It all comes down to tonight.
The New England Patriots face the Philadelphia Eagles at Super Bowl LII.
Richard Corbally assesses the key areas which could be the difference between winning and losing for both teams.
Eagles’ routes to victory:
First things first, unless Nick Foles plays to a level reminiscent of the NFC championship game, the Eagles cannot win this game.
Interceptions must be at a minimum because the Patriots will punish the Eagles with good field position.
The key to offense might be to take advantage of the Patriots’ slow Linebackers, with toss plays and jets sweeps through Jay Agayi and Nelson Agholor.
If they can get a solid running game going, Foles will have more time and bigger windows to throw to on play action plays. Alshon Jeffery’s battle with his former roommate from South Carolina, Stefon Gilmore, will be one to watch.
No matter how much play design and preparation goes into this game, there will be a few occasions when Foles might just have to throw a 50/50 ball deep between the two players and see who catches it.
If Jeffery can catch a few big yardage plays, the Eagles will have a chance.
It’s very important that the Eagles can keep the scoreboard ticking over, and their field goal kicker Jake Elliot has had a monster year so far, kicking 26 of his 31 field goal attempts this year.
The Patriots’ big losses in the last number of years have come against teams like the Broncos, the Ravens, and almost last week with the Jaguars.
These problems have arisen when the opposition’s defensive front four can get pressure up the centre against Brady. Fortunately for the Eagles, with players like Fletcher Cox, Timmey Jernigan, Chris Long, Derrick Barnet and Vinney Curry, they might have the strength to do it.
I have a feeling the Patriots will barely even attempt to run the ball and instead will try their hundreds of short passing offenses. Stopping Rob Gronkowski will be the first port of call, but the problem the Eagles face is how to stop all the weapons.
If they cover Gronk and Amendola, expect Hogan and Lewis to take advantage of soft coverage. Try to cover everyone man to man and Gronk will have a field day.
The key for the Eagles here might be to take a leaf out of the Patriots book and employ a bend don’t break strategy, allowing for some yards to be given up in the hope of going all out for a turnover.
Although Brady doesn’t throw many, he has had games in recent memory against the Steelers and Falcons where a late pick would have sealed the game.
If the Eagles are to win this game, their back end and Key leaders like Rodney McLeod and Jalen Mills must execute on any possible interceptions on Brady.
Patriots’ routes to victory:
The Eagles’ defence matches up well with the Patriots’ offensive line, so the Patriots offence will most likely play similarly to the way they did in Superbowl 49 against the Seahawks.
Expect a lot of short screen passes to Dion Lewis and James White, which will effectively act as the Patriots running game, as I don’t think the Patriots can run the ball successfully against the Eagles.
Gronkowski will be double teamed for most of the game, so expect Chris Hogan to pop up with a big game as he is given a more space to work with.
Danny “Playoff” Amendola has made so many vital plays in the last number of seasons, so expect Brady to find him on 3rd or 4th down conversions as well as touchdown and 2-point conversion attempts.
Even if nothing is going right early on for this offence, no player has ever seen more than Tom Brady, so expect them to get rolling at some stage. If they rack up a lead early, this game will be finished as a contest.
The Patriots’ “bend don’t break” mentality will be in process once again this game.
Despite the fact they give up plenty of yards throughout the season, they have a knack of only conceding field goals in big positions, while getting stops or turnovers against the Steelers and Jaguars on the biggest games of the season.
Despite a lot of early season criticism, the Patriots’ secondary is very talented with Stefon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler and the most underrated defender in the NFL Devin McCourty.
This group will be looking for turnovers as they know the key to winning the game is getting the ball back to Tom Brady.
The problem for the defence is their defensive line and slow wide recievers. They are good at stopping the run up the middle, but if they can’t stop the Eagles “run, pass, option” plays they may have to improvise in order to slow the Eagles down.
I see this being a close tightly fought game with the scoreline coming below the bookies 48.5 point line. The Patriots will probably just edge it 20-18.
Nick Foles has the chance to fulfill every Hollywood movie plot ever about being the kid nobody believed in who went on to defeat the greatest player who ever lived.
The Eagles have never won a Superbowl and came closest when they lost to the Tom brady lead Patriots by three points in 2005.
The Patriots can cement back to back dynasty’s (a dynasty is three Super Bowls in a ten year period) as they already achieved this in the noughties and have won two of the last three Super Bowls in this decade. A victory would also mean the Patriots would equal the Steelers’ record of 6 Super Bowl victories.