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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Week 21: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) SUPER BOWL LII EDITION


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

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
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. 

 The New England Patriots are playing in their 8th Super Bowl in the Bill Belichik-Tom Brady era, nearly a Super Bowl appearance every other season.

           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. 

 The Philadelphia Eagles defensive front is led by Fletcher Cox (91), arguably the hardest man to defend in the entire NFL.

           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. 

 Tom Brady has more Super Bowl experience than the entire Philadelphia Eagles team, which could be the key to game. Duh.

           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.


New England Patriots 27 – 24 Philadelphia Eagles

Super Bowl LII MVP: Tom Brady

Stay tuned for Tuesday’s Gone: Week 21: #NFL Game Reviews SUPER BOWL LII EDITION coming February 6th.

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