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SUPER BOWL PREVIEW: Patriots and Eagles for ALL the Marbles

Please no, not the Patriots again.

What a weird Super Bowl matchup. Guess it’s fitting for such a weird season for the NFL.

The New England Patriots have returned to the Big Game once again, ready to win back-to-back Lombardi Trophies and a record-tying sixth overall. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick look unstoppable, in spite of all the rumors of locker room dissension.

There’s only one team standing in their way of yet another season of eliteness: the Philadelphia Eagles. No Super Bowl wins. Their first appearance in the title game since 2005, where they lost to Brady and Belichick. Are they the unit that can topple the giant?

It could happen. Anything could happen. The Patriots overcame a 25 point deficit to win the Super Bowl last year after all. But how do the Eagles go about pulling the upset?

The 25-point deficit is a good place to start. The Eagles cannot play conservative. Calculated aggression is what they’re good at anyway, but taking the foot off the gas pedal against the Patriots is a BAD idea. Ask the Atlanta Falcons. Or even the Jacksonville Jaguars a couple weeks ago.

Lasting the whole game comes into play for the next point as well. The Eagles have to maintain pressure on Brady into the fourth quarter. Their consistent pass rush against Case Keenum and the Minnesota Vikings was a huge factor in winning the NFC Championship Game. It has to do the same with the Patriots.

Finishing sacks is obviously important, but believe it or not, that played a significant role in the Patriots two previous postseason wins. The Jaguars and Tennessee Titans were both able to get pressure, but Brady’s quick release made that a moot point. Thus, the Patriots offense continued on their merry way.

The Eagles have an eclectic group of pass rushers, however, and the rotation could be enough to get an advantage on Belichick’s gameplan. The defense is also the best at stopping the run in football, so Brady’s arm is what will win the game for the Patriots.

Rob Gronkowski‘s health is important, of course. He’s been cleared from the concussion he received in the Jaguars game and will most certainly be one of Brady’s top targets. The Eagles have mostly been able to shut down tight ends this season, but Gronk is a different beast entirely. The Patriots running backs will definitely be involved in the passing game too.

On offense, the Eagles need a balanced attack. Nick Foles has been reliable during the playoffs, to his credit, but Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount should be mixed in as well. The Patriots defense isn’t particularly strong against the pass or the run, so there’s an opening that Doug Pederson can exploit. The Eagles offensive line will have to hold up too.

Coaching may end up being the catalyst for who comes out on top. Pederson has done extremely well this season, but he’s obviously inexperienced when it comes to Super Bowls. Meanwhile, Belichick has been in seven, all with the same quarterback. That could be too much for the Eagles to overcome.

Still, the Eagles have gotten this far, essentially without their star QB Carson Wentz, their veteran left tackle Jason Peters and key contributors in running back Darren Sproles and linebacker Jordan Hicks. Their perseverance is their strength. But the Patriots can counter that with pure dominance. It’ll be an interesting matchup for sure. Let’s just hope it’s a close finish.

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