The big game is here. Finally.
The last game of the 2017 NFL season kicks off this Sunday – the Super Bowl. I have doubts that it can top last years magnificent game between the Patriots and the Falcons, but Philadelphia «Underdog» Eagles will definitely try to deny Patriots a back-to-back Super Bowl title.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS v PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
US Bank Stadium – Sun 04 Jan, 00:30 CEST
TV: Viasat 4, NBC
Patriots record: 15-3
Eagles record: 15-3
|New England Patritos||Philadelphia Eagles|
|QB: Tom Brady
RB: Dion Lewis, James White
TE: Rob Gronkowski
WR: Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan
OL: Solder, Thuney, Andrews, Mason, Fleming
|QB: Nick Foles
RB: Legarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi
TE: Zach Ertz
WR: Alshon Jefferey, Torrey Smith
OL: Vatai, Wisniewski, Kelce, Brooks, Johnson
|New England Patritos||Philadelphia Eagles|
|DL: Eric Lee, Lawrence Guy, Malcolm Brown, Trey Flowers
LB: Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts
DB: Malcolm Butler, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Stephon Gilmore
|DL: Vinny Curry, Timmy Jernigan, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham
LB: Mychal Kendricks, Dannell Ellerbe, Nigel Bradham
DB: Jalen Mills, Rodney McLeod, Malcolm Jenkins, Ronald Darby
I will do this preview position by position, and measure the players against each other. That usually gives you a good picture of how the game will play out.
Tom Brady vs Nick Foles. The Greatest QB of All Time against a guy that almost called it a career a few years ago. Foles got his chance after Carson Wentz got injured, and he’d taken the Eagles all the way to the Super Bowl. You can say a lot about Nick Foles, but taking over the team like he did is very impressive. However, when you put these two player up against each other, there is no doubt.
As Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell told me after the Pro Bowl on Sunday: “He’s had a legendary career, and you can’t argue him not being the GOAT at this point.”
The greatest of all time is simply several levels better than Nick Foles, and when it’s all said and done, that’s really what matters when the game is on the line.
LeGarrette Blount was a part of the Patriots team that turned the Super Bowl around last year. Now he’s on the other side, playing against the Patriots with the Eagles. He’s the pounder of that offense, while Jay Ajayi is the playmaker. I feel like the Eagles has been saving Ajayi for this game, for this moment, and the British runningback is ready to roll. After losing Blount, the Patriots went out and got both Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee to fill the gap. Add Dion Lewis and James White to the mix, and you have a packed backfield with quality players. All can be decisive in a Super Bowl, as White proved last year.
The wide receiver group isn’t stacked with super stars, but they are all capable of doing great things. Brandin Cooks has been a good addition for the Patriots this year, and he’s arguably the best receiver on the field Sunday. Alshon Jefferey is a good number two, for Philly. Both of them needs to win their matchups regularly all night, to give Foles and Brady a chance. Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola are also two receivers that’s been here before, and that does matter quite a bit. The Eagles receiver Torrey Smith has also been in, and won a Super Bowl. The rest of the Philadelphia receiving corps has not.
Alshon Jefferey, however, was so sure he was going to the Super Bowl this year that he guaranteed it to the media after the 2016 season. Thing is, he played for the Chicago Bears when he made that promise. Now he’s here – with the Eagles.
The tight end duel this year is amazing. Rob Gronkowski and Zach Ertz are arguably the to best TEs in the league, and it will be amazing to see them trying to match each other on Sunday. Gronk has been out with a concussion, but is back in training, and good to go for the game. And to be honest, even a limited Gronk can do some serious damage – more than Zach Ertz can.
The Phildadelphia Eagles O-line, led by Lane Johnson, has been brilliant this year. There is no way the transition from Carson Wentz to Nick Foles had been this fluent without a top notch O-line. The Patriots line is also more than decent, but Eagles probably had the best line in the entire league this year. And if the game is decided in the trenches, then that could be decisive.
And how about the guys going up against them? Eric Lee, Lawrence Guy, Malcolm Brown and Trey Flowers are the Patriots pass rushers. On paper, that might be one of the weakest Patriots D-lines in a long time, but Matt Patricia has done a great job getting maximum effort from this guys. Still, the Eagles line is miles ahead. Long, Curry, Jernigan, Cox and Graham is a scary foursome, and add rookie Derek Barnett to the mix too. Six explosive pass rushers that will make Tom Brady’s life difficult. In my opinion, this game could be decided by how Fletcher Cox plays. He must bring pressure up through the middle, or else Tom Brady will find his receivers with ease all night long.
James Harrison is 39 years old, but ready to do damage for his new team – New England Patriots. He must realize that this probably is his last Super Bowl, if not last ever game. Harrison will put it all on the line to get his third ring. The rest of the Patriots linebacker group is a bit anonymous, but Kyle Van Noy has the potential to be a difference maker.
The Eagles linebacker is really coming together. Kendricks and Bradham has been vital pieces of the defense this year, but can they keep that going in a huge game like the Super Bowl? We’ll see.
Both Patritos and Eagles has very good secondaries. Patriots added Stephon Gilmore in the off season, and he’s just become better and better in the Patriots uniform. Malcolm Butler, the hero from the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks, is on the other side. The dead solid Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty guards the middle. It’s hard, if not impossible, to match the talent of that group.
But the Eagles have very good pieces too. Jalen Mills has been excellent this season, and Ronald Darby is still performing on a very high level. Safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod is also a very good duo. Matter of fact, these eight defensive backs starting the Super Bowl is all in the discussion for the top 15 DBs in the league.
And then, of course, the coaching staff. I really don’t have to write a lot here. Bill Belichick is a legend, and two of his assistant coaches will be NFL head coaches next season. That says it all, and even though Doug Pederson has been great, he’s not even close.
Last Sunday, we got to talk to several NFL stars about the Super Bowl, and Tom Brady’s amazing career. Watch:
WRITTEN BY MATTIS HOLT, SPORTS WRITER AND VALUELIVE SHOW HOST
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