After a long regular season and a thrilling playoffs campaign, the climax of the 2017-18 NFL season is finally upon us. Super Bowl 52 will be played this Monday morning from 10.30am with the New England Patriots facing the Philadelphia Eagles from U.S Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
For the third time in four years, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots will play off in the final game of the year. The QB-Coach tandem will be hunting their sixth Super Bowl title together, after one of the most thrilling wins in last season’s Super Bowl saw Brady become the first ever QB with five rings.
After a shaky start to the season, the back half of the year saw the Patriots roll through the league, losing just one of their final 12 games to finish with a 13-3 record. Tom Brady was once again fantastic in the regular season, and is favourite to win his third NFL MVP. The fact that he has had such a dominant year without arguably his number one receiving weapon in Julian Edelman is a testament to the ‘next man up’ culture at New England, and to Brady’s talent itself.
Monday will present a similar situation to the one Brady faced in last year’s Super Bowl, when he was without superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski for the game against Atlanta. ‘Gronk’ has been under the spotlight throughout the last week after having to leave the AFC Championship game against the Jaguars early with a concussion. He will no doubt suit up for the Patriots on Monday though, and the core of wide and slot receivers that Brady possesses in Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks paired with a couple of elite pass catching backs gives the Patriots a scary looking offence heading into SB52, even without Edelman.
Amendola in particular has really stepped up in the absence of Edelman, and has been Brady’s most trusted receiver over the last decade. He always seems to look to Amendola in the red zone in big games. The slot receiver has already caught two TD’s in this season’s playoffs and we think $3.40 is great value for him to catch another, especially with the likliehood of so much attention being paid to Gronkowski.
The Patriots defence was their Achilles heel at the start of the season, allowing an average of 32 points through their first four games. Since then, however, they have allowed over 20 points on just two occasions, one of which to the elite offence of the Steelers. As it so often is with Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, the New England defence has become one of the best in the league, even without one of the best line-backers in the league in Dont’a Hightower.
The Eagles will return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2004, where coincidentally they lost to the Patriots. There are some eerie similarities between then and now, as 2004 marked the Patriots 3rd Super Bowl victory in four years, a feat they will be trying to re-achieve on Monday.
It’s been the Eagles defence that has lead them to the Super Bowl this year. Throughout the regular season they boasted statistically one of the best defences in the league, allowing just 18.4 points per game (4th) and 79.2 rushing yards per game, which was good for the best in the league. One aspect where they were only average, however, was passing yards allowed, where they gave up 227.3 yards per game, which could be detrimental against Brady and the high powered offence.
Throughout their last two Super Bowl wins, the New England offence has been extremely throw dependant, especially when trailing in the second half. Brady attempted a monster 62 passes in SB51 and a further 50 passes in SB49 against the Seahawks. In those two games he combined for 794 passing yards. Brady turns into a different beast in the final game of the season, and after adding Gronkowski to an offence that catered for 466 passing yards in last season’s Super Bowl, we think he could be on for another big game through the air here.
After injury sidelined starting quarterback Carson Wentz near the end of the regular season, backup Nick Foles was thrust into the limelight and has managed to lead his team to the Super Bowl. The last time Foles was a regular starter was back in the 2015 season when he was playing for the Rams. He went 4-7 through the first 11 games of that season before being benched for coincidentally, Case Keenum, who Foles defeated in the NFC Championship game last weekend.
The Eagles have relied on their trio running back combination of Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and former Patriot LaGarrette Blount heavily throughout the season. Blount only carried for two TD’s on the season but he is the bulldozer of the trio and is often called upon at the goal line. At $3.50 to score a TD, any first and goal situation will likely go to Blount, which is great value.
It’ll be an extremely tough test for Foles here as he goes up against one of the more consistent defences in the league in the Patriots. However, he was able to put up 38 points against the Vikings last weekend, who allowed a league best 15.8 points per game throughout the regular season.
It’s hard for us to look past the dominance of the Patriots in big games over the past few years. They have arguably been outplayed in their last two Super Bowls and still come away with two trophies. We have to think that a decent first half is coming sooner or later, and if Patriots take any sort of lead into the main break here, it’ll be hard for Foles to fight back. The Eagles have won most of their games this season by getting to early leads and letting their run game and defence grind out wins. That just won’t work against the Patriots.
The Patriots opened as 7.5 point favourites, however, the Eagles have been backed heavily and are now just 4.5 point underdogs. Even though last season’s Super Bowl was an extremely close game which went to overtime, the Patriots still managed to cover the 5.5 point line, and the way the New England offence is run in big games, with an emphasis on Brady throwing the ball, we think that they cover the 4.5 point line.
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