When the Super Bowl LII matchup became official, I think I was with the majority of NFL fans in being less than enthused.
On its surface, a game between the New England Patriots and the injury-ravaged Philadelphia Eagles looks like a cakewalk for the Patriots to claim their sixth Super Bowl victory in the past 17 years.
But, I believe the Eagles will shock the world. For me, and countless other NFL fans, an epic upset will be the only thing making this year’s Super Bowl worth watching. And there’s a chance for two key reasons.
ON THE LINE
A major X-factor the Eagles have in their favor is a great defensive line. While there may have been more hype behind New England’s AFC Championship opponent’s “Sacksonville” defensive front, the Eagles’ D-line might be even better with superior depth.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles’ defense generates pressure on the quarterback on 41.9 percent of snaps, while only blitzing 22.6 percent of the time (well below the league average of 29.3 percent).
So, why is that important? Any team’s hopes of beating the almost unbeatable Patriots increase drastically when they are able to pressure future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, especially if they can do so without sending extra defenders on a blitz.
The D-line played heavily in the New York Giants’ upset of the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Brady was sacked five times in the Giants’ 17-14 win, with all but one of those sacks coming from a defensive lineman.
To quote Eagles defensive tackle Brandon Cox, “We can’t go out and just let (Brady) bake pizzas back there.”
FOLES MIGHT BE GOOD
Quarterback Nick Foles had a great breakout 2013 season with the Eagles, a not-so-great 2014 with the Eagles, and a rough 2015 season with the St. Louis Rams before being relegated to backup status in 2016 with the Kansas City Chiefs and then this season with the Eagles.
So, basically, Foles had tons of potential before running into the infamously horrendous offensive coaching of the Rams’ then-head coach Jeff Fisher.
Since taking over for injured starting quarterback Carson Wentz, Foles has eight touchdown passes and just two interceptions (including no INTs in the playoffs). That potential to be a solid starting quarterback is still there.
With a strong running back tandem in Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount, the Eagles can ask Foles to be merely a game manager, while grounding and pounding the ball down field.
But, Foles — unlike most QBs tagged with the “game manager” label — can actually chuck the ball down field. Foles has averaged 21 yards per catch on his TD strikes this season in head coach Doug Pederson’s aggressive offense.
Add in that Foles has lots of good receiver options and is going against a Patriots defense that ranked in the bottom third in the NFL in passing yards allowed and yards per completion, and Foles could surprise come this evening.
• A Galveston County native could get a Super Bowl ring today. Receiver Marcus Johnson — a Clear Springs alum — will get the cherished item with an Eagles victory.
• How bad must it be to be a Dallas Cowboys diehard right now? Their rooting interests today come down to either seeing the Patriots surpass them in the Super Bowl wins category, or seeing their reviled rival Eagles hoist the Lombardi Trophy.