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Matchup -- Pats DL vs. Eagles OL

The battle in the trenhes will be intense. The Eagles experienced offensive line will battle a younger talented Patriots front.

The skinny: The Eagles offensive line is experienced and solid, combining for 33 years of NFL tenure led by nine-year veterans Jon Runyan (RT) and Jermane Mayberry (RG) and seven-year veteran Tra Thomas (LT). Thomas (349 pounds) and Runyan (330 pounds) give the Eagles one of the biggest tackle tandems in the league.

Fraley was a waiver wire acquisition in 2000 but is now a four-year starter at center for Philly. Runyan has started more playoff games (15) than any other player since 1999 and brings a fierce temperament. He also has started 128 straight regular season games, but is battling an MCL injury that he's been able to play through. Thomas is heading to his third Pro Bowl and has missed only one game due to injury since being selected 11th overall in 1998.

Mayberry started the season playing left guard but when rookie first round pick Shawn Andrews was lost for the season on opening day, Mayberry switched to the right side with three-year veteran Artis Hicks stepping in at left guard. Mayberry is battling groin and triceps injuries.

The Patriots defensive line is young but talented with three first-round picks and a 12-year veteran playing in his third Super Bowl. Richard Seymour is expected to play and is one of the league's best defensive linemen. He's heading to his third straight Pro Bowl and is a two-time All Pro. He led all Patriots defensive lineman with 67 tackles and five sacks. He is a playmaker who plays smart and strong and is difficult to handle. Assuming he's healthy enough to be effective, he could cause problems.

Ty Warren, a 2003 first round pick, enjoyed an excellent sophomore season, improving steadily throughout until emerging late in the season as a strong run defender. He finished with 64 stops with 3.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles.

It took time for veteran Keith Traylor and rookie Vince Wilfork to learn the nose tackle spot, but once they did, the Patriots run defense showed steady progress. Both are big bodies with quickness and are difficult for a center to handle one-on-one. Wilfork plays all across the line and Warren can move as well. Jarvis Green has also played well when filling in for Seymour. The Patriots will use different combinations when they go to a four-man line in nickel situations.

Seymour on the Eagles offensive line: It's solid. We have to try to get some pressure and stop the run. But it doesn't matter what we think we can do, but what we do Sunday against them. That's all that matters. We have to play well."

Belichick on the Eagles offensive line: "I think they are a very good line and an experienced group. That unit has played together for a number of years and functions very efficiently. The line does a good job handling adjustments and being able to recognize different [defensive] looks. That's a very good group and a strength of their team. They are experienced, talented and well-coached."

Key stats: The Eagles offensive line paved the way for a running game that averaged 4.4 yards per carry led by Brian Westbrook's 4.6 yards per carry in 177 runs for 812 yards. They also allowed a respectable 32 sacks on the season for 192 lost yards or an average loss of only 6 yards per sack.

The Patriots defensive line combined for 250 tackles, 14.5 sacks, six pass deflections, four forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. Seymour and Green both scored defensive touchdowns.

The edge: The Patriots front earns a slight edge in this matchup because it has become so stout against the run. The Eagles rushing game will be difficult to handle because it hits a defense with change-of-pace type runs out of some pass looks where Westbrook can operate in space. The Patriots rush will include a linebacker when it is a regular four-man rush and Philly will have to identify the fourth rusher on every play. New England's line will need to get its hands up in the passing lanes to make it difficult on Donovan McNabb when he's using a short drop for a quick throw.

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