The match-up is set. The Patriots and Eagles will face off in Super Bowl LII. Today I will address how they got there, and give you your first look at the match-up.
But first here is the official schedule for my Super Bowl LII Preview. This will be part of each Preview article and will include links to the articles that are finished.
Super Bowl LII – Patriots vs. Eagles: Boston Sports Mania Preview
Monday, Jan. 29: Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look
Tuesday, Jan. 30: The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game
Wednesday, Jan. 31: The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game
Thursday, Feb. 1: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance
Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats
Saturday, Feb. 3: Super Bowl LII Video Preview and iMovie Trailer
Sunday, Feb. 4: Watch the big game and stay tuned for my Recap!
How They Got There
The Pats won in comeback fashion again, this time against the Jacksonville Jaguars, 24-20. Early on, Blake Bortles, Leonard Fournette, Corey Grant, and the rest of the Jaguars offense dominated, taking a 14-3 lead and challenging the Pats for their chance at making it to their 10th Super Bowl, and their 8th with Tom Brady. The Pats were unable to stop this powerful Jags offense for most of the 1st half, although they did narrow Jacksonville’s lead with a TD before the half, making it 14-10. The Jaguars’ powerful pass rush also got on Tom Brady’s nerves in this half.
By halftime, Pats fans were getting worried, and some (but not me) gave up hope. But the 2nd half brought a turn-around for the Patriots. In the 3rd quarter, we began to see a better defensive performance by New England, as they held Jacksonville to just a measly 3 points in that quarter. Lawrence Guy was able to sack Bortles as he led the Pats defense to begin to get pressure on him. The Jags scored another field goal to begin the 4th and led 20-10.
But better defense set the Pats offense up to come back in the 4th quarter. Despite TE Rob Gronkowski being ruled out with a concussion, the Pats came back, led by Brady, Danny Amendola (who scored both 4th quarter TDs) and Brandin Cooks. The Pats came out of nowhere after being down by 10, scoring 14 unanswered points to win the game and advance to the Super Bowl. But how will they fare against the Eagles, who obliterated the Vikings?
The Vikings got off to a fast start as Case Keenum connected with TE Kyle Rudolph for a touchdown. But after that, Nick Foles broke out, leading the Eagles offense to blow away an otherwise unstoppable Vikings defense. He somehow tossed 3 TDs and 352 yards against the typically dominant Vikings D. I also don’t know how this defense gave up 38 points.
Not only did Foles do well, but his top four receivers (Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor) all had over 50 yards receiving, combining for 306 of Philly’s receiving yards and all 3 receiving TDs. The combination of end zone back LeGarrette Blount and lead running back Jay Ajayi also had a big game compared to recent performances.
After that win, the Eagles truly do deserve to fight for that Lombardi Trophy in Minneapolis, although it would have been cool to see Minnesota win it at home, or be stopped by the Patriots dynasty. But will the Eagles put up the same numbers against New England, who has far more experience in the Super Bowl? Many of New England’s players don’t even know what it is like not making the AFC Championship game.
A First Look at the Big Game
With TE Rob Gronkowski on the practice field as of Saturday the 27th, it’s a good sign that Gronk will be able to clear the concussion protocol and play by Sunday’s big game. Gronk’s status will help determine New England’s offensive schemes against an Eagles defense that can be tricky at times.
Either way, especially with T Marcus Cannon injured, DT Fletcher Cox and the Eagles’ defensive line could pressure QB Tom Brady and hit him a few times. But I do think Brady should be able to find his receivers against the younger, but still powerful Eagles secondary. With or without him, Gronk will have to get past Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins among others as they will likely keep the star tight end double covered.
Brady will have to mix it up a little, not only passing to Gronk, and dependable passing backs James White and Rex Burkhead, but also to his wide receivers who helped him win with Gronk and Burkhead out late into last week’s game. Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, and/or Chris Hogan could have a big game here. But will we see the Eagles look like their inconsistent selves again, or will we see QB Nick Foles and the Eagles offense pick up where they left off?
If they can, they will significantly challenge the Patriots, whose pass rush has struggled to pressure the QB at times this season. However, it has gotten better since LB James Harrison joined the Patriots. Not only has he himself made an impact, but he’s also made an impact on other players’ performances, serving as a veteran influence. The Pats sacked Jags QB Blake Bortles twice last week. One was by Harrison, and the other by DT Lawrence Guy. However, the Eagles give Foles better protection than Bortles gets with their strong offensive line.
This also helps running backs, who the Pats have struggled even more against. In their Week 7 win against Atlanta, their big flaw was giving up big plays to Devonta Freeman. It cost them in Week 1 against Kareem Hunt. Can RB Jay Ajayi be next? Will end zone threat Blount Force Trauma get revenge on his former team? Or will it be younger RBs like Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood who thrive?
The good news is, despite their front seven woes, they have maintained a strong secondary all season long, and don’t be surprised if they annoy Foles’ receivers and pick Foles off a couple times. I do think Foles will continue to thrive though, finding his receivers for most of the game, but making brutal mistakes against this strong secondary that cause the Eagles offense to trail a little behind the “Brady Bunch.”
Who will win Super Bowl LII? What is the game plan for each team? What Super Bowl and season-long stats will burden, encourage and/or influence each team? Find out this week as I release more articles each day.
This is the 17th time Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will face off, possibly the last. Between the Colts and the Broncos, Manning knows are team too well. He knows Brady, he knows Belichick, so we have to play are game, but run a couple plays that we don’t normally do. The New England Patriots take on the Denver Broncos at Mile High. In November, we went to Denver and they came back to win 30-24, but it was Brock Osweiler under center last time, Manning was out with plantar fasciitis.
My Prediction: Patriots, 27, Broncos, 23
So, who has the advantage in this game? You saw in Week 12, it will be a close game, tough match-up and very physical game. So, lets break it down. Injuries had way more of an impact in Week 12 than now, Edelman was out, DeMarcus Ware was out, Gronk left, Hightower, Collins and Amendola sat too. Now, we have a team at decent health, so does Denver.
Denver has a dominant front seven: Sylvester Williams, Malik Jackson, Derek Wolfe, DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, Brandon Marshall, Danny Trevathan and Shane Ray. That’s EIGHT GUYS, you can only start 7!! Their secondary also includes star corners Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. plus T.J. Ward and Bradley Roby. Steven Jackson, Brandon Bolden and James White better be ready to bull through the defense and find space between the stars, and I trust that they can. I also think that the secondary isn’t strong enough to guard Gronk, Edelman, Amendola, Chandler, LaFell and Keshawn Martin. I think 2 of these 8 will score: Jackson, Bolden, Edelman, LaFell, Amendola, Gronk, Chandler. My original prediction was Gronk and Chandler but now I’m thinking maybe Jackson, Bolden or a receiver will score.
Now Denver’s offense. The Broncos even without Peyton Manning would have an overpowered offense. C.J. Anderson usually really shows up this time of year, while Ronnie Hillman continues to do his thing. Plus the receiving game didn’t just use DeMaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders last time. They used Vernon Davis, Owen Daniels, Cody Latimer and Andre Caldwell, who had a TD, too. But the young Patriots secondary will have to try and stop Denver’s pass, they should be able to double cover Thomas, and contain Sanders and Daniels on one man coverage. Vernon Davis, Virgil Green and those sleep receivers, may let loose. They also need to do a better job containing the running game. But in the end, despite facing to more overpowered defense, and being the road team, I think the Pats have the edge with their offense’s match-up and will win by a nose.
Keys To The Game
- Even against a ferocious front seven, the Patriots run game needs to keep it up. Tom Brady might not have the protection he needs, and he’ll have to depend on his backfield. They have the individual players to do it, the questions are: Do they work together enough to?, Is the match-up against the defense in their favor?
- The Broncos run game is revamped too with CJ Anderson at his best. The Patriots have struggled to stop the run all year. This game, they need to excel at it.
- The young Patriots secondary needs to contain a large number of Broncos receivers that make up its offense’s core. Last time, sleep receiver Andre Caldwell caught the TD that brought the game to overtime, where CJ Anderson had a long run for a touchdown.
- The Patriots have just as good of receivers when healthy. The Broncos secondary isn’t quite as good as their pass rush, and they might have trouble keeping the receivers from doing much. Between Edelman, LaFell, Amendola, Keshawn Martin, Gronk and Chandler, there’s plenty of guys to cover.
- CJ Anderson needs to pick up the pace. Between some big games, he’s still been somewhat consistent unlike late last year, even when Manning’s super bowl hopes got crushed in the Divisional Round last year Anderson made an impact.
- The Broncos need to use their receiving depth to their advantage. Unleash all their sleep receivers and play like the Pats haven’t seen them play yet.
New England Patriots (13-4)
WR Danny Amendola – Knee (LP)
TE Scott Chandler – Knee (LP)
LB Jamie Collins – Back (LP)
DB Nate Ebner – Hand (LP)
WR Julian Edelman – Foot (LP)
LB Darius Fleming – Back/Shin (LP)
LB Jonathan Freeny – Hand (LP)
TE Rob Gronkowski – Knee/Back (LP)
LB Dont’a Hightower – Knee (LP)
DE Chandler Jones – Abdomen/Toe (LP)
DE Rob Ninkovich – Shin (LP)
WR Matthew Slater – Shin (LP)
C Bryan Stork – Ankle (LP)
OT Sebastian Vollmer – Ankle (LP)
Denver Broncos (13-4)
S Josh Bush – Shoulder
TE Owen Daniels – Knees
ILB Todd Davis – Shoulder
G Max Garcia – Groin
CB Chris Harris Jr. – Shoulder
QB Peyton Manning – Foot
ILB Brandon Marshall – Ankle
QB Brock Osweiler – Knee
S Darian Steward – Hamstring
S T.J. Ward – Ankle
OLB DeMarcus Ware – Knee
CB Bradley Roby – Quadricep