Well, it’s finally here folks. The big game is this Sunday Night 4th February 2018 and here at Gridiron and Gravy, we could not be more excited for the game. In Manchester we are hosting our Super Bowl Party, that will be one barnstormer of an evening. Myself, however, will be watching this game through analytical eyes, watching to see if my predictions here come to life in the biggest game on the planet.
Firstly I will give you all the information on how to watch, when to watch and all other key information about the game:
Who are the teams?: New England Patriots(White and Blue Uniform) vs Philadelphia Eagles(Green and White Uniform)
Date: Sunday 4th February 2018
Time: Pre Match Build Up: 10pm (Kick Off: Around 11:30pm)
Estimated finish time(Time you can go to bed): Around 3:30am.
Ways to watch: Free To Air UK TV: BBC One, BBC IPlayer.
Paid TV: Sky Sports Action, Sky Sports Main Event.
Free with Sky TV: Sky Sports Mix.
Who is performing the Half Time Show?: Justin Timberlake is the headline act for the Half Time show.
Where is the game being played?: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis Minnesota. (Home Stadium of the Minnesota Vikings)
We will start our analysis of the game with a breakdown of the three key areas for each team and they are the Coaching Staff, the Quarterbacks and finally the Offensive and Defensive playmakers on each roster. These three aspects of a team game are the ones which decide the outcome of the ball game. Let us get into it:
Quite simply, the greatest coach ever to do it in the National Football League, he has won 7 Super Bowl rings, 5 as a head coach and he has just blown away the league in the last 15 years with the dynasty New England Patriots and this hasn’t all been a product of having Tom Brady at Quarterback he has produced some superb players in the league and has groomed the best Tight End ever to play the game in Rob Gronkowski. The best placekicker ever to play the game in Adam Vinatieri also came as a product of Bill Belichick’s coaching and man management which has become a dynasty all of itself.
Besides the “Greatest Of All Time” players, this season he has proven to get the most out of bit-part players on other teams and this season is a perfect example of this. Names such as Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, Kyle Van Noy and Phillip Dorsett who were surplus to requirements on other NFL squads and put them into their role and they have then “Done Their Job” as the famous Patriots saying somewhat goes.
The trust he has in his staff is shown tenfold with the Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels and Defensive Coordinator Matt Patrica who are now both lined up for Head Coaching roles in the NFL and the reason for that is Belichick allows his Coordinators grow and blossom within the boundaries of the system of the Patriots and then allow them to leave for pastures new and better opportunities for their own interests.
The second-year coach who, with the help of top-tier General Manager Howie Roseman has crafted the perfect roster for the spread, quick pass, shotgun run-pass option offence and ball-hawking defence which is led by former Bill Belichick understudy Jim Schwartz who has had the blessing of Belichick this week during Media Day for Super Bowl 52. Said offence has been fantastic with the MVP candidate Carson Wentz and even with Backup Nick Foles who has been fantastic during this Playoff run despite a disappointing end of the regular season.
The resurgence of Foles’ career has a lot to do with the offence that he is placed in and Pederson is at the forefront of the offence, the Run Pass Option model is great for Foles who reads defences really well mid snap and if he does have to drop back into the pocket on Third and Long situations he can read the entire field, sometimes to his detriment due to the lack of arm strength and talent that he possesses, however the “GOAT” on the other sideline once was talked about having a very tinny arm.
Pederson has also showcased a plethora of Running Backs this season including LeGarrette Blount, Kenjon Barner, Jay Ajayi, Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement and the injured Darren Sproles who have all played a role in the team and scored a whole lot of touchdowns this season and towards the back end of the season Clement and Ayaji having taken the bulk of the between the 20s work and then Blount takes over and powers the ball in.
What can you say about the greatest quarterback to ever play the game? His big-play ability at the crucial moment is something to behold. This was on show against the Jacksonville Jaguars over a week ago with the Patriots down by 10 in the fourth quarter. His remarkable arm talent and mind to play the position were highlighted as the “Pats” came back to win the game in Foxboro and advance.
This will be his eighth Super Bowl and he has a record of 5-2 in those games. His performances in some of those games have been remarkable picking up four Super Bowl MVP awards during his illustrious career. This Philly defence is a new challenge for Tom, however, as it possesses not the abundance of stars that the Seattle Seahawks roster did back in 2014. However, it does have a great togetherness and a unity to the lineup which the Patriots struggled against for three-quarters last year against the Atlanta Falcons.
History tells us that defence wins championships but I’m not sure that’s entirely true with this man, he has won the New England Patriots championships despite the cast around him and has done it in two separate decades. His knowledge of the offensive scheme and his awareness in game defying situations has made him the greatest ever to play the game and on Sunday night he will be looking to add another ring to his glittering career in the NFL. One of the biggest keys to the game, playing in the biggest game of the season.
Now, we have the other side of the coin. Nick Foles has once been a fantastic quarterback, with a 27-2 touchdown to interception season under his belt. But is he Tom Brady? No, no he is not. But he has been great in this playoff run so far against two tough defences in Atlanta and Minnesota. The home field advantage may have had something to do with that but on a neutral field who knows what this offence can do lead by Foles.
Of course, a lot of his success has been down to the scheme that Pederson and John DeFilippo the quarterbacks’ coach has implemented, however, nothing can be taken away from Foles and his implementation of the said scheme with a lot of Run Pass Option play and full field reads on third and long. His reliance on the running backs has been documented during this run and the Patriots will be looking to take away those four talented backs.
The question will remain to be, can Nick Foles outscore the greatest of all time in the biggest game of his life?
The Play Makers:
Moving onto the other players on the field in this game, we have three playmakers, difference makers and game destroyers to talk about on each squad. All of which are capable of taking the game into their own hands and blowing this up into a non-contest. Let’s delve in.
Note: Gronk has been in the concussion protocol and may not feature as heavily on Sunday. But boy what a player he is. The greatest tight end to ever play the game and probably the second best Patriot ever. He has the ability to turn a game fully on its head and he may well do that on Sunday, the coverage of Malcolm Jenkins in the secondary is going to be crucial. Can he contain Gronkowski? If not, the Eagles are in for a long evening in Minnesota.
The other end of the scale from Gronk is Brandin Cooks who has the speed to burn and the trust of his quarterback Tom Brady, he is playing a huge part in this offence as its only reliable deep threat and game-changing wide receiver. Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan are reliable targets but are not going to set the world alight on the brightest stage, however, Cooks could easily do that with his top-end speed and great hands for a smaller wide-out.
One yard line, the biggest play of the game… Need I say more about Butler, he has big-play ability in a Super Bowl and its proven. He was fantastic covering Julio Jones in last years Super Bowl also. He will be matched up with Alshon Jeffery most of the night so expect inside coverage to take away easy RPO slants.
Strong, powerful runner with good cutback moves. Ajayi has the ability to run all over the fragile Patriots run defence and show the whole world what British players can do in the NFL. There is one small blot on his CV and the reason his carries may be limited and that is due to his issues with fumbling the ball. He has had fumbling issues in the past and they are a nagging worry for the Eagles coaching staff.
Lots of people talk about Fletcher Cox being the Eagles best pass rusher and that is a great argument, but there is no doubting Brandon Graham’s ability to totally ruin a game for the offence run and pass, he has 9.5 sacks during the regular season and 2 forced fumbles on 47 tackles during that span. A game changer from the defensive end position and could also play in a three-technique front as a defensive end. He could be matched up against Cameron Fleming who has not been great in recent times.
Talking about game-changing tight ends, the Eagles have one of their own in Zach Ertz who lit up the regular season and looks to show his skills in the Super Bowl on Sunday. He was the favourite target of Carson Wentz and Nick Foles isn’t shy about giving him the ball either. Watch out for a monster game for #86 who will be matched up on a linebacker most of the night. (alongside that the Eagles have the best trio of Tight Ends in the league along with Trey Burton and Brent Celek).
Now we know the star players, now we know the game changers we should dive into how the X’s and O’s will shake out on Sunday night.
Patriots Offence v Philadelphia Defence:
The high-powered New England offence is going up against one of the best ball-hawking defences in the NFL this season. The secondary talent on the Eagles will certainly test the New England metal. As for the running game of New England that is a dynamic unit lead by Dion Lewis who is an all downs back in the league and has joint talent pass or run, which the Eagles linebackers will have a challenge stopping.
Patriots are the leaders in offensive yards per game during the regular season and second, in points scored and passing yards per game. Showcasing a formidable passing attack and well-balanced with the running of Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead to name a few.
On Philly’s defence, they sit with the 4th best total defensive yards given up per game and fourth best in points per game only giving up 18.4 points per game on average during the regular season so this will be a stern test for the balanced attack of the Patriots.
Philadelphia Offence v Patriots Defence:
RUN. PASS. OPTION. Good night everybody,
No, of course, there is more to this matchup than that, although that has been the forefront of the Philly offence with Nick Foles at the helm, which is the only way we can analyse this matchup as Carson Wentz’s stats during the regular season count for nothing now he is out of the game.
The running attack, however, is just as strong and only got stronger during the postseason with a staggering performance from Jay Ajayi against the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional round and that could turn out to be the difference.
As the Patriots run defence leaves a lot to be desired as it sits, 20th in the league giving up 114 yards per game on the ground and a remarkable 25% rate of first downs by rushing which is unlike the Patriots who generally force teams to beat them through the air on second and third down.
When it comes down to it, however, the story of this game is will Nick Foles outscore Tom Brady… And I lean towards a score of…
New England Patriots 24 – 27 Philadelphia Eagles.
If you have enjoyed this preview of the Super Bowl don’t be afraid to share it around and above all else, enjoy the game!