The Eagles might just be the more talented football team in Super Bowl 52. They boast a deep and dangerous defensive line, a rock-steady offensive line and plenty of skill at the skill positions.
But the Patriots’ edges in coaching and at QB will bring the Lombardi back to Foxboro.
Bill Belichick is rarely out-gamplanned. That’s especially true when he has an extra week to prep. Get this: Since Tom Brady became his starter in 2001, Belichick’s Patriots are an NFL-best 24-5 off a bye week (including playoffs), outscoring opponents by an average of 11.5 points per game.
With RB Rex Burkhead and WR Chris Hogan off the injury report this week, and TE Rob Gronkowski cleared to play, New England’s offense is fully stocked. That’s give Belichick and OC Josh McDaniels a multitude of ways to attack the Eagles.
Look for them to attack mainly through the air, where Brady gives the Patriots their other significant edge. The future Hall-of-Famer is 5-2 in Super Bowls, averaging 296 yards and 2.1 TDs per game. We know the stage won’t be too big for Brady.
The same can’t be said for Nick Foles, who had some folks calling for Nate Sudfeld less than a month ago. If NFC Championship Foles shows up on Sunday, Philly will have a shot. But I’m not banking on that.
Patriots 27, Eagles 20
Nick Foles has quietly fumbled 6 times since stepping in for Carson Wentz -- without losing any of them. The win over the Vikings actually marked the 1st game all season in which he dropped back to pass at least once and didn’t fumble. No surprise, then, that it also marked the only time Philly has won handily with Foles playing a significant snap count. (Sorry, I don't consider beating that Raiders team 19-10 in Week 16 "handily.")
I’ve been an Eagles fan since Reggie White and Randall Cunningham wore kelly green while playing on the painted cement of the Vet. I’ve settled way down in my fandom over the past few years, but I’ll certainly be rooting hard for the Birds come Sunday.
That said, I just can’t bet on Foles going turnover-free after the Patriots get 2 weeks to plan for him. And I can’t bet on the Eagles winning a game against Tom Brady in which I expect them to turn the ball over.
Bob Swerski pick: Iggles 31-6
Actual pick: Patriots 23-16
Any belief in a Philly upset — at least for me — starts with Doug Pederson.
The Eagles improved to 13-3 after finishing 7-9 in 2016. (A 14-2 record was within reach had the team not rested key players in Week 17.) Such an impressive turnaround — despite losing Carson Wentz — isn’t that surprising when you consider Pederson’s background.
So, now he has a chance to be the first rookie or 2nd-year HC to win a Super Bowl since Mike Tomlin (’08-’09 season).
He’d likely have the coaching edge in any other matchup. But facing the greatest HC-QB duo of all-time, it’s tough to make that case.
Where I can see Philly having success is along the D-line. They’re strong inside (Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan) and boast a deep rotation on the edge (Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry).
But can they get home against the Pats’ quick-strike, up-tempo offense?
And what about Nick Foles? The unlikeliest of Super Bowl QBs, Foles last week looked like the guy who barnstormed the league in 2013. Do we get that guy … or the one who looked lost at the end of the regular season (vs. Oakland and Dallas).
I’ll take the boring route and side with experience and a résumé of excellence. Philly covers the 4.5...
Patriots 24, Eagles 20