February 02, 2018
It feels like an eternity since the Eagles last played a game, but Super Bowl weekend has finally arrived. Before you know it, you'll be able to talk about the big game, not in terms of how many days are left until kickoff, but how many hours.
Between watching all the coverage on TV and stocking up your refrigerator and cooking game-day snacks, it's going to be a busy couple of days for the city of Philadelphia. Unfortunately, that won't make the game get here any faster, given that Eagles fans have been waiting 13 years to get back to this point and have been waiting much, much longer for their football team to win a Super Bowl.
On Sunday night, the Eagles could get their first, and they would be doing so in the most improbable of fashions: with a young coach, a backup quarterback and key injuries on both sides of the ball ... against the team going for their sixth title since 2002.
There's a reason the Birds are once again playing the role of the underdog, but that hasn't stopped them so far after they beat both the Falcons in the divisional round and the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game after coming into both contests as home underdogs.
Does Nick Foles have another magical performance in him? Can Pederson outfox Belichick? Can the defense shut down Brady?
Can the game just get here already?
TV: NBC | RADIO: 94.1 WIP
SPREAD: Patriots (-4.5) | TOTAL: 48.5 (via Bovada)
Yes, Tom Brady is still the quarterback of the New England Patriots. Yes, Bill Belichick is still the head coach. Yes, Rob Gronkowski is still a behemoth to have to deal with. And yes, the Pats, like the Eagles, are 15-3.
Still, this is a flawed team, and not as good as many of the Patriots teams of the Tom Brady era. Out of curiosity, I took a look back at FootballOutsiders.com's DVOA ratings going all the way back to 2001, the beginning of the Brady era, omitting 2008, the season Brady was lost for the season with an injury...
The Patriots' 5.5-point spread in their favor is more about their mystique than their current talent. This Eagles team is better, I think they know it, and they're not intimidated in the slightest. They're better in the trenches, they're far better on defense, and these two offenses, on the whole, really aren't that far apart.
The Eagles are going to win this game, fly home, and ride down Broad Street. Plan accordingly.
It has been rather unsettling being in Philadelphia surrounded by nothing but relentless optimism this week. You would think after decades of teams hurting them in their most vulnerable moments, the locals around here would be a little more guarded about the Super Bowl.
Staring down the greatest coach-QB combo in NFL history, the city hasn’t blinked. And I suspect that’s because they feel the same unflinching attitude in their team, which has represented Philly as well as any in my lifetime. From overcoming major injuries to standing up for injustice in their community, this Eagles team has made it easy for the city to embrace them wholeheartedly.
There is something unquantifiable with this team in the same way there was with the 2008 Phillies, who routinely managed to escape defeat when everyone had counted them out. Each time the Eagles have lost a major contributor or looked like they were about to crash back to Earth, they came up with a clutch play and a big game, restoring faith once again. It is a reflection of character as much as it is their talent, with not a single man in that locker room willing to let a dream season fall short of the goal.
Brady and Belichick have been stopped in the Super Bowl before, and the key to overcoming the most dominant team of the 2000’s has always been to hit Brady early and often, making him feel uncomfortable in the pocket. With all the big-boys they have up front, the Eagles are one of the best-equipped teams in the league to do that.
So sure, pour me a glass of Eagles Kool-Aid. The underdog masks and Meek Mill intro music and all the assorted Super Bowl accessories go out the window at kickoff. What’s left is a team sharpened by adversity and willing to play pedal-to-the-metal in the biggest moments of their career. Give me the Birds by a touchdown.
First, there's no way I was being the one Philly writer that picked against the Birds the year they won their first Super Bowl. But that's not the only reason I'm picking the Eagles.
Just over a month ago, immediately following the Eagles' 6-0 season-finale loss to the Cowboys, I offered up five reasons why I thought they could still make it to the Super Bowl despite just finishing their worst performance of the season. In other words, I never lost hope – I came close a few times – and there's no sense in doing that now.
Why do I think the Eagles will win the city's first Super Bowl? It starts and stops with the defense.
Sure, they're facing a tougher test than they did against the Vikings, but if the Eagles defensive unit that dominated Minnesota two weeks ago can turn in another performance like that, it won't matter whether they're facing the G.O.A.T. or an actual live goat.
And if you couple that with the fact that Nick Foles, who was magnificent in the NFC title game, is playing against a lesser defense than he faced last time out. He's not likely to play quite that well on Sunday, but if the defense can do its job, he won't have to.
The Eagles are the better team overall. The Patriots' advantages come at quarterback – but not if Foles plays like he did against the Vikings – and at head coach – but not if Doug Pederson calls another masterful game – and I think they prove that on Sunday night in Minneapolis.
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