Hello, my fellow Cobbers. What a week it has been, and what a week it will be! Have you all had a fun week of class? Any thrilling tests or quizzes? Maybe an exciting day at work? Well, I have had none of those things because I am very much not in Moorhead! As I write this, it is 2 a.m. and Brady Drake and I have just arrived in St. Paul, ready to cover Super Bowl 52. WAIT, WHAT? Yes, you read that correctly. Brady and I will be going to various events around the twin Cities metro area this week. Press conferences? Yes! Concerts? Sure! Nickelodeon Universe? You bet! All that being said, there is also work to be done. I have been committed to breaking down every game this year, and I shall honor that pledge. This is the final act of this long journey called the NFL season. Let’s break it down by the major factors.
Front Seven and Secondary: Here’s the most important factor in the defensive play of these two teams. The Eagles have a ferocious front seven, spearheaded by Fletcher Cox. The unit put tons of pressure on the offensive line and quarterback of the team they played last week (and I’m still not over it). The Patriots have a bunch of linebackers and linemen I’ve never heard of. But the Patriots’ defense does not rely on their rush like the Eagles do. The Eagles use their pass rush to prop up their secondary, which is the inverse of the Patriots. Overall, the Eagles have a better defense, but in comparison of the units, the Patriots have the edge in the secondary.
Offensive Line: Um, well … the Eagles have a guy who wore a dog mask a couple weeks ago? Let’s give the advantage to that guy. Advantage: Eagles.
Special Teams: The Patriots’ aura nearly single-handedly wins this category. Stephen Gostkowski is one of the most reliable kickers in the game, and Matthew Slater makes nearly every conceivable tackle on kickoffs and punts. The Philadelphia bunch is in large part solid, but I am worried about Jake Elliott, a rookie kicker who was only signed due to an injury sustained by starter Caleb Sturgis. Advantage: Patriots.
Skill Position Players: I am so intrigued by the comparison of these two groups of players. Each has wideouts who can make plays on all levels of the field (Philly: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Algholor; Pats: Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan). Each has a stable of running backs going four deep. Jay Ajayi, the fearsome lead runner for the Eagles, is a stark contrast to New England’s versatile Dion Lewis. However, the X factor comes down to the tight end position. Zach Ertz is a very, very good player who may or may not have been the best player on my fantasy team, but let’s be real. Rob Gronkowski might be the best tight end of all-time, and he may be the most important player in this game. After sustaining a concussion in the AFC Championship game, Gronk is currently questionable for the Super Bowl. I fully expect him to play, but how healthy will he really be? For being such a complete animal on the field, it’s a poorly kept secret around the league that he is nearly always banged up in some way. Gronkowski’s health will swing this matchup. Advantage: Incomplete
Coaching: Doug Pederson is a good coach! He groomed Carson Wentz into an MVP candidate, and apparently owns a time machine, and was able to transport 2013 Nick Foles to 2018 (Nick Foles 2013 statistics: 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in 13 games). However, it just so happens that he is facing the greatest coach in NFL history, Bill Belichick. Sorry, Doug. Advantage: Patriots.
Fans: EAGLES FANS ARE ALL RECKLESS, TERRIBLE PEOPLE AND PATRIOTS FANS ARE ALL BANDWAGONERS WHO LOVE CHEATING FOOTBALL TEAMS! Oh, whoops. Not journalistic? What I meant to say is that the Super Bowl is usually crowd-neutral, with fans coming from all around the world, leaving no real home field advantage. I know Vikings fans will be ripping the Eagles during the game, but do you really want the Patriots to win again? No Advantage.
History: Is there such a thing as destiny? I’m not sure. But if there is a team who is “destined” to win this game, it is likely the Eagles, who have never won the big one. In comparison to the Patriots who have won five this century. This could also be a secret revenge game for Super Bowl 39, when New England defeated the Donovan McNabb-led Eagles. Very slight advantage: Eagles.
Quarterback: Guys. Cmon. It’s TOM. FREAKING. BRADY. I have now seen Tom Brady do it all. He even defeated his nemesis, my lord and savior, Blake Bortles. If you are putting money on this game, don’t put it on Foles and worry. Put it on Brady, and let the cash roll in.
New England (-5) over Philadelphia