Super Bowl 52: Eagles Fly High? Or, Patriots Back to Back?

The Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots head to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota this Sunday on Feb. 4 to battle it out in Super Bowl 52. The Patriots have gone from a -5.5 favorite down to a -4.5 favorite. It’s difficult to see the line changing much from Pats -4.5. In fact, there’s a great chance that the line moves another a full point to Patriots -3.5.

Before getting into which team figures to win Super Bowl 52, I write about how both teams made it to Super Bowl 52.

Who Will Win Super Bowl 52?

Super Bowl 52:  Philadelphia Eagles vs New England Patriots
When:  Feb. 4, 2018 at 6:30 pm ET
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN

Philadelphia Eagles March to Super Bowl 52

Going into the season, the Eagles were 40 to 1 shots to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy. That made Philly a bigger dog in the NFC than the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, Carolina Panthers, and Seattle Seahawks.

How did Philadelphia make it all the way to Super Bowl 52? For the Eagles, it starts at the top. Head Coach Doug Pederson decided to build the Eagles’ offense around a strong rushing attack, and strong short passing attack. In Week 1’s 30 to 17 road win over the rival Washington Redskins, starting QB Carson Wentz threw for 307 yards and 2 TD passes. But, he threw 8 passes each to TE Zach Ertz, RB Darren Sproles, and WR Nelson Agholor. Wentz didn’t unleash it down field on every throw.

In Week 2, a 20 to 27 road loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Pederson’s old team, Wentz threw for 333 yards and 2 TDs. In that game, Wentz did target wide receiver Alshon Jeffery 13 times. The thing is, the Eagles lost to the Kansas City Chiefs.

That’s why from Week 2 on, Pederson’s system revolved around a strong rushing attack, and mostly short passing game. Pederson had Wentz take shots down the field on numerous occasions during every game that Wentz played. He tweaked the system once Wentz went down to a season-ending injury in Week 14, a 43 to 35 win over the L.A. Rams.

From then on, Peterson leaned heavily on a one-two rushing punch. RB Jay Ajayi rushed the football to get the Eagles into position to score. RB LeGarrette Blount pounded the football into the end zone. The Eagles protected back-up QB Nick Foles while allowing their defense to gel.

That philosophy led to a fantastic 15 to 10 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional Round Playoffs. Foles threw for 210 yards and a TD. He only completed 22 of 36, but he didn’t throw a pick. That means Foles was careful with the football.

In the NFC Championship, Pederson unleashed Foles on Minnesota’s defense. Foles played a close to perfect game when he completed 26 of 33 for 352 yards. Foles also threw 3 TD passes. The Eagles rushed for 110 yards from 30 carries.  That means Pederson didn’t change the philosophy too much.

On defense, the Eagles shined in the playoffs. Philly allowed Atlanta to score 10 points. The Eagles held the Vikings to 7 points. Conerback Patrick Robinson started the Eagles’ scoring barrage by picking off Vikings’ QB Case Keenum and running it back 50 yards for the pick six.

New England Patriots March to Super Bowl 52

The New England Patriots entered the 2017-2018 NFL Season as the choice to win Super Bowl 52. New England’s odds were at 3/1 before the season even started. There was no doubt in the minds of many NFL handicappers that the Pats would repeat as Super Bowl champions. Well, there were no doubts until Week 1 when the Pats lost 27 to 42 at home to the Kansas City Chiefs.

In Week 2, New England beat the New Orleans Saints 36 to 20.  Week 3 saw the Patriots hang on to take down the Houston Texans 36 to 33. At 2 and 1, most New England fans felt that the Patriots might be back on track. Then, Week 4 rolled around and Patriots fans’ confidence took a huge blow.

In Week 5, the Carolina Panthers dominated the New England Patriots. Panthers’ QB Cam Newton threw for 316 yards and 3 TD passes. Cam also rushed for 44 yards off 8 carries. He scored a rushing TD. Overall, the Panthers rushed for 140 yards.

What was wrong with the Patriots’ defense? Did New England have any shot of turning things around? Or, were the Patriots dead in the water before Week 8?

The answer to those questions is that New England managed to turn it around big time after the Week 4 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia got his players to buy into his system. Patricia’s system revolves around his defense giving up yards and tightening up in the red zone. New England’s D allows opponents to rack up 366 yards per game on average. That ranks twenty-ninth in the NFL. Opponents pass for 251.2 total yards per game. That ranks thirtieth in the NFL. Opponents rush for 114.8 total yards per game. That ranks twentieth in the NFL. Opponents only score 18.5 points on average per game, though.

That’s where the brilliance of Patricia’s defense comes into play. Since Patricia knows that the best quarterback to ever play in the NFL throws for the Patriots’ offense, he can afford to concentrate on allowing only field goals in the red zone. When New England’s players play Patricia’s defense mistake free, it’s difficult for offenses to get the ball into the end zone.

The 24 to 20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship is a perfect example of how Patricia’s defense works to help New England win football games. Jaguars’ QB Blake Bortles threw for 293 yards. He threw a TD pass. The Jags rushed for 101 yards. In 4 trips to the red zone, the Jaguars could only score 2 TDs. That’s what allowed Tom Brady to mount New England’s comeback. If the Jaguars had scored 4 TDs, heck, 3 TDs and a field goal, Brady wouldn’t have rallied the Patriots to a win in regulation.

The Eagles must capitalize by scoring TDs once they get the ball into the red zone. If Philly doesn’t do that, New England could very well win their second straight Super Bowl and sixth overall.

Super Bowl 52: Philadelphia Eagles versus New England Patriots

There are plenty of dramatic story lines for Super Bowl 52. Tom Brady can continue to grow his legend by winning his sixth straight Super Bowl. The Patriots can be the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since Brady and Belichick did it in 2004 and 2005. Philadelphia backup QB Nick Foles could lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl 52 win after knocking around in the NFL for the past few seasons.

Stories are great. Stories won’t win football games. What will win football games is strategy. That’s why I’m going with the Philadelphia Eagles to beat the New England Patriots straight up, and cover the spread this Sunday on Feb. 4.

After Eagles’ owner Jeff Laurie hired Doug Pederson as coach, I thought Philly might turn into one of the better teams in the NFL. Pederson had devised Kansas City’s powerful offense. I knew he’d create a good football team. I didn’t think he’d do it in year 2 although, to be fair to myself, I did feel the Eagles were going off at overlay odds at 40 to 1.

Although I’ve always been a fan of Pederson, I didn’t believe they had a shot in the playoffs. Why? QB Nick Foles looked terrible versus both the Oakland Raiders in Week 16 and the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17. After Foles performance against the Atlanta Falcons, I changed my mind. Foles played it cool throughout the whole game.

I still didn’t think that he had what it takes for the Eagles to beat either the Jacksonville Jaguars or the New England Patriots. But, then, Foles played a masterful game against the Minnesota Vikings. What it tells me is that Pederson has worked with Foles to the point where whatever strategy he comes up with, Foles is going to employ.

The Eagles’ defense doesn’t have to shut down New England’s offense. There’s a chance the Eagles might, but they don’t have to. I believe Pederson will have developed the right strategy to turn red zone opportunities into TDs while keeping the ball away from Terrific Tom Brady and New England’s offense. The Eagles are the team to back to win straight up and against the spread. Philly should beat the New England Patriots by 10 to 16 points.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson

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