This is the first Eagles Superbowl since they played the Pats in 2004. You can read all about it here. A lot has changed with Philadelphia since the dominance that was brought by Donovan McNabb. Philadelphia has gone through 3 different coaches and are on their 6th starting QB in the past 13 seasons. There has been little stability in the program, finishing .500 or under 7 times, but making it to the playoffs the other 6 times.
This season was Doug Pederson’s 2nd year with the Eagles. With their QB of the future, Carson Wentz, the Eagles sprinted to a 10-2 record, only losing to the Cheifs in the 2nd game of the season and the Seattle Seahawks in week 13. Then came the the injury. With the division title on the line, the Eagles headed to Los Angeles to play the Rams. With 4 minutes to go, Wentz scrambled with the ball to the goal line and was hit hard by the Rams D. He did however he stayed in the game to finish the drive with a TD to Alshon Jeffery, but everybody knew something was wrong. Nick Foles would finish the game at QB and lead the Eagles to a thrilling 43-35 win. However, the game was a big loss for the soaring Eagles, as an MRI confirmed that Wentz had torn his ACL. Foles would go 2-1 in the next three games, keeping the Eagles at the top of the NFC with a 13-3 record.
In the playoffs, the Eagles survived a last second drive by the Atlanta Falcons, on a 4th and Goal and made it past the Minnesota Vikings to make it to their first Superbowl in 14 years. Eagles were the underdogs but came out victorious as the Vikings got the yips. The Eagles would fly past the Vikings and score 38 unanswered points to win 38-7 and head to the Superbowl.
Wentz’s injury makes understanding the Eagles offense difficult for the game on Sunday. Wentz had the ability to dodge oncoming defenders and make plays out of the pocket, both on his feet and through the air. According to FiveThirtyEight, Wentz passed ball 10 or further yards 40.2% of the times, while with Foles, the Eagles’ pass plays are completed within 10 yards 46% of the time and less than or equal to 0 yards 28.6% of the time. This is largely due to Pedereson running a lot of RPO’s and screen plays which has led to the Eagle’s recent success. The Eagles have more than doubled their yards after catch this offseason. An example of the play is clearly seen here:
Kelce and Wiz lead the way for Ajayi on the screen and he picks up 32 yards on 3rd+7 pic.twitter.com/uMOhErgL4b
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) January 14, 2018
Eagles have all their passing options, in Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholar and Zach Ertz, who carry most of the load. The three accounted for 60% of all passing yards and 35% of all passing TDs. As I described yesterday, the Eagles have a balanced run game led by LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi who accounted for over half of the Eagles running yards this season. In the RPO, Ajayi has blossomed and is playing at the same level he played during his 2016 probowl year. New England is going to have a very tough time stopping this offense. Nick Foles in the regular season had a passer rating of just 23.8 against pressure, but has completely turned around and had a passer rating of 152.1 under pressure in the NFC title game against the Vikings. With Foles averaging 2.39 seconds before the pass (4th fastest in the NFL this year, largely due to the RPO), the Eagles will be lethal on offense.
Key for the Eagles is to stop Brady early, and keep the ball away from the New England offense as much as possible. Not do it for a half (see: Superbowl LI), not do it until 41 seconds left (see: this year’s AFC Championship), but do it for the entire game. Tough task, knowing Brady’s antics in high pressure games.
The Eagles DC, Jim Shwartz, has turned this team into a defensive powerhouse. The team has the best run defense in the league as the only team to allow less than 80 yards a game on the ground. The secondary has a combined 19 interceptions on the year and can defend the pass very well. Opposing QBs have averaged only a passer rating of 79.5 against he Eagles who rank 9th in the league.
However, the Eagles rank the 4th worst in defending against passes not thrown to wide receivers and the Pats biggest target is their Tight End, Rob Gronkowski. It is still unknown if the star will play after the concussion he suffered in the AFC title game.
The Eagles play a 9-Wide defense, which puts 4 men up front to apply constant pressure while line backers and defensive backs have the option of blitzing or spreading out the coverage. But if Gronk does play, one of these backs will have to shadow the Pat’s top receiver, which has the chance of creating holes elsewhere on the field. That’s something that the NFL’s best coaching staff can exploit.
This Superbowl is going to be fun. The Eagles have a huge chance on offense to exploit the weaknesses of the Patriots, even with Nick Foles leading the way. But the Pats have TB12. The Eagles have a mastermind running their defense, but New England has Bill Belichick, the grand daddy of them all. The Eagles, at least on paper have everything they need to beat the Pats. If the offense can keep the momentum from 2 weeks ago and the defense contains Brady THE ENTIRE GAME, and I’ll say it now, the Eagles will win.
Comeback tomorrow for the most fun blog as I try and persuade you to gamble away your mortgage. Prop Bets and my pick to win the Superbowl, at least against the spread.
Stats taken from Pro-Football-Reference.