- Superbowl 52: Well-deserved for Philadelphia, the empire crumbles, and discussion on the strange McDaniels / Colts saga
- Reaction to last Friday’s ‘State of the Ravens’ press conference with Mr. Bisciotti (including the Ozzie Newsome / Eric DeCosta transition), and Ray Lewis’s election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018
- The Terps’ tough 74-70 loss to Penn State on Wednesday night
On Sunday, Feb. 4, the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots will face off in the 52’nd installment of the Super Bowl from Mall of America Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Let’s waste no time and break down the game, featuring insight from Charm City Bird Watch owner Jake McDonnell, along with authors Nolan McGraw, Tyler Feeser, and Vasilios Nikolaou. Each staff writer’s take includes a blurb about the game, followed by their official pick.
Image Credit: Bleeding Green Nation
Jake: Eagles fans, this is the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Everyone, including myself, counted you out after Carson Wentz tore his ACL in week 14. After watching Nick Foles struggle during the final two weeks of the regular season, I left the Eagles out for dead. I picked against them in both the divisional round and in the conference championship round, and I ate my words. I am scared to eat my words again, especially since I go to school in central-eastern Pennsylvania.
If I sat down and just looked at the rosters, the Eagles would be the easy pick. Despite losing Wentz, Jason Peters, and others, their roster is loaded with talent at almost every position. Philly’s roster was deep at the start of the season. When they’ve lost key pieces due to injury (Darren Sproles, Jordan Hicks, Peters), they’ve made trades or free agent signings to fill the void (Jay Ajayi, Dannell Ellerbee).
The Eagles also have several former Ravens on their roster – Torrey Smith, Corey Graham, Timmy Jernigan, and Ellerbee (Lawrence Guy is the fifth former Raven in this game, except he’s on the other sideline with the Patriots). This, combined with the hatred shared between the Ravens and Patriots, is causing most Ravens fans to root for the Eagles, along with the rest of America minus the New England / Boston area. I would like to point out that should New England emerge victorious on Sunday, they will tie the Steelers for the most Super Bowl championships with six.
Going back to the matchups, clearly the Eagles are the more talented team. You could make the argument that if Wentz was playing in this game, the Eagles would win easily. I’m hesitant to think that they would, because Wentz aside, the Eagles still have to play the greatest coach and the greatest quarterback of all time. The tandem of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will make their eighth career Super Bowl appearance with the Patriots, winners of five of their seven attempts. This is the third time in four years that the Patriots will compete in the Super Bowl, giving them the clear experience advantage.
There are some other small factors that play into the Patriots’ favor, too. Both teams are used to playing outdoors. The Super Bowl will be played indoors. Keep in mind that Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots, is a turf surface, like Mall of America Stadium. The Eagles play on grass at Lincoln Financial Field. 12 of the last 13 Super Bowl champions won while wearing their white jerseys. The Patriots will wear white on Sunday. Although I do not believe in conspiracy theories, many people will claim that the referees will favor the Patriots in this game too. I know that a lot of what I said in this paragraph could be taken as junk, but minus the point about the officials, it’s all true. Another fact to point out is that Eagles fans will be foaming at the mouth to take over Minnesota, and they will have plenty of fans on-hand at Mall of America Stadium.
As I sit here and type this out, I have no idea who to pick. The easy cop-out would be to pick the Patriots, coached and quarterbacked by the best do ever do it. On the other hand, you have an Eagles team that has dominated all season and has the much better roster. Looking at the most recent results, the Patriots had to come from behind and beat Jacksonville, while the Eagles curb-stomped the Vikings 38-7.
13 years ago in Jacksonville, Adam Vinatieri booted a 22-yard field goal with 8:40 remaining in Super Bowl 39. That kick put the Patriots up 10. Although the Eagles scored a touchdown with just under two minutes left, the Patriots got the ball back and put the game away.
They say what goes around, comes around. That’s what I believe what happens this Sunday. Give me Jake Elliott kicking a field goal with five minutes left to put the Eagles up by 10. New England will threat again, but they will run out of time. The Patriots came out on top on that night in Jacksonville, but the Eagles will win the rematch. They’ve been the better team all season, and I believe they will prove to be just that on Sunday. They’re ready for this.
Pick: Eagles 24, Patriots 21
Nolan: There is no shortage of narratives surrounding this year’s big game. The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles put themselves in the Super Bowl conversation relatively early but their seasons took two completely different paths. On one hand you have a New England team that was pegged to become repeat champions right from the start. The Patriots didn’t have much trouble getting back to the Super Bowl after playing in a weak AFC East division and facing just one of the only two teams in the playoffs that posed a legitimate threat to them.
The Eagles garnered their own share of attention early in the year and quickly made a name for themselves in a competitive NFC playoff picture. Led by second-year quarterback Carson Wentz, Philadelphia went 11-2 and won nine games in a row while securing a #1 seed. After losing Wentz to a season-ending injury, Philadelphia went from a favorite to a long shot in the eyes of the media. The Eagles were underdogs in both of their playoff matchups and even though that won’t change come Sunday, I don’t think the Eagles fan base would want it any other way at this point.
It’s no secret that I have doubted the Eagles so far in the playoffs. I incorrectly picked them to lose to both the Falcons and Vikings. While I am still skeptical, Philadelphia has shown me that they are truly worthy of being in the Super Bowl. Their game plans against Atlanta and Minnesota were so well-executed that I know the Eagles will not be caught off guard by New England. I also have no doubt that this will be a close contest but the Patriots are probably the most daunting opponent the Eagles have faced all year.
I should have probably learned my lesson by now, but I’m still not picking the Eagles. When a playoff game comes down to crunch time, I will never confidently bet against a Tom Brady-led offense. Between last year’s Super Bowl and this year’s AFC championship game, Brady has shown why he is arguably the greatest of all time. In both of these games, the Patriots put together two great comebacks without their best weapon on the field. Even with a very impressive defense, Philadelphia is going to have their hands full against Rob Gronkowski and Pats offense.
When I pair this with New England’s Super Bowl experience, I have no hesitation picking the Patriots. I’m not saying the Eagles will be intimidated by the big game spotlight, but I know that they cannot be more comfortable than the Patriots who have a roster full of players with at least one Super Bowl under their belt.
Pick: Patriots 34, Eagles 31
Tyler: Philadelphia will once again be playing as the underdog as they try to win their first Super Bowl in team history on Sunday. It is probably a good thing for them as they have been the underdog in each of their previous two postseason games. They love when people doubt them. They don’t lack the confidence that is needed to beat a team like the Patriots. The thing with the Eagles is that they have their confidence under control. They are cocky but know how to control themselves. At the time of me writing this, they haven’t given New England any bulletin board material, which is important.
On the field, Philadelphia has the talent, the players, and believe it or not, the coaching to beat New England. But they are going to have to be near perfect (if not perfect) in order to beat them. Two weeks ago the Eagles showed just how dominant they can be on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. They completely dismantled Minnesota’s top-ranked defense. New England doesn’t have near the defensive talent that Minnesota has but New England does have Bill Belichick and two weeks to prepare. Nick Foles will need to play as well as he did against Minnesota if the Eagles want to have a chance. I look for the Eagles coaching staff to continue putting Foles in positions to be successful. The run-pass-options have proven to be effective so far this postseason. I also look for the running game to be established early and often so that Foles isn’t forced to make plays and potentially mistakes.
Defensively, the Eagles have the pass rush to get pressure on Tom Brady. I also think they have the front seven to be able to neutralize the running game of the Patriots. The difficult thing for the Eagles will be stopping Rob Gronkowski and the entire Patriots passing game. I don’t know if they have anyone that can match up with Gronkowski and keep him neutralized. The pass rush could get to Brady enough that it helps out the secondary on the outside. Stopping Gronkowski is going to be the key for the Eagles in this game. If they can do that even a little they will be fine. If they can’t stop him, that will be the deciding factor in the game.
Ultimately, I think Foles shuts his doubters up one last time and leads the Eagles to a championship. He will win the Super Bowl MVP award as well. Jake Elliott kicks a game-winning field goal after Foles drives them down the field and into field goal range.
Pick: Eagles 27, Patriots 24
Vasilios: It’s that time of year folks, where companies shell out millions of dollars for a 30-second commercial spot and some people care more about those than the game. But for us sports-inclined folks, we are about to watch a Super Bowl rematch from 13 years ago where the quarterback for the Eagles at that time was Donovan McNabb. Not much has changed for the Patriots, besides switching automatic kickers Adam Vinatieri for Stephen Gostkowski, and a new cast of role players. From Super Bowl 39 until now, arguably the best head coach/quarterback duo in history in Bill Belichick and Tom Brady continues to stand the test of time.
The Eagles are the consummate underdog, as evidenced by the German Shepherd mask donned by several Eagles players after their wins against the Falcons and Vikings. That defense is suffocating, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are absolute monsters off the ball and rookie end Derek Barnett is no slouch either. But the spotlight rests on the biggest enigma on the Eagles roster, Nick Foles. After taking over for Carson Wentz in week 14, he has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in recent history, matched only by Brady in that span.
But if I recall correctly, Brady usurped the job from his predecessor, Drew Bledsoe, and went on to win a Super Bowl that same year against The Greatest Show On Turf led by Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk. I’m not saying that Foles’ career will follow the same unique path, but damn, Foles has the chance to “Tom Brady” Tom Brady.
Eagles win a tightly contested game and hand Brady and the Pats their third Super Bowl loss to an NFC East team.
Pick: Eagles 21, Patriots 17
Super Bowl LII broadcast information:
Kickoff: 6:30 pm
Head Referee: Gene Steratore
Halftime show: Justin Timberlake
Image Credit: NFL.com
This weekend, we will find out who is going to compete in Super Bowl 52. After a crazy divisional round with upsets and walk-offs, four teams remain in the quest for a Lombardi Trophy. For this special post on Charm City Bird Watch, we will break down the AFC Championship and the NFC Championship. Our preview for each contest includes a quick blurb and a score prediction from founder Jake McDonnell, along with contributors Nolan McGraw and Tyler Feeser. Both games take place this Sunday, Jan. 21.
Image Credit: WBUR
AFC Championship – #3 Jacksonville Jaguars @ #1 New England Patriots – 3:05 pm – CBS
Jake: If you picked the Jacksonville Jaguars to compete in the AFC Championship game before the season began, hats off. After shocking the world by defeating the Steelers last week, the Jags look to do the same this Sunday in Foxboro. If they do, they’ll embark on what would be the franchise’s first trip to a Super Bowl.
On the other side, the Patriots look to reach the eighth Super Bowl appearance for quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. Just like usual for the Patriots, there is some drama surrounding the team this week. According to reports, Brady jammed his throwing hand during a team practice held on Wednesday. The injury kept Brady out of practice on Thursday. That’s definitely something to monitor over the next few days.
I pointed this out on the Ebony Bird podcast this week, and I originally heard it while listening to the Simms and Lefkoe Podcast, but over the summer the Jaguars and the Patriots held a few joint practices together before their preseason game on Aug. 10. We all know the schemer Belichick is. Something tells me that Belichick knew the talent on Jacksonville’s roster was good enough to get them into the playoffs. Belichick probably got what he wanted when the Jags scrimmaged the Patriots. It allowed Belichick to see what Jacksonville does well and what they do not to well on both sides of the football. Imagine what these joint practices, along with 18 games of Jags film to watch, will do for Belichick this week.
Pick: Patriots 27, Jaguars 20
Nolan: I had a gut feeling about Jacksonville victory last week and it came true. The Jaguars improved upon their wildcard game against the Buffalo Bills and did exactly what they were supposed to. Leonard Fournette had a great game and Blake Bortles was smart with the ball. This allowed the defense to play without any hesitation and forced the Steelers to play from behind. Even though the Jaguars defense was successful on Sunday, they still allowed Ben Roethlisberger to throw for 469 yards and five touchdowns. Unlike the Steelers, New England will not be overlooking the Jaguars and I don’t expect them to be in a situation where they are down by three scores.
This one is going to come down to a few key drives late in the game. Jacksonville contained a talented Steelers offense and forced some very timely turnovers but will they have an answer for Rob Gronkowski? On top of this, I’m not entirely convinced that Bortles can have another mistake free game. Even if he has another clean game, does he have what it takes to win if this game turns into a shootout? Jacksonville’s run has been a lot of fun to watch but I really can’t bet against the Patriots in this one.
Pick: Patriots 30, Jaguars 23
Tyler: This is the matchup that everyone outside of New England was hoping for. The Jaguars defense vs Tom Brady and Patriots offense. Is this the defense that can slow Brady down? Is this the defense that can take him down completely and knock the Patriots out of the playoffs? The short answer is no.
The Jaguars defense has been dominant this season. There is no denying that. They are vulnerable though. See the Steelers game last week, the 49ers game, and the Rams game. Don’t think for one second that Brady, McDaniels, and Belichick won’t come in knowing exactly how to exploit this Jaguars defense. I expect the Patriots running backs and Rob Gronkowski to all have big games catching the ball.
Lets not lose sight of the fact that Jacksonville can get pressure on the quarterback. They will get to Brady and we could see 🚨ANGRY BRADY🚨 come out on Sunday. The Jaguars defense is somewhat similar to the Ravens and Giants defenses that historically give Brady fits. Lets also not forget that Tom Coughlin, who seems to have the Patriots number, is now with the Jaguars.
From the Jaguars offense perspective, I think Blake Bortles will continue to make a few plays here and there. His confidence is carrying him right now and that is what the Jags need. Leonard Fournette will be getting the same treatment Derrick Henry got last week. The Patriots defense will be selling out to stop him because he is the best player on the opposing offense. That will force Bortles to make plays if the Jaguars want to win. Can he outperform the future hall of famer? We will find out.
Pick: Patriots 34, Jaguars 24
Image Credit: Behind the Steel Curtain NFC Championship – #2 Minnesota Vikings @ #1 Philadelphia Eagles – 6:40 pm – FOXJake: Like I said about the Jaguars playing in the AFC Championship, if before the season you predicted a Nick Foles/Case Keenum dual in the NFC Championship, let me know so I can buy you a beer sometime soon. I’ll admit, I was in the wrong picking the Falcons last week. Jim Schwartz had his defense playing lights out, forcing Matt Ryan into several bad decisions. They attacked Atlanta’s weaknesses and limited the reigning NFC Champions to 10 points. On the following afternoon, it was Keenum and Stefan Diggs connecting on a walk-off 61-yard touchdown that is now being deemed “The Minneapolis Miracle.” No matter if it’s Vikings fans crying tears of joy after so many heartbreaking playoff losses, or Eagles fans riding the coattails of Foles, there’s a lot of emotion going into this game.
Both teams quickly became Super Bowl favorites early in the season, and the Vikings even have a chance to become the first team in NFL history to compete in a Super Bowl at their home stadium. I believe that we will see that happen, because I’m picking the Vikings this weekend. Foles and company did just enough to get by last week against an above-average, but not great, Falcons defense. The Vikings finished the regular season with the top-ranked defense in yards allowed. Their numbers have slipped lately, but I think they’ll handle whatever the Eagles throw at them.
Just like the Falcons, the Vikings are used to playing in a dome, which scares me. However, I’m going with Minnesota in a nail-biter.
Pick: Vikings 24, Eagles 21
Nolan: I was wrong about Philadelphia’s defense last week. They controlled the game against Atlanta and even when the Falcons were threatening at the very end, Philly stood their ground and got a huge red-zone stop. However, they will have their hands full again this week as the Vikings come to town. Minnesota has prided itself on their defense this year but also showed that they can trade punches with a high-octane offensive team like the Saints. Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu gave the Eagles some trouble last week and I expect Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs to do the same.
I think it will be harder for Nick Foles and the Eagles offense to stay clean against the Vikings defense. Philadelphia fumbled the ball four times against Atlanta but only lost two of them. They overcame these turnovers last week, but the Vikings defense will not be as forgiving as Atlanta’s. While I acknowledge that the Eagles have a good defense, I am still not sold on Foles and his ability to put points on the board. He was smart with the ball last week but only led the offense to one touchdown drive. I don’t care how good the Eagles defense is, Foles has to start scoring if the Eagles are going to make the Super Bowl.
Pick: Vikings 24, Eagles 14
Tyler: One way or another, I feel like this game is being underappreciated. Everyone is underestimating and, to be honest, flat out disrespecting Philadelphia. Many people believe that last week’s game between Minnesota and New Orleans should have been the NFC Championship game. But realistically, the Saints got dominated in the first half and only led that game for about two minutes. The second half was great but the only reason people will remember the game is because of the ending. I’m not trying to trash that game, but lets give Philadelphia some credit for getting here when nobody expected them to.
I am really looking forward to this game. Many people may expect this game to be boring due to both teams boasting great defenses that could potentially take over the game. I for one am looking forward to watching a game like this. I enjoy watching games like the one in Pittsburgh last week, but something about this matchup has me drawn in.
Last week, Philadelphia showed that they love the underdog role, which they will be in again on Sunday. The stadium will be rocking and the defense will feed off the atmosphere. The top-ranked rush defense will shut down the Vikings running game and force Case Keenum to make plays himself. The Eagles secondary will have to have a great game against one of the better receiving corps that they faced all season. If the Eagles’ pass rush can get pressure on Keenum that would help out the secondary tremendously.
Minnesota’s defense, from top to bottom, is even more impressive than Philadelphia’s. I don’t expect the Eagles running game to have much success. The key for the Eagles offense is going to be Foles not turning the ball over. If he can’t do that I don’t think the Eagles will stand much of a chance. If he doesn’t turn the ball over this one will come down to wire and be very low scoring.
Pick: Eagles 13, Vikings 10