*Mike Goldberg Voice*: Here. We. Go! The Super Bowl is just a couple days away. Like I predicted all the way back in September, the New England Patriots are back in the big game while the upstart Philadelphia Eagles have overcome more than could be expected. What does Sunday mean for both cities? How about both franchises? Is this the moment Tom Brady rides off into the sunset? Will Philly burn to the ground (no matter what)? More importantly, will N*SYNC reunite at halftime?
Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, Minn. (Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots)
How to Watch
Kickoff at 6:30 pm ET Sunday, February 4th on NBC (Coverage Begins at 12:00 pm ET)
The March to Minneapolis
Let’s look at how these two teams got to the Super Bowl. The Patriots rolled over the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round before pulling out another incredible comeback over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Title game. Philadelphia was the opposite. They eeked out a close game against the Atlanta Falcons before absolutely dominating the Minnesota Vikings. Both squads went 13-3 in the regular season and won their respective division by four games. How they did it though was quite different.
It took the Patriots defense just about the entire season to figure it out from a “yards and points allowed” standpoint. Yes, they had ten games holding their opponents to less than 20 points (4th best in NFL), but they also ranked 29th in the league in total defense. It is no surprise that their biggest strength is their offense. Tom Brady is the Greatest of All Time and led the league in passing yards, was third in touchdowns and quarterback rating. What’s more impressive is that he’s done it with Julian Edelman injured, LeGarrette Blount leaving, and his defense being laughable for at least half the year. There were even a couple games (maybe even this game) with Rob Gronkowski out. Yet, Brady has still found a way.
Meanwhile, the Eagles have been as balanced a team as they can be. Carson Wentz, if still healthy, would be the prime MVP candidate. I know he only ranked 13th in the NFL in passing, but he led an offense that ranked 7th in yards and third points. Not to mention, the duo of Jay Ajayi and Blount in the backfield has made life a lot easier. In the same breath, his defense has been stellar sitting in the top five in both yards and points allowed. Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, and company are impressive and really took it to Case Keenum. Plus, the #1 seed in the NFC has been playing with a chip on their shoulder ever since Wentz went down, and rightfully so.
Super Bowl “X-Factor”
One of the things we haven’t talked about, mainly because a lot of people like to believe it doesn’t mean as much, is the coaching staff and experience. This is the 11th time Bill Belichick has coached in a Super Bowl, eighth as a head coach. Doug Pederson was being talked about as a stopgap in Philly just one year ago. If you give Bill two weeks to game plan, it almost doesn’t matter who he’s going against. That being said, Pederson has done a tremendous job keeping the ship upright after the injury to Wentz, and they are a lot of fun to watch.
That Eagles offense, with a backup QB, dominated the league’s best defense in the NFC Title game. They are playing with that “us against the world” mentality that helps bring a squad together. More so, they have what it takes to beat New England. A defensive front seven that gets after the quarterback is key against Brady. Knock him down, flush him out of the pocket, and make him uncomfortable. Having two guys who played for the Patriots last year doesn’t hurt either.
All that aside, these are the Patriots. Eight Super Bowl appearances by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, plus consecutive appearances for a majority of these players. Much like how the Eagles have that cohesive bond with that ‘chip,’ New England is never out of the game (right, Atlanta?). A comeback win over Jacksonville in the AFC title game and the experience in these games is huge. It’s incredibly hard to pick against New England ever. It’s even tougher to do it in the Super Bowl where they’ve been almost half the century.
With all things being equal inside a domed stadium, I give the Patriots the edge. I picked them at the start of the year, and I’m sticking with it. New England is a 4.5 point favorite, and I think they cover. Philly will make it interesting, but all hail the GOAT. 34-28 Patriots.
Alright, I don’t care what you think, but I have a massive man-crush on Justin Timberlake. I haven’t been this excited for a halftime show in a long time. Usually, I just watch to see if I’ll be entertained or I’m restocking on beer and food. This time I’m genuinely pumped.
When I found out JT was going to do the show, so many questions went through my head about the performance. As much as I want N*SYNC to join up, I don’t think it will happen. Nor will Janet Jackson. However, I fully expect Chris Stapleton to come out for a song or two. Don’t be surprised if someone like Bruno Mars walks on stage to do some sort of Prince tribute in his home state either.
No matter who you are rooting for (or maybe rooting against one team more), enjoy the game. Do so safely and responsibly. Most importantly, remember that I picked the Patriots to win and for Tom Brady to be the MVP before the season even started.