Paul Domowitch: I didn’t think the Eagles would beat Atlanta, but they did.
I didn’t think they would beat the Vikings, but they did.
So, now they’re about to go up against the best quarterback and head coach of our generation.
And I’m picking them to win.
Yeah, you heard me.
Maybe the moment will be too big for Nick Foles, but I doubt it. He has found serenity in fatherhood. If the Vikings’ defense couldn’t rattle him, I don’t see the Patriots’ defense succeeding.
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The key will be the Eagles’ defense. Particularly the front four. They must put Tom Brady in third-and-longs and then get pressure on him.
Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan need to have the games of their lives. If they can collapse the pocket and prevent Brady from being able to step up, the Eagles will win.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Patriots 24
Les Bowen: I’m not going to overthink this. It’s no fun picking the Patriots. They’re favored, of course, and there’s an excellent chance they will figure out some ridiculous, infuriating way to win. I am concerned that Tom Brady will be able to do what Eli Manning did to the Eagles Week 15, throw off quick drops with precision, negate the strong edge the Eagles’ pass rush should have against the Pats’ o-line. I’m concerned that some sort of Belchickian voodoo will trick Nick Foles into turning over the ball.
But this isn’t Week 15; for most Eagles, it’s the most important game of their lives. I really think if Brandon Graham has to find a way to get in Brady’s face off a three-step drop, he will do that. I think the Eagles ought to be able to run, and to win some passing game matchups against a secondary that really isn’t that scary.
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Maybe this makes me provincial and naive. So be it. I think the Eagles are better on both lines. I think the fact that they are here with their backup quarterback shows that they are the best team in the league. If they become the first Super Bowl winners in franchise history, I’m not going to be the guy who picked against them.
Prediction: Eagles 24, Patriots 23.
Jeff McLane: On Dec. 11, not long after the Eagles announced Carson Wentz’s season-ending knee injury, I watched the Dolphins beat the Patriots on Monday night. I thought to myself: If Wentz and the Eagles could play New England in the Super Bowl, they could win rather easily. The Eagles, of course, won’t have that luxury, but the Patriots’ struggles against a six-win team only hammered home the point that there aren’t powerhouses in the NFL this season. If there was one, it was the Eagles. I’m still not impressed with New England’s defense. It has improved from a sloppy first four games in which it allowed 32 points a game. But the Patriots’ pass rush hasn’t risen above mediocrity. Nick Foles should have time to throw. That should be all he needs to not regress. The key for the Eagles, as has been repeated here and many places, will be pressuring Tom Brady. The Eagles’ front four, without the blitz, need to push the pocket and move the quarterback off his spot. The back seven need to take away Brady’s first reads and force him to pat the ball more than once. Jim Schwartz can’t call too many zone coverages. Brady will pick a zone apart with quick-timing throws. Sound man-to-man coverage in the secondary coupled with a four-man rush led by Fletcher Cox should get the job done. It’s difficult to pick against arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. But Brady isn’t invincible. I think it will be a close game. I’ve been wrong many, many, and, well, many times before. At the risk of being a Mush, I’m picking the Eagles. I think their advantage on both lines of scrimmage will be the difference.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Patriots 23
Zach Berman: At first blink when the Super Bowl matchup was set, I thought the Patriots would win. I’ve seen the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick movie before.
I’m not following Malcolm Gladwell’s advice on this one, because the more I analyzed this game, the more I started seeing reasons why the Eagles would win.
And it’s not a local bias or talking myself into anything, but rather looking at the matchups – especially along the lines. The offensive line and defensive line can be the great equalizers. If you win on the lines, you have a good chance of winning games. And if the Eagles can pressure Tom Brady and protect Nick Foles while establishing the running game, they’re going to be difficult to beat.
The Patriots have the clear edge at quarterback, which is hard to overlook. Brady is the best ever, and the Eagles should be fearful of a quick-passing game to try to neutralize the pass rush. The Patriots have the skill players, plus the running backs catching the ball out of the backfield will be dangerous. Third downs will be critical. The Patriots converted 40.6 percent of their third downs this season. The Eagles held teams to 32.2 percent on third downs. In the Eagles-Vikings game, I thought third-down offense would be the difference. In the Super Bowl, I think it’ll be third-down defense.
On offense, Jay Ajayi will be key. Foles needs to take care of the ball and take advantage when opportunities are there, but the Eagles must run the ball on a defense that allows 4.7 yards per carry. If the Eagles win, Ajayi might be a dark-horse candidate for MVP.
The Eagles are much better at home than on the road, but this is not a true road game. I’m curious to see how the neutral field factors into the outcome. Bottom line, this a tough one to predict. I can’t overstate the respect I have for Brady and Belichick and how the Patriots’ experience could be a factor. But if I removed the team names, history, and the undeniable Patriots mystique and simply looked at the matchup, I think the Eagles have the advantage. That’s why I’m picking the Eagles to win their first Super Bowl – but I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking this pick to a sports book. Only pick against Brady and Belichick at your risk.
Prediction: Eagles 26, Patriots 24