Super Bowl week is upon us, a week full of press conferences, interviews and more press conferences. This all leads up to Super Bowl LII on Sunday, when the New England Patriots will face off against the Philadelphia Eagles at U.S. Bank Stadium. Jorge Eckardt and Sean Janos debate whether it will be Nick Foles and the Eagles or Tom Brady and the Patriots that take home the Lombardi Trophy.
Jorge Eckardt: The Eagles are fresh off a complete thrashing of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, and I believe that momentum will carry on through the final game of the season. While yes, they are the underdogs, it is not as big a disparity as one might think. Let’s start with Nick Foles who, while being a backup this season, could easily have been a starter on multiple other teams. Foles has been phenomenal this postseason, achieving a higher passer rating and completion percentage than his future Hall of Fame counterpart.
Moving on to the backfield, the Eagles clearly have the upper hand. The combination of Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount is a force to be reckoned with and definitely stronger than Dion Lewis and James White.
Finally, the Eagles’ defense is undoubtedly much stronger than the Patriots’ defense. Philadelphia has consistently been an elite defensive unit throughout the entire season, while New England has struggled on multiple occasions. This trend has continued into the postseason, as the Eagles have given up half as many total points as the Patriots – not to mention having allowed less yards per game as well. This advantage, when combined with the rest of the Eagles’ assets, will help the City of Philadelphia capture their first ever Super Bowl title.
Sean Janos: While the Patriots’ defense did struggle early in the season, they put it together at the season’s end. Since week 13, the Patriots have surrendered 110 total points. For comparison, the Eagles gave up 129 points over the same span. Much of that can be attributed to the Patriots’ improved rush defense, which will come in handy against the Eagles’ three headed beast of a backfield. In the AFC title game against the Jaguars, who led the league in rushing with 141 yards per game, the Patriots held the Jags backfield to just 101 yards on 32 carries (3.2 yards per rush). With the Patriots’ defense being so tough against the run as of late, I’m confident in their ability to keep points off of the board for Philly.
The Patriots’ biggest strength in this game is undoubtedly going to be Tom Brady. Tom has been terrific in his 18th season. 4577 passing yards (first in the NFL), 32 touchdowns (third in the NFL) and only eight interceptions is just another ho-hum season for the 40-year-old vet. Oh, and he did this without Julian Edelman for the whole season and without Chris Hogan for about half of it. And we all know that when the stakes are at their highest, Tom Terrific somehow finds a way to be even better. He just threw for a record 466 yards in last year’s Super Bowl. He’s borderline magical in Super Bowls, and I’d certainly never bet against him (unless he's playing against Tom Coughlin).
Eckardt: Speaking of Tom Coughlin, one of the main reasons the Giants were able to beat the Patriots was that they were able to get to Brady. The Eagles have two star defensive lineman in Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, and if they are able to pressure “Tom Terrific,” then he will become significantly less terrific, just like in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. Now, even if the Eagles are unable to pressure Brady, there is still another way that they can win, and it is very simple. They simply need to play a full four quarter game. In both of the Patriots’ last two playoff games that were close, both the Falcons and Jaguars went completely cold in the fourth quarter, combining for only three points. If not for a Josh Lambo field goal that took place only eight seconds into the fourth, it would have been zero. Meanwhile, they gave up a combined 34 points to the Patriots in only two total quarters, and add six more points if you count overtime. To put it simply, if the Eagles can manage to stick around for a full game, they will grab the victory.
Janos: See, but here’s the kicker (and I’m not talking about Josh Lambo). Patriots fans will tell you that even if the team is behind in the fourth quarter, they aren’t worried. Brady is the only quarterback with three fourth quarter comebacks in the Super Bowl and 11 game-winning drives in the postseason. Playing a good fourth quarter against New England is way easier said than done.
As for the Patriots’ offensive line, they were able to keep Jacksonville’s Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue off Brady in the AFC Championship. The tandem finished the season ranked T2 and T8 in the NFL in sacks, respectively. New England’s offensive line was able to hold them to zero sacks and one QB hit. As long as New England keeps Cox and Graham off Brady, he should be able to pick Philly’s secondary apart and put a lot of points on that scoreboard.