Although the 2017-2018 Philadelphia Eagles managed to garner the top record in the NFC, Philly’s march to Super Bowl 52 wasn’t a foregone conclusion. In fact, the Eagles beat the Atlanta Falcons 15 to 10 in the Divisional Round as a +2.5 home favorite. Philly had to beat the Minnesota Vikings straight up in the NFC Championship as a +3 home dog.
The Eagles’ performance against the Minnesota Vikings is precisely why so many football fans believe Philadelphia has a shot at upsetting the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52. Before beating the Vikings 38 to 7, the projected Super Bowl 52 odds were Patriots -7.5. After the Eagles thoroughly dismantled the Vikings, the odds fell to Patriots -5.5.
Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl 52 Profile
I analyze Philadelphia’s offense, defense, and coaching staff. I also take a hard look at any intangibles the Philadelphia Eagles have that could lead to a Super Bowl 52 win.
Philadelphia Eagles Offense
Last season, Philadelphia’s offense showed signs that it might be one of the better offenses in the NFL. This season, the Eagles’ offense became one of the best in the NFL. There’s no doubt that acquiring running backs LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi are the reasons why Philly’s offense has blossomed.
Blount, acquired before the season started, rushed for 766 yards from 173 carries. That equates to 4.4 rush yards per carry. Blount also scored 2 rushing TDs during the regular season. LeGarrette caught 8 passes for 50 yards. He caught a TD pass.
The Eagles acquired Jay Ajayi during the middle of the season. As an Eagle, Ajayi rushed for 408 yards from 70 carries. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry, scored a rushing TD, and caught 10 passes for 91 yards. He also caught a passing TD.
Philly makes no bones about their running game. Both Blount and Ajayi split time in the backfield. Coach Doug Pederson prefers it that way. The reason is so that each running back, with every carry, remains fresh. This season, Pederson’s rushing attack has worked close to perfection. The Eagles averaged 132.2 rushing yards per game. That ranks 3rd in the NFL. With such a strong rushing attack, it makes sense why the passing attack flourished.
When QB Carson Wentz was under center, the Philadelphia Eagles had one of the most feared passing games in the NFL. Wentz became injured late in the regular season. In stepped Nick Foles. Foles was brilliant in his first game versus the New York Giants. However, he took a step a back against both the Oakland Raiders in Week 16 and the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17.
Nobody knew what Nick Foles to expect versus the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Divisional Round. Foles didn’t throw a TD pass. But, he played much better than many NFL fans thought he would. Not throwing a TD pass isn’t an issue because Philly’s offensive strategy was based around rushing the football, and controlling the play clock.
Foles threw for 246 yards. He didn’t make a mistake. He completed 23 of 30 passes. This is where Foles impressed me. He didn’t rush at any point during the game. That’s when I knew that Foles might be good enough for the Eagles to upset the Vikings.
In the 38 to 7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship, Foles was flat out brilliant. He completed 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards. He also threw 3 TD passes. Coach Pederson decided to allow Foles to go off. That’s exactly what the former University of Arizona quarterback did. He went off big time versus the best defense in the NFL.
Philadelphia Eagles Defense
Based on the Philadelphia Eagles’ overall defensive stats, it’s hard to give them much shot versus New England’s powerful offense. The Eagles allow 227.3 passing yards per game. That ranks 17th in the NFL. That’s not nearly good enough for Philly to stop QB Tom Brady and the Patriots’ passing attack, right?
A closer look reveals that the Eagles’ have a great defensive strategy, though. Sure, the Eagles allow more passing yards than 16 other teams in the NFL on average. However, the total yards that Philly allows is only 306.5. Why? Philadelphia is fantastic versus the rush. The Eagles rank first in rushing yards allowed per game. Philly gives up 79.3 rushing yards per.
When it comes to the only defensive stat that really matters, points allowed, Philadelphia is in the Top 5. The Philadelphia Eagles allow 18.4 points per game. That ranks 4th in the NFL.
What’s scary about the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense is that it may not have peaked just yet. Philly’s D held the Oakland Raiders to 10 points in a 19 to 10 win over the Raiders in Week 16. Raider QB Derek Carr completed 15 of 29 passes for 140 yards. He threw 2 picks to a TD pass. In Week 16, the Eagles’ D held the at full strength Dallas Cowboys’ offense to 6 total points. Dallas QB Dak Prescott completed 17 of 30 for 179 yards. Dak only threw a single TD pass.
Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, with WR Julio Jones at close to 100%, had a much better stat line than either Prescott, or Carr. Ryan completed 22 of 36 for 210 yards and a TD. Ryan’s decent outing didn’t lead to an Atlanta victory, though. Ryan could only muster 10 points for the defending NFC Champions.
Philly’s defense was even better in the NFC Championship. The Eagles picked off Vikings’ QB Case Keenum twice. They stripped the ball out of his hands and rushed it in for the first TD. WR Stefon Diggs caught 8 of 12 passes. He caught 4 of his 8 passes in the fourth quarter. That tells me not only did the Eagles upset Philly’s passing attack, they managed to switch it up on defense, and still be effective.
That’s a huge sign that the Eagles defense is ready to roll. Philly’s D is playing better right now than it has all season long.
Philadelphia Eagles Coaching Staff
In the NFL, things start at the top. That’s no different for the Philadelphia Eagles. At the top is one of the most creative football minds in the league, Head Coach Doug Pederson. Pederson created the offensive system at Kansas City. He ensured that QB Alex Smith could excel. He also ensured that RB Jamal Charles became one of the top running backs in the NFL. That’s where Pederson’s offensive prowess has come from. He’s a true mix it up type of offensive coach, meaning he’s not afraid to set the running game up with the pass, or vice versa.
His real talents is in hiring coordinators. Like the very best head coaches in the NFL, Pederson hired a defensive coordinator that can work on his own. D-coordinator Jim Schwartz was a decent head coach at Detroit. He’s an awesome defensive coordinator at Philadelphia. Schwartz has free reign. That’s what good head coaches do. They give their coordinators the freedom to excel.
Pederson has given free reign to offensive coordinator Frank Reich as well. Reich is one of the most legendary backup quarterbacks in the history of the league. He was part of The Comeback, the Buffalo Bills amazing 41 to 38 win over the Houston Oilers in a 1993 playoff game where the Bills were down by 32 points.
What Are the Eagles’ Intangibles?
Philadelphia’s biggest intangible might be the asset that their fans are most afraid of, quarterback Nick Foles. At one time, Foles was a starter at Philadelphia. He left in the purge that occurred after Philadelphia owner Jeff Laurie fired Chip Kelly.
Foles came back because he’s a Doug Pederson kind of quarterback. Pederson is used to working with QBs that don’t make mistakes. Foles made no mistakes at any point during 8 quarters in the playoffs. He’s an intangible in the sense that he can burn New England’s defense if the Patriots don’t take him seriously.
Another intangible is Philadelphia’s underdog status. The Eagles were underdogs versus Atlanta. They responded. They were underdogs against the Minnesota Vikings. Again, they responded. The best team in the NFC is used to being the dog. They relish it.
Things appear to be setting up well for the NFC Champions heading into Super Bowl 52.