Eagles Primed for Upset of Patriots


By Ian Shimizu, Reporter

It’s probably the most unexpected team to make the big game in the last two decades against the best dynasty the NFL has ever seen. It’s the greatest quarterback of all time against a guy that didn’t even see the field until his team had an 11-2 record. It’s a guy who is appearing in his 8th Super Bowl against a guy playing in his 4th playoff game.

The Eagles will be the biggest Super Bowl underdogs since 2009 (when Drew Brees and the Saints stunned Peyton Manning’s Colts) when they take on the Patriots in Super Bowl LII (that’s 52 for those of you confused by Roman numerals). It will be a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX, which the Patriots took home 24-21. Quarterback Tom Brady is the only remaining player from that game.

But is it really as one-sided as it appears? When Carson Wentz went down against the Rams near the end of the season, everyone thought the Eagles would be the weakest number one seed in history. A familiar face for Eagles fans, Nick Foles, took command of the team with all eyes on him, and actually had few issues against the Giants in Week 16. But the G men had struggled all season, and doubters proved to be right when Foles put in a horrifying 4-13, 36-yard, one-interception stat line in one scoreless half against the Cowboys to close out the season.  The performance was so horrific that even Eagles fans accepted a first-round exit.

But the Eagles still had locked up a Wild Card bye, and would have one of the NFL’s most loyal and energetic fan bases behind them in the divisional round.

The Falcons cruised past the Rams and were favorites to go into Philly and take out one of the NFL’s best regular-season teams. But when kickoff came, none of what was on paper mattered.

A hungry Eagles defense bullied Matt Ryan and shut down one of the best receivers in the league in Julio Jones. A balance of short passing and effective running accounted for 15 points. Until the ball flew narrowly over Julio Jones’ stretching arms on 4th down towards the end of the game, people still believed the Falcons would get a chance to avenge last year’s Super Bowl meltdown.

But the game ended, and the Eagles emerged victorious 15-10. The upset was complete, and tackle Lane Johnson threw on a dog mask, an iconic moment that would be recreated by millions of fans the ensuing week.

The Eagles were still underdogs despite their solid play when they hosted the Vikings on Sunday. Even the NFL itself said a Patriots-Vikings Super Bowl was a lock. Vikings fans were ready to be the first to see their team in their hometown.

But then the unthinkable happened. Nick Foles had the game of his life, throwing for more than 340 yards and 3 touchdowns against the best defense in the league. An energetic defense snapped on Case Keenum and the Vikings offense, scoring as many points as they allowed. A 38-7 final score was one of the biggest surprises in the NFL’s modern era. The dog masks reappeared.

Then, of course, you have the Patriots. Tom Brady will be appearing in his eighth Super Bowl, four times of what the entire Eagles franchise history has (before this year). If the Patriots win, Tom Brady alone will have as many rings as the Steelers franchise, which holds the franchise record with six over about 50 years. I could ramble on and on about just how amazing this Patriots dynasty has been.

The Patriots had their usual great regular season, finishing 1st in the AFC with a 13-3 record. The Titans were basically a warm-up, and when they found themselves down 20-10 in the fourth quarter against the electric Jaguars, Dion Lewis coughed up the rock to Myles Jack, which seemed to all but erase the Patriots comeback hopes. But yet again, without Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady and the Patriots’ defense did the impossible. They forced a 3 and out against a hot Blake Bortles and went on to storm back to a 24-20 victory.

All being said, I think this game will be determined off of three key factors:

Malcolm Jenkins vs. Rob Gronkowski

If Gronk plays, this is bound to be an entertaining matchup. Of course, Gronk is going to get him, but if Jenkins can at least limit Tom Brady’s top weapon, things won’t be so easy. Jenkins has been very versatile this year, and is one of the reasons why the Eagles defense has been so good.

Defensive lines vs. quarterbacks

One thing that stood out to me in the Eagles stomping of the Vikings was how well the Eagles offensive line protected Nick Foles. He was only sacked once, and had more than enough time to check his options and sling darts wherever he wanted on most plays. If Lawrence Guy, Trey Flowers, James Harrison, and company can get to Nick Foles, I expect the Eagles offense to have some major problems.

On the other side, you have the best defensive line in the league when it comes to sacks in the Eagles. Tom Brady is 5-2 in Super Bowls. Of course, both losses were against the Giants. In both of those games, the Giants got constant pressure on Brady, especially in the first matchup, where they recorded five sacks. In particular, both Giants teams had 4 guys that could get to Brady without blitzing and exposing themselves. If Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and the Eagles can get similar results, don’t be surprised if the Eagles pull it off.

Danny Amendola

Brandin Cooks hasn’t been quite what the Patriots thought he would when they acquired him from the Saints. Julian Edelman hasn’t set foot on the turf this year. Rob Gronkowski might not even play, and if he does, he won’t be one hundred percent. This means the attention will be shifted to Danny Amendola, who has been there when Brady needs him, including his crucial performance last week. His quickness, his route running, and hands that will likely decide how well the Patriots move the ball.

My Prediction

I think the Eagles will pull it off. I just have that weird gut feeling that they will shock the world again and win their first Super Bowl. The game starts off with the Eagles looking like the better team, and taking a 20-10 lead into halftime. But as they have down done countless times before, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady adjust at halftime, but it isn’t quite enough. Tom Brady is not invincible, and his third Super Bowl loss proves that. Nick Foles has another solid game, and the Eagles prove the NFL is far from predictable.

Score: Eagles 26-24 Patriots

Of course, this is just my prediction. Tom Brady could catch fire out of the gate, Nick Foles could choke, and I wouldn’t exactly be surprised. I just think the Eagles are the better team overall, position vs position, and are riding a huge wave of confidence.

So, who do you have?