Who’s going to win this year’s Super Bowl: Patriots or Eagles?
The New England Patriots are back in the Big Game, trying to extend their dynasty by matching the Pittsburgh Steelers as the NFL’s winningest franchise. To do so, they’ll have to mirror the start of this 17-year run by beating the Philadelphia Eagles to repeat as champions and cap off three titles in four years. This time, the Eagles aren’t led by Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick or even Carson Wentz—it’ll be Nick Foles with the chance to deliver Philly’s first Super Bowl. Can he and the Birds shock the world at Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s expense?
As a New York Giants fan, this isn’t exactly my idea of a perfect Super Bowl. But while my ilk debate the lesser of two evils, I find the answer obvious. Though the Patriots provide a healthy level of Boston disdain, the Eagles remaining ringless is the preferred outcome. Plus, each additional Pats Lombardi Trophy accentuates how remarkable the Giants’ two head-to-head victories were. You’ll hear plenty of Brady-Michael Jordan comparisons this week; with a win, Brady would essentially be Jordan with a pair of Giant losses—once with the greatest team ever (18-0, plus-315 point differential) and once against the weakest Super Bowl team ever (9-7, minus-6).
Unfortunately for America, I don’t think this iteration will be nearly as exciting as the last seven New England appearances. The Philly defense certainly deserves props, but the once-problematic Patriots unit has turned it on since Week Four and only allowed one more point all season. On the other side of the ball, the gap between five-time champ Brady and three-time playoff starter Foles is just too large, ditto between all-time schemer Belichick and second-year head coach Doug Pederson. Philadelphia’s future, with this squad plus Wentz, is bright, but the Pats are still the NFL’s present. Patriots 28, Eagles 13
—Rohan Gupta, Senior Sports Editor
No one really wins this Super Bowl. If the Patriots win, it forces football fans to confront the devastating reality that the Patriots are much better than your team and will be for the foreseeable future. But if the Eagles win, that forces us to reckon with something just as unpleasant: Eagles fans.
Unfortunately, despite my disdain for both teams, there’s no denying that it’s going to be a good game. I expected Matt Ryan to pick apart the Eagles’ defense in the divisional round for an easy Falcons win, then march into the Super Bowl. Instead, the Eagles held on to win a close, low-scoring game. I expected Case Keenum to continue his incredible season and get his team into the big game. However, after the first drive, Keenum and the Vikings ran up against an impregnable defense and the Eagle’s offense looked as unstoppable as their defense did inert. Tom Brady is an all-time great and probably the greatest quarterback to ever do it. If you had told me at the start of the playoffs that the Patriots and the Eagles were going to be in the Super Bowl, I would have told you that this was going to be a merciless blow out for New England. But I’ve learned my lessons about underestimating the Eagles. They may not win this game, but they will certainly come to play.
I expect Nick Foles to be a huge factor in the Eagles’ game plan. He’s been a warm weather quarterback for most of his career. If he plays great—or even above average—the Eagles have a chance. Their defense is exceptional, their running game is formidable, and their coaching will assuredly have them ready come kick off. Foles is what will make or break them.
Despite this, the Patriots will likely still win this game. They’ve been here so many times, the trophy might as well be named for Belichick. As they inevitably emerge as champions, it leaves the rest of us to simply sigh and hide our anguish as we prepare to trumpet our optimism for next year. Patriots 24, Eagles 21
—Dorian DeBose, Staff Reporter
What teams have had success against Tom Brady and the Patriots this season? In the Patriots’ three losses, the opposing teams have gotten to Brady. The Chiefs hit Brady six times for three sacks while the Panthers notched seven QB hits and three sacks and the Dolphins posted six QB hits and two sacks. The key against the Pats, however, is making sure that you rush using only three or four linemen without blitzing. The Eagles have the best defensive front in the NFL, putting pressure on opposing teams’ 38 percent of times when they don’t blitz, top in the NFL according to ProFootballFocus. The Patriots will have their hands full containing that frightening front, as they won’t be able to run the ball up the middle and the Eagles will be able to penetrate the Patriots’ offense while dropping seven back into coverage.
And then there’s Doug Pederson, one of the best play callers in the NFL. His creativity took apart the Falcons’ and Vikings’ defenses, two of the top in the NFL. The Patriots’ defense is nowhere near as good as the Falcons’ or Vikings’ defense and Pederson’s play calling will be a major part of the game. The Eagles will speed up the game, cycle in running backs and move the chains. Everyone knows that Nick Foles played above expectations in the conference championship. But it wasn’t his play that surprised me; it was his demeanor. He looked like he was actually having fun, which you don’t always see from him. In the game against the Vikings, he was egging on the crowd and smiling, oozing with confidence. If Foles plays with swagger and is able to push the ball up the field, the Patriots will have trouble slowing down the Eagles’ versatile, dynamic and underrated offense.
I see the Eagles jumping out early and playing with unmatched energy just as both the Titans and Jaguars did to the Patriots in their first two playoff games. The difference is that this Eagles team has that “it” factor. The Pats won’t roll over, but the Eagles won’t either and they’ll pull this one out, shocking the world and taking down the evil empire. #GoBirds #FlyEaglesFly Eagles 20, Patriots 14
—Benjamin Simon, Contributing Reporter
I honestly don’t know who’s playing. I skimmed the paragraphs above this, and I found myself completely unable to glean any information out of sheer distaste for football in general. I actually think the only way I would care is if the Dallas Cowboys were playing, and even then I would probably only watch the commercials. Bird Team 90, Other Guys 2, Commercials 100
—Katy Hutson, Senior Editor
As Benjamin Simon astutely points out in his column on the Eagles today, the dominant storyline about this team is their similarity to Philadelphia’s other great underdog, Rocky Balboa. Both have earned a chance to dethrone one of the all-time greats after falling on hard times: Rocky had to break people’s fingers working as an enforcer for loan sharks, and the Eagles had to have Chip Kelly as their head coach. All signs point to this being a great Rocky-type story for the city of Philadelphia. And I agree, the Super Bowl will play out exactly like “Rocky.” Unfortunately, Rocky loses at the end of “Rocky.” He does, however, make it closer than anyone thought it would be, so the Eagles will make it exciting at least. Patriots 31, Eagles 28
—Jon Lewis, Senior Sports Editor