There’s no dipping a toe in the water as the New England Patriots begin their 2023 season. They’ll be cannonballing right into the deep end of the pool of NFL opponents, when they host the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
The Eagles are coming off of one of their best seasons in franchise history. In just the second season under head coach Nick Sirianni, the Birds went 14-3 – tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the best record in the NFL – and reached their fourth Super Bowl in NFL history.
On offense, the Eagles were led by MVP runner-up Jalen Hurts. In his third NFL season, Hurts completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 3,701 yards with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. On the ground he added another 760 yards (to the tune of 4.6 yards per carry) and 13 more scores. Bill Belichick described Hurts this week as “arguably the best player in the league, or one of the top two or three best players in the league.”
Defensively the Eagles’ front put together a historic season. They piled up 70 sacks, the third most ever by a team in a single season. It was just the third time a team has surpassed the 60 sack mark in a season since 2000, with the Eagles joining the 2000 Saints (66 sacks) and 2006 Chargers (61).
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For all their dominance though, the Eagles are relatively straightforward in the way they go about their business. There’s not a ton of smoke and mirrors in their philosophy, as Belichick pointed out this week.
“I don’t think it’s a big mystery about what they do. They just do it very well,” he explained. “They’re well-balanced, so you can’t over play one thing without giving up something else.” Things aren’t expected to change despite the team losing both coordinators this offseason.
Simply put, the Eagles are talented. It doesn’t matter if opponents know what’s coming, it’s about being able to physically make the plays to stop it (a concept Patriots fans should be familiar with from their own team’s dominant two-decade run). It’s easy to identify what the Patriots need to be able to do to have a chance to win the game – but it’ll be much harder for them to actually do it.
Keeping that ‘easier said than done’ theme in mind, let’s look at some key areas the Patriots will need to be competitive in if they want to start their season with a win on Sunday…