3 reasons SB52 won’t be an automatic Pats win

The Patriots opened up as six-point favorites over the Eagles when the Super Bowl matchup was set on Sunday night. It was the biggest opening spread since the 2009 game, when a 9-7 Cardinals team took on a 12-4 Steelers team.

Pittsburgh was the AFC‘s best team that year; Arizona was expected to be one-and-done in the playoffs. A big spread made sense for the game; it doesn‘t for this year‘s match-up between two 13-3 teams that, on paper, are evenly matched.

Here are three reasons the Eagles will give the Patriots all they can handle on Feb. 4…

1. Philadelphia has the NFL‘s best offensive line

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

If you love dominant offensive line play, I suggest you go back and watch the film of the Eagles‘ win over the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. Philly‘s o-line put on a clinic. Former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz referred to it as “OL porn,” and I can‘t think of a better description.

NFL Network analyst, and former Eagles lineman, Brian Baldinger was equally excited by the line‘s performance…

Philly has dominated the line of scrimmage all season, but doing it against one of the best defensive lines in the league – maybe the best behind Jacksonville – was eye-opening. Dominating a patchwork New England front seven won‘t be nearly as difficult a task. The Eagles will have no problem running all over the Pats if the line performs anywhere close to the level it did last Sunday.

2. The Eagles defense was built to stop slow down Tom Brady

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone can tell you how to beat Tom Brady: Pressure him up the middle and lock down his receivers in man coverage. Actually pulling it off is nearly impossible to do because (1) dominant interior pass rushers are hard to find and (2) Brady is too smart to blitz, so it‘s up to the front four to get pressure on its own.

If there is a defense that can go toe-to-toe with Brady for a full 60 minutes, it resides in Philadelphia. Fletcher Cox is an absolute stud at defensive tackle. Timmy Jernigan is a monster in his own right. And the Eagles are loaded at defensive end with Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Derek Barnett. The linebacking corps can run with tight ends and backs and the secondary has gotten better and better as the year has gone on.

The Eagles have the players to employ similar strategies and, more importantly, the depth to execute the plan for a full four quarters.

3. Philly‘s offense has no obvious strength (or weakness) for Bill Belichick to key in on

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Belichick‘s game-planning skills are legendary. He figures out a way to take away what an opposing offense does best, which forces teams to go outside their comfort zone to win the game.

Here‘s the problem: I‘m not sure the Eagles have a thing they do best. They can run the ball with a number of backs. They have two good pass-catching tight ends. The offensive line is dominant against the run and good against the pass. The receivers can make plays all over the field. Philly‘s offense might not do anything at an elite level, but there‘s nothing it can‘t do well.

Throw in a dynamic scheme that blends run-pass options, west coast passing concepts and brutal play-action fakes, and this offense becomes almost impossible to defend – unless, of course, Nick Foles has a disaster of a game.

But if Foles plays anywhere close to the level he played on Sunday night in Philadelphia, forget about the Eagles not having a chance; the Patriots will be the team that struggles to keep the game close. If Foles is just OK, Philadelphia will make it a much tougher game than Vegas is assuming it will be.


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