With the upcoming final game of the 2017-2018 NFL season this Sunday, Feb. 4, there are many important things to consider. This year’s Super Bowl pits the league’s most consistent and dominant teams from each conference, the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. The paths each team took to get here, however, were much different.
Aside from following a home loss to the Chiefs, in week one, there was hardly a time all season the Patriots did not seem to be the AFC’s premier team. On the other hand, the Eagles’ season has been a bit of a roller coaster ride.
Heading into a week-13 matchup in Seattle with the Seahawks, the Eagles were 10-1 and the most impressive team in football, led by an MVP frontrunner quarterback Carson Wentz and a deep and talented defense led by defensive end Fletcher Cox.
Philadelphia lost this game fairly handedly to Seattle, but this was hardly cause for concern, as Seattle is one of the league’s toughest road environments. The Eagles were still 10-2 and very much in control of the NFC East. The following week, in a game against the Rams, the Eagles season was seemingly flipped on its head.
This was probably the Eagles’ most impressive win of the season to date, but it came at a huge cost. Towards the end of the third quarter, Wentz scrambled on a play deep in LA’s territory and dove for the end zone but was hit hard and suffered an apparent knee injury.
Wentz stayed in the game and miraculously threw a touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffrey two plays later, but on the ensuing Philadelphia drive, backup Nick Foles replaced Wentz while the star quarterback was taken to the locker room.
Foles was able to help lead the Eagles to a 43-35 victory in LA, but it was revealed the next day that Wentz had suffered a torn ACL, and his season ended.
At an amazing 11-2 with an NFC East title already clinched, it still seemed as if all that was left was to put the nail in Philadelphia’s season’s coffin.
Without their starting quarterback, many wondered if the Eagles would be able to win even one playoff game. Instead, Philadelphia needs just one more win to be crowned Super Bowl Champion. Since assuming the starting role, Foles is 4-1 and improving each week.
It is easy to forget, but Foles had one of the best seasons by a quarterback in NFL history in 2013. In 10 starts, Foles went 8-2, led the league in quarterback rating, yards per attempt, yards per completion and touchdown percentage.
In 2013, Foles became one of just eight quarterbacks ever to throw for seven touchdown passes in a single game.
Since 2013, however, Foles could be described as a mediocre quarterback at best. After two years away from Philadelphia, Foles is back with the team who gave him his first shot and is looking to help them earn the first Super Bowl in Eagles history.
On the other side of the ball, the New England Patriots are no strangers to the Super Bowl.
This year’s Super Bowl is Brady and the Patriots’ remarkable fourth appearance since 2012.
A win this Sunday would make New England repeat champions following their unforgettable comeback win last year against the Falcons, in which they were down 28-3 with just 17 minutes remaining in the game.
There are many interesting points to consider entering this year’s Super Bowl.
First, which version of Nick Foles will show up this week? Will it be the Foles who completed just 19 of his 38 attempts for a mere 163 yards, a touchdown and an interception against the Raiders in week 16 or the Foles who tore apart Minnesota’s elite defense to a tune of 26 of 33 passing for 352 yards and three touchdowns?
Another important question to consider is whether or not Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski will be healthy and ready to go for the game. Gronkowksi was knocked out of the AFC Championship game against the Jaguars with a concussion, so his health is a major concern for New England as he is a focal point of their offensive attack.
This Super Bowl has all the makings of a great game. It pits the league’s two best teams from this season, even if they took very different paths to make it there.
My prediction is that this game, much like every Super Bowl that Brady and the Patriots have participated in, will be close and come down to the wire (Brady’s largest margin of victory in a Super Bowl was last year — six points.)
I anticipate the Patriots will emerge victorious, yet again, and win their second straight Super Bowl, giving Brady his sixth overall and cementing his status for any doubters as the greatest to ever play the game.
Patriots 28, Eagles 24