It’s about that time. Super Bowl weekend is upon us which means it’s time to make an official prediction for the big game.
Now before you go declaring the Patriots champs before the game even starts, you might want to check out 15 mind-blowing trends from Super Bowls past. If these trends are any indication of what to expect in Super Bowl LII, the Eagles should be feeling pretty good about themselves.
Anyway, let’s break down what we should expect from the matchup. I’ll try to be as objective as I can while I wear my Tom Brady jersey, watch Tom vs Time and listen to clips of Brady yelling “let’s go!” on a loop.
I’ll start with the Eagles. They’ll head in to the Super Bowl as obvious underdogs, but should be respected and frankly, feared. Philly’s defensive front is no joke, and the offense has proven to be effective even with Nick Foles replacing Carson Wentz under center.
Foles ripped apart an elite Vikings defense during the NFC championship game (26/33, 352 yds, 3 TDs). Expecting him to put those same numbers up vs the Patriots would be silly, however if he can simply play mistake-free football it might just be enough. Foles will need to make some plays, but Philadelphia’s running game and defense are what will ultimately matter most when all is set and done.
I’m not exactly saying anything new here, but the Patriots’ kryptonite is a defense than can pressure Brady all game long. The Jaguars did that in the AFC championship for three quarters, making things real interesting before the five-time Super Bowl champion shredded them in the fourth quarter to complete yet another stunning Pats comeback win. The Eagles can’t afford to make the same mistake. It has to be a full-game effort otherwise Brady will do more in one quarter than Foles can pull off in four quarters. That’s just how Brady operates. Watch Super Bowl LI or this year’s AFC title game again if you need proof.
Unfortunately for the Brady and the Patriots, I see the Eagles defense being a problem. Fletcher Cox is the name you’ll be hearing all night long. Brady will rack up his numbers because he always does, but he’ll be prone to making mistakes with guys like Cox breathing down his neck.
While we hardly see Brady turn the ball over throughout the regular season, Super Bowls have been a different story. He’s thrown five picks in his seven Super Bowl appearances. Most quarterbacks would kill to have that statistic, but Brady’s standard is perfection and he’s had many imperfect moments when facing top-tier defenses in big games.
If Cox and Co. can give Brady constant pressure, forcing the Patriots to rely on check downs and the running game, we’ll be in for an interesting one. Philly is not the team you want to use that strategy against.
Now for New England…
It’ll be business as usual for the Patriots on Sunday as they go for their second championship in three years, and sixth overall. They’ll have to get it done without stars Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower this time around. Both were involved in perhaps the most clutch plays of last year’s Super Bowl vs the Falcons, so their absence undoubtedly will be felt.
But the Pats have dealt with that adversity all season long. The defense was horrid for the few weeks of the season and it eventually figured itself out. Brady has struggled in situations where he’d usually use Edelman as his safety blanket, but he’s still the favorite to win the 2017 NFL MVP award. The point being it doesn’t really matter what goes wrong with the Patriots, it’s “next man up.” It always has been.
Edelman sure would be useful against this Eagles defense. Philadelphia’s secondary usually plays well off the line of scrimmage which means Edelman’s role in the slot could’ve thwarted the Eagle’s game plan to some extent. Instead, we can expect Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola to to fill that void. With the amount of hype surrounding “Danny Playoff” lately, he’ll warrant more attention from the Eagles D. So Hogan might be in for a busy night.
New England’s running backs will be in for busy nights as well, though they’ll need to focus on catching the ball more than running it. Screens probably won’t be effective vs an Eagles team that defends the perimeter extremely well, so the damage will need to be done downfield or over the middle. Dion Lewis, that means you.
From a defensive standpoint it’s pretty simple: Make Nick Foles beat you. The Patriots can’t allow the Eagles rushing attack to get comfortable. The mix of Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, and Corey Clement will be involved from the get-go. Foles might have his moments with wideouts like Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, but his RBs will carry a lot on their shoulders. If Philadelphia can’t get anything going on the ground or via checkdowns to Clement, it’ll be a long game for the birds.
To sum it all up, Brady and the Patriots will need to feel things out for the first half. Don’t be surprised if they’re slow out the gate. I actually expect the Eagles to dominate the first half (at least defensively). You know how the story unfolds by now, though. The Patriots will adjust and figure out how to beat you in the second half. It doesn’t matter who you are.
Prediction: Patriots pull off another comeback to beat the Eagles, 28-24. Eagles enter halftime with a 14-7 lead as Brady and the Patriots offense struggles to find a rhythm out of the gate. We’ll see another brilliant second-half performance from the Patriots as they edge out a Philadelphia team that puts up just as much of a fight as any other team has ever given New England in the Super Bowl.