BY: JD PELEGRINO
This Sunday, Feb. 4, is the big day for many in America and abroad because at 6:30 ET, Super Bowl LII will commence. This year, the New England Patriots (13-3) finished as the first seed in the AFC under Coach Bill Belichick with future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. The Philadelphia Eagles (13-3), coached by Doug Pederson, finished the 2017-2018 season as the NFC champions.
U.S. Bank Stadium will host the match-up between the top two teams. U.S. Bank Stadium is home to the Minnesota Vikings, located in Minneapolis, and is only two years old. Vegas odds have New England the 4.5 point favorites in the game, but many have speculated that Brady’s time is coming to an end as a professional athlete and that this Eagles squad could be the team to stop him.
Throughout the regular season, the Eagles have posed a more dominant run game averaging 132.2 rush yards per game. The Patriots are not far behind, rushing 118.1 rush yards per game (espn.com). Both teams carry a variety of running backs on their depth charts. Dion Lewis, James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee and Brandon Bolden contribute to the ground game for the Patriots. Throughout the playoffs, Dion Lewis has served as the work horse on the ground, while James White catches passes out of the backfield, mainly on third downs.
The Eagles have leaned heavily on LeGarrette Blount this season, until acquiring Jay Ajayi in a trade from the Miami Dolphins. Blount and Ajayi have taken care of most ground work, while Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood have been more of the receiving backs.
Throughout the passing game, Tom Brady, at 40 years old, has led the NFL in passing yards with 4,557 yards. Brady has proven to the audience of the NFL that he is not human. Starting quarterback for the Eagles, Carson Wentz, forfeited the remainder of his season after a knee injury in the 43-35 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Heading into the Super Bowl, Nick Foles, will start quarterback for the Eagles. Foles finished the remainder of the regular season and has taken the team to the Super Bowl.
Although “defense wins championships,” the story of Super Bowl LII will be that of two high powered offenses. Wide receivers: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Torrey Smith have been on the loose all season, combining for almost 2,000 yards receiving. Tight end Zach Ertz lead the team with 824 receiving yards himself. There are a ton of options for Foles to choose from on Sunday.
The Patriots have one thing though that the Eagles do not. New England has arguably the best tight end in football, Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski. Gronk led the Patriots (excluding Brady) in: receptions (69), yards (1084), touchdowns (8), yards per game (77.4), yards after catch (362), first downs (57) and tied star wide receiver Brandin Cooks for number of 20-yard receptions at 18 (espn.com). Gronk is going to be the biggest threat for the Eagles defense as he is quick, goes up for passes, runs crisp routes, is a touchdown magnet and stands tall at 6 feet 6 inches.
Players to watch out for this Sunday include: WR Nelson Agholor (Philadelphia) and RB James White (New England). Malcom Butler, the Patriots number one cornerback, will likely line up across from Jeffery, leaving room for Agholor to find holes in the Patriots defense. White lines up in the backfield, therefore not posing as much of a deep threat, but given room, will make defenders miss tackles and run for big gains.
Super Bowl LLII belongs to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Although the game will be close throughout, the Pats will take at the end of regulation 24-20. The Patriots are 15-0 when facing teams for the first time in the playoffs since 2001 (fivethirtyeight.com). Brady will be crowned Super Bowl MVP and collect his sixth Super Bowl ring, breaking the tie between him and Charles Haley for most of all time by a player.