Super Bowl LII: Eagles Defensive Front is Key to Beating Brady
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (973espn.com) - If confidence was currency, there would be two winners on Sunday night when in Super Bowl LII.
The Eagles have figured out they are the better team after a week-plus of preparation and are an incredibly loose football team.Walking through the Mall of America foodcourt after the team's football work is done for the day and you might see a member of the Birds having a little something at Panda Express or Chick-fil-A.
However, watch Tom Brady take the podium with a Michael Jackson-like lone glove and you find someone who owns the room and everything around him, secure in the knowledge he has the keys to success as his eighth Super Bowl appearance rapidly approaches.
And Brady only greets the brought lights after Bill Belichick is done reminding you why you never bet against the Patriots.
So who wins in the battle of the irresistible force vs. the immovable object?
Well, the sample size is large with the Pats and the Super Bowl and the results say two things: the game will be close (four points is the largest margin at the end of regulation in all the big games during the Belichick/Brady regime) and there really is only one way to beat New England with Brady at the controls -- pressure him significantly with four.
Both of the Pats' Super Bowl losses in this era came at the hands of the New York Giants and followed the same formula. Despite the hype over Eli Manning and catches by David Tyree and Mario Manningham, the engine of those teams in those games was stifling fronts led by Hall of Famer Michael Strahan and then Justin Tuck.
If you are able to speed up Brady with four and get him off his spots in a consistent manner while covering with seven on the back end, you' got a chance to pull off an upset.
The good news is that the Eagles have the potential to do exactly that as their defensive front has proven to be the best in football during 2017-18. The stars are Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham but seven different players have toiled in more than 400 snaps and played at a consistently high level -- Tim Jernigan, Vinny Curry, Chris Long, Beau Allen and rookie Derek Barnett as supplements to the stars.
The bad news is that Jernigan has been sick leading up to the Super Bowl and Cox, although practicing fully, is at least dealing with a bit of a calf issue.
There is one opponent we are all destined to lose to eventually and that's Father Time.
For years, though, he's been asleep at the wheel when it comes to the now 40-year-old Brady.
"Why does everyone want me to retire so bad?" Brady jokes at his Wednesday press conference. "I don't get it. I'm having fun. The team's doing good. I know I'm a little bit older than most of the guys, but I'm really enjoying it."
Father Time has his robe on and his hourglass packed for Sunday and U.S. Bank Stadium. The scythe will be green and resemble Jim Schwartz's defensive front.
The guess here is Brady avoids it one more time.
"I've always wanted to play to my mid-40s, so we'll see," he said. "Football is such a physical sport. Every game could be your last game, that's the reality of the sport."
973espn.com Prediction: Patriots 23, Eagles 20
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen