2017 NFL SEASON
T U E S D A Y ’ S G O N E:
S U P E R B O W L L I I
Week 21: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Wild Card Round: 2-2 wins; 3-1 v. spread
Divisional Round: 2-2 wins; 2-1-1 v. spread
Championship Round 2-0 wins; 2-0 v. spread
Super Bowl LII: 0-1 wins; 1-0 v. spread
2018 NFL Playoffs total: 6-5 wins; 8-1-1 v. spread
Note/Key: Statistical analysis based on the following metrics (abbreviations): Points scored (PF); points against (PA); Point differential (PD) Yards gained (YG); Yards allowed (YA); Red Zone TD efficiency (RZ); 3rd-down efficiency (3rd); Turnover ratio (TO); Time of possession (TOP); Yards per play (YPP); Sacks (S); Interceptions (INT); Penalty yards (PEN).
Philadelphia Eagles #1 (-4.5) @ New England Patriots #1 (48.5): Patriots 27-24 Eagles 41-33
Sunday, 6:30 PM, US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: Indoors)
Reasons: The Patriots are playing in the Super Bowl for the second straight year and the third time in the past four seasons while the Eagles haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 2004, when they lost to the Patriots. Not these Patriots, per se, but certainly Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Or should I say that the other way around? That was a close and exciting Super Bowl, highlighted by a puking Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens on a broken leg for Philadelphia and a win for New England. My in-laws have never gotten over it. Super Bowl LII should be just as exciting as both conferences’ top seed ended up in the title game, despite the Eagles losing their MVP-candidate quarterback Carson Wentz towards the end of the regular season. After winning Super Bowl LI in miraculous fashion, and then having the best off-season of any returning Super Bowl champion in the league’s history (sans losing top wide receiver Julian Edleman in the preseason), New England entered the 2017 season the heaviest Super Bowl favorites in Las Vegas history; the same could not be said for Philadelphia. Despite the long odds, Carson Wentz, a top-3 running game realized over the course of the season and a frightening defense led by arguably the best front line defender in the NFL in Fletcher Cox helped propel the Eagles to the Super Bowl as the best team in the NFC; in other words, the Eagles are no Cinderella. The problem is, even Eagle fans are secretly worried Nick Foles could turn into a pumpkin once the lights go on and the Eagles are suddenly face-to-face with a team that has been to five Super Bowls since they lost to these Patriots 14 years ago.
Philadelphia’s offense ended the regular season tied for 2nd in points scored (28.6), only 1.3 ppg from the league’s top spot; guess who they tied with? New England. Philadelphia’s intimidating defense only gave up 18.4 ppg, good for 4th in the NFL; New England’s ridiculed defense ranked 5th at 18.5 ppg. If that shocks you, it shouldn’t, because the Patriots have long been known for their “bend-don’t break” defensive mentality and most of that media coverage came when people were shocked the Patriots were near the bottom of the league in defense. It’s amazing what a good coach can do with game film and some time. A more seasoned fan might point to the difference in yards allowed, where Philadelphia ranks 7th and New England ranks 20th, but I would counter with the fact that only 59 ypg separates the two teams and those 59 ypg could be explained away by early season miscommunications, or more realistically, teams racking up garbage passing yards in lopsided games.
These two teams are very evenly matched, but they don’t match up great, if that makes sense. The Patriots get after the quarterback (7th w/ 42 sacks), but the Eagles don’t (15th); the Eagles are ball hawks (4th w/ 19 INTs), but the Patriots, stacked with Pro-Bowl defensive backs, don’t (18th). The Patriots have the league’s top passing attack; the Eagles pass defense is ranked 17th. The Eagles have the league’s top rushing attack; the Patriots run defense is ranked 20th. One of the key matchups in the game will be the Eagles top-ranked run defense against the Patriots 10th-ranked rushing game. That matchup could largely depend on how well the Patriots defend Cox, which will certainly be double teams and a running back chip, which is going to leave an Eagles defender, most likely Chris Long or Brandon Graham, wide open; that’s a problem for Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who’s going to have his hands full all game. Another key matchup will be tight end Rob Gronkowski, fresh off the concussion protocol, against the Eagles linebackers, some of the worst tight end defenders in the league.
The biggest mismatch in the game will be experience. Tom Brady has more Super Bowl experience than the entire Eagles team. The Patriots have 60 combined Super Bowl games worth of experience taking the field Sunday; the Eagles have six. Philadelphia entered the game the biggest underdogs in Super Bowl history, although that mark may have been bet down over the course of two weeks. The Patriots, on the other hand, are 9-1 in the playoffs in the past four years, have won two Super Bowls in that stretch, and came into the season so favored it wasn’t even worth betting on them unless you were a multi-millionaire. So what gives? That one New England loss in those previous ten playoff games, that’s what gives. Tom Brady was pressured 24 times in that game and they lost; therein lies the key to the Eagles winning Super Bowl LII. Pressure Tom Brady, disrupt his timing, make him regret the timing of his Tom v. Time documentary release, and Philadelphia wins the game. It could be that simple. If the Patriots gain anything on the ground and open up play action, the Eagles are dead, as I doubt Foles can keep up with a free flowing Brady; but if they stop the Patriots run game and pressure Brady, we could see the Brady we saw in those two Super Bowl losses against the New York Giants. The difference here is Philadelphia has a much better offense than either of those Giants teams, and an equally scary defense, especially if Cox, Graham and Long get loose. The Philadelphia Eagles may have entered Super Bowl LII media week the largest Super Bowl underdogs in the game’s history, but all the pressure is on New England to keep their 40-year-old Golden “Boy” upright, otherwise they have no chance. New England wins their 3rd Super Bowl in four years, but the Eagles cover, turning the City of Brotherly Love into the City of Patriot Hate…if it wasn’t already.
The New England Patriots provided yet another thrilling Super Bowl last week, their second straight, and eighth in the past 17 years, but ultimately came up short against the Philadelphia Eagles, a city destined to burn to the ground. The Eagles, led by Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles (28-43 for 373 yards; 3 TDs; 1 INT), completed 12 of 18 3rd- and 4th-down conversions on offense, almost unheard of, especially against a Bill Belichick-led defense, and made the defensive play of the game when the moment was biggest, strip-sacking Tom Brady as Brady attempted the go-ahead drive. Sound familiar? The Patriots managed the same type of momentous defensive play to help seal their fate in Super Bowl LI, but that was miraculous; this Eagles play, led by Brandon Graham and assisted by Chris Long (sound familiar???), wasn’t miraculous, it was just incredible. I think I may have mentioned those guys making a difference. Another major difference was that Dante Scarnecchia vs. Fletcher Cox matchup, which Scanecchia largely won. In fact, the Eagles defensive front didn’t really shake Tom Brady up at all (1 sack), as Brady threw for a playoff record 505 passing yards, but it was that pivotal strip-sack that sealed the game for the Eagles. That’s all these games take sometimes is one pivotal play; or, as in this game, it takes myriad.
Super Bowl LII provided record-breaking combined total yards (1151) and individual performances (Tom Brady: 28-48 passing for 505 yards; 3 TDs), but also provided a game in which the Eagles never trailed until 9:22 in the 4th quarter, when the entire city of Philadelphia started collectively shitting themselves, despite what they might tell you at the parade as they actually eat horse shit. Unfortunately that’s not even trash talk, but I digress. Super Bowl LII also provided plenty of drama and controversy, with several key injuries, several blatant non-calls, a few controversial TDs, special teams melt downs and a mystery about the Patriots best defensive back, Malcolm Butler, who was mysteriously benched hours before the game despite playing a team-high 98% of defensive snaps throughout the season. The mystery only deepened as Belichick gave us nothing, but the media gave us theories ranging from the flu to weed to Rick Ross. Regardless, it could be argued – very successfully – that Belichick’s normally rigid working ways turned into foolish pride on the biggest stage in American sports and helped cost the Patriots their record-tying 6th Super Bowl championship.
In the end this game belonged to Doug Pederson and the Philadelphia Eagles from beginning to end, highlighted by Pederson’s signature aggressive play calling and 4th-down decisions, an offensive line that kept Nick Foles upright all day, and a defense that made the right plays at the right time. New England did what they do best, playing from behind and nearly snatching the victory right out of the talons of Philadelphia, but the Eagles are no Falcons, and the same guy who helped the Patriots win Super Bowl LI helped the Eagles win Super Bowl LII, and it couldn’t have happened to a better man (Chris Long moonlights as a social activist and has donated his entire 2017 $9.1M salary to various social causes).
In the end this game was a microcosm of the 2017 NFL season: The two best offenses in the NFL (OK, LA Rams scored 1.3 ppg more than these two teams) battled, 2017 MVP Tom Brady broke records and almost stole the victory from one of the best defenses in the NFL, and the Patriots defense, near the bottom in yards allowed all season, gave up a record amount of yards to the Eagles to lose the game. There’s never any telling where Super Bowl contenders will go heading into a new season, but for the first time since the Legion of Boom days I’m inclined to predict the same two teams could make Super Bowl LIII in 2019, but it depends on many things: Will Belichick retire? Will Tom Brady? Who will be the Patriots coordinators? Just kidding, we know Josh McDaniels is coming back. <Chuckles quietly> Will the Eagles team survive the parade? Will Philadelphia be rebuilt by next season? If the team and city survives will pride, contract extensions, an impending quarterback battle and/or the talk show syndicate destroy their 2018 playoff chances? We’ll answer those questions next season. Until then, enjoy the Philadelphia Eagles fans, world. You wanted insufferable Patriots fans to disappear and you got your wish. You know what they say…
SUPER BOWL LII
New England Patriots 33 – 41 Philadelphia Eagles
Super Bowl LII MVP: Nick Foles
Stay tuned for ProFootballMedia.com 2017 NFL Season Review coming February 12th.