After four weeks of pre-season football back in August, seventeen weeks of regular season football, and a few thrilling weeks of post-season football, nothing else matters besides Sunday’s huge showdown in Minnesota for Super Bowl LII.
Of course, the New England Patriots are once again representing the AFC – led by Tom Brady at quarterback and the brilliant Bill Belichick as head coach. Love them or hate ‘em, this is one of sport’s premier dynasties and it’s remarkable to see their dominance in a salary-cap structured league in this day and age.
On the other side of the football on Sunday will be a team that is truly embracing their role as underdogs in this contest. Though the Eagles too were the one-seed in the NFC, some key injuries – specifically with quarterback Carson Wentz – made their route to contention much more problematic. The backup Nick Foles has been excellent in his absence, and in combination with a stellar stop unit – the Eagles are primed and ready to shock the world and defeat the dynasty.
It truly is dynasty vs. destiny on Sunday and it really should make for another ‘can’t-miss’ Super Bowl. Though I’m not certain anything can top last year’s remarkable comeback, I am anticipating a very competitive clash. I hit at a 58% clip against the spread this year, and I’ll be eager to risk some of those profits on the last football game for a long while. It’s been a pleasure writing on the NFL again this year at The Sports Geek, and please be sure to read on below the spread odds for my official against the spread wager for Super Bowl LII. Enjoy!
Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots Betting Odds:
Philadelphia Eagles +4.5 (-105)
vs. New England Patriots -4.5 (-115)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots ATS Pick:
I have gone against the Eagles ever since Carson Wentz has gone down. I did not anticipate this. I didn’t forsee Nick Foles being able to do any of this. He has been solid, and as a result – he and his team are one game away from being crowned Super Bowl LII Champions. It’s still a long way to go, and despite his poise and results thus far, the red-hot Patriots defense awaits.
Foles looked great two weeks ago when arguably the league’s top defense in Minnesota came to Philadelphia. He was throwing bullet passes and looked like he was actually Carson Wentz. I wouldn’t be so certain of that type of outing repeating itself however on Sunday. Bill Belichick is just too good of a coach and will have his team perfectly prepared to crush Foles and force him into bad decisions and tough situations. With two weeks to look at Foles, I’d expect Belichick to have something planned for Foles and/or his top targets in Alshon Jeffery and the key tight end Zach Ertz.
The New England secondary is entering in great form right now, and I’m definitely expecting them to really limit Foles’ options downfield. They’ve been solid at maintaining great coverage in the secondary without overcommitting to blitz, and Jeffery and Nelson Agholor will be tightly covered and likely blanketed for much of this contest.
To alleviate pressure on Foles, I’m expecting Doug Pederson to turn to the running game and despite the talent within the Eagles’ backfield, New England is slated to get defensive lineman Alan Branch back from injury. He was out for the game against the Jaguars and it really hurt the Pats. With Branch back in, the run game will be effectively stifled. Branch is one of the best in football at shutting down running attacks and his presence should make moving the chains very difficult for Philadelphia.
The Eagles won’t want Foles to need to play the role of hero, but I think given the game script – the Pats are going to make him beat them. They’ll take away the run, and really force Foles to make exceptional throws and reads if Philly is to put up points in this contest. New England’s defense started this season very slowly – but their pass rush and secondary have come to life of late, and it’s at the perfect time to overwhelm an untested Nick Foles.
Branch being back is certainly huge – but having Tom Brady’s favourite target in Rob Gronkowski back is of course even better. Philadelphia is here because of some exceptional defensive play and heroics, but the Pats are a well-oiled machine on the offensive side of things. This will be a big test and step-up for the Philly stop unit, and how they respond should dictate how this Super Bowl plays out.
For starters, Philly has been quite poor at covering tight ends – great news for the Brady-to-Gronk connection and bad news for legions of Eagles supporters everywhere. That said, there is a formula to beating or limiting Brady and Philly may be able to do things just well enough to throw off the future Hall-of-Famer.
The key to beating Brady and the offense has been to apply enough pressure to disrupt his rhythm without overcommitting. The Eagles have the talent along their defensive line to get after Brady with just four defensive linemen, and though Brady receives solid protection – I think he’ll face more pressure on Sunday than he wants.
That said, I think Brady and Belichick will be well-prepared for added pressure and look to employ a frequent hurry-up or no-huddle approach. This should keep the Eagles’ defense tired and not set to truly get after Brady. The faster pace has not suited Philadelphia well this year, as they fared much worse facing it – and didn’t have time to make key substitutions for fresher bodies. Though New England didn’t employ a hurry-up attack all that often, they might see it as a solid change-of-pace to keep the Eagles’ rush at bay.
With regard to New England’s ground game, it should remain versatile and should get used more regularly than we saw two weeks ago against the Jaguars. Philadelphia has a strong run defense, and I anticipate these two units really cancelling each other out. I feel that when Josh McDaniels realizes what Brady can do downfield on his throws – mostly to Gronkowski and Danny Amendola through the middle – that will be a counted on pattern late in this contest.
Too much needs to go right for the Eagles to win here – though they have a lot of nice pieces that should be able to keep this game relatively tight. Philadelphia will try to put Nick Foles in favourable situations and have him make high-percentage plays, but the Patriots’ defense will make things incredibly difficult and force him to be a hero. That likely is not a role he is capable of on this stage, against this New England stop unit. I think he will make some mistakes – and Philly won’t have the ability to climb back or hold off Tom Brady regularly enough to emerge victorious.
I do think the Eagles’ defense and specifically their pass rush will do enough to keep this game pretty close, and even though Philadelphia is likely better at more positions – New England wins resoundingly at both the quarterback and head coach positions. Expect the Pats to make adjustments, and ultimately I think the presence of Rob Gronkowski will give the Eagles fits in the passing games. I’m expecting a low-scoring New England victory of likely six points or more. The dynasty rolls on in Super Bowl LII. Until next season…
PICK = Patriots -4.5 (-115)