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Super Bowl Preview: Tale of 2 Quarterbacks

Calvin Stitely, Editor-in-Chief

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The case for the Patriots

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, and Bill Belichick, arguably the greatest coach of all time, are back in the Super Bowl. For the eighth time in their 17 seasons together, Brady and Belichick are looking to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

It’s been an interesting season for the New England Patriots. Rarely do we ever see the Patriots struggle, but the season’s beginning was not kind to the defending Super Bowl Champs. They started their season with an embarrassing 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, with both Brady and the defense looking rather subpar.

They won the next two games but then dropped Week 4 to the Carolina Panthers 33-30. Through the first five weeks of the season, Brady began to gain his composure back but the defense was still struggling, as opposing quarterbacks threw for over 300 yards in each game.

It was one of the few seasons where the Patriots seemed to be struggling early in the season. Questions were raised about whether or not they would be a superpower in the AFC come playoff time. But then, the Patriots did what they do best, winning 11 out of their final 12 games to shut everybody up.

They followed up their impressive regular season with a 35-14 beatdown of the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round, then defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-20 in the conference championship game.

Brady in particular has been playing with a vengeance this season. The 40-year-old has faced questions all season long. The most obvious question of course regards his age. He is the oldest quarterback in the NFL. There have been questions regarding his compatibility with Belichick and owner Robert Kraft, with reports of a potential rift after backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was traded to the San Francisco 49ers mid-season.Garoppolo was set to be the heir to the Patriots’ quarterback throne.

With a massive black cloud hanging overhead him this season, Brady has played with a chip on his shoulder. He continues to play each game as if he’s still chasing that first championship.

Brady has already won 5 championships, but this one shapes up to be his biggest challenge yet. It’s not because of their opponent, rather to prove all the doubters wrong.

He needs this Super Bowl victory to cement his legacy as not the greatest quarterback ever, but the greatest football player ever.

 

The Case for the Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles have been one of the unlikely success stories in the 2017 season. After a 7-9 finish last season, it was hard to suspect that the team would be making any big strides in the 2017 season. The defense had improvements to make and quarterback Carson Wentz had not yet shown he could play at an elite level.

The Eagles came out of the gate firing, winning 11 out of their first 13 games, destroying teams along the way. Some of their most impressive victories included a 37-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys and a 43-35 win against the Los Angeles Rams. Both the offense and defense were playing at an elite level under second-year coach Doug Pederson.

Their win against the Rams in week 14 came at a price, as Wentz tore his anterior cruciate ligament. Wentz was playing at an MVP level all season, throwing for 33 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. The injury left a swirl of questions around a then Super Bowl favorite team. The Eagles had already clinched a first-round bye, but the quarterback responsibilities fell on Nick Foles, the backup who was in his second stint with the Eagles.

Foles struggled mightily early on, and the Eagles basically trudged their way along into the first round of the playoffs.

Foles proved he had starter capabilities, leading the Eagles to a 15-10 win against the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round, throwing for a decent 246 yards.

In the NFC Championship game, Foles was spectacular, throwing for 353 yards and three touchdowns against the Minnesota Vikings’ top ranked defense.

Foles’s football career has been an interesting journey of sorts. After being traded to the Rams in 2015, Foles struggled immensely, and considered quitting football completely in 2016. But now, in 2018, Foles is ready to prove that he can deliver Philadelphia’s first Super Bowl title.

Despite being the top team in the NFC all season long, the Eagles have considered themselves underdogs going into Super Bowl LII, wearing dog masks to prove their point.

 

The Game

Brady vs. Foles. The matchup that we all expected going into the NFL postseason. It should go without saying that at first glance the Patriots are the favorites to win this game. They seemingly fall behind the Patriots in nearly every category, such as quarterback play, playoff experience, and offensive skill.

Although the Patriots are the favorites by many to win Super Bowl LII, the Eagles should not be underestimated. Even though they lack their MVP quarterback, they still possess an elite defense that dismantled the Vikings in the NFC championship game.

The key for the Eagles will be getting after Brady. It has been long assumed that Brady is most beatable while under pressure. While that may be true, Brady was still the top-rated quarterback in the league under pressure this season, 25 points higher than the next closest QB.

Nevertheless, the Eagles must be relentless with their pass rush. Brady will look to be slow and methodical all night long while he runs his offense, and it will be up the Eagle’s front-seven to essentially punch him in the gut. Fletcher Cox, the Eagle’s top pass rusher, must play at a high level. Belichick will likely shape his offensive schemes around neutralizing Cox however, so the Eagles must find a way to pressure Brady the entire night.

The key for the Eagles will be stopping the receiving corps of Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, and Brandin Cooks. Amendola has surprisingly been Brady’s go-to target in the postseason, as he has 196 yards and 2 touchdowns in only two games.

Amendola works primarily out of the slot position along with Gronkowski, the Patriots biggest receiving threat, so Eagles’ safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod will be tested all night long in the middle of the field.

This goes without saying, but this Super Bowl matchup boils down to the play of the two quarterbacks, Brady and Foles. Brady has shown no signs of slowing down this postseason. If he can expose the Eagles in the middle of the field and establish a powerful run game with Dion Lewis and James White, the Patriots will be in prime position to secure their sixth Super Bowl title in the Brady-Belichick era.

Of course, there is always the possibility that Foles performs like he did last game, which was the second-best performance in the NFC championship ever. While the chances of him doing repeating a performance like that are slim, it’s not impossible.

The Patriots are likely going to win Super Bowl LII, but all eyes will be on Foles as he takes the stage for the biggest game of his career. If the Eagles manage to win, it would be one of the great sports stories ever, as not many teams can overcome the loss of an MVP player and still finish on top.

With the city of Philadelphia resting on his shoulders, Foles must attempt to dethrone Brady, who is hungry to prove that he is the greatest football player who ever lived.

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Super Bowl Preview: Tale of 2 Quarterbacks