By Kevin McGuire
The New England Patriots may have Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, but even the combo of an all-time great head coach and all-time great quarterback has proven to not be invincible in the Super Bowl. Come Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles will look to hand Belichick and Brady their third Super Bowl loss. Brace yourselves, Philadelphia, because these Eagles have the tools needed to do what few are expecting to see in Super Bowl LII in Minnesota.
Eagles are Underdogs Despite Having the Same Record as the Pats
Despite having an identical record and each having the top seed in their respective playoff fields, the Eagles are still a decided underdog against the defending Super Bowl champions, and that is fair to suggest going in.
The Patriots didn’t lose their MVP quarterback toward the end of the season like the Eagles did with Carson Wentz. While the Patriots traded away their backup quarterback to San Francisco, the Eagles are happy they took the measure of signing Nick Foles and rescuing him from potential retirement last offseason. Foles is certainly no Brady, but to be fair, only a select few quarterbacks throughout the history of the NFL can legitimately compare with Tom Brady. That said, Foles is coming off a game for the ages that has given the Eagles offense a new sense of confidence. And with one game left to play, the Eagles can find ways to exploit the Patriots defense in a variety of ways.
Eagles Can Expose Cracks in New England’s Defense
New England did turn things around with their defense this season after a truly ugly start, but the Jacksonville Jaguars showed some cracks the Eagles are suited to expose. The Patriots will attempt to focus on taking away one key offensive player, but the Eagles have shown an ability to spread the football around to a handful of guys through the air and on the ground. There is not one way to shut the Eagles offense down other than finding a way to disrupt Foles in the pocket. If the Eagles offensive line continues to flex some muscle up front against a Patriots defensive line that can be overpowered, then the Eagles will have an advantage when on offense.
Philadelphia Will Find Ways to Get to Brady
The Eagles are also the type of aggressive defensive team you need to get to Brady. Make no mistake, Brady will certainly make some plays, and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who should be expected to play in the game despite coming off a concussion in the AFC Championship Game, will get his touches. But the Eagles have just dominated the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings in back-to-back playoff victories, showing why they are among the top defenses in the NFL. Beginning with the pressure up front with Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham causing problems in the trenches, the Eagles can find ways to get in Brady’s face, and they will. Brady will counter by making some quick passes, but the linebackers and secondary will be ready to avoid giving up huge plays often enough to seriously hurt them.
“The Eagles Have a Superior Roster”
The Eagles lost a big piece of their team dynamic when they lost Carson Wentz, but the rest of the team is still as strong as they have been all season long, and there are more than enough ingredients left to take the field and win the Super Bowl. Don’t believe me? Maybe you’ll find it comforting to know Will Brinson of CBSSports.com is calling for the Birds to take home the Lombardi Trophy as well.
“[It’s] clear outside of Brady and Rob Gronkowski… the Eagles have a superior roster,” Brinson said. “It mostly happens on defense and mostly on the defensive line, with Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Derek Barnett forming a rotation that cannot be matched in football right now.”
There are mismatches on paper that favor New England, but the Eagles have not backed down from embracing this underdog mentality. Maybe, just maybe, they aren’t the real underdogs here anyway.
Get ready Philadelphia. This is finally the year.