The underdogs versus the GOAT.
That’s how many have started to describe this year’s Super Bowl. The Eagles, with dog mask-wearing players and fans, are the scrappy underdogs led by a backup quarterback. Meanwhile, the Patriots have arguably the best quarterback of all time on their sideline in Tom Brady, the seemingly ageless wonder.
For New England, this will be the second trip to the Super Bowl in a row and the eighth time overall in the Brady and Bill Belichick era. Last year saw the Patriots overcome an incredible deficit against the Atlanta Falcons to grab Brady’s fifth Super Bowl title.
On the other hand, Philadelphia will be searching for its first Super Bowl win in franchise history. The last time the Eagles played in the big game was in 2004 against none other than the Patriots, where New England won 24-21.
How to Watch
Super Bowl LII will be broadcast on NBC and streamable on the NBC Sports app and its website. Kickoff is set for 6:30pm.
Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya will be the announcers.
If you are in Minneapolis and willing to shell out a few thousand, the cheapest tickets for the Super Bowl are currently being listed at $3,200 for upper end zone seats.
The Patriots are currently 4.5-point favorites with an over/under (total points scored) of 48-points.
What to Know
Key players: QB Nick Foles, WR Alshon Jeffrey, RT Lane Johnson, DT Fletcher Cox, CB Patrick Robinson, S Malcolm Jenkins
The Eagles were this year’s breakout team, led by the MVP-caliber performance from second-year quarterback Carson Wentz. After the 2016 campaign, head coach Doug Pederson and general manager Howie Roseman added Jeffrey and Torrey Smith in free agency to bolster the receiving corps. The team would also sign running back LeGarrette Blount and trade for Jay Ajayi later in the season.
All of this accumulated to an offense that ranked among the best in the league this season. Prior to Wentz’s injury, Football Outsiders ranked the Eagles’ as the No. 4 offense in the league. Even without Wentz, the Foles-led Eagles put up 38 points on Minnesota’s stellar defense in the NFC Championship game.
Speaking of defense, Philadelphia ranked fourth overall in total defense this past season. The front seven, led by players like Cox, Timmy Jernigan and Nigel Bradham, paved the way for the league’s best run defense, allowing just 79.2 rushing yards per game. While the Eagles’ offense was spectacular this season, the defense is the reason why this team is playing for the Super Bowl.
New England Patriots
Key players: QB Tom Brady, WR Brandin Cooks, TE Rob Gronkowski, DE Trey Flowers, LB Kyle Van Noy, CB Malcolm Butler
In some ways, this is the same old Patriots team. But in other ways, it’s not.
Tom Brady is still at quarterback, and will likely wrap up a third NFL MVP award before the game. Despite turning 40 years old in August, Brady had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, throwing for 4,577 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Despite losing star receiver Julian Edelman to a torn ACL, the Patriots traded for former first-round pick Brandin Cooks this offseason. Both Cooks and tight end Rob Gronkowski eclipsed 1,000 yards in New England’s No. 1 ranked offense, per Football Outsiders.
But while the offense flourished, the defense struggled. The Patriots’ 2017 began with the defense giving up 42 points to the Kansas City Chiefs, setting the tone for a unit that would finish 22nd in defensive efficiency. But despite a poor regular season performance, Matt Patricia’s defense rebounded in the playoffs with strong performances against Tennessee and Jacksonville.
So while this might not be the Patriots from year’s past, Bill Belichick is still the head coach and Brady is still at quarterback. Essentially, that’s all the Patriots need.
Who Will Win
The Eagles will win if: Nick Foles plays like he did against the Vikings and the defense continues excellence.
Against the Vikings’ top-ranked pass defense, Foles went 26/33 for 352 yards and three touchdowns. He completed his last 15 passes for 257 yards and two of those scores. Simply put, he was phenomenal and that’s the type of performance the Eagles will need if they want to win the Super Bowl.
Luckily, Philadelphia is built to exploit this New England defense. The Pats gave up the third-most passing yards in the NFL this season, which is great news for Foles. The Eagles have a talented collection of receivers, such as Jeffrey, Smith, tight end Zach Ertz and former UNC star Mack Hollins, and can stretch the field in any number of ways.
Defensively, the Eagles need to play as well as they have been all season. Control the Pat’s run game with monsters up front like Cox and Jernigan while allowing Ronald Darby, Patrick Robinson and Malcolm Jenkins to limit plays through the air. If Philadelphia earns its first Super Bowl trophy, it’ll be because the defense played well.
The Patriots will win if: Tom Brady plays like Tom Brady.
Simply put, Brady is the best player in this game.
Despite the Eagles having an advantage in the trenches, Brady has no shortage of options downfield to throw to. The Patriots have also turned running backs into receiving weapons, as seen by James White’s 14-reception performance in last year’s Super Bowl.
With the Pat’s defense struggling this season, the pressure has been on Brady and the offense to perform and carry this team. So far, they have been able to live up to expectations. With one more game to go, Brady will need to perform like an MVP if he wants to win his sixth Super Bowl.