Patriots vs. Eagles will be a battle of the QBs

By DANIEL LANDY | February 1, 2018

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Dan Landy predicts that the Patriots will win year’s Super Bowl.

Super Bowl Sunday has arrived. The New England Patriots will face a team named after a bird in their quest to claim yet another Vince Lombardi Trophy. Sound familiar?

In a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX, the Pats will face the Philadelphia Eagles in hopes of claiming a what would be a record-tying sixth Super Bowl championship.

While this New England dynasty has its sights set on adding another achievement to its decorated history, knocking off the Eagles — who are looking for their first Super Bowl championship — will be a tall task. Let’s preview this Sunday’s highly anticipated showdown and examine the key factors that will decide Super Bowl LII.

I’ll begin by looking at the matchup between the New England offense and the Philadelphia defense. The Patriots have effective playmakers throughout their offense that have come through clutch before. Regardless of the offense’s versatility, every conversation about the Patriots starts and ends with Tom Brady.

Obviously, players such as Rob Gronkowski elevate the offense’s production. In Brady, however, we have a player who led the Pats back from a 28-3 deficit in last year’s Super Bowl — and that was without Gronk playing a single snap the entire game.

Even at age 40, Brady is still the best quarterback playing from behind that the League has ever seen. If New England does not get off to a fast start, there is no cause for concern.

Rather than falling into desperation, Brady keeps his composure, maintains his laser focus and actually becomes seemingly more effective. With two weeks to prepare and extensive previous experience on the biggest stage of national football, I expect the Patriots’ offense to come out strong. If they do start out slow — barring an injury to Brady — there should not be any major cause for concern.

The Eagles’ defense — coming off a dominant performance in the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings — will enter the Super Bowl with supreme confidence and momentum. As the fourth-ranked defense in the NFL, they will be one of the best units that Brady has faced this season.

Philly’s front seven are ferocious, with the likes of Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Mychal Kendricks leading the way. Rookie Derek Barnett, who impressed throughout his first season and had a key forced fumble against Minnesota, also figures to be an impact player. However, with the exception of Malcolm Jenkins, I am not confident that the Eagles’ secondary is capable of shutting down New England’s passing game.

If Brady can exploit Philadelphia’s defensive backs, it will be difficult to keep the Patriots out of the end zone. This will put added pressure on the Eagles offense to keep the game within reach.

Overall, while Philly’s defense will put more pressure on the Pats’ offense than the average opponent, it will not be enough to slow down a quarterback as productive and as experienced as Brady.

Now let’s transition to the battle between the Eagles’ offense and the Patriots’ defense. Once again, the key determining factor in the offense’s success will be the effectiveness of the quarterback.

Nick Foles has filled in very nicely for Carson Wentz. Wentz, in his sophomore season, was already performing as an MVP-caliber quarterback before an unfortunate ACL injury.

However, despite his impressive accuracy and precision, Foles has yet to find himself facing true adversity in a high-stakes situation. If Philly falls behind, the offense will have to rely on him and the passing game to remain competitive.

While Foles is as good as any quarterback at not turning the ball over, I do not trust him to bring the Eagles back from a deficit as much as I do Brady. He may not make costly mistakes, but he will also not convert a series of remarkable plays in the biggest game of his life.

In order to keep the pressure off Foles, Philadelphia will need to have a balanced offensive attack. Jay Ajayi and, to a lesser extent, former Patriot LeGarrette Blount must exploit New England’s run defense, which is ranked 20th in the NFL. The success of the running game will also be key, because it can keep the Eagles’ strong defense off the field and well-rested. In the passing game, tight end Zach Ertz, along with wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, will be relied on to make valuable contributions.

The New England defense, despite its breadth of talent, faltered at the start of the season. However, the unit has definitely improved over the course of the season and is one of the main reasons that this team has lost just one game since October.

This improvement, along with the unit’s prior playoff experience, should allow the Pats to disrupt the rhythm of Foles and the Philadelphia offense. As long as the defense does an adequate job and does not allow the Eagles’ offense to erupt as it did against Minnesota, it should be enough to let Brady’s brilliance put the team in position to win.

The last aspect that I would like to consider is coaching. Doug Pederson is a solid head coach, but Bill Belichick is arguably the greatest of all time.

Assisting Belichick are Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, two top-notch coordinators who already have head coaching jobs lined up once the season wraps up. No matter how well the Eagles play, the Patriots will come into the game with an effective game plan that exploits Philadelphia’s weaknesses.

The Eagles’ inexperience will cause some nerves early on, and the Pats will capitalize on their small mistakes — like penalties. If the Pats can gain an early edge, they can maintain it throughout the game and force the Eagles to play catch-up.

In addition to thoroughly preparing the team and making shrewd in-game play calls, the Patriots’ coaches are also great at eliminating distractions. Such a mentality is particularly important leading up to the Super Bowl, when it is crucial for the team to stay focused amidst the noise.

Just look at the way in which the organization has successfully deflected rumors of tensions between Brady, Belichick and owner Robert Kraft. When determining the winner of this huge game, it is impossible to ignore the clear advantage that the Patriots have from a coaching standpoint.

In the end, I see the Eagles keeping the game competitive most of the way. The Patriots will pull forward late to improve their Super Bowl record to 6-4 overall and 6-2 in the Brady-Belichick era. This is not the most well-rounded New England team that we have seen in recent years, but Brady’s greatness and Belichick’s strategic ingenuity will propel the Pats to yet another championship.

DanLand Prediction: The Pats win 31-17, and Brady claims his fifth Super Bowl MVP award.

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