The Eagles will be playing in their first Super Bowl since they lost to the Patriots back in 2004, when they had a dynamic duo in Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens. Back then, the Eagles had Andy Reid at the helm. A decade later, Doug Pederson, an Andy Reid disciple, has now taken center stage to try and do something that his counterpart has yet to do. Beat Bill Belichick in a playoff game.
This game has a ton of storylines. Starting with Gronk’s concussion protocol, to the ‘what if’ Carson Wentz was playing, to the possibility of Chris Long and LeGarrette Blount of winning back to back Super Bowl’s with two different teams. If the Eagles can win this game, it will certainly put another dent in the current legacy of the Patriots and if the Pats win, they will be still be cementing their legacy as one of the most dominant runs ever in sports history. Safe to say that there is a lot on the line for each team.
The optics of this game feels like it’s going to be a close game, with the Eagles notoriously playing the underdog card. However, considering Philly’s underdog run without their MVP candidate Cason Wentz, this game feels like is relatively evenly matched, besides the quarterback match-up. Philly’s front seven is disruptive and they legitimately have seven players who can rush the passer. New England has had its up’s and downs on defense, but they tend to always make plays in the 4th quarter. When it comes down to it, this game will most likely be decided in the 4th quarter, just like every other Patriots’ Super Bowl. Here is my overall analysis from what I see with both teams.
Best Player: Fletcher Cox. If it wasn’t for a bizarre injury this would most likely go to Carson Wentz. However, Fletcher Cox is hands down one of the best interior defensive lineman in the league. He is ferocious and always has his foot on the gas pedal. His football I.Q. is tremendous, he can stop the run, pressure the quarterback and read screen plays instantly, which may cause significant problems for the Patriots quick screen game which they always rely on down the stretch.
X-Factor: Zach Ertz. A few years ago Andy Reid (and unfortunately Chip Kelly) loved how Zach Ertz was one of the more efficient route runners in the NFL. That say’s a lot considering that Ertz plays tight end yet runs routes like a wide receiver. Ertz is unique in a way like Gronkowski because he instantly creates a one on one matchup problem. In a few years, he may be compared to other great TE’s. As of right now, he is widely regarded as Philly’s most dangerous weapon. Expect to see a lot of one on one matchups with Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty, New England’s two best safeties.
Matchup to Watch: Brandon Graham vs Nate Solder. Everyone knows that to beat the Patriots, you need to pressure Tom Brady with just a four-man rush. Brady typically destroys teams who blitz often, so it would be ill-advised if the Eagles started blitzing Brady early in this game. Therefore, the pass rushers in this game must prevail in order of the Eagles to have a shot. Graham has had a terrific season and I think that Nate Solder must hold up to protect Brady’s blindside. This should be a fun matchup all game long.
Best Player (that’s not named Tom Brady): Rob Gronkowski. The concussion is obviously a red flag, but since he has been officially cleared from concussion protocol, Gronk is hands down the toughest offensive player to guard in the NFL. Even if Gronk only plays 50% of the snaps on offense, the offense will still be dynamic. If the Eagles plan on double teaming Gronk, you can almost guarantee that Brady will find another matchup to exploit. Even if you do double team Gronk, he probably will still manage to come through with some clutch grabs in traffic.
X-Factor: Dion Lewis. Honestly, Dion Lewis might have been the most consistent player on the Pats for the second half of this season. In his two playoff games this year, he is averaging 4.0 yards a carry and has 16 receptions for 111 yards. That’s right, 16 receptions! He will be expecting at least 20 touches in the Super Bowl. Lewis himself wants to do well in this game because it’s against his former team that cut him almost 4 years ago. Let’s hope the score doesn’t get out of hand again, so that Dion can be used often in this game. Expect him to have a chip on his shoulder against his former teammates.
Matchup to Watch: Eric Rowe vs Nelson Agholor. Alshon Jeffery has had a monster season and he is physically the best WR on the Eagles. However, Agholor led the team in receptions in the regular season and will most likely be playing opposite of Alshon Jeffery. I expect Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore to stay with Jeffery or Ertz, so when Nick Foles uses RPO’s (Run Pass Option), there tends to be a lot of movement on the front seven. Rowe will need to be disciplined enough to cover his receiver at all times, even during these RPO’s. Rowe has had an up and down season in the slot and I expect the Eagles to taken advantage of him in the secondary. Ya know, just stay away from Butler in the end zone.
Offense – Patriots, slightly
Defense – Eagles, slightly
Coaching – Patriots, landslide
Special Teams – Patriots, landslide
Brady wins his 5th Super Bowl MVP as the Patriots beat the Eagles late in the 4th quarter again, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest NFL players of all time. Patriots 26 Eagles 20