The stakes don’t get much higher than Week 11’s Super Bowl LII rematch between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots. One of the most exciting championship games in recent NFL history culminated with the Eagles winning their first Lombardi Trophy in a thrilling 41-33 victory back in February of 2018. It was a game that featured a stunning MVP performance from backup quarterback Nick Foles and a trick play that will be immortalized in the annals of pro football history, known only as “Philly Special.”
Almost two years later, it’s a different dynamic as we get ready for the sequel. After all, the Patriots are 8-1 in 2019 and feature the best defense in the NFL to boot. A 41-point performance by the Eagles offense is nothing more than a pipe dream this time around. Oh, and as for Foles, he’s returning from injury and set to start his second game of the season…. for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The times have most certainly changed, but will the ultimate outcome?
Philadelphia Eagles Brace for Super Bowl Rematch
While it would be irresponsible of me to deem this a must-win game for Philadelphia, with an extremely tight divisional race on the horizon, there’s clearly a lot on the line every time head coach Doug Pederson and his squad take the field.
In spite of a roller coaster start to the season, seemingly alternating back-to-back wins with back-to-back losses at will, the Eagles find themselves at 5-4, tied with the 5-4 Dallas Cowboys at the top of the NFC East. While the Cowboys hold the tiebreaker by virtue of a dominating 37-10 Week 7 victory over their rivals on Sunday Night Football, it’s very much an open competition for the top spot with seven games remaining.
While a divisional title remains an entirely realistic outcome for the Eagles, with upcoming dates with the Pats and the 8-2 Seattle Seahawks on the horizon, this franchise simply can’t afford another string of losses, even as the schedule eases up into December. Put simply, it’s time to start winning the biggest games on the slate in convincing fashion.
But no one said it was going to be easy.
A Defining Moment for a Franchise Passer
In 2019, the Eagles offense ranks 20th in total yards per game (347) and 13th in scoring (24.9 points per game). These numbers aren’t horrendous by any means, but they’re a far cry from what most would have expected from this unit. Quarterback Carson Wentz isn’t having his best season, but it can be argued that some of that has to do with a lack of volume.
In fact, the Eagles franchise quarterback has attempted fewer than 30 passes in four of his last six starts as the offense has leaned more heavily on Jordan Howard and the running game. I’d expect that trend to continue against a Pats defense that is far more attackable on the ground than through the air, but let’s not fully discount the Foles factor in this one.
Late in the 2017 season, Wentz sustained and ACL/LCL tear that prematurely ended a possible MVP campaign, at which point Foles stepped in and led the Eagles to a championship. Wentz had to watch from the sidelines as his close friend earned all the accolades for his playoff heroics. While there’s little doubt that Wentz is a good person and was happy for his teammate, let’s make one thing clear: Philly would never have been in a position to win a Lombardi if not for his incredible performance.
We’re talking about a player who tossed 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions while leading his team to an 11-2 record in his 13 starts. That Super Bowl MVP award belongs to him as much as it does to Foles in a very tangible way. There’s no question he’s eager to show his best stuff on the big stage. Even with potentially reduced passing volume, the 26-year-old will likely never be hungrier.
A Formidable Challenge
Of course, his opponents may have something to say about that. The Patriots have yet to truly get everything together in 2019 but somehow, they’re still 8-1 and looking at yet another first-round playoff bye. As mentioned earlier, Bill Belichick has coached up one of the most dominant defenses of the modern era, and although they were no match for Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9, I would expect a bounce-back showing coming off a bye week.
Meanwhile, even at 42 years of age, Tom Brady… well, he’s still Tom Brady, one of the most focused and motivated competitors in the history of professional sports. Oh, and he just went on record to state that he still hasn’t gotten over that heart-breaking Super Bowl LII defeat. Factoring his thirst for payback into the equation, I’d expect him to put forward a strong performance against a secondary that has already surrendered four 300-plus passing yard performances (although they’ve definitely tightened up in recent weeks).
Without question, this showdown has game of the week potential, and with so many interesting storylines involved, it should be must-see television. For the Patriots, it’s a chance to gain a small measure of revenge for a crushing defeat that still haunts them to this day. For the Eagles, it’s an opportunity to make a statement that this franchise has fully found its footing (try saying that three times fast) at this critical time of the season.
In a season of high-stakes contests, none ranks higher for the 2019 Philadelphia Eagles than this one. The Patriots are licking their wounds from Week 9 and have something to prove, while the Eagles are trying to scratch and claw their way back to the playoffs for the third consecutive season. It should be a loud, raucous affair at Lincoln Financial Field as the home team faces its toughest test to date. Games like this are the reason we watch football. All that’s left to say is “enjoy it.”