As a senior, there are a plethora of “It seems like just yesterday you were…(insert random childhood memory here)” coming from my parents. Now, as the 2017-18 NFL season is a game away from graduating into the offseason, we can say that it seems like just yesterday that the Kansas City Chiefs blew past the Patriots in week one.
And now they’re in the Super Bowl. The Patriots, that is.
This season has featured more injuries than a plane crash in a Liam Neeson movie. We saw Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone self-destruct yet again, Odell Beckham Jr. go down, much to the chagrin of his fiancée/kicking net. Not to be outdone by the Giants’ misfortunes, the Texans saw star D-Linemen, and resident superhero, JJ Watt suffer a tibial plateau fracture, and then watched helplessly as their rising rookie QB, Deshaun Watson, tore his ACL at practice. And that’s not to mention the league best Eagles losing leading MVP candidate, Carson Wentz, to-you guessed it- a torn ACL.
So, in summation, the NFL doctors were very busy this year.
But despite the injuries, two injury plagued teams made it to the Super Bowl. The Pats lost shifty, and underrated WR Julian Edelman, and the Eagles lost the aforementioned Wentz.
So, who exactly is going to win this classic battle between now fitness guru, Tom Brady, and the RPO legend Nick Foles? Well, let’s find out.
1. All Aboard the Jay Train
Playoff Nick Foles has yet to commit a turnover, and absolutely eviscerated the Vikings in the NFC title game. But how? This is the same QB who looked anemic against the Raiders defense not too terribly long ago.
The run game.
Obviously, the power of Blount and shiftiness of Corey Clement are vital pieces in the Philly offense, but it’s Jay Ajayi’s production off of the inside zone that allows Foles to soar. Ajayi is going to get his on the ground game vs the Pats. The matchup between the Eagles’ line and the Pats D-Line points to a successful run game. What this successful inside zone allows for is a bona fide RPO (Run Pass Option) game. Foles has the option to pull the ball out of Ajayi’s arm, and throw the 5-7 yard slant to Alshon Jeffery or Torrey Smith. And when that happens, the Philly offense looks like something straight out of Madden. Flea flickers and all.
2. De-Nice De-Fense
Defense is going to be huge in this game. Shocker.
But seriously. It’s fairly obvious that Philly has the better defense with Jim Schwartz at the helm. Fletcher Cox is the anchor on that ferocious D-Line with Brandon Graham and Chris Long screaming off the edge. Rodney McLeod is having a great season and Malcolm Jenkins is savvy enough to snag a pick-six, but also physical enough to turn your muscular system into a discount vacation wave pool.
The Pats defense was, well, disastrous at the beginning of the season. But in typical Patriots fashion, they managed to turn it around despite the injury bug travelling faster than the storm in Fortnite. What’s so remarkable about the Patriots’ system is that they are able to take a majority of misfits, held together by a few stars, and play smart, disciplined football.
If the Eagles can play ball control on a susceptible Pats defense, they stand a much greater chance that most people think. The longer TB12 is on the field, the smaller Philly’s chancer are in this one.
3. Ronald Darb-le Moves and Jalen Mill-Slants
It’s no secret that the Eagles are vulnerable to the double move. Whenever the opposing offense has set up the Philly DBs with quick slants, they break out the double move a few plays later. Both Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are hyper-aggressive corners, that break on the ball and WR as soon the pass catcher makes his break. That results in some spectacular picks and PBUs. But it isn’t such a good thing when the opposing offense has a guy like Brandin Cooks- and a coach like Belichick.
You can expect to see guys like Cooks and (part time Wide Receiver and full time lax bro) Chris Hogan get action on some quick hitters before breaking a big one down the sideline.
4. Keeping Brady (Mr.) Clean
Marcus Cannon, Shaq Mason, David Andrews, Joe Thuney, and Nate Solder have to fight, for a minimum of 60 minutes, against Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Chris Long and Vinny Curry.
The key here are the tackles, Cannon and Solder. In my opinion, the Pats cannot afford to kick out a double team to block Graham or Long because Fletcher Cox is going to command all of the interior attention. Andrews and Mason are going to have their hands full, so Solder is going to have to hold his own against the explosive Graham. And oh yeah, that’s not to mention Derek Barnett. After all, there’s a reason the Eagles didn’t crumble after Wentz went down.
5. The Chess Match
This is going to be my favorite part of the game. Watching BB try and maneuver his way around Philly’s explosive defense is going to be a sight to see. Methinks that he will attempt to recreate the pick route success, and get guys like Amendola and D-Lewis going on drags and wheel routes.
On the other hand, Pederson is going to have to take advantage of the Pats’ disciplined defense by gashing them with Ajayi, and getting Corey Clement and Agholor into open space.
Well, this has been a rather brief and mellow Super Bowl hype week. There just seems to be something about Nick Foles vs Brady that just doesn’t sell as much as it should; I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Regardless, the Eagles are here for a reason, and will gave the Goliaths of the NFL everything they’ve got. That all but ensures a great game.
And if it isn’t, there’s always that asteroid that’s supposed to pass by the Earth.
It’s been an interesting year.