NFL Game Picks: Super Bowl LII
We’ve finally arrived. After seventeen weeks of regular season football, another three weeks of postseason play and one more week of rest, we’re finally here: Super Bowl LII. It’s the perennial power, the New England Patriots, versus the upstart underdog, the Philadelphia Eagles. We should be in for a fantastic finale to the football year, so let’s break it down one last time.
2005 was the last time these teams met in the Super Bowl, a game that resulted in a tight 24-21 victory for New England. In the thirteen years that have passed since that game, both teams have gone down completely different paths.
New England, of course, became the dynasty that we all know and love (or hate), racking up a perfect regular season in 2007 and four more Super Bowl appearances in the next decade, two of which resulted in victories. In terms of the team itself, the main structure is still present. Head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are still in command. Despite the changes to the rest of the team, those two have stayed firm and adapted to the changes. No matter what the circumstances may be, Brady and Belichick can make it work.
Philadelphia is just the opposite. Everything has changed since that 2005 Super Bowl, including the coaching staff. Andy Reid is in Kansas City, and his understudy Doug Pederson has righted the ship in 2017 after years of inconsistency. Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens and Brian Westbrook are long gone. Instead, it’s Nick Foles, Nelson Agholor, LeGarrette Blount and a large supporting cast commanding the offense. The likes of Jeremiah Trotter and Brian Dawkins have been swapped for Fletcher Cox and Malcolm Jenkins on the other side of the ball. It’s a whole new story in the City of Brotherly Love.
We know the teams and how they got here, but who has the edge? Let’s analyze this matchup by dividing it into three categories: offense, defense and coaching.
Offense: The edge here has to go to New England. Tom Brady is having one of the best seasons of his career at age 40, thanks in large part to the pieces around him. Rob Gronkowski has been a monster all season long, and the fact that he’s been cleared from concussion protocol is a sigh of relief for Patriots fans. Brandin Cooks, Dion Lewis, and Danny Amendola have also helped to make this offense roar. It should come as no surprise that New England has the league’s No. 1 overall offense this year. Philadelphia has been fine on this side of the ball too, and they certainly have the edge on the ground thanks to a diverse backfield, but when you’re going in to a weigh-in against possibly the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, you’re likely going to lose.
Defense: The Eagles win here. Defensive dominance on the ground and through the air has been a key factor in Philadelphia’s success this season. The pass rush is absolutely terrifying, and when the front four has a deep rotation of eight or nine guys, it only gets more frightening. Great linebacking performances from the likes of Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks in the absence of Jordan Hicks as well as defensive back excellence have bolstered this defensive unit, allowing it to become one of the league’s best. Of course, New England has had a nice defensive turnaround, blowing away the early-season woes, but it’s no contest here: Philly all the way.
Coaching: As good as Doug Pederson may have been this season, it’s the headset genius of Bill Belichick that wins this matchup. When it comes to knowing your opponent, no one is better than Belichick. He has his players prepare for every opponent, taking advantage of any weaknesses he spots. An important yet seemingly forgotten factor is that Belichick has brought an aura of respect to this locker room. No one trash talks or reveals any critical information, and, as a result, the Patriots always have their heads in the game. Doug Pederson will likely bring great things to Philadelphia, but as of this moment, he’s no Belichick.
So, who’s taking home the Lombardi in 2018? The fan consensus seems to be in favor of New England. The current betting line has the Patriots as 4.5-point favorites. This isn’t surprising, considering the wisdom of Belichick, the greatness of Brady, and the overall familiarity of this team with postseason success. But the Eagles are no slouches. Despite the hitches along the way, this team has showed great resiliency. The Eagles have now won two postseason games in 2018 as underdogs (at home, no less). Who’s to say they won’t do it again?
Regardless of who comes out on top, this should be one for the books. Win or lose, New England has a history of playing close games in the Super Bowl, with the largest margin of victory since 2000 being last year’s six-point win over Atlanta. Expect the same kind of game come Sunday. It’s the AFC’s No. 1 team versus the NFC’s No. 1 team. We got the matchup that we deserve, and it won’t disappoint.
The pick: Philadelphia Eagles 27, New England Patriots 24.
DJ Bauer is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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