It’s the Acela Super Bowl with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady going for ring No. 6 and the Eagles going for … um … ring No. 1.
Super Bowl LII is a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville following the 2004 season when the Patriots won their third title in four years — that’s what they are trying to do now — and the Eagles flopped in their second Super Bowl and just now are getting back in.
It’s enough to make football historians nostalgic for Donovan McNabb throwing up on the sidelines, T.O. all but nominating himself for the Purple Heart after a heroic performance less than two months following surgery for a broken ankle, and Andy Reid putting on a clinic in clock management (just kidding on that one).
Here’s how I look at Super Bowl LII:
Nick Foles is not beating Brady. Doug Pederson is not beating Belichick.
If the Vikings had taken time out from celebrating the “Minneapolis Miracle” over the Saints and actually shown up in Philadelphia and become the first team to play the Super Bowl on its home field, it would have been a bigger challenge for New England to win in such a hostile environment.
Now? Not so tough.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Eagles 17
1. The Northeast Corridor
Giants fans hate the Eagles. Jets fans hate the Patriots. So this is an easy one: Big Blue Nation roots for the Patriots so they can continue to tease the Eagles for being just nine teams that have been around for the entire Super Bowl era never to have won even once. Gang Green Nation can root for the Eagles to stop the Evil Empire from adding another trophy to its gaudy collection.
2. No Blowout
In the seven Super Bowls of the Brady-Belichick era, the biggest point differential was six points. That was last year when the Pats came back from a 28-3 deficit with 17 minutes left to beat the Falcons in overtime. New England’s five Super Bowl margins of victory: 3, 3, 3, 4 and 6. The two losses to the Giants: 3 and 4 points. You can make a case that the Patriots could have won all seven or lost all seven or anywhere in between. One or two plays decided all these games.
3. Boston vs. Philly
The Boston-Philly rivalry does not contain the same animosity as New York vs. Boston or New York vs. Philly. In fact, you have to go back to the ’60s for Russell vs. Wilt to get the cheesesteak vs. clam chowder argument going. Dr. J vs. Bird & Co. was pretty good, too. Boston has won 37 championships in football, baseball, basketball and hockey. Philly has won 16. The Eagles won back-to-back NFL titles in 1948 and 1949 and won their last championship when they beat the Packers in 1960 in Vince Lombardi’s second season in Green Bay.
4. Nice To See You
LeGarrette Blount and Chris Long played for the Patriots last year and can join Ken Norton (Cowboys 1992 & 1993, 49ers 1994) and Deion Sanders (49ers 1994, Cowboys 1995) winning back-to-back Super Bowls for different teams. What would make this unique for Long and Blount is getting the second title by defeating the team they won with the previous year.
Long had a big game vs. the Vikings by hitting Case Keenum and forcing an INT. He also had a fumble recovery. Blount scored a touchdown. Dion Lewis, who has emerged as the Patriots’No. 1 running back, was a fifth-round pick of the Eagles in 2011. He carried only 36 in two years and was traded to the Browns. He was released by Cleveland in 2013 and the Colts in 2014 without ever carrying the ball for either team, and signed with the Patriots in 2015.
5. The New Hoss?
Back in 1990, Phil Simms was having one of his best seasons when he broke his foot in the 14th game. Jeff Hostetler took over and won the last two regular-season games and then beat the Bears and 49ers in the playoffs and the Bills in the Super Bowl. Up until the time Simms was injured, Hoss had thrown 93 career passes with only two starts in his seven seasons.
Foles took over when MVP candidate Carson Wentz tore his ACL in the 13th game. He already had 36 career starts, a playoff appearance and Pro Bowl season (27 TDs, two INTs in 2013) when he became the starter in December. Foles had bounced from Eagles to Rams to Chiefs and back to Eagles after breaking his collarbone midway through the 2014 season in Philly.
The Giants had no idea what they had with Hoss and he was great. Foles had a track record the last few years of being very average. He even considered retirement after the 2015 with the Rams. Eagles fans were ready to jump off the Walt Whitman Bridge when Wentz was hurt. There was no reason to believe in Foles because they thought they knew what he was.
Among the backups QBs who have stepped in and taken a team to the Super Bowl, Foles’ story is most like Hostetler’s simply because it happened so late in the year.
6. Gronk Watch
Rob Gronkowski absorbed a huge helmet-to-helmet hit from Jaguars safety Barry Church late in the second quarter Sunday and didn’t emerge from concussion protocol to return to the game. Now the issue: Does Gronk get cleared for the Super Bowl? He missed the Super Bowl victory last year after late-season back surgery and in the Super Bowl loss to the Giants following the 2011 season when was hampered by a bad ankle. His only known previous concussion was in 2013.
7. Brady vs. Foles
The biggest QB mismatch of all time: Peyton Manning vs. Rex Grossman, Colts vs. Bears, in Super Bowl XLI in a downpour in Miami. Journeyman Brad Johnson vs. NFL MVP Rich Gannon turned into a mismatch but not what was expected. Gannon was intercepted five times with three returned for touchdowns in the Bucs 48-21 victory over the Raiders in Super Bowl XLVII.
It’s silly to recite the disparity in all the numbers of a Foles-Brady matchup, beginning with Brady’s NFL-record 27 playoff victories and Foles’ two. What is relevant is Foles, who once threw seven TD passes in a game, which Brady has never done, played lights-out against the Vikings with 352 yards passing and three TDs.
8. Zebra Alert
The Patriots have been on the receiving end of some fortunate calls this year: The TD/No TDs of Austin Seferian-Jenkins of the Jets, Buffalo’sKelvin Benjamin and Pittsburgh’sJesse James, and then the whistle being blown after Myles Jack recovered the fourth-quarter fumble of Dion Lewis when it didn’t appear he was touched when he was on the ground. He would have scored untouched on a 67-yard run to give the Jaguars a 27-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.
For the game, the Patriots were penalized once for 10 yards. The Jaguar were penalized six times for 98 yards, including two huge pass interference calls that set up two touchdowns. It was a bad look when referee Clete Blakeman tapped Brady on the chest after the game as he appeared to be congratulating him.
9. Malcolm in the Middle
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins has been one of the outspoken and articulate players regarding the social justice issues. He has been a leader working with the NFL setting up new programs. He will have a valuable forum in front of the national media to further his projects and point of view.
10. Hoodie Honors
Belichick went on and on Sunday about how great Danny Amendola is. He didn’t seem quite as enthusiastic talking about Brady.
Belichick on Danny Amendola after his two-TD performance: “Danny’s such a good football player. When you look up ‘good football player’ in the dictionary his picture is right there beside it.”
Belichick on Brady throwing two fourth-quarter TDs playing with 12 stitches below his thumb on the palm side after it was gashed in practice Wednesday. “I mean, look, Tom did a great job and he’s a tough guy. We all know that, alright? But, we’re not talking about open-heart surgery here.”
We’re on to Minnesota.
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