Eagles-Patriots Gamethread: Storylines and What Today Means

Eagles-Patriots Gamethread: Storylines and What Today Means

Technically, the Eagles are
still alive. The Giants have a difficult Monday night game against the
Saints, then the undefeated Packers the following week. The Cowboys
could come away from this week with a relatively firm grasp on first
place, but they're the Cowboys, so until Tony Romo puts a full season
together, I will always believe there is a chance he will give enough
games away to keep things interesting.

Obviously, that's the only
chance the Eagles have. As expected, there aren't many great Wild Card
scenarios with six games to play, but they are only one game out from
controlling their own destiny in the NFC East. If Philly can gain a win
on Dallas, and also defeat them on Christmas Eve, they would own the
tiebreaker and win the division -- provided New York predictably
takes a turn for the worst.

Okay, A LOT has to happen, but we got that out of the way... What has to happen for the Birds to win today?

Under Center
-
Quarterback controversy? Eh, probably not, if for no other reason than
Mike Vick's enormous contract, but it goes without saying Vince Young
played pretty well last week once he shook off the rust, and he has
played at a Pro Bowl level in the past. Should the Eagles win and move
to 2-0 under Young, you can bet there will be some fans who want Andy
Reid to go with Captain Dream Team the rest of the way. And honestly, if
that happens, he probably should at least consider it.

Andy vs. Bill
-
Speaking of Reid, love him or hate him, he's accomplished many things
during his career. One of them is not beating Bill Belichick in a
meaningful game. Including Super Bowl XXXIX, Belichick's Patriots are
3-0 in regular or postseason meetings. Besides the championships, there
are quite a few parallels between the two organizations during the head
coach's tenures, and Reid is compared to Belichick often -- always
coming up on the short end of the stick obviously.

Just saying,
there's gotta be some extra personal motivation there this week for Reid,
especially not knowing when the next time the two will stand on
opposite sidelines will be.

Prince Akeem
- The commenters wanted to see some
love for Akeem Jordan last Sunday, who according to Man-Up was in on 20
snaps, having recently taken over for Moise Fokou. In case you hadn't
noticed, he's been a clear upgrade, stuffing quite a few runs from the
strongside the past few weeks.

Jordan is a unique situation. He
joined the team as an undrafted free agent out of James Madison in '07,
and wound up in the starting lineup by '08, where he stayed through the
next season. He was fairly underwhelming, but has maintained a spot in
the organization and become something of a special teams ace. Initially
it appeared the front office wouldn't re-sign him as a free agent this
off-season, but he wound up coming back, and it may have been the best
thing for his career.

Jordan is the most tenured linebacker in
this defense by far, and it looks like he's playing with a bit of an
edge suddenly. I really like seeing him finally get another shot
considering everything they've been through, and the way he's playing,
he seriously could be an answer at that position... and suddenly, the
linebackers are turning into a decent-enough unit.

Bradylicious Attack
- I'm willing
to bet if the Eagles win, it's because the defensive line had some
success pressuring Tom Brady. I've been deflecting for the defense all
year, but I don't really see them as having the personnel to cover the
Patriots' tight ends. That's not even totally a swipe at this defense.
Rob Gronkowski in particular is looking more and more like a special
player, and most teams -- especially the ones utilizing the 4-3 -- will
have issues with these two.

But the Eagles in particular lack
size and perhaps toughness at the positions usually counted on to cover
the tight end. Which of their linebackers has the combination of size
and speed to keep up with either of those guys down the field? Which
safety would you count on to catch one of them once the ball is in their
hands, then wrestle them to the ground?

The best way to keep the
ball out of their hands is to prevent a crisp pass from leaving Brady's
hand. We'll be watching Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins, two high-priced
free agents from this off-season, to see if they can set the tone
against this extremely efficient offense.

UPDATE: Nnamdi Asomugha is ACTIVE. No word on whether he'll be able to be a full go, but he's at least slated to play.

Stew Milne-US Presswire

Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 78, Providence 68

usa-josh-hart-villanova-providence.jpg
USA Today Images

Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 78, Providence 68

BOX SCORE

Seniors Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins combined for 44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and No. 1 Villanova held off Providence, 78-68, in a Big East game at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday afternoon.
 
Villanova extended a four-point halftime lead to as much as 20 points before hot-shooting Providence closed to within nine with five minutes left. Villanova then went on a 13-3 run to put the game out of reach.
 
Hart had 25 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Wildcats, and Jenkins added 19 points, four boards and four assists. Both shot over 50 percent.
 
Sophomore Mikal Bridges scored 15 points, matching his Big East career high, and also had three rebounds and three assists, and Jalen Brunson contributed 13 points to go with three rebounds and four assists.
 
Providence stayed in the game by shooting 13 for 26 from three against the No. 3 three-point shooting defense in Division 1.
 
What it means
Villanova improved to 19-1 overall and 7-1 and in first place in the Big East. The Wildcats have won five in a row since losing at Butler on Jan. 4.
 
Providence fell to 13-8 and 3-5 in the conference and 1-6 on the road. The Friars have lost six of eight since an 11-2 start.
 
Villanova is now 47-34 all-time at the Wells Fargo Center but 14-2 in its last 16 games at the South Philly arena.
 
Stat of the day
Providence shot better from three (50 percent) than two (44 percent). The Friars made 13 threes and just nine two-pointers.

Turning point
Providence trailed by just four at halftime at 35-31, but Bridges opened the second half with a steal and fast-break reverse layup and a jumper from the top of the key to start an 8-0 run that gave Villanova a 12-point lead. The Friars never got any close than eight points the rest of the game.
 
By the numbers
• Providence’s 50 percent shooting from three is the highest against ‘Nova since North Carolina shot 65 percent in the national championship game on April 4 in Houston.

• Villanova’s bench scored just two points.

• Providence’s 13 threes are the most by a Big East team against Villanova since Doug McDermott and Creighton had 21 in a 28-point win three years ago this week.

• Rodney Bullock led Providence with 17 points (3 for 5 from three), Jalen Lindsey added 14 (4 for 7 from three) and Isaiah Jackson came off the bench to score 12 (3 for 3 from three).

• Darryl Reynolds' last two double-digit rebound games have both been against Providence.
 
What's next
Villanova travels to Milwaukee for a Tuesday night game against Marquette. The Golden Eagles are 12-6 overall and 3-3 in the Big East with a game later Saturday at Creighton.
 
Villanova has won nine straight games against Marquette, since the Golden Eagles — then ranked No. 17 — came back from 18 points down to win 82-78 at the Wells Fargo Center in January 2012.