Super Bowl 52 Preview

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.

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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).

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

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.

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Image Credit: WCVB-TV

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.

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Image Credit: Chicago Tribune

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.

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Image Credit: Pro Football Rumors

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.

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Image Credit: Pro Football Rumors

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.

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Image Credit: The Seattle Times

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.

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Image Credit: New England Patriots

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

Channel: NBC

Commentators: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya

Head Referee: Gene Steratore

Halftime show: Justin Timberlake

Image Credit: NFL.com

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Podcast: Vasilios and Jake dive into the NFL Divisional Playoffs, Martindale promotion, and latest Terps buzz

On the latest episode of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast, reporter Vasilios Nikolaou joins owner Jake McDonnell for a half-hour of sports talk.

A few days before the NFL Divisional round, the guys break down the key things to watch for during “the best football weekend” on the NFL calendar.

On Monday, we heard Nolan‘s take on the recent rumors surrounding the brass of the New England Patriots. How does Vasilios feel about this story that is sure to linger into the offseason?

On Tuesday, the Ravens promoted linebackers coach Don “Wink” Martindale to defensive coordinator. Is this a yay or nay move?

Last up on the podcast is some college hoops talk. Despite departures and injuries to several key players, the Terps look impressive as conference play gets underway. What can we expect to see from this 2017-18 Terps squad? Vasilios and Jake have you covered.

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. Check out Vasilios on the LegacyMaker Sports Network as well. Thanks for listening!

Podcast: Jake and Vasilios talk Ravens, Steelers getting robbed, and Manny Machado

Welcome to the latest episode of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast! On today’s show, Charm City Bird Watch reporter Vasilios Nikolaou joins owner Jake McDonnell for a half-hour of sports talk.

Topics covered:

  1. The Ravens’ 27-10 win over the Browns: praise for Sam Koch, questionable coaching decisions, turnovers
  2. Looking ahead at the Ravens’ remaining schedule, and comparing it to the other AFC Wild Card competition
  3. Saying goodbye to Marvin Lewis after 15 years – his last game as head coach of the Bengals will be in Baltimore
  4. Reaction to the crazy Jesse James no-touchdown call from the Patriots and Steelers game, and criticizing the silly rules of the NFL
  5. Breaking down the Manny Machado rumors: Should the Orioles try to work out a contract with Manny, or better the team’s farm system with a trade? With expiring contracts after the 2018 season, what will Duquette and Showalter’s level of motivation be?

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud: Leave a 5-star review on iTunes, and we will read it on a future episode! Thanks for listening!