It appears I’ve painted myself into the proverbial corner with my previous playoff predictions after twice picking against the Philadelphia Eagles and going with the bold pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship two weeks ago.
There’s still one game left to be played today and one more chance for me to end the season on a high note, something I can’t say I’ve done the past four Super Bowls.
I’ve been burned by Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll in Super Bowl XLIX (why he didn’t run the ball, I’ve never been able to figure it out), my beloved Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 and an Atlanta Falcons team that let the New England Patriots off the mat in Super Bowl LI.
Here I sit at the table, with two meals prepared before me -- crow and humble pie. Will I concede Eagles quarterback Nick Foles has rehabilitated himself at the position enough to where he’ll play the game of his career, or do I temper my bitterness and admit what the world already knows -- Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game?
Before I take a bite, let’s focus on the light entrees of this Super Bowl smorgasbord.
It’s safe to say the Patriots have the experience edge and there won’t be any rattled nerves on the New England sideline. But the Eagles aren’t without some players with big-game experience -- notably defensive end Chris Long and LeGarrette Blount, a pair of players who basked in the confetti at NRG Stadium in Houston a year ago after the single-greatest Super Bowl comeback in league history.
Having a veteran from two out of the three phases of the game can be a benefit to the Eagles. Blount surely knows the strengths and weaknesses of a Patriots’ offensive line he ran behind for 18 regular-season touchdowns, while Long can pass on any helpful information on how New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia tends to call plays.
The Eagles have a tremendous defense ranked fourth in points allowed and first in rushing yards per game allowed, but the Patriots have plenty of weapons to test them, whether it’s running backs James White, Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis, or receiving targets Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks.
I’ve been critical of Foles since he took over for injured starter Carson Wentz, but he’s proven me wrong every step of the way. I said he’d be one-and-done, but he’s won two playoff games to get here, which included a masterful shredding of the Minnesota Vikings, who had the best defense in the league.
The Patriots are ranked 29th in total yards allowed on defense but fifth in points allowed. Managing the reps between Blount and running back Jay Ajayi, who was acquired midseason in a trade with the Miami Dolphins, will allow the Eagles to set up some plays to their big targets, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and tight end Zach Ertz.
It’s just too difficult to bet against Brady, a man who already has a handful of rings. The biggest test he’ll face is against the Eagles’ pass rush, and that’s a test he’s likely to pass.
It’s a bitter morsel to swallow, but he’ll have his first ring for his other hand after tonight.
Final score: Patriots 24, Eagles 21 (the same score when these teams met in Super Bowl XXXIX)
Thursday Twitter pick: 11-7
Overall record (through Championship Round): 167-99
Perfect picks: 1
Contact Shane Dunaway via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @DailyHome_Shane.