We’ve made it through the NFL regular season and playoffs, and it’s time to determine the league’s next champion in Super Bowl LII. The top seed in each conference is playing in the game, with the Eagles representing the NFC and the Patriots having made it out of the AFC. It’s the Patriots’ second straight Super Bowl appearance and third in the last four years. For the Eagles, it’s their first appearance in the title game since Super Bowl XXXIX — when they lost to the Patriots, 24-21. The Eagles are looking for their first Super Bowl title in franchise history, while the Patriots are going for their sixth, which would tie them for the most all-time.
The Eagles didn’t have any problem winning the NFC Championship game, blowing out the Vikings by a final score of 38-7 behind a fantastic performance by QB Nick Foles, who had his best game of the season since taking over for injured QB Carson Wentz. He was 26-for-33 for 352 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. Three Eagles receivers had at least five receptions, with TE Zach Ertz leading the team with eight catches for 93 yards. WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith had five receptions apiece, with Jeffery scoring two touchdowns and Smith getting one score. On the ground, RB Jay Ajayi had 73 yards and LeGarrette Blount — who was part of the Patriots’ championship team last season — scoring a touchdown on six carries. As good as the offense was, the defense may have been even better. After allowing a touchdown on the Vikings’ opening drive, the defense held them scoreless the rest of the way while recording two interceptions and recovering a lost fumble.
Things didn’t go as smoothly for the Patriots in the AFC title game. They needed to score 14 fourth-quarter points to help overcome a deficit to beat the Jaguars and continue their quest for back-to-back titles. QB Tom Brady completed 26 of 38 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. He did much of that without his top weapon, TE Rob Gronkowski, who left the game with a concussion after securing just one reception for 21 yards. WRs Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks picked up the slack in Gronkowski’s absence, catching seven and six passes, respectively. Amendola had two touchdowns and a total of 84 yards on his catches, and Cooks went for 100 yards on his six grabs. None of the running backs did much in the running game, but James White had a rushing touchdown and Dion Lewis had seven receptions for 32 yards. Defensively, the Patriots had one forced fumble but no interceptions.
The Patriots are favored by 4.5 points, which is down 1.5 points from the opening line, with an over/under of 48, a point higher than where it opened.
Looking ahead to the game, it’s a battle of the strong Eagles defense against the Tom Brady-led offense of the Patriots, which can seemingly score against any team. Gronkowski has been practicing this week and officially cleared the concussion protocol on Thursday, so he will be in the game, which will of course help the Patriots offense. Foles needs to come close to a repeat performance to what he did in the NFC Championship for the Eagles to have a chance to win the victory. The defense will keep the Eagles in the game and I think it’ll be close, but I don’t think the Eagles offense will be able to match up with the Patriots enough to get the win. I’ll go with the Patriots to win the game, but I’ll take the 4.5 points with the Eagles. I’ll go under the 48 as well. I think Gronk has a big game and takes home the MVP trophy.
(Spread and over/under from Vegas Insider)