Time for Another Patriots Title...or Maybe Not?

Sharon Thorsland
February 02, 2018 - 7:33 am

USA Today Images

It's time for the best Sunday of the year – Super Bowl Sunday. It's the Patriots versus the Eagles in Minneapolis, a match-up which lots of people predicted earlier in the season, at least before week 14. That's when Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz went down with a season ending knee injury and the gnashing of teeth began in Philadelphia. But somehow beleaguered backup Nick Foles managed to guide the Eagles to the promised land, the Patriots did what the Patriots do, and here we are. It's the second time these teams have met for the championship – they played back in 2005 when the Patriots beat the Eagles 24-21 in Super Bowl XXXIX.

The Eagles are an overwhelming underdog in this game. They're taking on the evil empire of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, so most of the country is pulling for a Philadelphia win. Do they have a chance?  These teams are actually very similar on paper, especially offensively. The Patriots enter the game with the league's number one ranked offense, and are second in scoring at over 28 points a game. The Eagles are right behind them in scoring, and boast the NFL's 3rd ranked running attack, which picks up 132 yards a contest behind Jay Ajayi and former Patriot LaGarrette Blount. And the Eagles picked apart Minnesota's vaunted defense in the NFC Championship game, racking up 456 yards and 38 points against the Vikings. 

Where the Eagles have a decided edge, though, is on defense. The Eagles finished the regular season ranked 3rd in the league in total defense and were first against the run, allowing just 79 yards a game. But they're vulnerable against the pass, ranking 17thafter allowing 227 yards per game through the air. And that's not good when you're facing Brady and the league's 2nd ranked passing attack. Of course, the Patriots finished a dismal 29th in total defense. But even though they give up a lot of yards per game, they're stingy when it counts, ranking 5th in the league allowing just 18.5 points a game, just behind the 4th ranked Eagles (18.4 ppg). 

It's no secret that to beat the Patriots, you've got to bring pressure up the middle and get to Brady. The Eagles have a tremendous defensive front that has the potential to give the 40-year old fits, led by outstanding defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. As far as the Patriots go, I'm guessing they'll try to slow down Ajayi and the Eagles rushing attack and force Foles to beat them. And much as I admire what Foles has been able to do this postseason, I just don't think he can lead this team to a win when he's got Belichick scheming against him. 

I'm really looking forward to this game, it has the makings of a great one. So who wins it?  I'm not a fan of either team – who isn't tired of the Patriots and their dominance, and I'm still tired of hearing “E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles!” from my trip to Philly when the Panthers beat them in the NFC Championship game back in 2004 (remember Ricky Manning Jr. and his three interceptions? Man was that fun!). But after erasing a 10-point fourth quarter deficit against Jacksonville in the AFC title game, and of course last year's crazy comeback against the Falcons in the Super Bowl, how can you bet against the Patriots?  I can't - Patriots win it, 28-20.

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