The Mega Super Bowl LII Preview Guide for Dummies
In Jacksonville, Florida, 13 years ago, the New England Patriots won their third Super Bowl in a four-year span by defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21. On February 4, 2018, in a bit of déjà vu, the Eagles will get their chance for revenge against the Patriots in Super Bowl LII in a rematch of that memorable Super Bowl XXXIX game.
Many Americans don’t follow the NFL religiously like I do and only tune in during the Super Bowl. To those people, I say, “why not?” Before you give me some politically-laced rant, understand that I am here to help you.
With your Super Bowl party experience less than two weeks away, don’t let this year’s party be one where you don’t understand what is going on. This year, show up to the party and know your stuff so that you can do more snacking than ask questions.
Super Bowl LII General Information
Who Is Playing?
Philadelphia Eagles (NFC) vs. The New England Patriots (AFC)
Who Did They Beat to Get Here?
NFC Divisional Round - #6 Atlanta Falcons (15-10)
NFC Championship Game - #2 Minnesota Vikings (38-7)
AFC Divisional Round - #5 Tennessee Titans (35-14)
AFC Championship Game - #3 Jacksonville Jaguars (24-20)
Who is the Favorite?
According to Vegas, the Patriots are 5.5-point favorites
Where Is The Game?
U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Home of the Minnesota Vikings)
When is the Game?
Sunday, February 4 at 6:30 p.m. EST
What Channel is it On?
National Anthem Singer & Halftime Performer
National Anthem: P!NK
Halftime Show: Justin Timberlake
The Simple Stats: These Teams Are Nearly Dead Even
Eagles: 13-3 (2-0) - 1st in NFC
Patriots: 13-3 (2-0) - 1st in AFC
Offensive Rankings (Points Scored Per Game):
Eagles: 28.6 PPG - 3rd in NFL
Patriots: 28.6 PPG - 2nd in NFL
Defensive Rankings (Points Allowed Per Game):
Eagles: 18.4 PPG - 4th in NFL
Patriots: 18.5 PPG - 5th in NFL
QB Nick Foles
Took over as the starting quarterback in Week 15 due to MVP-candidate QB Carson Wentz suffering an ACL tear
4-1 in five starts (2-0 in the playoffs)
1037 passing yards; 8 TDs - 2 INTs
RB Jay Ajayi
Acquired in a trade from the Miami Dolphins midseason
534 rushing yards in nine games
Been the go-to option at running back since moving to Philadelphia
DT Fletcher Cox
2018 Pro Bowl selection
Heart and soul of the Eagles defense
Causes almost any offensive line in the NFL problems because of his power and agility
QB Tom Brady
Five-time Super Bowl champion and four-time Super Bowl MVP
Fourth all-time in passing yards and heralded by many as the great quarterback of all-time
5,204 passing yards; 37 TDs - 8 INTs
TE Rob Gronkowski
Freak of nature tight-end who is big, fast and Brady’s favorite target
1,186 receiving yards; 76 REC - 9 TDs
Currently has a concussion and not yet cleared for the Super Bowl although the Patriots expect he will be able to play
S Devin McCourty
Playmaking safety and leader of the Patriots defense
89 tackles led the Patriots in 2017-18
Former first-round draft pick of the Patriots in 2010
Head Coaching Match-Up: The Newby vs. The Vet
Doug Pederson Eagles Head Coach (The Newby)
Second year as Eagles head coach; former offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs (2013-2015)
Won a Super Bowl as a player in 1997 as a backup quarterback with the Green Bay Packers (beat the New England Patriots 35-21)
20-12 regular season record; 2-0 postseason record
Loves to be aggressive, run trick plays and go for it on fourth down
Bill Belichick Patriots Head Coach (The Vet)
Seven-time Super Bowl Champion (5x as head coach, 2x as defensive coordinator)
5-2 all-time in Super Bowls (all with the Patriots)
15-straight double-digit win seasons
Arguably the greatest football coach of all-time
Known for showing little emotion and having a cut and dry personality
Eagles vs. Patriots Historically in Super Bowls
0-2 in Super Bowls (0-0 under Pederson)
Most recent appearance: 2004-05 (21-24 loss against the New England Patriots)
5-4 in Super Bowls (5-2 under Belichick)
Most recent appearance: 2016-17 (34-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons; came back from an NFL record 25-point deficit in the second half)
What the Eagles Need to Do to Win
Keep the Ball Out of Tom Brady’s Hands
With 52 game-winning drives in his career, which ranks second all-time (Peyton Manning is first with 56), Tom Brady is arguably the most clutch quarterback of all-time. If teams have a lead against Brady, the former Michigan standout always seems to find a way to win. In his seven Super Bowl appearances, Brady has five game-winning drives to his name, an NFL record. If the Eagles want to win, they need to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands by sustaining long drives, scoring touchdowns and not allowing Brady to convert on third down.
Don’t Become Conservative in Your Play Calling
Like the Atlanta Falcons found out in last year’s Super Bowl, becoming complacent with your lead and calling simple plays will lose you games against the Patriots. Just ask the Jacksonville Jaguars about conservative play calling, which is what partially lost them the game. If the Eagles build up a sizeable lead, they need to keep their foot on the gas pedal. If you don’t, the Patriots will take advantage. Keep mixing up the play calling and pull out the unique plays.
Keep Your Composure
Mental toughness is key against the Patriots. There is a reason why Tom Brady and Bill Belichek have won five Super Bowls, and that is because their mental toughness and resiliency are unrivaled. Avoid unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, avoid pre-snap penalties such as offside or false starts and don’t wear your emotions on your sleeve.
What the Patriots Need to Do to Win
Protect Tom Brady
Tom Brady is 40-years-old and has twelve stitches in his throwing hand due to a recent injury sustained in practice. Because of this, the Patriots offensive line must protect their aging superstar quarterback. Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox is one of the best in the league and finding his way to the quarterback. Therefore, if the Patriots want Tom Brady to lead them to another Super Bowl win, the Patriots will want to avoid having their quarterback being hit by a 300-lb tank.
Avoid Giving Up Big Plays on Defense
Nick Foles’ confidence level is building with every throw he is making. If the Patriots allow Foles to make a couple of big plays, that confidence will only rise. Additionally, the Eagles are known, at least in these NFL playoffs, for busting out big runs through Jay Ajayi or one of their more speedy running backs. If the Patriots want to win, they need to prevent the Eagles offense from busting out big plays and gaining confidence from them.
Gronk Can’t Carry The Offense
In the second half of the AFC Championship game, Rob Gronkowski didn’t play a single snap due to a concussion sustained in the first half. With Brady’s favorite and biggest target out of the lineup, other Patriots wide receivers stepped up, especially slot receiver Danny Amendola. Amendola, who caught the game-winning touchdown from Brady late in the fourth quarter, proved to be a vital asset.
Amendola will need more help though if Gronkowski cannot play. Deep threat Brandin Cooks and the speedy Chris Hogan need to make themselves available for Brady. If Brady can’t get the ball out of his hands quickly, he will most certainly be on the ground quite a bit which spells bad news for the Patriots.
What to Watch For
Nick Foles vs. Tom Brady
Can the Eagles backup beat arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time in the Super Bowl? Well, Foles will undoubtedly try. Keep an eye on how the truly talented Eagles quarterback performs and expect Tom Brady to be, well, Tom Brady.
The entire offensive load for both teams cannot fall on the quarterbacks. Both the Eagles and Patriots need to establish a running game. Why? Because if either offense becomes one-dimensional, both the Eagles and Patriots defenses will stop them. If the Eagles and Patriots don’t mix up their play calling, this could be a surprisingly low-scoring Super Bowl.
Special Teams Will Be Crucial
With both of these teams almost identical statistically on paper, a big play on special teams could be the deciding factor. If it comes down to a game-winning field goal attempt, both kickers are more than capable of winning the game. Eagles rookie kicker Jake Elliott already has a few clutch kicks this season in his locker while Patriots kicker Stephen Gostowski is known as Mr. Reliable in New England and is the all-time leading points scorer in Patriots history.
The Patriots are 0-2 in Super Bowls against teams from the NFC East (Eagles are from the NFC East)
The last backup quarterback to win the Super Bowl was Tom Brady back in 2001-02
Last time the Patriots faced the Eagles in the Super Bowl (a 24-21 win), both their offensive coordinator [Charlie Weis] and defensive coordinator [Romeo Crennel] coached their final games. Current offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is scheduled to be the next Indianapolis Colts head coach and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is scheduled to be the next Detriot Lions head coach.
The Eagles currently stand as 5.5 point underdogs to the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. In this year’s playoffs, the Eagles were underdogs in both games, bringing their record to 2-0 in playoff games in which they were underdogs.
Who You Should Root For
Are you a neutral fan and don’t know who to root for? Here is the simple breakdown of who you should pull for:
The Patriots are in the Super Bowl AGAIN. The Eagles are in the Super Bowl for the first time in over 13 years and have never won a Super Bowl. Also, take a gander at who America is pulling for in this Super Bowl.
Unless the team that you pull for is direct rivals of either of the Eagles or Patriots, pull for the Eagles, or you will get labeled as a bandwagon fan (don’t be like Golden State Warriors “fans”).
While the Eagles love the underdog role and the Patriots seemingly cannot beat NFC East teams in the Super Bowl, the safe bet is to go with Tom Brady and the Patriots.
MVP: Tom Brady (his fifth Super Bowl MVP award)