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Super Bowl LII Preview

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Quarterbacks Tom Brady (left) and Nick Foles will battle for the Lombardi Trophy this Sunday. New England and Philadelphia will face off in the Super Bowl for the second time. In Super Bowl XXXIX, Brady and the Patriots beat  Donovan McNabb and the Eagles 24-21.

Quarterbacks Tom Brady (left) and Nick Foles will battle for the Lombardi Trophy this Sunday. New England and Philadelphia will face off in the Super Bowl for the second time. In Super Bowl XXXIX, Brady and the Patriots beat Donovan McNabb and the Eagles 24-21.

Photo courtesy of https://coverthespread365.com

Photo courtesy of https://coverthespread365.com

Quarterbacks Tom Brady (left) and Nick Foles will battle for the Lombardi Trophy this Sunday. New England and Philadelphia will face off in the Super Bowl for the second time. In Super Bowl XXXIX, Brady and the Patriots beat Donovan McNabb and the Eagles 24-21.

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One of the biggest sporting events in the world, the Super Bowl, takes place on Sunday, February 4. After a long season of football that included upsets, some crazy plays, and a few unbelievable endings, it’s now just down to two teams:  the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots, a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX.  Many pundits and experts predicted the Pats to be in Minneapolis at the end of the season, but the Eagles, who finished 7-9 last year, have been a complete surprise.

The way both teams qualified for the Super Bowl were very different as well. New England needed to engineer another fourth-quarter comeback thanks to its future Hall of Fame quarterback (and arguably the greatest QB of all time) Tom Brady to beat  a tough but  inexperienced Jaguars team 24-20. The Eagles, however, with backup quarterback Nick Foles, dismantled the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings 38-7 to qualify for their third Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.For the Eagles, nobody expected them to be here at the beginning of the season, even when they secured the NFC’s number one seed. When they lost potential MVP quarterback Carson Wentz with an ACL and LCL injury in week 14 against the Rams, everyone thought it was over. Conversely,  Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick have been to 12 AFC Championship Games together, and this will be their eighth Super Bowl appearance where they have  a record of 5-2 in the big game over the past 17 years, with both losses coming at the hands of the New York Giants.

The Patriots are favored by four points over the Eagles in the Super Bowl, but the Eagles have been underdogs in each of their two playoff wins this year. Nick Foles has been very good in those two games,  throwing for three touchdowns, 598 yards, and compiling a passer rating of of 120.7. Still, many people would say they are at a disadvantage at QB because Foles is a back-up who is going against Tom Brady, possibly the league’s MVP this year..

So let’s take a look at both teams through the eyes of two rabid fans: Tre Williams gives readers a look at his Philadelphia Eagles, while Massachusetts native Joey Palomba previews his New England Patriots.

Tre Williams: This Eagles team is formidable. In the offseason, the Eagles scooped up former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount who was a big piece of the Patriots offense. They also picked up Jay Ajayi midseason from the Miami Dolphins, and signed undrafted rookie RB Corey Clement, who completes their  solid running back core. The biggest improvement over the offseason was probably the wide receiver position. They signed a great all-around receiver, Alshon Jeffery, and also a deep threat in Torrey Smith. A huge piece of the Eagles offense was thirrd year receiver Nelson Agholor, who drastically improved from his first two seasons. The last part of the offense, and maybe the most important, has been the offensive line. The Eagles have one of the  top offensive lines in the league consisting of Pro bowlers Brandon Brooks at guard, tackle Lane Johnson, and first team All Pro center Jason Kelce.

Photo courtesy of http://espn.com
Will WR Alshon Jeffery and the Eagles score enough to beat the New England Patriots’ dynasty on football’s biggest stage?

Now their defense is just as good as they have a dominant front seven. The Eagles had the best run defense in the league all season for a reason. They have Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and star defensive end Brandon Graham. They traded for Tim Jernigan from the Ravens last season, and he has been a huge part of the front four. The linebackers are a little bit of a weak link after losing starting middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, then losing his backup Joe Walker. Now Philadelphia is on their third string middle linebacker, Dannell Ellerbe, who is also injured and questionable for the Super Bowl.

The secondary has come a long way for the Eagles this season. After a terrible season last year, the Eagles cornerbacks have improved. With Jalen Mills playing well, their acquisition of Patrick Robinson, and the drafting of Rasul Douglas, the Eagles have a stout defensive backfield. The safeties, Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, have also been very good this season.

As far as  special teams, they’ve had to face  more injuries. Chris Maragos, their best special teams player, got injured at the beginning of the year. Also, Caleb Sturgis, the kicker, got hurt in week one. Then the Eagles picked up rookie kicker Jake Elliott off of the Bengals practice squad, and he has been great hitting loads of clutch field goals all season long.

The Super Bowl, though, could come down to the coaching. This is obviously an advantage for the Patriots with future Hall of Famer Bill Belichick at the helm, but Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson has been very good this year. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has been key in dialling up plays for the defense while offensive coordinator Frank Reich has lead a potent Eagles attack all season long.

Prediction: 27 – 21 Eagles. I think the Eagles defense will keep Tom Brady and the Patriots offense in check, and hold them to 21 points. I also think Nick Foles will pick apart the vulnerable Patriots’ secondary. I think the Eagles, with a back-up quarterback, will put together an incredible story and win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Joey Palomba: Those are good points you made Tre, but here is why the Patriots will take the dub.  They are the team that has single-handedly dominated the AFC for the past decade-and-a-half.  The Pats are infamous for their unrelenting and unpredictable offensive maneuvers, and they are healthy as they’ve been all year heading into Super Bowl LII.   

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski has been cleared to play and will be a big weapon for New England’s offense on Sunday.

However, that is not say that the Patriots have not had their fair share of injuries this season. From star wide receiver Julian Edelman’s torn ACL to All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski’s recent concussion (he has been cleared to play in the big game) to the loss of linebacker and defensive captain Dont’a Hightower to Brady’s injured hand, the Patriots have had to overcome many obstacles this season.  The combined years of experience, though, between Belichick and Brady typically tend to be enough to overcome any opponent in the Patriots’ way.  It seemed to be a great factor in the AFC  Championship against the Jaguars, and possibly will be a factor against inexperienced playoff quarterback Nick Foles.

The Patriots defense is also pretty stout.  Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia has a group of players who have been known to make clutch plays in important games, such as last year’s Super Bowl and New England’s dramatic Week 15 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers just a few weeks ago. Trey Flowers and Alan Branch could put some pressure on Foles, and although they are without Hightower, LBs Kyle Van Noy and late-season pick up James Harrison should be able to stop the Eagles’ strong run game. Corners Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore, along with safeties Devin McCurty and Patrick Chung, should also slow down Foles and the passing game.

Prediction: 27-10 Patriots.The inexperience of Eagles quarterback Nick Foles will surely crack under the experienced and suffocating  Patriots’ defense. The Patriots offensive capabilities, with WRs Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, and Danny “Playoff” Amendola, not to mention their three-headed running attack of Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and James White, (and did I mention Gronk is back?) will be too much  for the Eagles defense.

This, combined with kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s unrivaled  ability will quickly put away the Eagles defense.  The Patriots have been hard at work studying film and past Eagle’s plays in order to find holes and weaknesses in this Eagle’s team.   

I believe that it will be the Eagles to score first, specifically in the first quarter.  The Eagles defense may be able to hold  the Patriots offense for a short time.  However, as the game proceeds, the Patriots will adapt to the Eagles style of play, quickly turning the tide of the game and putting a firm end to the Eagles’ Cinderella run.

Who do you think will win? Take The Neersyde poll here to weight in.

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