The NFL celebrates the 52nd Super Bowl in spectacular fashion this Sunday as the eyes of the world focus on U.S. Bank Stadium in frigid Minneapolis, Minnesota. Beyond the fanfare, media circus, halftime lunacy, or the over the top analysis, the final two teams left standing from the 2017 NFL Season square off for the ultimate validation of their season.
This year’s Super Bowl could not feature two more evenly matched teams. From early on this past NFL Season both teams seemed unstoppable and went on to secure the number 1 playoff seed in their respective conferences. Both feature Top 10 scoring offenses and Top 5 scoring defenses.
The Philadelphia Eagles (15-3) enter this game after the dismantling of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game to the tune of 38-7 behind the arm of backup quarterback Nick Foles. While they have had led pretty much wire to wire in the NFC, they have embraced the underdog role while rallying behind their new starting quarterback after the late season injury of Carson Wentz. For the New England Patriots, they have fulfilled their preseason hype by returning to the Super Bowl for their record 10th time (8th during the Belichick and Brady Era) and look to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl Champions since their back to back victories in the 2003 & 2004 season.
While the Philadelphia Eagles hold the all-time series lead 7-6, New England has the ultimate trump card with their victory over the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. In that game, the Patriots secured their place as the first NFL Dynasty of the 21st Century be besting the Andy Reid led Eagles 24-21.
The chance to be immortalized in Super Bowl history is on the line so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – PATRIOTS: Though the Eagles figured out the best way to utilize Nick Foles during the NFC Championship game, the Patriots’ Tom Brady has a been in Championship situations before and has repeatedly shown the ability to rise to the occasion when the pressure has been the greatest.
Running Backs – PATRIOTS: The power back tandem of LaGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi has been a tremendous offensive juggernaut for the Eagles this season. However the Patriots’ running back stables have significantly greater amount of yards from scrimmage and more touchdowns this season.
Wide Receivers – PUSH: Statistically, both WR groups are relatively even production wise. The Patriots do have slightly more yardage while the Eagles have slightly more touchdowns.
Tight Ends – EVEN: Both teams’ leading receivers, from a production standpoints, are their Tight Ends. If the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski was 100%, this matchup would greatly favor the Patriots because his production is greater than all of Philadelphia’s Tight Ends put together. However, coming off a head injury, this may limit Gronkowski’s play making ability though he will probably be the best decoy on the field.
Offensive Line – EVEN: Both teams have been relatively even with their ability to run block and protect the passer throughout the season.
Defensive Front Seven – EAGLES: Led by Fletcher Cox, the Eagles’ defensive line boasts the best run defense in the league this year and has done a better job getting to opposing quarterbacks than the Patriots.
Secondary – EAGLES: Though in recent weeks the two secondary units have been almost identical statistically, over the course of the season the Eagles have allowed less yards, less touchdowns, and have held opposing QBs to a lower Quarterback rating.
Special Teams – PATRIOTS: While the Patriots hold the edge in both Kick and Punt returning, the real separation comes from New England’s Stephen Gostkowski who has a significantly higher FG percentage than his Eagles counterpart.
Coaching – PATRIOTS: The Eagles’ Doug Pederson has done a remarkable job rebuilding Philadelphia after the failed Chip Kelly experiment. Whether it was integrating new players via free agency/trades, developing his draft class, or dealing with significant injuries, Pederson should certainly get some votes for Coach of the Year. Unfortunately, this week he goes against Bill Belichick who arguably has become one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. With two weeks to prepare, everyone can be sure that no stone has been left unturned by Belichick in preparation for the Super Bowl.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Key’s to a Patriots Victory:
Withstand the Initial Surge: The Eagles have been on an unbelievable emotional high since beating the Vikings in the NFC Championship. This team has embraced an underdog role and is riding that emotional rollercoaster into the Super Bowl. The Patriots need to stay patient and calm in the early part of this game. Though falling behind is not advantageous early in the game, the players need to stay resilient knowing that they have a head coach who is the best at making in game adjustments and a Quarterback that can lead them back from a deficit.
2) Controlling the Eagles Defensive Line: Though easier said than done, the Patriots Offensive Line needs to be diligent in making the correct pre-snap reads so that Philadelphia’s defensive line does not get off to a strong start. If they allow the Eagles’ Fletcher Cox to get matched up one on one with the Patriots’ Guards, it could be a long night for Tom Brady.
3) Put Pressure on Nick Foles: While Philadelphia’s Nick Foles excelled against the Vikings using the Run/Pass Option, his efficiency has dropped significantly when pressured. Though the Patriots are not a team that blitzes on a regular basis, New England needs to generate enough of a pass rush to get Foles uncomfortable in the pocket.
Sunday’s game will be the 8th Super Bowl New England has played in during the Belichick/Brady era. This game ultimately will be decided by two factors: Can the Patriots Offensive Line manage the line of scrimmage well enough to give Tom Brady time to throw the ball and if the Patriots Defense can slow down the Eagles’ Offense to give New England’s Tom Brady more opportunities with the football.
Expect an excruciatingly close game where the field position battle late in the game determines the winner.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 26 – Eagles 23