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Eagles-Patriots Preseason Game Preview: 5 questions and answers

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Here’s an opponent’s perspective on the upcoming Eagles game.

NFL: Super Bowl LII-Philadelphia Eagles vs New England Patriots Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

SUPER. BOWL. REMATCH.

It’s pretty funny how a meaningless game in mid-August is being billed that way, but hey, it’s not factually inaccurate! These ARE the two teams that played in Super Bowl LII, after all. And one of them did win that game. Spoiler: It was the Philadelphia Eagles.

With the Eagles and the New England Patriots scheduled to face off on Thursday evening, I reached out to our SB Nation associates over at Pats Pulpit. The revered Rich Hill kindly took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming game. Let’s take a look at the answers. Also don’t forget to check out my Q&A exchange over at PP.

1 - Can you remind me who won Super Bowl LII again? (Sorry, you know I had to do it.) For real, though, I’m genuinely curious to hear about what the offseason has been like. Do Patriots fans hate the Eagles even more now? Or are they over it since the Patriots have already won multiple titles?

I believe they canceled last year’s Super Bowl because they didn’t feel the need to televise yet another Patriots Super Bowl appearance. But actually, I feel like this offseason is like last year’s offseason- everything at this career stage of both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady is just gravy. Sure, we want New England to win more Super Bowls, but there really isn’t much else that has to be accomplished. So when the Philadelphia Eagles won, there was a quick period of, “What the heck happened with Malcolm Butler?” but I don’t think too many people were hung up on the loss once free agency rolled around.

There will always be a begrudging respect/dislike of the New York Giants for 2007 and 2011, but winning in 2014 and 2016 (gosh, this is annoying to read) helped to heal those losses to the point where losing in 2017 honestly didn’t feel as bad as losing to the Indianapolis Colts in 2006, Baltimore Ravens in 2009, New York Jets in 2010, or Denver Broncos in 2015. Like, this Super Bowl loss probably doesn’t rank in the top five losses of the Belichick/Brady era and now I have an idea for an article thank you very much.

[BLG Note: Rich went on to pose this question on Twitter. CLICK HERE and then scroll down to see how Patriot fans responded.]

2 - How long should we expect to see the Patriots’ starters on Thursday night, if any play at all? Who has already been ruled out?

There will be a mix of opportunities for the Patriots starters, although it’s unclear if anyone healthy has been ruled out. We’re unlikely to see Rob Gronkowski because the team rightfully keeps him in bubble wrap until the start of the season, and anyone that’s injured like Kenny Britt or Trey Flowers is unlikely to suit up.

But in recent years, the first-team locks have generally received two drives, with an option to come out for a third drive if they go three-and-out on the initial two. We’ll likely see more of Brian Hoyer than Tom Brady and we’re so sorry.

3 - Which players are Patriots fans excited to see this preseason?

There’s always more excitement around the skill players- receivers and cornerbacks- and this year offers more opportunity for Patriots to be excited. In previous years, the Patriots knew that Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell/Chris Hogan were going to start at receiver with Danny Amendola in the slot, while Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, and now Stephon Gilmore held down the secondary.

This year? Edelman’s suspended and Amendola is in Miami, while both Butler and Ryan are in Tennessee with the starting job opposite of Gilmore wide open. The Patriots brought in a hodgepodge of veteran wide receivers to try and bolster the position, from Kenny Britt and Eric Decker to Cordarrelle Patterson and the already-released Jordan Matthews. Patterson’s looked the best of the quartet, but receiver battles are always exciting.

On the other side of the ball, Eric Rowe is competing with Jason McCourty for the starting job. It’s currently a toss-up between the two, so they’ll likely get their fair share of opportunities against the Eagles.

4 - How many more seasons do you think Tom Brady has as the Patriots’ starting quarterback? How about Bill Belichick as head coach?

I believe Brady when he says that he wants to play until he’s 45 and he appears to be practicing at the same level this year as he was last season. Barring a serious injury, I don’t see any decline coming this year. In fact, so much of Brady’s game revolves around his mental ability instead of his physical, with his pre-snap reads and chess matches with the defense, that his inevitable physical decline probably won’t affect him as much as it might affect other quarterbacks.

That said, I think he’ll have another couple seasons as his standard top-three quarterback self with Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers- maybe Carson Wentz can join the club- before spending another couple seasons as merely a top five or ten quarterback. The big questions are whether Brady will still want to play when he’s no longer the greatest quarterback in the league- or if he’s just so married to the game that he has no choice other than to burn out on the field. If it’s the latter, then Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft will have to have a big chat about Brady’s future with the team.

As for Belichick, he has 250 regular season wins (tied with Tom Landry for third-most in NFL history) and 28 playoff wins (most in NFL history) for a combined 278 career victories. That ranks third-most all time behind Don Shula (347 wins) and George Halas (324 wins). Belichick needs 47 more wins to pass Halas and 70 more wins to pass Shula.

Belichick and the Patriots have exceeded a minimum of 13 total wins every year since 2010 and averaged 14.4 during that period. At that pace, Belichick will pass Halas at some point in 2021 and Shula in 2022 or 2023. Belichick is 66 years old and has expressed that he doesn’t want to play deep into his 70s, but he’s a football historian and I would expect “total wins record holder” to be a target career achievement.

Even if the Patriots fall off their pace of 13+ wins per year when Brady inevitably slows, I think Shula’s record will be in Belichick’s sights and that Bill will stick around to claim it, even if he has to coach until he’s 72 or 73. But I think we’ll have more Belichick than Brady in our future.

5 - Lane Johnson has often ripped the Patriots’ culture. He even called the Pats a “fear-based organization.” What do you make of his comments?

Bonus - Meaningless score prediction?

Eagles 27 - Patriots 25 with New England going for a two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter to no avail. Thanks a lot, Hoyer.