The New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles will officially kick off their respective preseasons when the Pats show up at Lincoln Financial Field for Friday's game. Fans should always relish the opportunity to get a look at their team before the regular season opener, but in this case, Eagles fans may have significantly more interest in the game than Patriots fans.
The ongoing battle for the Eagles' starting quarterback job between Nick Foles and Michael Vick has been an offseason subplot since Chip Kelly took over the team's head coaching reins. Vick will start Friday's game, with Foles slated to start preseason Week 2. The Patriots will start a fellow named Tom Brady this season.
Meet the Eagles
Beyond the quarterback battle, fans should be excited to finally catch a glimpse of Kelly and the Eagles' revamped offense. Kelly ran an up-tempo run-based spread offense at Oregon last year, but has consistently reiterated that he isn't married to the concepts that made him successful as a college coach. The fact that he drafted Matt Barkley, a pocket passer, in April is a testament to Kelly's words. Kelly has proven he has a very creative mind, and he has the potential to turn the Eagles into a formidable offense with the likes of LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson taking feature roles.
The Eagles will also feature a new-look defense at the reins of new defensive coordinator Billy Davis. The scheme is expected to be a hybrid 3-4/4-3, at least if new personnel is any indication. The team signed Houston Texans outside linebacker Connor Barwin to help the pass rush. The defensive line could be formidable with Isaac Sopoaga and Fletcher Cox up front. The secondary may be in trouble, however, with four new starters from a year ago.
Meet the Patriots
The Patriots aren't expected to look very different this season, with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady remaining stoic presences. On offense, the Pats will have to prove they can put behind a rather dramatic offseason. The team could be without its top two tight ends from 2012 early in the season. Aaron Hernandez is out after being released in the wake of a murder investigation, while Rob Gronkowski is still making his way back from constant injury setbacks. The Pats also have some questions in the receiving corps, where Danny Amendola (signed to replace Wes Welker) is an injury risk.
The Patriots made few changes on defense this offseason, but did well for themselves by re-signing Aqib Talib to shore up a maligned secondary. The Pats will also return Chandler Jones from an ankle injury to help the pass rush. Overall, expect the Patriots' defense to remain a non-awful entity in 2012.
Local Takes: Eagles
As someone who has attended Eagles training camp practices, I can tell you that there's no real significant difference between Vick and Foles. They've each done a great job of keeping it close the whole summer. Having Vick start first doesn't necessarily mean he's ahead. I'm imagining they're giving him the nod first because he's a veteran.
We still have some time to go before the real starting QB is announced, I'd say.
Local Takes: Patriots
No other position was surrounded by so many question marks going into the season, and this will be our first chance to see if Belichick's various acquisitions at wideout throughout the draft and free agency will meaningfully and convincingly stick. We're all excited to see if the rookies will be able to generate some much-needed impact in their inaugural seasons (and if TC is any indication, they will) but I'm most anticipating the arrival of Danny Amendola. We all know what the obscenely athletic guy can do--when healthy, he could be a tier above our beloved Wes Welker--but that's quite the gaping hole he'll attempt to patch on offense.
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
@cherylmil24 The extra practices provide more competitive reps than you get in the game. More reps = more accurate evaluations— Greg Knopping (@patspulpit) August 6, 2013
@JeffMcLane - Eagles beat writer
Should have made this point, obvious as it is, but Brady's familiarity in Pats O aids release as Vick/Foles' unfamiliarity hinders theirs.— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) August 8, 2013
@cpriceNFL - Patriots beat writer
Trying to predict preseason games is somewhat of a silly exercise, but here goes:
There may be several schools of thought on this game. On one hand, the Patriots have spent more time playing together than an Eagles team that was thoroughly shaken up in the offseason. On the other hand, the lack of returning starters means that there will be more players looking to show off on the Eagles, whereas the Pats may simply be looking to leave Philadelphia unscathed.
Don't expect to see much of Brady, if at all, while Vick and Foles trade reps and try to take an edge in the quarterback competition.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Patriots 21
The Eagles are favored by 3-3.5 points across sports books, according to OddsShark.