Everyone knows the New England Patriots are going to win Super Bowl LII. At least, that’s the way the big game is being talked about, anyway.
Tom Brady is the GOAT. So is Bill Belichick. The Pats have two assistant coaches who’ll be head coaches next season, and everyone’s been counting the Eagles out since before the playoffs even began.
This scribe is done second-guessing the Eagles. Instead, it’s time to dig into why Philly is going to win Super Bowl LII. It’s time to get used to the idea that (gasp!) the Eagles are actually the best team in the NFL this year.
Here’s how the Eagles will beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
1. The Legarrette Blount factor
Jay Ajayi is the more explosive back, but there are a couple of big reasons to think Blount is going to have a big game in Super Bowl LII.
First off, months after helping the Patriots win a title, leading the league in rushing touchdowns with 18, no less, he was seen as expendable by New England. It’s standard move the Patriots make every single year, but that doesn’t mean it stings any less, despite what Blount said after winning the NFC Championship Game.
“No more special than anyone else,” he said about going against New England in Super Bowl LII (h/t NBC Sports Philadelphia). “We play against faceless opponents every week. I don’t care nothing about that.”
Sure you don’t, big fella. We fully expect Blount to have a bit of added motivation in this one. So, that chip on the shoulder is a big reason to think Blount will be a big key for Philly.
The second big reason is that Blount is a monster in short-yardage and goal-line situations. And while New England has been very good against the run in the playoffs, the Patriots gave up 4.7 yards per carry during the regular season. Given the outstanding offensive line Philly possesses (more on that soon), Blount should have a big impact on the ground as the battering ram for the Eagles.
2. Doug Pederson proved he can gameplan with the best of them
All year long, the Eagles have been winning because their coaches put them in the best position to take advantage of their strengths. This has only been further amplified in the playoffs, as Pederson and his staff have out-classed two excellent coaching staffs in Atlanta and Minnesota.
The gameplans in both of the team’s two playoff games were exceptionally drawn up and executed. The Eagles had a good strategy to begin with, and then when they needed to they made adjustments that produced winning outcomes. It’s impossible not to be blown away by the precision with which this coaching staff has executed its vision, from the start of the season to now.
Yes, Belichick and Co. are the best in the business at the chess game. But the Eagles aren’t going to be caught with their pants down like we saw in the AFC Championship Game when Doug Marrone and his staff got exposed in the second half.
3. Philly has an outstanding offensive line
As we mentioned discussing Blount, the Eagles have a very good offensive line. In their two playoff games, Nick Foles has taken just two sacks, despite throwing 63 passes. He’s been hit just nine times, which is unbelievable when you consider the Falcons and Vikings got to the quarterback with regularity throughout the 2017 campaign.
The Eagles have also been dedicated to the run all year long and finished third in the NFL with over 132 yards per game. While big chunks have been hard to come by in the playoffs, Philly has continued to pound away on the ground, and the offensive line continues to win up front.
Given New England’s lack of depth on the defensive line, the offensive line is a huge edge the Eagles have in Super Bowl LII.
4. When Nick Foles gets hot, he’s untouchable
It was pretty stunning to see Foles shred the NFL’s best defense last Sunday night. He was darn-near perfect, completing 26-of-33 passes for 352 yards with three touchdowns (two of the jaw-dropping variety) and no picks. That epic performance came one week after he was very good against a terrific Atlanta pass defense, going for 246 yards on 23-of-30 passing. So, through two playoff games, it’s safe to say Foles is on a hot streak, having completed 49-of-63 attempts for 598 yards (77.7 percent and 9.5 yards per attempt).
As surprising as this is, a quick look at history tells us this isn’t unprecedented. Remember, back in 2013 working with Chip Kelly, Foles was unstoppable. He started 10 games that year, completing 64 percent of his attempts while throwing 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
I was one of the people who thought Foles would be a liability to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. I didn’t trust him to make the big throws under pressure. I won’t do that again.
5. The Eagles’ front seven is dangerous
Ask Case Keenum how he feels about Philadelphia’s front seven. Ask Matt Ryan the same question. No doubt, their bruises can do the talking for them. In the past two playoff games, the Eagles have just four sacks but hit Keenum and Ryan a combined 19 times.
Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Co. are a nightmare up front. Add in some timely blitzes by Philadelphia’s linebackers and safeties and you’re looking at a very dangerous pass-rushing unit with Jim Schwartz calling the shots.
But it’s not just about defending the pass. The Eagles are downright stifling against the run. They allowed just 156 yards in their two postseason games so far, which, combined with the way New England’s run game was shut down last weekend could spell doom for Brady and Co. come Super Bowl Sunday.
6. Versatile offensive weapons
When the Eagles signed Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery last offseason, we all wondered how the two big-play receivers would fit in together and with the rest of the playmakers in Philadelphia. Well, things have worked out pretty well on that front. Jeffery has taken on a much larger role than Smith, but we saw how quickly that can change when the speedy receiver came alive in the NFC title game.
In addition to the two big-bodies outside, the Eagles have some other weapons that are difficult matchups for opposing teams. Nelson Agholor has come alive this season as a go-to weapon on third downs, and tight end Zach Ertz led all Eagles receivers during the regular season, both in terms of receptions and yardage.
Throw in dynamic running back Jay Ajayi, who’s taken on the role of lead back, not to mention the powerful Blount, and you’re looking at an offensive arsenal that gives Philly the kind of playcalling flexibility few teams enjoy.
7. Philadelphia secondary has been coming on strong
For much of the 2017 season, Philadelphia’s secondary did an adequate job against the pass. That said, it was somewhat of a weak link that usually benefited from the pressure brought by the team’s scary-good front line.
One of the reasons the Eagles are playing in Super Bowl LII, however, is that the secondary has emerged as yet another strength for this club. Jalen Mills was outstanding in the last game against Minnesota’s top-tier receiving corps, as was Ronald Darby and Patrick Robinson (who hauled in this amazing pick-six). Rodney McLeod has also been a very underrated safety this year, and Malcolm Jenkins is one of the league’s best.
Nobody should expect the Eagles to completely bottle up Brady, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski (assuming he plays), Brandin Cooks and the rest of New England’s passing game. But as long as the secondary continues to play disciplined and doesn’t make critical mistakes, it should be in great shape to have success.
8. Underdog mentality
The us-against-the-world thing is real, and it’s huge. Before the playoffs began, Lane Johnson expressed anger because he said everyone was treating the Eagles “like we were the Browns” ever since Carson Wentz was lost for the season with an ACL tear.
Then, after Philly beat Atlanta in the divisional round, of course Johnson and Chris Long donned underdog masks. And that’s been the rallying cry ever since, to the point where Lincoln Financial Field was packed with fans wearing those masks and “Home Dog” t-shirts that Johnson sold to help fund schools in the Philadelphia area.
After the Eagles annihilated the Vikings Sunday night, it was clear that this chip on the shoulder is about the size of Mt. Everest. And being that the Patriots are nearly a touchdown favorite for Super Bowl LII, it’s not going to go away any time soon.
9. Brady has been beaten by underdogs before, too
Brady is the GOAT. You’ll hear no argument from me otherwise. He’s won five Super Bowls already, and I suspect he’ll win another before he’s done. It just won’t be this year. Unlike the other big-game quarterback he so often gets compared to — Joe Montana — Brady has lost the big game. Twice.
The first time Brady lost was back in Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants, who went into that game as 12-point dogs — the biggest spread since Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002. Then he lost to Eli Manning and Co. again in Super Bowl XLVI, though the spread in that game was just 2.5 points.
The point is, even though most are counting Philadelphia out in this upcoming battle, history suggests that’s foolish. When you combine history with the way the Eagles have embraced being the underdog, it makes for a pretty compelling matchup.