The New England Patriots will have their chance at ring No. 6 when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles, who will be playing for their first Lombardi trophy. Here’s an early look at their matchup, complete with predictions.
Reasons to be excited: Start with familiar faces on the opposite side who played a huge part in the Patriots’ Super Bowl win last year — running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive end Chris Long. They are thought of highly in New England and now to win another Super Bowl, the Patriots will have to stop them. And then consider this angle: When the Patriots won their third Super Bowl in four years in the 2004 season, they beat the Eagles to do so. Now as they go for a third Super Bowl in four years, it is the Eagles again. Neat storyline. Finally, a Tom Brady vs. Nick Foles quarterback battle favors New England.
Reasons to be concerned: For those who believe “defense wins championships,” this isn’t good news for the Patriots. The defenses that have had the greatest success against the Patriots are those that can rush four and get pressure on Brady, while dropping seven into coverage. The Philadelphia defense has shown the ability to do so.
Patriots will win if: They win the turnover differential. Arguably the most impressive statistic in the Bill Belichick era is the Patriots are 159-15 when they have a positive turnover differential (including playoffs). So always start there when it comes to the team’s chances at winning. — Mike Reiss
X factor: Danny Amendola, WR. Amendola has racked up 196 yards and two touchdowns on 18 grabs this postseason. It’s the route running, the quickness and the scheme in New England that makes him a prime X factor in the Super Bowl. Look at how the Patriots create space inside of the numbers or focus on Amendola’s ability to shake coverage in a phone booth. This allows Brady to dice up the middle of the field on high-percentage throws in the short-to-intermediate passing game. And that’s a blueprint for success. — Matt Bowen
Stat nugget: The Patriots are the first team with 10 Super Bowl appearances. They’re 5-4 in their previous nine. The Steelers, Cowboys and Broncos are tied for the second-most appearances at eight apiece. — ESPN Stats & Information
Reasons to be excited: They’ve proven they’re an elite team that is able to overcome any obstacle, no matter the circumstance. They lost franchise QB Carson Wentz, left tackle Jason Peters, running back Darren Sproles and linebacker Jordan Hicks before him, and still pushed through the NFC to reach the Super Bowl for the third time in franchise history.
Reasons to be concerned: Well, there’s the whole Brady-Belichick thing. They’ve dominated the league for the past couple of decades, winning five championships. One came against the Eagles after the 2004 regular season. They’re going against legends, and doing so without their best player, Wentz.
Eagles will win if: They’re able to pressure Brady with their four-man rush. Their D-line has been the team’s top strength over the course of the season. If defensive end Brandon Graham and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox are able to dominate, and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz doesn’t have to bring many blitzes, the Eagles will be well-positioned to capture their first Lombardi Trophy. — Tim McManus
X factor: Malcolm Jenkins, S. Jenkins’ versatility should be on full display in what I expect to be an aggressive defensive game plan under Schwartz. Look for Jenkins to get some matchups against Rob Gronkowski (pending his status). He has the skill set and the physicality to compete in coverage. And don’t forget about Jenkins coming hard off the edge in those Philadelphia blitz packages. Add in the ability to drop down as a run defender, and Jenkins can have a major impact against Brady and the Patriots’ offense. — Matt Bowen
Stat nugget: There are several similarities between the 2017 Eagles and the franchise’s other two Super Bowl teams (2004 and 1980). All three started 10-1, set (or matched) franchise records in wins, finished in the top 10 in total offense and defense, lost their final game of the regular season and beat the Vikings in the playoffs. — ESPN Stats & Information
Matt Bowen, NFL writer: Patriots. Brady, Belichick and New England’s ability to win critical game situations on the league’s biggest stage.
Domonique Foxworth, The Undefeated senior writer: Eagles. My head tells me never bet against Brady, but my gut disagrees. My gut tells me that the Eagles will be able to move the ball and score against New England, more than the Patriots will against Philadelphia’s defense and special teams.
Mina Kimes, senior writer: Patriots. Foles put up the performance of his career on Sunday. Can we expect lightning to strike twice?
Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Patriots. I’ll take the team with the greatest head coach/quarterback combination in NFL history against the team with its backup QB in the lineup. With Brady, the Patriots have the ability to play from well behind and still win. That separates New England.
Kevin Seifert, national NFL writer: Patriots. No one outsmarts the Patriots, even the Eagles’ very formidable coaching staff.
Field Yates, NFL Insider: Patriots. While the Eagles were the most dominant team during conference championship weekend and have a terrific roster from top to bottom, the precision of the Patriots’ offense balanced by an ascending and confident defense will propel this team to its sixth Lombardi Trophy.