A lot has changed since the Patriots and Eagles squared off in Jacksonville 13 years ago, with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick being the exception. Regardless, this matchup carries the same amount of hype. The Patriots are where many analysts predicted they’d be in early September. Quarterback Tom Brady showed little signs of slowing down and posted his usual MVP caliber stats. For the Eagles, however, it’s a different story. While many thought that they would improve upon last years record of (7-9), few had them as the No. 1 seed coming out of the NFC. Even after losing star quarterback Carson Wentz to an ACL injury (who was a lock for MVP) they have ridden strong defensive play and overall consistent play from backup Nick Foles. Since becoming a starter, Foles has a line of eight touchdowns to only two interceptions. Not too shabby.
Three keys to a Philadelphia win:
- Defensive line. The Eagles will need their front four to continue their dominant play. Their defensive line has been stellar at getting pressure on the quarterback. The end result hasn’t always been a sack, but it has resulted in incompletions and turnovers. While New England’s offensive line has played better, there will be plenty of opportunities for this squad to get to Brady.
- Nick Foles. Foles needs to continue his strong quarterback play. Overall, Philadelphia should be pleased by what he’s done after Wentz went down. In the two postseason games, Foles has looked sharp and has yet to commit a turnover. The Eagles will need more of the same from him.
- Play smart. I know this is an obvious statement, but we’ve watched many teams overthink certain situations when playing the Patriots (see the 2014 and 2017 Super Bowls). The Eagles have stuck to their “game” all year, and this shouldn’t be an exception. Sure adjustments will be made, the Patriots are the best team they’ve faced all year. But Philadelphia needs to stay true to their game plan. An example, if they get a double digit lead in the second half (not-likely), they simply should start running the ball more often. They can’t completely become conservative, but they have to play heads-up football.
Three keys to a New England win:
- Run the ball. The Patriots can’t become one-dimensional. Philadelphia boasts the leagues stingiest run defense, allowing 79.2 yards per game. Even if they are only gaining 1-2 yards a carry, they need to mix a in a run to keep the Eagles honest. With the plethora of running backs at their disposal, this shouldn’t be an issue.
- Pressure Foles. New England has 11 sacks in the two playoff games. They need to continue to apply the pressure and force Foles into some bad throws.
- Quick throws. New England’s offense experienced a lot of change after losing wide receiver Julian Edelman. We haven’t seen as many quick throws from Brady like we’re accustomed to. In this game, there needs to be a good amount of quick throws. Amendola has been huge in this playoff run so far. Expect another big game from Danny “Playoff.”
Who wins: In the end, nothing will stop a determined Tom Brady from getting a sixth ring. Rumor has it he wants to fill his other hand with four more rings after he gets this one. Not really, but if he ends up playing until he’s 45, who knows?
Final Score: Patriots 31-23.