that plan will work out, but having your starters play for three quarters certainly enhances the Eagles’ chances of emerging victorious Monday night in Foxboro.
The Eagles enter this contest seeing it as a huge test for their team as a whole, but specifically for their talented, but much-maligned defence. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo took a lot of heat last year for his underperforming unit and going against an explosive attack led by Tom Brady is about the stiffest test a defense can face entering the season. Look for the Eagles to respond to this challenge with an impressive performance on national television. Their unit remains a proud bunch that seem embarrassed by their record last season, and will seek to improve upon it at all costs. You get the sense that for them, it starts Monday against the Patriots.
For the Patriots it’s more a matter of ‘been there, done that.’ Head Coach Bill Belichick is blessed with a supremely professional team that knows how to prepare themselves for an upcoming season. Though his starters are expected to go a tad longer than they’re accustomed to, preparation and not winning, is Belichick’s first priority on Monday evening.
One issue for New England last season was their abysmal defense. Like the Eagles, they vastly underachieved on that side of the football and it remains to be seen if improvements can be made. Last week against New Orleans, the Patriots looked stellar on defense, but going against Michael Vick and a speedy Eagles attack, it represents a whole new challenge for the Patriots to test themselves against.
This will likely be a match-up that will get as exciting as a pre-season NFL game possibly can. With the Eagles’ starters playing into the third quarter, expect Philadelphia to be the more serious bunch focused on leaving Foxboro with a victory. The fact that they’ve game-planned in the lead-up to this contest shows that Andy Reid is running a no-nonsense style training camp and they’ll be looking to send a message to the rest of the league with a solid performance Monday night. Expect the electrifying Mike Vick to shred a vulnerable New England defense en route to a convincing road victory. Lastly, with the struggles of both teams on the defensive side of the ball and with both teams’ starters playing for the majority of the match, the over should also be worth your consideration in what promises to be a high-scoring affair.