Patriots - Eagles: Game Plans & Matchups

Vince Young (US Presswire)

News, notes, injury reports, including key matchups, and game plans for both teams in this Week 12 matchup.

PATRIOTS

  One thing to take note of is the rotation at the running back position. Veteran Kevin Faulk has been out for two weeks, leading to more reps for Danny Woodhead and forcing rookie Shane Vereen into the lineup.

   Stevan Ridley, who had a great debut and leveled off mightily following that game, has been noticeably absent in recent weeks. The Patriots have relied heavily on BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has emerged into more of an every-down back this year than he was last season, while Woodhead has played a complementary role, particularly in shotgun formation.

   Vereen carried eight times Monday and scored a touchdown, so perhaps he will serve as the secondary back from here on out until Faulk returns. For what it's worth, Woodhead is still second on the team in carries despite the fact his value has diminished in recent weeks. The rotation down the stretch is worth watching, particularly with the cold weather approaching, making for less-than-ideal conditions for the passing game.

 NOTES
   --OL Marcus Cannon made his NFL debut Monday, which is noteworthy considering he spent most of training camp undergoing chemotherapy for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
   --Rookie RB Shane Vereen saw significant playing time in Monday's game and finished with his first NFL touchdown, which might further push Danny Woodhead out of the rotation.
   --OL Sebastian Vollmer had a tough time Monday with Pro Bowl defensive lineman Tamba Hali, a rare poor performance for the third-year pro. The pass protection suffered as a result.
   --WR Julian Edelman returned a punt for a touchdown for the second time in his career Monday. He's the fourth player in franchise history with two or more punt returns for touchdowns and also leads the franchise with a 13.7 yards per return average on punts.
   --TE Rob Gronkowski (805) is on pace to finish the year with 1,288 receiving yards, which would set a franchise record for a tight end. Ben Coates had 1,174 receiving yards in 1994. The 1,288 receiving yards would be second most by a tight end in NFL history to the 1,290 by Kellen Winslow in 1980 with San Diego.

INJURY IMPACT:
   --OT Matt Light participated in practice this week, which is a good sign moving forward. Light injured his foot Monday and left the stadium in a walking boot.
   --LB Brandon Spikes was not present at the walkthrough. Spikes is dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of Monday's game.  He has been downgraded to OUT for Sunday.
   --LB Dane Fletcher also missed Wednesday's walkthrough. He has a thumb injury and also did not play Monday. He will also miss Sunday's game.
   --LB Jeff Tarpinian, who missed Monday's game due to illness, was not at Wednesday's walkthrough, but was spotted in the locker room.  Tarpinian was placed on I/R this week, effectively ending his season.
   --S Patrick Chung was at Wednesday's walkthrough. He missed Monday's game with a foot injury, so his status for this week will likely be determined Sunday.
   --CB Devin McCourty, who missed Monday's game due to a shoulder injury, also was at Wednesday's walkthrough and could be available Sunday in Philadelphia.

GAME PLAN:
The Eagles haven't quite been the unstoppable force everyone expected them to be during the preseason, but this is still a team that's tough to pass against with a deep roster of skilled defensive backs and linemen.

   The ability to throw the ball depends on how well the offensive line blocks, otherwise Brady will have a tough time squeezing passes into this dangerous secondary. Obviously, they need to be better than they were against Kansas City, especially since Philadelphia's secondary is far superior.

   From a defensive standpoint, it appears as though Vince Young will make another start in place of injured quarterback Michael Vick . Young led an eight-minute scoring drive in the fourth quarter to beat the Giants, but still threw three interceptions. The Patriots aren't a great defense in terms of getting teams off the field quickly, but ball-hawk Kyle Arrington, who is tied for the league lead with seven interceptions, could be a factor if Young is off-target Sunday.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
   Eagles CB Asante Samuel vs. Patriots WR Deion Branch. While it's become obvious that Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski are the biggest threats in the passing game, Branch is still worth keeping an eye on. When all else fails, Brady will look in his direction, and if anyone knows Brady's tendencies it would be Samuel, who began his career in New England.

   Patriots DE Andre Carter vs. Eagles LT Jason Peters. The improvement in New England's defense can be credited to the pass rush, which is making life difficult for opposing quarterbacks. Carter has emerged as the team's best pass rusher, so he's getting extra attention on a weekly basis. This is a tough, but doable, assignment for the veteran Peters, who deals with plenty of stout pass rushers in the NFC East.

   Eagles TE Brent Celek vs. Patriots S James Ihedigbo . There's a chance Patrick Chung returns to the lineup Sunday, but if he's out again Ihedigbo will be responsible for calling the plays in the secondary and being the one to draw the difficult assignment of chipping away at the opposing tight end. Celek doesn't have the numbers his counterpart Rob Gronkowski has, but he's a tough customer over the middle and a solid red-zone threat, too.


EAGLES

   The Eagles will be without cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie Sunday, who is sidelined with a high ankle sprain. But that might be a good thing. He'll be replaced for the second straight week in the Eagles' nickel package by Joselio Hanson, who is a much better slot corner than Rodgers-Cromartie. Unless defensive coordinator Juan Castillo decides to put Nnamdi Asomugha on WR Wes Welker, Hanson will be matched up with him inside.

 NOTES
   --CB Joselio Hanson will replace injured Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as the slot corner in the team's nickel package for the second straight week. Hanson turned in a solid performance last week against the Giants.
   --QB Vince Young took all of the first-team reps at practice all week, and it's looking more and more like he will get his second straight start Sunday in place of injured Michael Vick.
   --RB LeSean McCoy, who leads the league in rushing with 1,019 yards, is averaging 7.2 yards per carry in the fourth quarter this season.
   --TE Brent Celek has been targeted 40 times in the last five games. He's got 28 catches for 309 yards and two touchdowns in those five games.
   --WR Steve Smith probably will get the start Sunday if DeSean Jackson's injured foot doesn't allow him to play. Smith had his first touchdown catch as an Eagle last week.

INJURY IMPACT
   --QB Michael Vick didn't practice all week. He missed last week's game with two fractured ribs. He tried to throw on Tuesday, but was still experiencing considerable pain. He did throw later in the week.
   --WR Jeremy Maclin, who missed last week's game with shoulder and hamstring injuries, practiced Wednesday he will not play this week against the Patriots.
   --OT King Dunlap, who missed last week's game with a concussion, didn't practice Wednesday and is unlikely to be cleared for Sunday's game against the Patriots.
   --WR DeSean Jackson, who got his foot stepped on in last week's win over the Giants, didn't practice Wednesday. Coach Andy Reid said he still has swelling in the foot.
   --DE Brandon Graham, who missed last week's game with swelling on his surgically-repaired knee and a rib contusion, practiced Wednesday. Whether he'll play Sunday depends on how many defensive linemen the Eagles activate.

GAME PLAN:
Regardless of who starts at quarterback Sunday - Michael Vick or Vince Young - the Eagles are expected to come out throwing against a Patriots defense that is 32nd in the league in passing yards allowed.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
   Eagles LT Jason Peters s.v Patriots RE Andre Carter. Peters is having an All-Pro season. Carter has 6.5 sacks in the last four games.
   Eagles LB Jamar Chaney vs. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski already has 10 TD catches. Chaney's coverage skills are improving, but he's going to have his hands full.
   Eagles CB Joselio Hanson vs. Patriots WR Wes Welker. Hanson is one of the league's better slot corners, but Welker is the league's best slot receiver.

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