By Justin Thomas
The Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots come into Super Bowl LII in one of the more anticipated Super Bowls in recent memory. The Patriots are in the Super Bowl for the 2nd straight year while the Eagles are in the big game for the first time since 2004. Both teams come in riding a wave of confidence from their championship games. For the Patriots they come off of a thrilling comeback win against the Jaguars. They trailed late into the game until a touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Danny Amendoula gave the Pats the lead. The Patriots were able to halt Jacksonville’s comeback efforts as Stephon Gilmore made a great play on 4th down deflecting a pass. For the Eagles, they absolutely dismantled the Vikings in the NFC championship game 38-7. Nick Foles balled out, throwing for 352 yards, 3 touchdowns and had a passer rating of 141.4. The defense also forced three turnovers including an interception return for a touchdown by Patrick Robinson.
For New England, the legacy and hall of fame careers of both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have already been cemented and a 6th championship for the duo would be truly iconic. Although the Patriots finished the season 13-3 it wasn’t as dominating of a season as we’ve seen from past Patriot teams. They were not very good defensibly and there were points where the offense struggled as well. Rob Gronkowski left the AFC championship game with a concussion and cleared the concussion protocol a few days ago. That’ll be huge for the Patriots passing game as it gives Brady his favorite target back. One thing the Patriots do really well on offense as well is use the running backs in the passing game. They are especially targets down inside the redzone. If the Patriots want to hoist yet another Lombardi trophy they need to do this:
1. Strike early: The Eagles, as well as they’ve been playing lately don’t have the offensive firepower to comeback from 2 or 3 scores down.
2. Get off the field on defense: The Patriots are best when Brady is on the field. The defense needs to get off the field as much as they can on 3rd down.
When Carson Wentz went down for the season with an acl injury during the late stages of the regular season there weren’t many who believed Philadelphia would be where they are right now. It’s safe to say even some Philly faithful may have had doubts on Nick Foles leading the team to the promise land. However here they are and the confidence level of the team and the city after that NFC championship game is sky high. The Eagles biggest strength is clearly their defense. They have a formidable front 7, arguably the best in the league when you look at their edge rushers in Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham, as well as linebackers Mychal Kendricks and Jordan Hicks. Their secondary has also come up big this season as Malcolm Jenkins, Jalen Mills and the rest of the DBs have really stepped up. On offense the Eagles’ mid season acquisition of Jay Ajayi was a big bonus as well to help compliment the power rushing style of LeGarrette Blount. The Eagles wide receivers have been solid all season and Zach Ertz has been a consistent producer throughout the year for not only Wentz but also Foles. If the Eagles want to bring a title to Philly they must do this:
- Pressure Brady: The Eagles front 7 need to make Brady uncomfortable all game. That not only means rushing from the edge but also applying pressure up the middle.
- Ground and Pound: The Patriots had one of the worst run defenses in the league this season. If the Eagles want to be successful they need to run the ball down New England’s throat.
- Control Time of Possession: Tom Brady can’t beat you if he is not on the field. In the Patriots’ 3 losses this season they lost the Time of Possession battle in each game. The longer the Eagles offense stays on the field, the less damage Brady can do