It’s been 13 years since the New England Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, but on February 4th, the Eagles will look to exact their revenge on New England and hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the first team in franchise history.
The Eagles have had a bumpy road to the playoffs, losing Carson Wentz to injury and battling out a tough win over the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional round.
But everything seemed to come together for Philadelphia and its city of passionate football fans as the Eagles dismantled the heavily-favored Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game, proving to the league that even without Wentz, they are still a team to be reckoned with.
”I think this group of guys is as good as you could ask to be around,” Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said, per FOXSports.com. ”Really, the character and the work ethic, the camaraderie, just the commitment to the process that Coach (Doug Pederson) and our staff is always talking about. There’s a complete buy-in … It really helps that we’ve had the success and the execution. It’s always easier to buy in when you’re having the success that we’ve had.”
Buying into a “team-first” mentality has been crucial to the Eagles success, but they’re going up against a team that has always checked its ego at the door under head coach Bill Belichick.
Well, if you believe what Patriots owner Robert Kraft had to say about his team despite rumors of a budding feud between himself, Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.
"Life is difficult, especially if you're doing things at a high level. Having continuity, keeping things going. ... You know that fact that Tommy and Bill Belichick and my family have been together for 18 years.
"There's a lot of strong-minded people, but when you have something good going, everybody's got to get their egos checked in and try to hold it together."
Is this the last time NFL fans see the trio together in New England? It’s possible, but unlikely if the Patriots were to win. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what each team must do to win Super Bowl LII.
Eagles keys to victory
The Eagles offense has to stay on the field to win. It might sound simple, but it’s easier said than done.
If Philadelphia can play like they did in the NFC Championship game against the Vikings, it’s very possible that the Eagles can beat the Patriots comfortably. But that all depends on the performance of quarterback Nick Foles, who will have to be at his best on Super Bowl Sunday.
Against the Vikings, Foles was superb. He threw for 352 yards, three touchdowns with zero interceptions and completed 78 percent of his passes. But just a week before that near-perfect game, Foles struggled to get in the end zone against the Falcons, passing for 246 yards with zero touchdowns.
Nick Foles is the only quarterback in NFL history with a passer rating of 100 in his first three career playoff games.— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) January 22, 2018
The problem with Foles is not his arm, nor is it the offense he’s playing in - it’s the mindset he has once the game starts.
To beat the Patriots in a Super Bowl, you have to be more than just a game manager. For Foles to lead the Eagles to a victory, he has to be at his best and not settle like he did against Atlanta, especially against a Patriots team that was exposed by Blake Bortles in the AFC Championship game despite the win.
Philadelphia should get its offense into a good rhythm with simple, easy passes to build Foles’ confidence up before throwing the ball downfield. If Foles can replicate what he did against Minnesota to the Patriots, the Lombardi Trophy will go to Philadelphia.
Patriots keys to victory
Also easier said than done, the Patriots offense has to find a way to score against a stout Eagles defense that has surrendered a total of 17 points through two games this postseason.
The Patriots were able to come back late against the Jaguars thanks to another Tom Brady game-winning comeback. We’ve seen it a thousand times, and I’m sure we’ll see it again. But relying on Brady to put everything on his shoulders isn’t the right mindset to have going into gameday.
Brady can’t save his team every game, even if he was able to do it against the Falcons in last year’s unforgettable comeback in the Super Bowl.
However, this isn’t Brady’s usual offense. Being without the services of Julian Edelman took some time to get used to for Brady earlier this season, but possible being without the services of tight end Rob Gronkowski would be catastrophic.
Gronkowski was knocked out of the AFC Championship game and is still dealing with concussion-like symptoms. While Gronkowski still has over a week to be medically cleared to play, the fact that he isn’t able to practice and prepare for a game of this magnitude without limitation is a big deal.
The Patriots get accused of cheating almost every week, especially in the postseason, but it’s hard to argue that they don’t overcome adversity better than nay team in the league. And Super Bowl LII will be no different.
Give credit where credit is due to the Eagles. They’ve had a fantastic season and won a conference championship. But being good enough to get to the Super Bowl is a lot different than being good enough to actually win it.
If Wentz was healthy, this would actually be a close game. But with Foles’ inconsistency under center holding back this Eagles offense, Philadelphia will struggle to keep up the pace with New England.
Brady will win his sixth Super Bowl ring in a comfortable victory over the Eagles, 24-14.
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