The Cold Hard Truth: On Sports

Super Bowl LII Preview

Super Bowl LII Preview

After 4 weeks of preseason games, 17 weeks of regular season games, and three weeks of the playoffs, it all comes down to this. One game to decide who is the team who will hold the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday February 4th…the Philadelphia Eagles or the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. These two franchises have met before in a Super Bowl, but it is different now except for two constants coming from the Patriots side: Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. We will soon find out if the Eagles can finally win a Super Bowl or if the Patriots will win their sixth Super Bowl title.

The Philadelphia Eagles come in as the highest seeded team from the NFC, defeating the Minnesota Vikings convincingly at home to reach this point. They looked like a different team than the previous week where it took a goal-line stand to beat the Atlanta Falcons. It started when Patrick Robinson intercepted Case Keenum and returned it for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7. That momentum carried over and boosted the Eagles to come up with stop after stop, which included a couple of 3-and-outs plus a fumble recovery in the first half. When they were up 24-7 at halftime, there wasn’t much that the Vikings could do afterwards. The Vikings defense which was ranked #1 in the regular season did not look like it at all in Lincoln Financial Field as Nick Foles was able to have a great showing with over 350 yards passing and three touchdowns. Many did not expect that performance from him as it was his fifth game as a starter replacing Carson Wentz.

Now it will be a much bigger stage for him as the NFL Championship will be on the line. He will go up against a defense that gave up a lot of yards over the course of the season and looked pretty bad in the first half of the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but fixed themselves up to not allow a touchdown in the second half to hold on and get the comeback win. They didn’t force any turnovers, but they did get three sacks with one being paramount in them sealing the win last week. They will most likely come up with a scheme to fluster Foles before he is able to get the ball out of his hands, but there are a few options for him in the backfield and in the perimeter as Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement can make something out of nothing from behind the line of scrimmage and receivers Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffrey can make plays downfield. Zach Ertz will also be a key weapon for them on short yardage situations so look out for him over the course of the game. It will be something to see Blount, who rushed for over 1100 yards for New England last season to go against a team that let him go via free agency in the offseason.

On the other side, you will have the Patriots seeing if they can win their second Super Bowl title in a row and solidify themselves as one of the best franchises in the NFL with six Super Bowl titles which would have them tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for most for a franchise. As mentioned before, we know of Tom Brady returning yet again to play in another Super Bowl and he has utilized an offensive gameplan that features all skill players and not focus on one in particular. While Brandon Cooks has been a key addition for this team this year and has put up nearly the same numbers as he did at New Orleans, other players have made plays that have brought them to this point just like in many of the other seasons that they have reached the Super Bowl. In the AFC title game, Danny Amendola scored the two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to propel them over the Jaguars. It may take a similar effort from those players as it is still unknown if Rob Gronkowski will be cleared to play in this game due to concussion protocol.

The Philadelphia defense did very well pressuring Keenum in the NFC title game, and they are one of the best defenses in the league and don’t give up very much on the ground (ranked #1 in rush defense at under 80 yards a game). The Patriots did not do well running the ball against the Jaguars who also had a good defense this season. They will have to use James White and Dion Lewis a little better so that their drives early in the game can be longer and keep the defense on the field. I’m sure that Josh McDaniels has a scheme prepared to get the ball moving against this defense.

What was a concern in the game against the Jaguars is a concern here against the Eagles, and that is the Pats defense. They gave up over 370 yards in that game and it may be something that Foles and the Eagles offense can capitalize on. They do have the personnel to score in the red zone which is what a few opponents had issues with going against New England. The Patriots were ranked in the top ten in red zone scoring percentage and were right behind the Eagles in points allowed per game. If they have another “bend but don’t break” performance against Philadelphia, that may give them a chance to take the win on Sunday night.

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