Nick Foles Vs Patriots Defense
Nick Foles is going to have to play as well as he has in the past two games as he has completed 49 of 63 passes (78% completion percentage) for 598 passing yards (299 pass yards/game) and has thrown 3 TDs to no interceptions. Foles has to play a turnover-free game to have any chance of winning the Super Bowl for the Eagles. He has a slight advantage as Patriots defense ranked 30th in passing yards per game allowed (251.3). They have also recently allowed 547 passing yards in the past two games (273.5 per game) to Marcus Mariota and Blake Bortles. The key for Patriots defense, meanwhile, will be to take away Zach Ertz as he is Foles’ favorite target and will most likely apply a lot of pressure on Foles with exotic blitzes. They will also have to beware of the RPO’s (Run Pass Options) as they are very difficult to defense because they freeze up the linebackers. This will be a huge matchup and if Foles can perform like has in the past two games in the playoffs, the Eagles could be hoisting their first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.
Tom Brady Vs Eagles Defense
Tom Brady has been phenomenal during the playoffs as he has not turned the ball over and has completed 61 of 91 passes (67.0% completion percentage) for 627 yards (313.5 passing yards/game), and 5 TDs to no interceptions. Brady will need to get the ball out quickly because the Eagles pass rush is a very aggressive group that knows how to get to the quarterback as they ranked 15th in total sacks (38.0), but ranked 17th in passing yards per game allowed (227.3). In the past two games this defense has allowed 481 passing yards (240.5 pass yards/game). The defense will have to get off to a fast start keep constant pressure on Brady as he has several weapons in Brandin Cooks, Rob Gronkowski, and his running backs.
Jay Ajayi and Eagles Running Backs Vs Patriots Run Defense
The Patriots defense will have a tough task ahead of them in Jay Ajayi and the Eagles running backs as they are very effective in both the run and pass game. Nick Foles will be relying on them early and often to establish a tempo and play to their style to set up the play-action game. With the run game, the Eagles will look to control the clock and keep Tom Brady off the field. The Eagles seem to have the advantage in the run game as the Patriots defense ranked 20th in rushing yards per game allowed (114.8), but have recently allowed a combined 176 rushing yards (88.0 rush yards/game). Matt Patricia will have to force the Pats defense into stacking the box and shut down the run game to force Foles to throw the ball a lot.
Patriots Running Backs Vs Eagles Run Defense
The Patriots running backs will play a pivotal role in neutralizing the Eagles pass rush as they will be asked to chip or block to keep Tom Brady upright. Brady has a handful of options to throw to including Dion Lewis, James White, and even Rex Burkhead, who will most likely match up against the Eagles linebackers, Mychal Kendricks, Dannell Ellerbe, and Nigel Bradham. Also, the running backs will have a tough time running the ball against this Eagles as they ranked 1st in rushing yards per game allowed (79.2) and only allowed a combined 156 rushing yards (78.0 rush yards/game) against the Falcons and Vikings. Expect the Pats running backs to be more involved in the pass game as Brady loves to throw to them.
Philly’s Edge Defenders Vs Cam Fleming and Nate Solder
The Patriots tackles will have their hands full on Sunday as they’ll be matching up against several defensive ends that will rotate in and out a bunch. They have to go up against Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Derek Barnett, and Chris Long, who have all done their fair share of damage throughout the season. Solder ranked 32nd among active tackles with a 75.1 grade, which is average for a tackle while Cam Fleming ranked 25th among active tackles with a 78.1 grade, which is also average. These two should have times where they struggle to block the edge defenders, and they will have times when they will block them well. All that matters is that the keep Tom Brady straight up in the pocket to dissect the Eagles defense.
Rob Gronkowski Vs Eagles Safeties/Linebackers/Corner
Gronkowski has officially bene cleared from concussion protocol and will prove to be a tough matchup for Malcom Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Dannell Ellerbe, and maybe even Jalen Mills. It remains to be seen how Gronk will be covered, whether it be through double-teaming or bracketing him in between zones, but it seems that he may get a lot of one-on-one matchups since Jim Schwartz believes that the Eagles defense can’t just gameplan against one player. If the Eagles keep Gronk in check, anothe player will almost certainly take advantage of one-on-one coverage.
Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan Vs Interior Offensive Lineman
Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan have been quite the defensive tackle duo especially when it comes to pkugging up the run as they have been a key factor in ranking 1st against the rush. They’ll be going up against Shaq Mason, David Andrews, and Joe Thunder as the interior lineman. Shaq Mason ranked 9th out of all guards as he earned a 81.3 grade, which is high quality for a guard. The center, David Andrews, ranked 6th among all centers with a grade of 81.3 which is also high quality. The last offensive lineman is the left guard, Joe Thuney, ranked 13th among guards with a 79.3 grade, and ranks average. The three of them will have their hands full with the interior lineman and they also have to be careful when Brandon Graham is put inside as a DT.
Patriots Secondary Vs Eagles Receivers
The Patriots secondary will have their hands full against Alshon Jeffrey, Mack Hollins, and Torrey who can play in the slot or outside (Stephon Gilmore and Malcom Butler are the two outside corners) and Nelson Agholor who has bene one of the league’s best slot receivers this year (Eric Rowe is the slot corner). Also, don’t forget that Nick Foles’ favorite target, Zach Ertz will be playing tight end and will almost certainly be lining up against Devin McCourty or Daron Harmon, especially on thrd down and inside the red zone. Since the Patriots are primarily a man coverage team, the Eagles receivers will need to win their matchups to give Nick Foles options. This is a very intriguing matchup to watch as these players matchup against each other on Sunday.
Eagles Time of Possession
The Eagles have dominated games by controlling the clock over the past two season under Doug Pederson. Their time of possession ranked first in the NFL (32:44). This will be a huge part the game since they’ll want to dominate time to keep Tom Brady and the offense off the field. They have done a great job all season long and will continue to milk the clock in game by completing some easy passes and running the ball a lot. The key will be to run the play clock down to the last 5 seconds at least.
The Score at Halftime
This may not seem like tha big of a deal, and it very well may not be much of a difference at the end of this game, but the score at halftime is worth watching. When the Patriots are trailing at the half, they are 2-2 (including the playoffs), with their only most recent comeback being against the Jaguars in the Championship Game as they trailed 14-10. Also, when the Patriots have had the lead at the half, they are 12-1 when they have the lead at the half (including the playoffs). The Eagles, on the other hand, are 9-0 when they are leading at the half. When the Eagles trail at the half, they are 3-3 when they are trailing at the half. It’ll be interesting to see if this remains the same in the Super Bowl.
Bold Prediction: Nick Foles outplays Tom Brady by throwing for 300 yards, 3 TDs, and earns the Super Bowl MVP.