Eagles Beat Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII, But Face Another Challenge on Sunday
The Eagles won’t confuse Tom Brady when the quarterback brings the New England Patriots (8-1) to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday for a 4:25 game that will be televised on CBS.
Brady is 42. There isn’t much he hasn’t seen on a football field.
What they might – and that word can’t be stressed enough – might be able to do is apply some pressure. Even that, though, is a roll of the dice, since Brady is so good at getting rid of the ball quickly. He has been sacked just 16 times.
The Eagles, 5-4 and winners of two straight, have done a better job getting after the quarterback in the past few games. They had just three sacks in the first four games, but in the last five they have had 21. Ten of those came against the Jets, but even if you take those away, they still have 11 sacks in the past four games.
“We’re starting to figure out who we are,” said defensive end Brandon Graham. “I’d rather it happen midseason or late because that’s when you have to be hot going into the playoffs. We’ve been getting in our groove right now. I see it, the energy is, man, it’s there at practice. The execution is there … I think we’re excited because the Patriots are right after the bye. Everybody is excited for this game.”
The Eagles are mostly at full strength on defense, with the exception of linebacker Nigel Bradham, who is out for a fourth straight game with an ankle injury. It will be up to the defense to keep the Eagles in the game while a short-handed offense finds its legs.
Receiver Alshon Jeffery will sit this one out with a slow-to-heal ankle injury suffered two weeks ago. Running back Jordan Howard is questionable, but he had not been cleared for contact as late as Friday due to what the Eagles termed a stinger suffered against the Chicago Bears before the bye week.
Furthermore, running back Darren Sproles and receiver DeSean Jackson were both placed on Injured Reserve and retreads Jay Ajayi and Jordan Matthews were signed off the street.
Those two will have a role but it is likely that the Eagles’ two second-round draft picks this past spring will need to step up in order for the Eagles to hang with New England – running back Miles Sanders and receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
All season long, the Eagles have said the reason Arcega-Whiteside isn’t playing much is because he is Jeffery’s backup and he was learning to play the other receiver spots. Well, he should see time if he truly is Jeffery’s backup.
The popular opinion is that the New England defense can be run on, and the league-rankings bear this out a bit, with the Patriots sitting at 11 against the run. So maybe quarterback Carson Wentz will pick his spots to use his legs more.
There has been a lot of talk about this being a Super Bowl LII rematch, though both teams and coaching staffs are different this time around. Where the Eagles are basically the same is on the offensive line, with Jason Peters the lone exception.
Peters is expected to play after missing three games after having a knee scoped. He missed the Super Bowl two years ago and the left tackle spot was handled by Halapoulivaati Vaitai. That is the only different.
Statistically speaking, the Eagles are better at stopping the run. They are ranked fourth.
One thing the Eagles can’t do is fall behind early like they did in Dallas after two turnovers in the first five minutes led directly to a 14-0 Cowboys lead which in turn led to a blowout loss.
New England is a first-quarter juggernaut, outscoring opponents 87-17 in the opening quarter of their nine games. They had allowed just seven in the first quarter until the Baltimore Ravens hung 10 on them in that quarter on their way to a 37-20 lead in the Patriots’ most recent game. Meanwhile, the Eagles have been outscored 51-37 in the opening quarter.
Another thing the Eagles can’t do is turn the ball over, but the Patriots are the best in the league at getting teams to do just that. They have forced 27 turnovers, with 19 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. And the Eagles are at minus-1 in the league’s giveaway/takeaway category.
Add everything up and this feels like an Eagles loss.
PREDICTION: Patriots 29, Eagles 20