Super Bowl 52 takes place this Sunday on Feb. 4. The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles hit the field at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota for what should be a fantastic Vince Lombardi Game match up. The odds opened at New England -5.5. Does that mean the Philadelphia Eagles have no shot?
Nope. Philly’s got a big shot to win the NFL Championship. To win the big game, both teams must win their key match ups. Below, I go over Patriots and Eagles keys for victory, by first providing facts about each team’s offense and defense. That way, we can get a glimpse of how each coach might try to win the key match ups.
Super Bowl 52: Patriots and Eagles Keys for Victory
Philadelphia Eagles Offense
The Philadelphia Eagles’ offense averaged 365.8 yards per game. Of those 368.5 total offensive yards, 233.6 were passing yards. Philly rushed for a terrific 132.2 yards per. The Eagles scored 28.6 points per game. Philly ranked third in points scored per game. The Eagles ranked third in rushing yards per. They ranked seventh in total yards per.
Key Match Up: How will QB Nick Foles fair versus the Patriots’ pass defense?
Like what Monty Andrews pointed out in an article on Covers.com, the Patriots’ defense yields 4.6 rushing yards per carry. That’s second worst in the NFL behind the L.A. Chargers. Isn’t the key for Philadelphia’s offense how well they run the ball versus the Patriots’ defense? I don’t think it is.
The Patriots’ give up rushing yards on purpose. You can do that when you average close to 30 points per game. The key for the Eagles’ offense is how well Foles plays versus the Patriots’ pass defense.
The 233.6 passing yards per game must be taken with a grain of salt. After all, the Eagles’ passing attack had one of the top players in the NFL this season, QB Carson Wentz, under center until late in the season. Wentz ran coach Doug Pederson’s offense to perfection.
But, Foles is no joke of a quarterback. He’s been brilliant in the playoffs. He made no mistakes versus a surging Atlanta Falcons’ squad in the Eagles’ 15 to 10 win in the Divisional Round. He flat out dominated a Minnesota Vikings’ defense that allowed an average of 192.4 passing yards per game. Foles threw for 352.4 total yards per. He tossed 3 TD passes. The Eagles absolutely dominated the best defense in the NFL.
The Patriots’ D finds ways to get to the quarterback. If Foles can evade New England’s rush, he could be effective. That’s a huge if. The Patriots’ collapsed the pocket on great rushing QB Marcus Mariota in the win over the Tennessee Titans. New England sacked Mariota eight times. New England sacked Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles 3 times for 20 yards lost.
Will Foles perform like Mariota? Or, will he perform like Bortles? That’s the biggest key on Feb. 4. If Foles manages to evade the Patriots’ rush, the Eagles’ will take a mighty step forward to a Super Bowl 52 win.
Philadelphia Eagles Defense
The Philadelphia Eagles’ defense is one of the best in the NFL. The Eagles allow 306.5 total yards per game. That ranks fourth in the NFL. Of those 306.5 total yards, Philly only allows 227.3 passing yards. Opponents rush for an average of 79.2 yards versus the Philadelphia Eagles’ D. Philly ranks fourth in the NFL in points allowed per game at 18.4.
Key Match Up: Can the Eagles defense get to QB Tom Brady?
Philly’s best chance at success on offense is to protect Nick Foles in the passing game. If Foles has time, he could tear apart a Patriots’ secondary that yields 251.2 passing yards per. Consequently, the key match up for the Philadelphia Eagles will be how often they can get to the GOAT, Patriots’ QB Tom Brady.
Opposing defenses sacked Tom Brady 35 times in 16 NFL Regular Season games. That equates to 2.19 sacks per game. Obviously, that wasn’t enough pressure on Brady because he’s likely to win the NFL MVP. It’s hard to argue against those who voted for Terrific Tom. On the season, Brady completed 385 passes from 581 attempts. He threw for 4,577 yards. He threw 32 TD passes to only 8 interceptions. The GOAT’s QB rating came out to 102.8.
The Eagles must find a way to get to Tom Brady. But, going for sacks probably won’t cut it. If Philadelphia wants to beat the favored New England Patriots, they must get Terrific Tom out of rhythm. That requires more creative pass rush schemes than just blitzing linebackers and safeties. Again, the key isn’t necessarily to sack the GOAT. The key is to get Terrific Tom out of sync with his receivers.
New England Patriots Offense
The best offense in the NFL centers around the greatest of all time, Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady. Brady averaged 276.1 passing yards per game. That ranked second in the NFL. But, the Patriots weren’t just the Terrific Tom Show during the regular season. New England also averaged 118.1 rushing yards per. The Patriots scored 28.6 points per game. That ranked second in the NFL.
Key Match Up: Will New England remain patient on offense?
The New England Patriots played the perfect game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sure, New England fell behind early. However, the Patriots managed to win by unleashing QB Tom Brady. Brady was fantastic in securing his fifty-fourth comeback victory.
There’s a huge question regarding the AFC Championship win, though. Was New England patient on offense because that was offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel’s plan going into the game? Or, were the Patriots patient on offense because of Tom Brady’s injured wrist?
If the answer is Tom Brady’s wrist, New England could be in for a long day on offense. The Eagles’ defense figures to do whatever it takes to force Brady into bad, or at least tough, throws. If McDaniel and Brady try to speed things up on Philadelphia, it could backfire big time.
If the GOAT and the Patriots wish to win Super Bowl 52, they must remain patient. Save the big plays until they need them. Handing the ball over to a solid Philadelphia offense after continuous three and outs won’t be the way to win.
New England Patriots Defense
The Patriots’ defense gives up a ton of yards. New England allows 366 total yards per game. Opponents pass for 251.2 passing yards per. They rush for 114.8 yards per versus the Patriots. New England buckles down when it must, though. The Patriots have one of the best red zone defenses in the NFL. The Patriots give up a ton of yards. They only allow 18.5 points per game. That means New England is either forcing a turnover, or forcing a field goal once opponents reach the red zone.
Key Match Up: Will the Patriots’ red zone defense hold firm versus RB LeGarrette Blount?
On Feb. 4, the Patriots’ defense faces one of last season’s most important teammates, running back LeGarrette Blount. Blount was a workhorse back for the New England Patriots last season. The Pats decided to sign RB Mike Gillislee. Although Gillislee didn’t have a great season with the Patriots, Blount, who decided to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, managed the type of season everyone expected him to have.
Blount is a red zone, bust it through the defense, get it into the end zone running back. There’s no reason for the Philadelphia Eagles to switch things up versus a Patriots D that’s use to everything except stopping an RB like LeGarrette Blount. If the Eagles decide to throw the football, they’re playing right into the Patriots’ hands. If Philly decides to run bootlegs with Nick Foles, again, they’re playing into New England’s hands.
Philadelphia’s going to run LeGarrette Blount once they reach the red zone. Will the Patriots’ defense stop Blount and force field goals? We’re going to have to wait for Feb. 4. to answer that question.