On February 4, 2018, the world’s greatest sporting spectacle will be upon us once again. The heavily anticipated Super Bowl XXXIX rematch finally will take place in U. S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It also comes in no better game than, of course, Super Bowl LII.
The Philadelphia Eagles, who are making their 3rd Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, finished the regular season with a record of 13–3. They were one of four teams with that record: The New England Patriots (go figure), Minnesota Vikings, & Pittsburgh Steelers also had identical records.
Towards the end of the season, the Eagles won the tie-breaker and were granted the NFC’s No. 1 overall seed and home field advantage throughout in the 2017 playoffs.
Second year head coach Doug Pederson helped the Eagles blow the doors off of the NFL after losing 27-20 to the Chiefs Week 2 in heartbreaking fashion. They reeled off nine straight wins and started the season with a very convincing 10-1 record. It was a significant leap to prosperity as the Eagles had finished each of the previous years with 7–9 records.
The most alarming statistic surrounding this team is by far their accumulated point differential. The Eagles scored 457 points during the season (3rd in the NFL), while surrendering just 295 points. Good enough for 4th in the league. That is an astonishing +162 point difference. This is the most complete team that the Eagles have had in many seasons.
Philadelphia began its playoff journey in the divisional round by pulling out a squeaker against the Atlanta Falcons. In an all out slugfest, they managed to pull away and won the game by a score of 15–10.
Late in the game, their defense came up clutch. They ended up stopping the Falcons on four consecutive plays after they had a first-and-goal situation on the Eagles 9-yard line on their final drive of the game.
The following week in the NFC Conference Championship game, the Eagles painted a completely different picture. They absolutely truck sticked the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 38–7.
Although the Vikings scored on their opening drive, the Eagles defense was way too much for the Vikings’ O to handle. They punted three times, turned the ball over twice on downs, tossed two interceptions, and lost a fumble in the remainder of the game.
The New England Patriots, making their 8th Super Bowl appearance since the year 2000 and their 10th overall Super Bowl bid in franchise history, earned a first round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, clinching the AFC’s No. 1 overall seed. Their high powered offense led the league in yards gained (6,307) and ranked second in points scored with 458. An average of 29.7 per game.
Uncharacteristic early season struggles on defense left the team with a 2–2 record after four weeks. To make matters worse, they had the worst overall defense in the league at that point. The Patriots would figure things out, nonetheless. They went 11–1 after their Week 4 loss to the Carolina Panthers at home. For the season, the Patriots defense allowed 5,856 yards which ranked in the bottom 5 of the NFL. Oddly enough, they ranked fifth in fewest points allowed, giving up only 296.
In the divisional round, they beat up on the Tennessee Titans, winning by a score of 35–14. Brady was his usual masterful self and passed for 337 yards and three scores. The defensive front dominated the Titans offensive line, garnering eight sacks of Marcus Mariota and holding their running game to only 65 yards rushing.
In the AFC Championship Game, they faced the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars in what would turn out to be their toughest challenge of the season. The Jaguars, who jumped out to an early 14–3 lead, brought to Foxboro a league-best defense that frustrated Tom Brady and the offense for most of the first half. A James White 9-yard TD run would cut the Jacksonville lead to just 4 heading into the lockers.
Down 20–10 in the 4th, the Patriots completed their comeback bid that was sealed by two Tom Brady-led drives, both resulting in touchdown passes to Danny Amendola. The latter play coming off of a missile from Tom Brady that just barely went past the head of Jaguars free safety Tashaun Gipson. The pass hit Amendola in the back of the end zone and somehow, he managed to get both feet in bounds.
A key defensive stop by right corner Stephon Gilmore, whose acrobatic pass deflection of a pass intended for slot receiver Dede Westbrook, ended Jacksonville’s last chance to score and iced New England’s bid for the Super Bowl.
It would come with a price, however. Patriots prize tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a mild concussion earlier in the game on a helmet to helmet hit with Jaguars safety Barry Church towards the end of the first half. He would not return.
As for the injury update, both Rob Gronkowski and defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. were listed as probable. Both players had suffered concussions last week. Gronkowski, however was able to practice in a brief walkthrough on Saturday and stated on Tuesday that he was “ready to roll”.
Also DT Malcom Brown, T La’Adrian Waddle, and RB Mike Gillislee were on the injury report for the Patriots. They were all participants in practice as well. Cornerback Malcolm Butler has been dealing with an illness, but will also be ready to play.
For the Eagles, there is a very small list. LB Dannell Ellerbe and RB Jay Ajayi were their only injured players. Both were light participants in practice and are expected to suit up on Sunday.
This game, I expect to be extremely hard hitting and close all the way through. Both teams can light it up offensively. However, both defenses are much improved and can make life hard for offenses. Makes for a good slugfest. As for a winner, I’m going with the New England Patriots by a score of 24-23.