Patriots - Eagles: Gameday Snapshot

The 5-5 Philadelphia Eagles travel to Foxboro to play against the 10-0 New England Patriots today. News, notes injuries and links to all you need to know on gameday

 

Philadelphia Eagles (5-5) at New England Patriots (10-0)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/25/07
LOCATION:Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.
SURFACE: Fieldturf
WEATHER: Game Conditions
TV: NBC, Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer

SERIES: 11th meeting. Eagles lead series, 6-4. Their last meeting was in February 2005 in Super Bowl XXXIX. Donovan McNabb threw three interceptions in that game as the Patriots defeated the Eagles 24-21.

PREDICTION: Patriots 37-20

KEYS TO THE GAME: The good news for the Eagles is their ability to hold the ball -- they have 24 scoring drives of at least 10 plays. The bad news is QB Donovan McNabb is day-to-day with a sprained ankle and jammed thumb and might have to give way to A.J. Feeley. The key will be RB Brian Westbrook, who is on pace for a career-high 388 touches despite missing a game. He is averaging 29.3 over the past three games and must be productive on the ground and as a receiver to make spectators out of the Patriots' fleet of offensive playmakers. ... The Patriots expect plenty of blitzing from the Eagles' defense. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is aggressive -- and to be honest, Philadelphia doesn't have many options. The Eagles have the pass rushers to cause problems, but if the protection holds up QB Tom Brady is in for another field day, and the Eagles have just one sack the past three games. Philly has a league-low 11 takeaways and starting CBs Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown have historically struggled against taller receivers like Randy Moss.

KEY INJURIES: Patriots: OG Stephen Neal (shoulder) could miss his second consecutive game. Eagles: McNabb is uncertain; S Quintin Mikell is unlikely to play.

FAST FACTS: Westbrook is sixth in franchise history with 312 career receptions. ... The Patriots can clinch the AFC East title with a win or a loss by Buffalo.

PERSONNEL NEWS:
Eagles:
--DE Jevon Kearse, who was a healthy inactive last week against Miami, will play Sunday against the Patriots. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson wouldn't say how much, but said he will use him mainly in passing situations.
--QB A.J. Feeley took all of the first-team snaps in practice Thursday and probably will start Sunday against the Patriots, with Donovan McNabb still nursing ankle and thumb injuries.
--QB Donovan McNabb didn't practice again Thursday. He suffered ankle and thumb injuries in Sunday's win over Miami and is out for this week's prime time game against the Patriots.
--SS Quintin Mikell isn't expected to play Sunday against the Patriots. He suffered an MCL knee sprain last week and hasn't practiced at all this week.
--S J.R. Reed will get his first start of the season Sunday. He will start at strong safety in place of injured SS Quintin Mikell.

Patriots:
--The Patriots had a light practice on Thursday before the players were let go early for the Thanksgiving holiday. DL Jarvis Green (ankle) was the only player who didn't participate in Thursday's practice.
--LB Adalius Thomas, who didn't practice Wednesday due to a team decision, was removed from the injury report. G Stephen Neal (shoulder) and S Eugene Wilson (ankle), who were limited in practice Wednesday, are also no longer on the injury report.
--QB Tom Brady (right shoulder) had limited participation in Thursday's practice. Brady will start Sunday night against the Eagles.

SCOUTING REPORTS:

EAGLES

--The Eagles will have a new playing surface for their next home game at Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 2 against the Seattle Seahawks. With Temple University playing its football games at the Linc in addition to the Eagles, the field was in horrible shape. At the recommendation of head groundskeeper Tony Leonard, the Eagles brought in 4-by-25-foot rolls of sod earlier this week and put it over the old surface.

"It is developed, and we can get it cut thick enough where it's not going to move," Leonard said. "I feel comfortable that the last three games of the season will be fine."

The Linc is one of four DD Grassmaster fields in the league. Those fields are reinforced by polypropylene fibers, which are sewn into the sod. Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Denver also have DD Grassmaster fields.

"What we'll do at the end of the season is remove the sod, and we'll still have the DD Grassmaster field," Leonard said. "The field will be covered for six weeks by the sod, and the Bermuda grass (underneath) will stay alive because it's typically dormant at this time of year anyway."

--RB Brian Westbrook, who had a career-high 322 touches last season, already has 233 this season, despite missing a game earlier this season with an abdominal injury. He's averaged 29.3 touches in the last three games and is on pace to get 388 touches this season. Not bad for a guy who once was considered too small (5-foot-9, 200 pounds) and too brittle to be a heavy-duty running back. Asked whether his days of monitoring Westbrook's touches are over, coach Andy Reid said: "I'm not real worried about that right now. He'll let you know during the game (if he needs a rest). You get a pretty good idea if he wants to be in there or out."

--Westbrook increased his streak of regular-season touches without a fumble to 491. He has just two fumbles in his last 999 touches and just one fumble in his last 902 rushing attempts.

--It would appear this will be TE L.J. Smith's final season with the Eagles. Smith can become an unrestricted free agent after the season and isn't optimistic that the Eagles will try hard to keep him.

"We have different opinions of what L.J.'s value is," Smith's agent, Brian Mackler said.

Said Eagles president Joe Banner: "We just told them we're not in a position cap-wise to do a deal in the middle of the season right now. When the season ends, we'll see how he feels, we'll see how we feel, and if either or both are interested in talking, we'll try again."

Smith missed the entire preseason with a groin injury, then came back too soon and aggravated the injury. He missed three games, two of which the Eagles lost.

"I realized there's no sense in putting 20 bad plays on film," he said. "I'd rather just sit and get healthy. I'd rather play six great games than 10 bad ones."

Smith is finally healthy again, but still seems to be more focused on his uncertain contract situation than playing football. Two weeks ago, he had a costly fumble against Washington. Last week against Miami, he dropped an early pass and committed two bad penalties, including a hold that negated a 46-yard touchdown pass to WR Reggie Brown.

"You basically get 16 days a year to show what you can do," Smith said. "That's why Sundays are so important. You don't get many of them. I try not to think about that and just go out and play. But it's stressful, very stressful."

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 of 33 -- Eagles' conversion rate on third downs of 10 yards or more this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Look, if I don't play for the Philadelphia Eagles next year, it's not the end of the world. I'd like to be back there, but whatever happens, I'm not a nobody. I've made a name for myself. It will work out." - TE L.J. Smith

PLAYER NOTES

--DE Jevon Kearse, who was a healthy inactive last week against Miami, will play Sunday against the Patriots. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson wouldn't say how much, but said he will use him mainly in passing situations.
--QB A.J. Feeley took all of the first-team snaps in practice Thursday and will start Sunday against the Patriots, with Donovan McNabb still nursing ankle and thumb injuries.
--SS Quintin Mikell isn't expected to play Sunday against the Patriots. He suffered an MCL knee sprain last week and hasn't practiced at all this week.
--S J.R. Reed will get his first start of the season Sunday. He will start at strong safety in place of injured SS Quintin Mikell.
--LT William Thomas did not practice Wednesday because of illness, but he is expected to be all right by Sunday night.
--WR Jason Avant, who aggravated a groin injury Sunday in the Miami game, practiced Wednesday and appears to making improvement that would allow him to play this week.
--RB Brian Westbrook practiced Wednesday and doesn't appear to be having a flare-up in the knee that kept him out of two practices last week. Westbrook had a career-high 32 carries Sunday against Miami.

PATRIOTS

--With three weeks left in fan voting for the Pro Bowl, Tom Brady has passed Peyton Manning as the AFC's leading vote-getter. Brady has totaled 564,762 fan votes on NFL.com, while Manning currently has 552,845. Brady's total is the second highest among all NFL players, trailing only Packers QB Brett Favre (601,179).

--Randy Moss was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week after his 10-catch, 128-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Bills. Moss' four touchdown receptions in the first half tied an NFL record.

--Las Vegas has installed the Patriots as a 23.5-point favorite over the Eagles this Sunday. That is the largest point spread in NFL history that doesn't involve an expansion team.

--"It's the best offense I've ever seen. I said the other night that Tom Brady is playing the position of quarterback, right now, better than I've ever seen anyone play it in my history. Where they go as the best team (of all time), I think offensively they are right there. I think the best offensive teams that won were probably the San Francisco 49ers, in my mind, and I think this (offense) -- the way they're playing right now -- is probably better. Again, I put the whole thing together with the offensive line and the receivers and the quarterback and everything. When you go to 'team', then you have to put in defense. Their defense isn't the Pittsburgh Steeler defense, it's not one of those. It's not the '85 Bear defense. So you can say historically, when you put it together, I'm not sure they're the best team ever but I am sure -- in my mind, just my observation -- that they're the best offensive team I've ever seen." -- John Madden, on the 2007 Patriots.

--"Basically, you have to ignore those people because this is a job. We're out there, and what are we supposed to do? Like we scored on defense, when Ellis (Hobbs) caught the fumble, should he have taken a knee because we were up by so much? We're out there to do our job, just like they're out there to do their job. It kind of makes me mad when you hear somebody from the other team's defense going 'they shouldn't have done that; that's disrespect.' Do we think it's disrespect when they went and picked up their checks for letting a team score 50 points on them? That should be disrespect, that you went to your owner and said 'All right, pay me for that game I just played.' You can't look at it like that. You have to go out there and do your best. If somebody is blowing you out, you have to play harder. You have to stop them." -- Randall Gay, on teams complaining that the Patriots are running up the score.

--If the Patriots beat the Eagles on Sunday night -- or the Bills lose at the Jaguars -- the team will clinch the AFC East title. If the Patriots do clinch, they would tie the earliest division clinch since the NFL established the 16-game schedule in 1978. Three teams have clinched their division in its 11th game since 1978 -- the 1985 Chicago Bears, the 1997 San Francisco 49ers and the 2004 Philadelphia Eagles.

BY THE NUMBERS: 22 -- The number of times the Patriots have punted this season, the fewest in the NFL.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think I'm going to go hungry, though, if that's what you're worried about. I don't look like I'm undernourished, do I?" -- Bill Belichick on getting some time off for Thanksgiving.

PLAYER NOTES

--RB Laurence Maroney has been criticized for being injury-prone and not being tough this year. Add the Patriots players to the camp who are starting to question Maroney's ability to play through pain. After being taken out of last week's game due to a foot injury, Maroney was greeted by a pile of diapers in front of his locker on Wednesday. It was an obvious attempt by his teammates to send a message that it's time for Maroney to take off the diapers and start playing hurt. We'll see how Maroney reacts this Sunday.
--The Patriots re-signed TE Jason Rader to their practice squad. To make room for Rader, the team released QB David Greene from the practice squad. The Patriots now have two tight ends on their active roster and one on the practice squad.
--LB Adalius Thomas, who didn't practice Wednesday due to a team decision, was removed from the injury report. G Stephen Neal (shoulder) and S Eugene Wilson (ankle), who were limited in practice Wednesday, are also no longer on the injury report.
--QB Tom Brady (right shoulder) had limited participation in Thursday's practice. Brady will start Sunday night against the Eagles.

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