So we are finally here. Super Bowl LII is almost upon us. These two weeks of hype always kill me…of course especially when the hometown team New England Patriots are in the actual game. The two weeks did help me for sure in one case however…it allowed Rob Gronkowski enough time to shake the cobwebs (literally) and allow him to suit up in the game. No need to speak about how important that is.
Did I pass my time last Sunday by watching the Pro Bowl? Ummmmm…no. But I suppose I should have watched that mess instead of what was probably the worst Grammy telecast of all time. But that’s a story for a different day.
By the way, did you know that David Carr was in the Pro Bowl? That guy had a putrid season. How the hell…nevermind. Another story for another day.
Time to get to the matter at hand…
Philadelphia “at” New England (-4.5)
Last year, I thought New England was going to hammer Atlanta from the get-go. Although I do think the Pats could win big here, I won’t make that mistake again.
Just once…ONCE…I would like to see a Pats blowout win in the Super Bowl. Win or lose, I am tired of the nerve-wracking endings in the Big Game during the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era. I know, cry me a river, right? The Pats have been to 8 Super Bowls with that duo, what the hell am I complaining about? My apologies. But I still want that comfortable blowout. And for those of you that may say, “well, the Falcons were blowing the Pats out late in the third quarter and THEY lost. You really can’t feel comfortable until the clock reads 0:00…”. That may be true in theory, you would be absolutely correct. I am generally a “0:00 guy”…talk to me when the game is officially over…in any sport. But I would also assure you the Pats ain’t blowing that type of lead that late. Sorry. So the chances that I would be comfortable under that scenario would probably be pretty good.
In any event, I don’t think I will ever find that comfort. It appears the formula seems to be set in the Super Bowl for the Patriots: don’t score in the first quarter, continue feeling the game out in the second quarter, make halftime adjustments and show some life in the third quarter, head into the fourth quarter down (just hopefully not to the tune of 28-3 or 28-10 or the like), score late to secure the victory…or give up a miracle catch near the end and lose a heartbreaking one. 3 point game in the end either way. Hard to go against what seems to be habit.
Enough of the preamble. Let’s get down to brass tacks. Although I have not watched a ton of Eagle football this season and sure as hell have not studied any of their game film. But after soaking in all the hype for the past two weeks, here are some thoughts/concerns on the game/matchups/etc., in no particular order:
*The Eagle defensive line scares the bejesus out of me because, well, the Patriot offensive line scares the bejesus out of me. That one is easy. No, Chris Long doesn’t necessarily make me nervous. But Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham kind of do. The good thing is that the Eagles apparently like to rotate these guys to keep them fresh. Why is that good? The Patriots can presumably go no huddle the times that the backups are in the game. Thus obviously keeping the starters on the bench. Unless the Eagles are willing to take penalties and/or use timeouts. Which also would be beneficial to the Pats. Not to mention the fact that running a lot of plays would seem to wear down those fat hogs on the line and perhaps the defense as a whole. See, Falcons, Atlanta, Super Bowl LI.
*Malcolm Jenkins seems to have a reputation of being a very good player. However, the rest of the secondary and linebacking corps don’t necessarily make me fret. Saw a stat recently that showed that Philly’s defense is rather pedestrian on the road, for whatever reason. Minneapolis is not Philadelphia, as you are well aware. Eli Manning also carved them up late in the season, while having virtually zero weapons on offense. This should make Eagle fans a little nervous since, you know, Manning is done.
If Jenkins and say, a linebacker, take Gronk, then that leaves the rest of the secondary to take on the Patriot receivers. Brandin Cooks had a pretty good game against Jacksonville, despite one horrific drop. Danny Amendola is money. But I also have a gut feeling that this is the week that Chris Hogan decides to show up again. I wouldn’t bet serious money on it, but it’s a lingering thought I haven’t been able to dismiss. Would be a nice story, since Hogan has been hurt/invisible for most of the year. We’ll see…
*Doug Pederson is from the “Andy Reid coaching tree”. What that essentially means is if this game is close in the 4th quarter, expect horrible game decisions and inexcusable clock mismanagement. There is no way around that. Pederson is also coaching in his first Super Bowl (with a backup quarterback…more on him next), Belichick his eighth. This fact simply cannot be overstated.
*If Carson Wentz was playing in this game, I may have a different prediction. Maybe not, but the point is moot. Nick Foles is the QB. Foles had a monster season a few years back in his first go-round in Philly. But has done little since. Ergo, that’s why he is a backup QB.
People seem to be overrating Foles at this point, simply because he had that one monster year and…he did play well against a good Viking defense in the NFC Championship. But have those same people seen the rest of the games Foles played this year? Wasn’t pretty. In fact, the Eagles had to go back to some plays that were in Chip Kelly’s playbook to make Foles feel more comfortable. I don’t necessarily think this is a great thing. Kelly is also close pals with Belichick. And likely is still vengeful toward the Eagles after his treatment there. Maybe he deserved it, but still, that doesn’t change his feelings. In any event, I’m guessing there was a conversation between Bill and Chip during the prep time. Of course, Pederson also probably spoke to Reid as well, so maybe it’s a wash.
One thing is for sure though…Nick Foles is not going to single-handedly beat the Patriots.
*I’m praying that Pederson runs the ball 40 plus times with LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi to “keep the ball out of Brady’s hands”. This will not beat the Patriots. Will he be that stupid? I don’t think so, but you can’t underestimate some people. Oh, and if Blount can fumble early in the game like last year, that would help me a great deal. Thank you in advance.
*Speaking of Philly running backs, we all know Blount has hands of stone and judging by the numbers, Ajayi doesn’t do much damage catching the ball either. This is favorable for the Pats. We know their linebackers may be the worst collection of stiffs I have ever seen. I don’t care how many sacks special teamer Marquis Flowers had in the last two regular season games against the Bills and Jets. And if I see Elandon Roberts try to cover ANYONE in the Bowl…
*One big concern for the Patriot defense against the Philly offense is that Philly doesn’t have that ONE dude that Bill usually likes to take out of the game and let the others beat them. They have a bunch of dudes that can do some things. This undoubtedly makes things a little more difficult to prepare for. My guess is that they try to take away tight end Zach Ertz first. But then you have Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and to a lesser extent, Blount and Ajayi and to an even lesser extent, but perhaps on a deep shot or two, Torrey Smith. Corey Clement may actually be someone to fear more than a smidge as well. As poor as the Patriots’ third down defense has been recently, this has to be a big concern for the team. Even with the two weeks to prepare. A lot of options.
*One thing about the Eagle offense that they themselves should be concerned about is that Jason Peters is not at left tackle. Peters is supposed to be awesome, from all the people who actually watch offensive line play. But he is hurt. His backup, some Vaitai character with a real long first name, has apparently struggled. The Pats D-Line is no juggernaut, as we all know. But maybe Trey Flowers makes his presence felt?
*Aside: Philly fans are absolute lunatics. This is absolutely no secret. I’m glad I’m not in Minny, as one of them may try to set me on fire. Better to let them do that to someone else.
*Aside, Part II: Loved Jeffery predicting a win. You be you, brutha! Don’t teams ever learn?
*Aside, Part III: Just for fun, with everyone on the active roster being “healthy” (ie: not injured enough to be listed on the injury report), here’s my take on the inactive list: Mike Gillislee (wasted year), David Harris (why bother even having him this season?), Alan Branch (too bad he apparently packed it in this year. He’s pretty damn good when he’s engaged), Bernard Reedy (who?), Kenny Britt (glad you came for the ride!), Jacob Hollister (sorry, just no room kid) and…Cole Croston (yup…who?). That seemed fairly easy, though don’t rule out Belichick surprising people. Like the year he released Tiquan Underwood the day before the Super Bowl, so he could activate someone from the practice squad (Alex Silvestro and yes, I just had to look that up) to have an extra defensive lineman available.
*Aside, Part IV: I don’t want to hear any more about injuries…Wentz’ specifically. Sure, having him healthy and active would probably put a different spin on this game. But you don’t think the Pats wish they had Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower, among others? EVERY team loses key players EVERY season. Deal with it.
*Aside, Part V: I don’t want to hear about the officials either. The Patriots have historically have had plenty of bogus calls go against them as well. No different from any other team. Those things tend to even out over time. And I would bet that officiating will not be a factor in this years’ Super Bowl either.
*Dion Lewis…PLEASE hang on to the ball. Thank you. I have a hunch you may be catching the ball quite a bit and not running it as much. Hopefully that helps.
*Rex Burkhead WILL make a few plays. Perhaps out of the slot.
*Stephen Gostkowski has had a nice career. But my confidence, and likely Patriot fans’ confidence, in him is not where it was a few years back. Let’s make him a non-factor, ok?
*With “Tom vs. Time” and “The Two Bills” and all that crap going on this week, it would appear Brady and Belichick are putting some unnecessary pressure on themselves to win this game. Like, why did they do these now? Tom certainly and Bill probably had some say in when these would come out. Why add this to the mix before the game if you really don’t need to? It probably doesn’t matter, what do I know? It just doesn’t seem like normal operating procedure for the two of them though.
Ok, that seems like enough. Prediction time…oh, one more thing. I love Seth Wickersham of ESPN picking the Pats to win 38-9. Yeah, the same guy who wrote that piece about New England organizational discord several weeks ago. I’d love to have his back on that prediction and see it come to fruition. But…
New England 27, Philadelphia 24.
Week (against the spread): 1-1
Week (straight up): 2-0
Season (against the spread): 142-124
Season (straight up): 180-86