It’s finally here. It’s Super Bowl Sunday. Here’s what you need to know.
Eagles vs Patriots
6:30 p.m. kickoff
Patriots Offensive Line is the Key to the Game
As I wrote earlier in the week, the Eagles have the defensive line line that can stop the now three time NFL MVP Tom Brady. Historically, teams that have put pressure on Brady without sacrificing players from other areas of the defense are the only ones who have slowed down New England’s passing attack.
A perfect example of this was the Patriots' Dec 11 loss at Miami. Brady threw two interceptions to Xavien Howard, was sacked twice, and knocked down five times. If the Eagles want a similar result, their deep defensive line (seven lineman played 400 snaps or more in 2017) must have the game of their collective lives.
Malcolm Jenkins vs Gronkowski
This is the most likely matchup, and it should be epic. If the Eagles are going to attack Brady without sacrificing the rest of the defense, Jenkins will have to take Gronk on his own.
The Eagles have struggled against athletic tight-ends all season, giving up big games to Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed, and Evan Engram. Philly ranks just 17th in defensive efficiency against tight-ends for the season. Gronk is far and away better than those three or any other tight-end in NFL history. So if the Patriots offensive line can hold the Eagles front four long enough to give Brady time, Gronk will be his first target until the Eagles double team him. This will create space and play into one of New England’s greatest strengths; it’s depth at wide receiver.
New England will likely go no huddle
One of Philly’s losses came early in the season against the abysmal New York Giants. The difference was New York’s ability to throw off the Eagles’s defensive line rotation, which as I said goes seven deep with Tennessee’s own Derek Barnett at the bottom of that rotation.
In their Week 3 win and near win in Week 15, the Giants went no-huddle to throw off this rotation and wear down the Eagles’ defense. The Patriots are no stranger to playing no-huddle, and Brady is a master at making adjustments at the line. Look for New England to use this early in the game.
Zach Ertz will be the difference maker for the Eagles
The debate over which Nick Foles will show up is obvious. He played like an all-timer against the Vikings in the NFC Championship (QB rating of 141.4), but not so much at other times in the season (59.4 QB rating on Christmas Day against the Raiders).
Against the Patriots, Eagles coach Doug Peterson’s ability to get Zach Ertz the ball will determine which Foles we’ll see. Ertz had comparable stats to Gronk this season, and actually finished with more receptions (74).
However, New England safety Patrick Chung is a tight end killer. Like Jenkins on Gronk, the best matchup to watch when the sides flip will be to see if Chung can take on Ertz alone without digging into the rest of the Patriots’ defense, which has struggled at times this season.
My Prediction: Patriots 27 Eagles 21
As great as this game should be, it could have been an all-timer if Carson Went was playing. Foles showed he still has the ability to turn back the clock to his 27 TD, two INT season in 2013. Philly’s defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz showed off is scheming prowess in the playoffs by creating completely different plans of attack against the Falcons and Vikings. On both sides of the ball, the Eagles are on par if not better than New England.
However, and I hate to fall back on this argument, but the gap between Brady and Foles is too much for the Eagles to overcome. Brady will cap off is third MVP season with a Lombardi Trophy. Let the national collective self loathing begin.