If there was ever a good time for the Philadelphia Eagles to win there first Super Bowl, this would be it.
Even without key cogs like Carson Wentz, Jordan Hicks, Jason Peters and Darren Sproles, the Eagles came from (almost) nowhere to win 13 games, host two home playoff games, reach the Super Bowl and they’ve successfully turned Philly fans everywhere into stark raving lunatics. For some reason the Eagles fans don’t seem to realize they haven’t actually played the Super Bowl yet. But they didn’t let that silly little detail stop them from partying on Broad Street like Meek Mill just got pardoned.
Still, the Eagles have been arguably the most balanced team in football since Week 1. The defense in particular is damn near impenetrable. The offense is far more efficient than they appear. The kicking game is sound. Backup quarterback Nick Foles has filled in admirably for Wentz in the playoffs (75% completions, 598 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 120.75 average passer rating). Excitement for this game is down, which could alleviate some pressure. The Pats could be crumbling internally. NOBODY is rooting for the Patriots outside of New England (including the gambling community, sharps notwithstanding). And the Eagles have bathed in the underdog role as a team, and a city. And it’s worked.
So why not now for the team that hasn’t won an NFL championship since Ben-Hur won Best Picture? What could stop them?
The Patriots, bruh. Of course.
(#1) Philadelphia Eagles vs. (#1) New England Patriots (-4.5)
Sidebar: After going 1-1 on the Conference Championship Games (again, although I absolutely nailed the AFC), ya boy 7-3 in these playoffs overall and 7-2-1 against the spread, with a 6-6 all-time record in the semifinals. With a 3-2 record picking Super Bowls, we’re now sitting at 43-21 all-time picking playoff games.
The most impressive dynasty in the history of major American professional team sports is still humming along. They’ve floated through free agency, coaching defections, injuries, overblown cheating allegations, fictitious cheating allegations and ESPN—all have bounced off their teflon exterior like bullets off Superman.
For New England, they’ve seen tremendous success this postseason when playing with tempo. Tennessee could not stop it; Jacksonville had problems, too. Conversely, Philly has struggled against no-huddle offenses all season. You might argue it’s been their defense’s only kryptonite (okay, that’s enough Superman analogizes).
#Eagles D vs huddle (vs no-huddle)
Comp%: 58.9% (68.0%)
Yards/Att: 6.0 (8.7)
Passer Rating: 73.8 (106.5)
– NFL Avg: 87.3 (86.1)
QB Pressure Rate: 42.2% (36.0%)
– NFL Avg: 35.1% (30.9%)
Total Yards/Play: 4.83 (7.28)
— Pat Thorman (@Pat_Thorman) January 28, 2018
Philly’s defensive line is a mix of depth, talent and versatility that is unmatched in the NFL. Fletcher Cox is likely one of the two best interior linemen in football, while rookie Derrick Barnett, Brandon Graham and former Patriot Chris Long continue to make plays off the edge. All that would be neutralized if Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady keep their collective foot on the accelerator. This also puts more pressure on the Eagles’ secondary, a unit low on household names, but high on talent. The Eagles even beat the Pats in Foxborough the last time they met, with Malcolm Jenkins making an incredible pick six of Brady in that contest. But Tom did pull off one of his most fun plays in recent memory that day.
Most surprising about this Philly Super Bowl run is they’ve done it primarily with their inconsistent backup quarterback, AND little to no help from their run game. Jay Ajayi and former Patriot LaGarrette Blount have been non-factors against the Falcons and Vikings. Granted, Foles has balled out, specifically against Minnesota…
although it may still be a bit presumptuous to suggest he’ll duplicate this performance on this stage against that coach. The good news is for Philly fans looking to slide down greased poles on Sunday night is the Patriots — notorious for taking away a team’s offensive strength — might not know what the Eagles offensive strength actually is.
It should be pointed out that this Patriots defense is not very good. But Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia’s boys have excelled at the “bend (a lot), but don’t break” philosophy. In particular, they never break late in games. Not just this year either—this has been true the last several seasons. Also true the last several years: The Patriots are damn near impossible to kill!
On the cusp of their third Super Bowl title in four years, with their lone defeat coming in a game at Denver where Brady played the majority of the game on his back and still had a chance to tie it with a two-point conversion with under 30 seconds, New England has become quite adept at winning close games. The Ravens Divisional Round game three years ago, the Seattle Super Bowl, the Atlanta Super Bowl, the Jacksonville AFC Championship; it actually feels like they’re due for a loss. Yet this amount of success in close games cannot be an accident. In fact, suggesting that the Patriots are somehow just extremely lucky, or that the refs are cheating for them, or that Brady is on some performance enhancer, is wildly insulting.
Isn’t it funny how the NFL suspended Tom Brady for nothing for a quarter of the season, but now all of a sudden everyone is convinced the league is using the refs to cheat on the Pats’ behalf? How about how the 2001 Rams are still pushing this “They cheated!” narrative 17 years later, even though there’s absolutely no merit to it whatsoever? And isn’t it hilarious how people question Tom Brady (who will win NFL MVP tonight) and his inability to age like a mortal human, when all he’s employed are radical concepts like eating vegetables, getting rest, training smartly, and extensive film study?
Sidebar: I mean, the guy is literally showing you what his secret is, and people still don’t want to believe it.
The truth is New England’s reservoir of big game/big moment experience is unparalleled, and that knowledge goes back much further for the two most important members of the franchise. The Eagles have no chance at matching this; their only hope at winning is putting this thing so far out of reach that a close game isn’t even a possibility, and we now know a 25-point lead with 18 minutes left isn’t enough, or that they somehow step up in crunch time and out-execute a team that has raised late-game situational football to an art form.
Sidebar: When your official team hashtag for the NFL playoffs goes from #OneMore to #NotDone, that’s some G shit.
The Pats may struggle to cover the Eagles receivers at times. The Eagles may get to Brady some. They may force a turnover. Their highs will be really high; they thrive on emotion. Even those bold enough to pick them to win it have done it emotionally.
They dance on the sidelines after interceptions and pose for pictures when things are going well. They guaranteed a win. They look and sound like a talented team that had a lot of fun, but was unprepared when they got to the big game—the 2015 Carolina Panthers.
Super Bowl 50 should’ve taught us to take the more mature, adult football team. That’s always going to be New England, if they’re in it. It’s easy to be more mature under this spotlight when your roster has 60 Super Bowls worth of combined experience (the Eagles roster has just seven). Danny Amendola’s Julian Edelman impression was superb last week, but “Dola” has proven to have Brady’s trust in the clutch many times before. Rob Gronkowski is coming back—other athletic tight ends, such as Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed, Evan Engram and Jimmy Graham all had productive-to-outstanding games against this Philadelphia defense. The Pats know this, but so do the Eagles. Philly may sellout to stop a less than 100% Gronk, but that will only open up the field for Amendola, Cooks, Hogan and that platoon of pass-catching backs. Belichick has stated publicly that his team is focused, a remark he wouldn’t make flippantly. Meanwhile, the Eagles have been physically ill all week.
Sidebar: Wait, did somebody just mention the Eagles and “illness” in the same breath about a Super Bowl against the Patriots?
Everyone is now fully aware the Patriots haven’t scored a single point in the first quarter of any of the seven Super Bowls in the Brady-Belichick era; therefore, everyone is predicting it to happen again. So you know it won’t—New England will get on the board early. Everyone is also fully aware of how close the Patriots’ Super Bowls have been. So everyone is expecting it again. Naturally, ya boy is going the other way.
This game will be competitive, but New England will be in control for the majority of the night. A backdoor cover is in play, but the Pats hurry-up pace and attention to detail against a team making their debut on this stage will carry them to another Lombardi Trophy. New England wins and covers.
It may be boring, but greatness is greatness. Appreciate it.
Kenneth’s Super Bowl Champion: New England Patriots
Anthony’s Super Bowl Champion: New England Patriots