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It is where we are at with the Super Bowl. The unofficial national holiday. It’s Halloween (sometimes you dress up for it), Thanksgiving (parties with gatherings and preparations for food), New Year’s Day (parties and drinking), St. Patrick’s Day (drinking), and the 4th of July (American sport), rolled up into one. You could get Valentine’s Day too if your team loses and you experience heartbreak…..but oh well.
Anyway, this year features a familiar face with the New England Patriots while on the other side we get the Philadelphia Eagles, making their third appearance and for them their first Super Bowl win.
Of course much like the feel of college football’s national championship game where it was Georgia and Alabama and outside of those states, nobody was really pumped with excitement, the same can be said for this year’s tilt as we have two teams that many fans outside of Philadelphia and the New England region would rather see a comet blast the stadium as the game is being played. By the way, this is the biggest nightmare for the fans of the Giants, Cowboys, and Steelers as New York and Dallas have to possibly deal with their hated rival Eagles hold a trophy and hear the fans talk about it. Steelers fans have to deal with either that or the New England faithful say they have matched the Steelers six trophies. So, nightmares for that.
Anyway, as for the game, we get the two top seeds in the respective conferences for the fourth time in five years. And it is also the first Super Bowl re-match we’ve seen since when the Cowboys and Bills played each other in 92 and 93. The Patriots, yeah, we knew they would be there in a relatively weak AFC while the Eagles weren’t a full-fledged favorite in a wide-open NFC.
So, how can this turn out?
PATRIOTS WIN IF:
THE HITS ON BRADY IS AT A MINIMUM: I think the hand injury is pretty serious for Brady and if this was a Week 16 or 17 game and the Pats have clinched homefield, he doesn’t play by far. Heck, if this was Week 3 or 4, he is probably resting. But while the Jaguars got to him in the first half and got a few key hits in the 2nd half, they didn’t do a whole lot of damage near Brady. But against the Eagles and their defensive line, they have to protect Brady as much as possible. And remember this too: Philly’s defense gave up a total of 17 points to Atlanta and Minnesota in the playoffs. That is an impressive feat. So protecting Brady is huge.
THEIR DEFENSE GETS THE KEY STOPS ON 3RD DOWN: Simple as that. The Patriots defense will never get compared to the 85 Bears or 02 Bucs. But they are timely with their stops. Any time a big stop is needed they get it. It seems like it is as automatic as the Bears or Bucs did in those plays.
AN UNSUNG HERO STEPS UP: It seems like EVERY YEAR a Patriots player that goes unnoticed leading up to the Super Bowl or a big game and has a game for the ages. Last year, James White. Last week, Danny Amendola (yes, not really an overlooked guy, but not a game-changer either). Is it Dion Lewis? Chris Hogan? Dwayne Allen? What makes Brady so great is somebody who the opponent least expects will be his go-to guy. It will happen again this year with somebody.
EAGLES WIN IF:
THEY DON’T FALL INTO THAT PATRIOT AURA: Jaguars in the AFC Championship. Falcons last Super Bowl. Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. Even the Steelers this year. All these teams who had 4th quarter leads on the Patriots some way or another could not hang on to the lead. It seems like when they are up, teams stop playing to win and start playing not to lose. That is why the Patriots have been doing their thing. The Eagles cannot go “hey, we are beating the Patriots in the 4th!” And think the game is over. They have to “we need to finish this.” Of course, easier said than done. But so far the Eagles have not been a team that implodes in 4th quarters. But that could soon change.
NICK FOLES PLAYS LIKE HE HAS THE LAST TWO GAMES: He has stepped up for sure in the playoffs. He outplayed Matt Ryan in the Divisional Playoff. And he looked like the 2013 Foles against the Vikings in the NFC Championship. Now, the Patriots didn’t make Blake Bortles look like the most inept QB in the NFL in the AFC Championship and made him look pretty good actually (and for a while was outdueling Brady). If the Eagles are to stand any chance to win this game, Foles has to keep it up.
GET AFTER BRADY ALL GAME: Not just the first half. Not just 3 quarters, but all game. The Eagles have to make Brady as uncomfortable as possible. Giving him any room to breathe is an incredibly bad idea. Yes, he is the best around. But he is still human. He can still make a mistake here and there. But they have to keep the pressure on him entirely in some manner.
MY TAKE: I’ve done a dumb thing and picked the last two NFC teams to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl (Seahawks, Falcons). Actually, I’ve been 0-4 in the last Super Bowl picks. I won’t doubt Brady or Belicheck ever again. However, I’m still skeptical of the Patriots defense where I think maybe the Eagles have a shot. And as many point out, you need to play a perfect game on the Patriots to win the game. Are the Eagles up to the task? Yes. But as I said before, I won’t doubt Brady or Belicheck and I think the Patriots will be in another close game where their opponent will hold a 4th quarter lead on them. But I think that’s how Brady likes it. He will make plays and the Eagles won’t in this case. He will get his sixth Super Bowl ring on Sunday in another come-from-behind win. The reason? An unsung hero. My guess will be Chris Hogan. PATRIOTS 31, EAGLES 27
–Fan in the Obstructed Seat