The New England Patriots have, with their largest margin of victory or defeat in any of their seven previous appearances coming against the Falcons last year, in the first Super Bowl to ever go to overtime, and .
Super Bowl LII will end that streak, and not because the Patriots win big, but because the Eagles will win in convincing fashion.
So which side of the Super Bowl line do you need to be all over? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of Patriots-Eagles you need to jump on, plus what X-factor determines the outcome, all from a Vegas legend who's 9-3 on Eagles' games.
The only concerning thing about this prediction, to me, is the jinx factor. I really do believe the Eagles are a superior team to the Patriots. New England has the edge at coach --have been great and deserve credit, but Bill Belichick is Bill Belichick. Any argument to the contrary is futile. The Pats have the edge at quarterback too: sorry, Nick Foles, but something something Tom Brady.
When you look at the rest of the roster, however ---- it's clear outside of Brady and Rob Gronkowski, still not cleared to play but set to play if you catch my drift, the Eagles have a superior roster. It mostly happens on defense and mostly on the defensive line, with Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Derek Barnett forming a rotation that cannot be matched in football right now.
If the Eagles win, it will be on their strengths and their strengths are rushing the passer and pounding the rock. The Eagles are physical up front on both sides of the ball, and have similarities to the 2011 Giants team that beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Philly can send wave after wave of pass rushers, and doubling a guy like Cox creates an issue for other one-on-one matchups.
New England will need to run a ton of plays to wear out this defense, eating up tiny chunks of yardage and keeping the ball moving, waiting for a moment to strike down the field. It happened in the second half against the Falcons last year; anything goes after halftime, with Belichick coaching, because he's so good at making adjustments.
But here's how I think it plays out: the Eagles utilize a heavy-pressure defense to get Brady off his spot early and minimize the ability of New England to throw down the field. Without Julian Edelman in the game, the Pats can't eat up quite as much short-yardage stuff, although Danny Amendola is a different animal in the playoffs and although Dion Lewis/James White are nice substitutions, Philly was good against pass-catching backs this year (10th by DVOA).
Good luck stopping Tom Brady, but this is an Eagles team that can do it based on the defensive personnel.
If that happens early -- and the Patriots have never scored an offensive point in the first quarter of a Super Bowl mind you -- the Eagles can attack offensively on their end with run-pass options the Pats could struggle to defend. Stephon Gilmore has stepped up down the stretch, but Alshon Jeffery can win a rebound battle, and Torrey Smith is a field stretcher. Nelson Agholar quietly had a tremendous season and we haven't even mentioned Zach Ertz. This is an offense capable of challenging teams down the field; I don't know if Doug Pederson will be aggressive with Nick Foles early, but I don't think he will want to play it conservatively either. Getting Foles established early and taking some shots down the field has been a focus this postseason, because it gives him a comfort level in the pocket and keeps defenses honest. Let him wing one to Smith down the sideline if he gets a good coverage look.
So let's say the Eagles get up, which is not inconceivable for a Super Bowl involving the Patriots. Perhaps you remember 28-3? The difference in this Eagles team and a squad like last year's Falcons is Philly is built to play from ahead. Lots of teams are better when they're winning, but the Eagles specific strengths allow them to put teams away. This was the case before Carson Wentz became an MVP candidate, during the MVP stretch and even when Wentz got hurt. We saw it last week in the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings -- Philly mauled up front on defense, got pressure on Case Keenum, created a turnover, got a lead and then got aggressive on offense.
When they had the lead, Pederson remained aggressive, but he also leaned on his downhill run game, featuring two bruising, physical backs in Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount, to punish the opponents, melt clock and shorten the game. With a lead, the defensive line can pin its ears back and get after a quarterback who will be passing on more plays than not.
It's not a new formula, it just happens to be a formula that works very well with the construction of this Eagles roster.
And I think it's going to work in the Super Bowl. Betting against the Pats isn't a profitable endeavor, and Lord knows I've been wrong about some Super Bowl outcomes before (...). The Eagles could come out and be overmatched. Brady could play another Game of His Life™ en route to giving the Patriots another Super Bowl. He tends to show up on the biggest stage and picking him to lose typically backfires. Philly has weaknesses the Patriots can expose. This just feels like the strengths are going to be a problem for New England and we could see Philly manage to run away with Super Bowl LII.
Prediction: Eagles 28, Patriots 17
Super Bowl MVP: Fletcher Cox
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