Three Reasons The Eagles Upset The Patriots In Super Bowl LII
The opening lines from Bodog sports for Super Bowl LII show the New England Patriots as five-point favorites to beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, February 4th. Philly’s familiar with this scenario, who were listed as underdogs against the Atlanta Falcons and the Minnesota Vikings, despite finishing atop the NFC as the number one seed.
Losing Carson Wentz would have finished most teams, but the Eagles’ success wasn’t determined solely by their star quarterback. Philadelphia features elite depth which matches up against any team in the NFL, including the Patriots. Three keys to the Eagles upsetting the Patriots in Super Bowl LII include their outstanding offensive and defensive line, along with a secondary which preys on quarterback pressure and mistakes.
Fletcher Cox And The Eagles Defensive Line
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox leads one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Philly’s been one of the most disruptive squads against opposing quarterbacks, pressuring pivots on 40.8% of snaps during 2017. This translated to the playoffs, with the unit sacking Matt Ryan three times and holding him to a 86.6 passer rating.
The D-line followed up a strong divisional round performance with a dominating NFC Conference finals, pressuring Case Keenum into a pair of interceptions, a sack and a fumble, along with an abysmal 63.8 passer rating.
Brady should expect to absorb contact during the Super Bowl. Derek Barnett, Cox, Vinny Curry, Corey Graham and ex-Patriot Chris Long combined for a total of 83 quarterback hits this season. In comparison, New England’s 11 top pass rushers had fewer QB hits than the Eagles top five.
Philadelphia allowed the fewest rushing yards during the regular season, giving up only seven TDs on the ground. The Vikings and the Falcons were held to less than 86 rushing yards by Philly’s tenacious D-line, who should cause havoc for the Patriots.
Malcolm Jenkins Leads Fierce Secondary
During the regular season, the Philadelphia Eagles picked up 19 interceptions, fourth most in the NFL. This mitigated the number of passing yards allowed, which was below league average.
However, when you consider the fact that the Eagles gave up the least amount of rushing attempts, an uptick in passing yards and attempts makes sense. Philly allowed the fourth least points per game in 2017, holding opponents to a stingy 18.4 PPG.
The secondary, lead by Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins, was able to stifle Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in the divisional round, which is no small feat. Vikings QB Case Keenum didn’t have a prayer during the conference finals.
Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski, who left the conference final with a concussion, might not be able to play in the Super Bowl. Brady’s been able to shift into different offensive schemes without Gronk, but Philly’s pass rush and secondary will increase the difficulty for New England’s ailing receivers.
Lane Johnson And O-Line Protect Foles And Ajayi
Nobody gave Nick Foles much of a chance after Carson Wentz landed on the injured reserve. Most of the Eagles status as underdogs appears to be focused entirely on Foles, who has been near-perfect in the playoffs. If anything, he’s playing up to the lofty standard he created for himself during his 2013 Pro Bowl season.
Foles has a 122.1 passer rating during the playoffs, throwing three TDs and no interceptions while completing a ridiculous 77.8% of his attempts. Nick has yet to endure a bad playoff game, recording a 105.0 passer rating the first time he suited up for an Eagles playoff game in 2013.
Right tackle Lane Johnson and guard Brandon Brooks, both Pro Bowlers, direct an outstanding offensive line which creates the conditions necessary for Eagles’ quarterbacks to excel. Carson Wentz’s breakout regular season and Nick Foles’ fantastic playoffs were made possible with this O-line, giving pivots and receivers enough time to hook up downfield.
The offensive line will also help running back Jay Ajayi earn much needed rushing yards while clearing the path for former Patriot battering ram LeGarrette Blount, who scored a TD in two straight games. New England’s defense was fantastic after a slow start to the season, but the Eagles offensive line will give Foles, Ajayi and Blount a chance to put points on the board.