The hype and build-up is over as Super Bowl LII is upon us.
Here is The Freak’s breakdown of the big game on Sunday:
Patriots on offence
Brady has lots of weapons on offence with wide receivers Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and Phillip Dorsett; running backs Dion Lewis and James White, and the best tight end in football, Rob Gronkowski.
Offensive co-ordinator Josh McDaniels had two weeks to prepare, and he knows Philly’s front four can get pressure on Brady. They will game plan where Brady won’t be holding onto the football long. This means quick passes, pick plays, passes and screens to the running backs and Gronk down the middle of the field.
The Freak knows the Eagles’ defence well as the Giants play them twice every season. This year, Eli Manning threw for over 434 yards in the first game, and 366 yards in the second game. It was in the second matchup Manning had receivers who just walked off the street.
Where did the Giants attack the Eagles’ D?
Eli averaged 2.13 seconds holding onto the ball behind his terrible offensive line to beat the Eagles’ pass rush, and hit tight end Evan Engram for 88 yards on eight catches and one score. Slot receiver Sterling Shepard had 11 catches, 139 yards and one touchdown.
Eli threw quickly, and this is what The Freak expects Brady will do with his slot receivers – work the middle with Gronk, and maybe even a Dwayne Allen sighting. Also, the Eagles’ DBs can be beat on double moves (slant and go, stop and go and out and up), so watch Cooks, who averages 16.6 yards a catch, on these routes.
Philly is the worst team in YAC (yards after catch) behind only the Browns. The Pats will run the ball some, but their running game is basically passing to White and Lewis.
Patriots on defence
Matt Patricia’s defence steadily improved as the season progressed. They may give up yards between the 20s, but his defence really buckles down inside the red zone. This unit plays well as team with no real superstars – just a bunch of players who play really well within the scheme.
He will have the linebackers trained on what he wants them to do on RPO (run-pass option) plays, and he might even bait them into the pass option to create a turnover by letting the safety come down and gamble on jumping the slants. Coach Belichick will take away the third-ranked Eagles’ run game, and make Nick Foles beat him.
For you that remember in 1990, Belichick was the DC for the Giants, when his back-up quarterback Jeff Hostetler won the Super Bowl. Guarantee you, Belichick will take what he learned from that game to create a game plan on beating a back-up quarterback in the Super Bowl.
Patriots on specials
The Pats have one of the best clutch kickers in veteran Stephen Gostkowski. If it comes down to a late game-winning field goal, the advantage is all New England.
Amendola is a slippery punt returner, who doesn’t appear dangerous, but always comes up with a big return.
Eagles on offence
All you hear is how well Foles is playing. Well, that’s because of the great Eagles’ running game of Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clements and Wendell Smallwood.
It would be a mistake by Doug Pederson to put this game on the arm of Foles, so the Eagles need to stay patient with the run game as he’s most productive when they are executing play-action passes. The Eagles have a well-balanced group of receivers like Nelson Agholor, who works the slot; Alshon Jeffery, whose great on the jump balls; Torrey Smith, who can take the top off the defence, and tight end Zach Ertz, who is great player in the middle of the field.
The Eagles’ offence needs to take care of the football, keep the clock running with long drives, pick on New England’s linebackers in coverage with Ertz and Trey Burton, and their outside receivers need to beat the man-to-man coverage.
Foles is very comfortable executing RPO plays, and it’s a good way to get him in a groove throwing the football
Eagles on defence
It’s a must that the Eagles’ front four rotation, led by Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, gets pressure at the feet of Brady as it’s a timing offence. This pressure will be the key whether the Eagles are in this game or not – they need to make Brady nervous in the pocket.
Also, they need to be careful not to be caught trying to sub in for their defensive line as Brady will catch them with too many players on the field, and make a big play. Philly’s top-ranked run defence might be able to stop the run with this front, but will need to keep these pass-catching running backs in check. The Pats will probably throw more to these backs then hand the ball off to them.
Safety Malcom Jenkins will have the big task of limiting Gronk, but they will still need to give him some help. Gronk can’t get a free release off the line of scrimmage, or it’s almost impossible to cover him in the middle of the field. Outside coverage guys Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills can’t get beat on those double moves, which is an issue with them.
Eagles on specials
Philly has a rookie kicker in Jake Elliott, and no one knows how he will handle the pressure of a late Super Bowl-winning kick. Veteran punter Donnie Jones averages 45.8 yards a punt, and will need continuously pin the Pats deep on every opportunity.
Philly’s D averages 16 pressures a game from its defence, and it will need to have at least this many, if not more, to have any chance.
Foles and the offence will have to play the perfect game – no turnovers and 40 minutes of possession – to keep Brady and his offence on the sidelines and make them go the long field.
However, even if the Eagles execute this plan, the Pats still have Brady. When the game is on the line, like it will be in the fourth quarter, you have to bet on No. 12 getting the job done.
Brady is 5-0 (won-lost) against top-10-scoring defences this season like the Eagles (fourth), so he’s seen a lot of good defensive schemes that he continues to beat. With that in mind, and, Coach Belichick having two weeks to prepare, the Patriots win another championship, 24-20!
John Turner is a Summerside school teacher and coaches youth football. His column appears each week during the NFL season. Feel free to e-mail questions and comments to email@example.com.
Points tied 1st
Points Tied 1st
Stats and facts on Super Bowl LII:
Pats 4.5-point favourite; over/under 48.
Head referee Gene Steratore.
National anthem – Pink.
Half-time show - Justin Timberlake.
NBC with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya.
Patriots record in Super Bowl 5-2.
Eagles record in Super Bowl 0-2.
Head-to-head - Super Bowl XXXIX Pats, 24-21.
Second Super Bowl (SB XXVI) in Minnesota.
30-second Commercial - $5 million.
Eagles wearing green; Patriots wearing white.
Twelve of last 13 winners have been dressed in white; Pats 3-0 in white.
Quarterbacks who led the league in passing yards (Brady) have gone 0-5 in Super Bowls.
Two back-up quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl – Jeff Hostetler and Doug Williams.
Average margin of victory for the Patriots is 3.8 points.
Eagles have been underdogs in all playoff games; Patriots were the favourite in every game this season.
Brady can become the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
Patriots haven’t scored in the first quarter of any Super Bowl under Belichick.
Eagles are the only NFC East team without a Super Bowl.
The Eagles’ Chris Long and LeGarrette Blount were on the Patriots’ winning team last year.
Eagles have six players with Super Bowl experience; Patriots have 35.
Philly coach Doug Pederson once beat Belichick in 2000 when he quarterbacked the Browns.