It’s that time of the year again… you know, that Sunday night where Brits stay up watching a sport in which those who don’t watch regularly might not be completely sure what is going on, and of course, complaining about all those damn adverts! A Sunday which we deem acceptable to stay up all night drinking, eating and cheering for guys to be hit hard by one another.
Super Bowl 52 will be a rematch of Super Bowl 39, as the New England Patriots and their #1 ranked offense will come up against the Philadelphia Eagles and their #4 ranked defence. The greatest quarterback of all-time, going for his 6th Championship ring against an Eagles franchise looking for their first ever Lombardi Trophy.
Hopefully, reading this article will ensure that you know what to expect tonight, together with a few bits of info and opinions from myself, along with
some betting tips for all those feeling lucky tonight!
It doesn’t get any better than Super Bowl Sunday.
Let’s start with the Patriots…
In his eighth Super Bowl appearance, Tom Brady (#12) will be aiming to become the first player in NFL history to win six Super Bowls. The argument for greatest quarterback to ever step on the gridiron, if there even is still an argument, should well and truly be over if the Patriots win this game.
At this point in his career, nothing Tom Brady does should surprise us. Well, consider myself surprised…
Many analysts, most notably ESPN’S Max Kellerman thought that this would be the season that Tom Brady would ‘fall off a cliff’, stating that no quarterback in NFL history has been able to maintain their level of production at the Patriots’ QB age. And with an average offensive line, no star running back or an un-guardable weapon at the wide receiver position (although Rob Gronkowski (#87) is basically a wide receiver)
Brady however, at the ripe age of 40(!) put together a 2017 campaign for the record books. Last night, it was announced that Tom Brady had won his third MVP award, as he threw for 32 touchdowns to eight interceptions, whilst completing 66.3% of his passes
The Patriots have done all this without their star slot receiver in Julian Edelman. You may remember him from making the best catch in Super Bowl history last year against the Falcons. Edelmen unfortunately blew out his ACL during the preseason, which has given a bigger role to the Pats’ AFC Championship game hero – Danny Amendola (#80). As teams like to double-cover the greatest tight-end of all-time, Rob Gronkowski, whilst also trying to do the same with dymanic playmaker Brandin Cooks (#14), Amendola has usually been eft single-covered and has had a tremendous season in the season in exploiting opposition defences finding the gaps in zone defences, whilst being able to beat his defender with his shifty route-running.
The Patriots defence, kind of surprisingly, were by far the worst defence in the NFL through the first six games. Similarly to last season when they started slowly, struggling against both the pass and opposition rushing attacks. The Pats finished the regular season with the 20th ranked defence against the rush, and quite shockingly, the 30th ranked defence against the pass – leaving them 29th in total defence.
That being said, the Patriots have looked much better on defence during the play-offs. They still do not have a premier pass-rusher, and do struggle to put pressure on the quarterback
On to the Eagles…
“The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do; and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.” – Mark Twain.
At this point, it would be pretty Eignorant to dismiss the fact that Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots are the best. They have reached seven straight AFC Championship games, and are playing for their sixth Super Bowl championship in their 17 years together as a coach/QB duo.
However, what makes the Eagles the interesting opponent that they are is that they are not the second best team in the NFL. They probably aren’t in the top five without their starting quarterback Carson Wentz, who was having an MVP calibre season.
The Eagles have been elite on defence all season and that should not be downplayed. They have a completely devastating defensive line, a solid core at linebacker, although they will severely miss Jordan Hicks, their middle linebacker in this game, and have underrated playmakers in their secondary.
However, it is their offense which makes them so unorthodox and in reference to the quote made at the start of this point, whilst the Eagles may not be the second best swordsmen (they also aren’t ignorant antagonists who have never held a sword), but they are unorthodox.
As Michael Lombardi stated on the Ringer, the Eagles run a battleship offense. This basically means that try different formations, sub-packages, and completely different plays from previous weeks – as they look to find ways to exploit their opponent in-game. Once they have found something that works, they tend to stick to it.
However, this is also why they are one of the worst teams in collecting so many 3rd and longs. The Eagles have had 117 3rd and 6’s this season – the worst in the NFL, but they have a unique ability to make a play in this situations.
No-one expected the Eagles to make the Super Bowl after Carson Wentz went down, not even many Eagles fans could have thought that Nick Foles could lead them to the promise land, but here they are, 60 minutes away.
Let’s move on to how each team can win Super Bowl 52
How the Patriots can win…
Running the ball – If the Patriots are able run the ball effectively against the Eagles, then I believe it is game over. As soon as that happens, the Philadelphia defensive front will get tired and therefore will not be able to put pressure on Brady. The Pats will try running the ball with James White, Rex Burkhead and their most dynamic back in Dion Lewis. Once they establish the run, you will see Belichick open up the play action, as the safeties will come up to play the run, leaving speedster receivers Brandin Cooks and Phillip Dorsett able to run go-routes – Eagles cornerbacks will not be able to catch them.
Creating turnovers on defence – Arguably the most impressive statistic in the Bill Belichick era is the Patriots are 159-15 when they have a positive turnover differential (including playoffs). So always start there when it comes to the team’s chances at winning. The Eagles cannot afford to give the ball to Tom Brady in good field position, and they know that, which leads me to my next point on the Eagles…
Slowing the game down – If you watch the Patriots closely when they play against dominant defensive lines, they wait until the very last second to snap the ball before the play clock expires. They do this to keep the defensive linemen guessing, to try and draw them offside but also to keep the play clock ticking. If Pats dominate time of possession and are able to convert their drives into seven points, they will not only tire the Eagles defence, but may be force them, at some point to go no-huddle, hurry up offence and abandon the run game.
How the Eagles can win…
Staying aggressive – This may sound pretty obvious, but you need to play to win to beat the Patriots – in that you cannot play conservatively. If you go back and watch last year’s Super Bowl, when the Falcons were up 28-3, they stopped playing to win the game and started to play not to lose. Whether the Pats had figured them out on offence or not, the Falcons kept going 3-and-out, giving the ball back to Brady who kept scoring on them. At some point in this game, the Patriots will make plays on offence. When that happens, the Eagles need to stick to their gameplan and RUN THE FOOTBALL with LaGarrette Blount and our very own Jay Ajayi.
Limit turnovers – The Eagles offense cannot afford to turn the ball over against Tom Brady. They could be in for a long game if they do not secure the ball. Although Nick Foles has played great in their last two games in the play-offs, he is still Nick Foles. We saw this with Case Keenum, who had a fantastic season for the majority of the 2017 campaign – but when it mattered the most, he turned back to being Case Keenum. Similarly to the last point, Foles is at his best when he is playing aggressive, stays loose, and sticks to the gameplan which Doug Pederson sets out.
Collapse the pocket and get to Brady – If Brady has too much time to throw against this Eagles secondary, he will sit in the pocket and just wait until one of his receivers gets open. The Eagles have two dominant defensive tackles in Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan they will need to beat the Patriots offensive line to the line of scrimmage, which therefore will collapse the pocket and will force Tom Brady to use his legs to beat you… Brady is not very fast. If the DT’s can collapse the pocket, pass-rushers Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, as well as speed-rusher Derek Barnett should be able to get to Brady coming from the edge.
Sorry Eagles fans, but I’m going with the Patriots.
If Rob Gronkowski did not clear the concussion protocol, I would not feel great about this pick, but he is active and that is a huge problem for the Eagles defence. It cannot be understated how much of a mismatch Gronkowski is; Linebackers are too slow to cover him and Safeties are too small. Brady will look for Gronkowski as much as he can, and if he is double team’d, which he almost certainly will be on every play, then that leaves the likes of Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan all in one-on-one situations, all whilst one of the Patriots capable running-backs can make plays out of the backfield. I expect Dion Lewis and James White to have a huge ga
mes rushing the ball and catching the ball out of the backfield, from screen passes to checkdowns.
On this stage, it is all about two things: Adjustment and Execution. I believe the Eagles may even have the better roster, they certainly have the better defense, have more depth in the majority of positions and have numerous playmakers in all phases of the game. However, the question you must ask yourselves is this – Who is going to execute? I cannot back Nick Foles, an average quarterback against Tom Brady. I believe Foles’ inexperience will lead to him throwing a few crucial turnovers, in which he may force the ball to his star wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, giving the Patriots good field position which they take full advantage of.
Score Prediction – New England Patriots 24-20 Philadelphia Eagles
First touchdown of the game – Dion Lewis (New England Patriots)
Super Bowl MVP – Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
Betting Tips (via SkyBet)…
1+ Interception returned for a TD (Pick 6) – 6/1
Justin Timberlake’s 1st Song Performed during HT to be ‘Rock Your Body’ – 8/1
Philadelphia -17 – 9/1
Dion Lewis 1st TD of the game – 10/1
New England to win, T.Brady 200+ passing yards, Danny Amendola & Alshon Jeffery – 11/1
New England Winning Margin 1-6 Pts, Philadelphia to win 1st Half, Brady Superbowl MVP & B.Cooks to score a TD – 16/1
Under 44.5 points & Any Defensive Player to win Superbowl MVP – 22/1
- Amendola to Throw a 20+ Yard Completed Pass – 25/1
1+ Sacks, 1+ Safeties, 1+ FGs & 1+ Interceptions – 33/1
Dion Lewis to score 1st TD & last TD of the game – 100/1
New England to win 24-20 & Ajayi, Jeffery, Gronkowski, Cooks, Amendola All to score – 250/1
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