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With matching 13-3 records and one seeds, these two teams have seemingly been on a collision course all-season long. However, a season-ending injury to Carson Wentz in Week 14 appeared to have derailed those plans — until it didn’t.
Led by journeyman signal caller Nick Foles, Eagles won two playoff games as underdogs (hence the dog masks). Matter of fact, they cruised to victory 38-7 in the NFC title clash against Super Bowl-hosting Minnesota in a game which Foles totaled the second-highest quarterback rating in NFC Championship history.
Now Foles and company is tasked with thwarting New England’s second dynasty. No backup quarterback has raised a Vince Lombardi trophy since Tom Brady himself did it in 2002 — igniting the Patriots first dynasty that ended with three championships in four years, the last coming against Philadelphia. Will Sunday be deja vu?
Over/under 48.5 points: Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots (-4.5)
Making their eighth Super Bowl appearance in 16 years, a few trends stick out in the Patriots prior seven trips. One, New England has failed to score in the first quarter every single time (quick, find a prop bet!). Two, each game has been decided by less than six points. Three, it’s probably going to be a down-to-the-wire classic. All three of those stats should instantly make Philadelphia’s spread tantalizing.
Upon close inspection, the Eagles are equipped with the proven blueprint to beat a Brady-led Patriots team: control the clock and pressure Brady mercilessly.
Philly led the league in average time of possession at 32:44 — an entire 2:19 better than New England. That success comes from a punishing ground game that finished third best. Between its three-man rotation of Jay Ajayi, ex-Patriot LeGarrette Blount, and Corey Clement, the Eagles will have fresh bodies to throw at the reigning champions all-game long.
On the opposite side of the ball, Philadelphia is led by a mauling defensive line. No one was better at stuffing the rush than them — allowing just one runner to eclipse 100 yards (a meaningless week 17 matchup against Dallas where the Eagles mostly played backups). That could force the Patriots into becoming one-dimensional, subsequently allowing Philly to pin their ears back and attack the quarterback.
Philadelphia has proven these past two postseason games they can bring the heat. Against Atlanta, they got to Matt Ryan on 16 of his 39 throws (41 percent). They fared better versus Case Keenum, disrupting 24 of his 50 drop backs (48 percent). Most of that success came without blitzing — they combined for 15 in both matchups.
They’ll need to duplicate that formula against Brady to have any sort of chance. According to Pro Football Focus, the now three-time league MVP Brady completed 70.2 percent of his throws from a clean pocket. That number nosedives to 55.4 percent when under pressure.
However, what makes hurrying Brady so difficult — during the regular season, he was pressured on just 31.4 percent of dropbacks — is the lightning-quick speed that he makes a read and gets the ball out of his hand. The Patriots are surgical at attacking the middle of the field with tight end Rob Gronkowski and running backs James White and Dion Lewis.
No matter how good the Eagles defense is, New England will get their points, and we expect Philly to keep pace throughout. The Patriots’ defense is the quintessential bend-but-don’t-break unit. During the regular season, they ranked 20th against the run and 30th versus the pass, but gave up just 18.5 points.
Another sign that points toward this game hitting the over is red-zone efficiency. Both teams ranked in the top-three in converting red-zone trips into touchdowns.
There’s a lot of matchups that favor the Eagles. But in the end, you can’t overlook Bill Belichick, Brady, and perhaps, the greatest sports dynasty in American sports. It’s going to take a near-perfect game from Philadelphia to pull off a win — and that’s a margin of error we want no part of. They’ll cover the spread, but the Patriots will earn their NFL-tying sixth Vince Lombardi trophy.
Heck, don’t be surprised if this one ends in yet another game-winning drive engineered by Brady. At this point, it’s expected, especially in the Super Bowl.
Pick: Eagles (+4.5) and over
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