Patriots-Eagles: Early Guide to Betting Super Bowl 52
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Super Bowl 52 is officially set: Patriots-Eagles in a rematch of Super Bowl 39. Amazingly, the Eagles also defeated the Falcons and Vikings en route to that Super Bowl in the 2004 season. The Patriots opened up as a six-point favorite, nearly the same spread as their last Super Bowl against Philly. New England has won five Super Bowls since 2000, but they have a losing record ATS in the seven they’ve played. Also, none of the five wins came easy, as all seven finished with a final margin of six points or less. Can the Eagles do what only their rival Giants have pulled off in the Super Bowl? Or will they suffer the same result as they did in the 2004 season? Let’s dive deep into the matchup to identify any value on the opening side and/or total.
All stats below regular season only unless otherwise noted.
When the Patriots have the ball
Overview: Strength vs. strength. Tom Brady leads an offense that ranked in the top two in points and yards per game in the regular season against an Eagles defense that ranked No. 4 against both.
Let’s break down the specific unit matchups when the Pats have the ball.
Offensive Line: The Patriots’ O-line finished No. 1 in run blocking, as measured by Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards metric. They will face an Eagles defensive front that also finished No. 1 in that same stat. Conversely, New England grades out as a pedestrian pass-blocking unit. The Pats’ OL ranked 14th in Adjusted Sack Rate and gave up 35 sacks in the regular season. That is worrisome against one of the deepest defensive lines in football. One area of real concern for the Patriots is at right tackle. Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle have shared duties after the Patriots lost starter Marcus Cannon for the year in Week 8. Keep an eye on Eagles left defensive end Brandon Graham, who led the team in both sacks (9.5) and tackles for loss (9). However, it must be noted that Fleming played outstanding against Jacksonville, earning a PFF grade of 85.4 (third-highest on the team). Advantage: EAGLES
Running Back: You never know which back Bill Belichick will feature, but whomever he chooses will have a tough go against an Eagles defense that ranks No. 1 in the NFL in rush yards allowed per game (79.6) and No. 6 in yards per rush (3.8). The Pats will find a way to get yards on the ground, but the Eagles have the upper hand here. Advantage: EAGLES
Wide Receiver: The Eagles’ secondary doesn’t have a ton of name recognition, but it has played at a high level for most of the season. Per PFF, Patrick Robinson finished in the top three of all cornerbacks in QB rating allowed when in slot coverage this year. He’ll match up against Danny Amendola. And while Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills have given this unit a much-needed boost on the back end, I think both could struggle against the physicality of 6-foot-1 WR Chris Hogan and the inevitable downfield shots to Brandin Cooks. Advantage: PATRIOTS
Tight End: Obviously, this would all change if Rob Gronkowski is unable to play. In 14 regular season games, Gronk led all tight ends in receiving yards per game (77.4). He also finished tied for the NFL lead in receiving touchdowns (eight). Assuming he clears concussion protocol, Gronk should have his typically productive day over the middle of the field, an area the Eagles have struggled to defend this season. I also worry about how Malcolm Jenkins (6-foot) will be able to consistently match up with the 6-foot-6 Gronkowski. Philadelphia ranked 17th in the NFL defending tight ends (and 19th defending the middle of the field) this season, per Football Outsiders. A healthy Gronk could go off similar to how Travis Kelce did in Week 2 against Philly. Advantage: PATRIOTS
Overall Outlook: The Patriots’ rushing attack vs. the Eagles’ rush defense is essentially a wash. In the passing game, the Eagles showed vulnerability on short passes (which set up double moves) later in the season, and they could really struggle with Gronk (assuming he plays). Philly will really miss LB Jordan Hicks, the “quarterback” of the defense, in this particular matchup. Having said that, the Eagles generated more quarterback pressures than any team in the NFL, a key to beating New England in the postseason. Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, in particular, could disrupt the flow of the Patriots offense. The Eagles also have not allowed a single point all season in the final two minutes of a half. That is another major key against the Patriots. Having said that, New England still has two great equalizers: Tom Brady’s five rings under center and Bill Belichick with two weeks to prepare his attack. Advantage: PUSH
When the Eagles have the ball
Overview: You now have to take Nick Foles seriously after his flawless performance against the league’s best defense. He had a perfect passer rating on third down against a defense that was historically great on third down all season. The Patriots grade out horribly in many advanced stats, but they still finished the year as a top-five scoring defense, thanks to significant improvement after Week 7. The Eagles should move the ball, but can they succeed in the red zone? The answer to that question will go a long way toward determining the winner of Super Bowl LII.
Let’s break down the specific unit matchups when the Eagles have the ball.
Offensive Line: The Eagles’ O-line excelled for most of the year protecting Carson Wentz and Foles, allowing the sixth-lowest Adjusted Sack Rate in the NFL. The Patriots’ defensive line really struggles to generate pressure, which means Foles should at least have time to throw. However, Trey Flowers has been unbelievable off the edge in the postseason. And one wild card late in the game could be the addition of James Harrison. His pressure helped the Patriots hold on against the Jags. Advantage: EAGLES
Running Back: The Eagles possess a very effective rushing attack with a deep stable of backs. That spells trouble for a New England rush defense that allowed 4.7 yards per rush (30th in the NFL). The Patriots’ linebackers and safeties, in particular, have been horrendous stopping the run. Consequently, New England ranks in the bottom five in both percentage of runs allowed between 5-10 yards and runs of 10-plus yards. That could be disastrous against an Eagles offense that led the NFL in both rushes of 10-plus and 20-plus yards. Expect some explosive runs from Jay Ajayi and ex-Patriot LeGarrette Blount. Advantage: EAGLES
Wide Receiver: The Patriots have the corners to stick with Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith on the outside, but Nelson Agholor could cause trouble in the slot. During the regular season, Algholor had more touchdowns (eight) than any other receiver when lined up in the slot. He also finished third in the NFL with 752 slot receiving yards. Eric Rowe, who took a majority of the slot coverage snaps against the Titans in the divisional round, struggles to match up against quicker receivers in space. The Patriots could decide to go with Jonathan Jones, who took most of the coverage snaps in the slot during the regular season due to an injury to Rowe. However, Jones allowed a subpar QB rating of 92.8 covering the slot in the regular season, per PFF. I favor the Patriots’ secondary overall, but get your Agholor props in! Advantage: PATRIOTS
Tight End: Eagles TE Zach Ertz finished the regular season with the third-most receiving yards among tight ends. He will be key in the red zone against a Patriots defense that prides itself on a “bend but don’t break” philosophy. New England’s defense finished the regular season with the fourth-lowest red zone touchdown percentage allowed at 43.8%. According to Football Outsiders, the Patriots ranked eighth in defending opposing tight ends this season. New England has the safeties to match up with Ertz in coverage, and they scout opponent’s red zone offense as well as any team. Advantage: PATRIOTS
Overall Outlook: If the stage isn’t too big for Foles and he can carry over his play from the NFC Championship Game, the Eagles will consistently move the ball. Philly will pound the pill against a group of extremely vulnerable linebackers and safeties in rush defense. Agholor could also have quite a day in the slot. Advantage: EAGLES
Don’t sleep on the value of special teams, an area where the Patriots have a distinct advantage. New England kicker Stephen Gostkowksi is much more reliable than the Eagles’ Jake Elliott, who missed three extra points and went 3-of-7 on field goal attempts between 30-39 yards this season. The Eagles’ kick return unit has struggled all season, as well. That spells trouble against the Patriots’ elite kick coverage unit that helped them lead the NFL in opponent average starting field position. According to Football Outsiders, the Pats finished the regular season with the league’s third-best special teams unit. Conversely, Philadelphia finished 18th. Advantage: PATRIOTS
Coaching: I don’t need to go too deep here. New England clearly has the edge on the sidelines. This matters even more in the Super Bowl, since teams have two weeks to prepare. Philadelphia would much rather play next weekend, especially considering Gronk’s questionable status. This advantage could also show up in the second half after Hoodie makes his halftime adjustments. Advantage: PATRIOTS
Experience: Again, when it comes to the intangibles, you have to favor New England. They simply have much more familiarity on this stage. Since 2000, Brady and Belichick have won five Super Bowls. Meanwhile, the Eagles’ franchise still doesn’t have one. Prior to this season, Philadelphia hadn’t won a playoff game since 2008. Advantage: PATRIOTS
Turnovers: The Patriots’ offense turns it over less frequently, but not by a significant margin. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles have a much more opportunistic defense. That was the story against Minnesota in the NFC championship game. In the regular season, Philadelphia forced 13 more turnovers (31-18) than New England. As a result, the Eagles finished five better than the Patriots in net turnovers. Advantage: EAGLES
Injuries: Rob Gronkowski (Concussion)
Initial Super Bowl Lean
I like the Eagles, but will wait to see if +7 pops with positive news on Gronk. This team is clearly thriving in the underdog role, which they can leverage again over the next two weeks. The Eagles should move the ball on the ground at will. They can also exploit the Patriots in the slot and generate pressure on defense. Nick Foles will also take a lot from his performance against Minnesota. However, the Patriots will have a plus matchup if Gronk can go and should continue their stellar red zone defense. They also have significant advantages in special teams and all of the intangibles. Oh, and the best coach/quarterback duo in NFL history. Philly has matchup advantages on both sides of the ball, which is why I’ll take the points. But Brady probably prevails in a tight game in the fourth quarter. Again. Déjà vu for Eagles fans.
Editor’s note: The opinion on this game is from the individual writer, and is based on his research, analysis and perspective. It is independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.