Doesn’t it seem like a month ago when Tom Brady rallied New England past upstart Jacksonville and Nick Foles was having the game of his life in Philadelphia’s rout of Minnesota?
If I was NFL czar Roger Goodell, I would eliminate the Pro Bowl in the off week and play the Super Bowl the week after the two conference championship games.
Who really watches the Pro Bowl? It’s by far the worst of the professional sports All-Star games as the players go half-speed because they’re afraid of being injured. To be honest, after the grueling 16-game schedule (20 counting preseason), who really wants to play in a meaningless exhibition?
At least the big game is finally here. We’ve had worse matchups and we’ve had better matchups. Of course, New England and Atlanta raised the bar last year with Patriots charging late for the 34-28 victory, which erased the stench of the 2016 game when Denver methodically slogged past Carolina.
The Patriots, of course, have Brady. Any game with Brady is must-see TV because it’s remarkable he’s still performing at such a high level at 40.
Philadelphia counters with its defense. The Eagles are as physical as any team in the NFL and while Minnesota was supposed to be lights-out on that side, it was the Vikings who had their lights turned out in the championship game as they didn’t score after the first series.
The Patriots’ defense, on the other hand, was a mixed bag this season. It was woeful at the beginning, but by the end of the season it was among the Top 5. The genius of coach Bill Belichick was evident, along with defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. On opening night, the Chiefs gashed them, but that unit has come a long way since then.
The key to the game is Foles, the former Kansas City backup to Alex Smith. He had the midas touch against Minnesota, which is why I think having the extra week could do the Eagles’ some harm. He was riding such an emotional high and probably couldn’t wait to get back on the field.
The Eagles also can run it with an array of backs, all of whom have specific strengths. While battering ram LeGarrett Blount had his workload diminish during the regular season, I have a feeling against the Patriots’ soft front he might get a heavy dose. He averaged only 10 carries a game and could be a handful for New England.
Look for the Eagles to come at Brady with both barrels. He is basically a statue in the pocket and Philadelphia has fast, active linebackers. They could really make things uncomfortable for him, which is why the Pats have to be able to run the ball for at least 100 yards.
I believe this has a chance to be an entertaining Super Bowl. I’m seeing a scenario where Philadelphia starts fast and may lead much of the game.
But Brady lives for moment like this. Don’t be surprised if we see another miracle comeback and he cements his legacy as the greatest quarterback of all time.
Prediction: New England 24, Philadelphia 17.