Many are saying I should have learned my lesson after last year, when I predicted a Falcons victory in Super Bowl LI, and perhaps I have. At least I learned that getting up early is no guarantee of victory, especially not against the New England Patriots. As long as Tom Brady is living and breathing on the other sideline the Pats have hope to win the game. But… this Eagles team is not like that Falcons squad from last year.
For one, they aren’t just aggressive defensively, but they control both lines of scrimmage as much as, or even more than, I’ve ever seen two lines dominate. This means (1) Brady should be on his heels much of the game, and (2) Nick Foles should have a lot of pocket time to get the ball down the field against a median defense. This also means that the Philadelphia run game should have a lot to say about the outcome of this game, even if Foles doesn’t play lights out as he did two weeks ago against that vaunted Vikings defense.
But this is the Patriots, and they always seem to scheme up the right plays to keep Brady comfortable and take care of things when they matter most. Take Super Bowl XLIX, for example, and that amazing interception by Malcolm Butler against Russell Wilson when they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Or even last year, when poor decisions by the Falcons allowed Brady the time against a gassed defense to take care of business. There’s a reason the Patriots are favored here. And while the defense is median at best, what they do well is keep other teams out of the end zone. If the Eagles are trading field goals for Patriots TDs that’s just a losing proposition all around.
So who wins this one?
It’s easy to say this is a mismatch, to say that the team that dominates the line of scrimmage will win this game, but it’s true as well. Give Tom Brady time and he will hit his receivers time and again. Harass him and he can make mistakes, just like anyone else. Remember the last time these two teams played and the Eagles intercepted Brady twice in the end zone, with one returned for a 100+ yard touchdown? Me too. But Brady has a short term memory when it comes to those kinds of mistakes, and he’s been on this stage before. Many of the Eagles players have not.
I don’t believe that will matter, though. The Eagles were the best team in the NFL this year because they didn’t get blown out. They won the close games, and they stepped up their game when it mattered, both defensively and offensively. Even in these playoffs they’ve taken out the Falcons with defense, and dismantled the Vikings with consistent offense all games long. It proves they won’t wilt like the Falcons did last year, that they’ll keep the pedal to the metal.
While I don’t see Foles playing as great as he did against the Vikings, I think he will do enough not to be a liability. And I think his team will win the Super Bowl. My pick is Eagles get up by 13 and hold on to win by 10, with the defense doing yeoman’s work down the stretch to maintain momentum and seal the first Super Bowl victory for Philadelphia.
Prediction: Eagles 30 – Patriots 20.