By MyFM's Jake Archer- Well, I’m back! I hope you missed me while I took some time away from the sports writing here with MyFM 101.3. I was just too busy reading “The TB12 Method” and contemplating Kyrie Irving’s flat earth theory, but now we are ready to roll again just in time for Super Bowl week.
I want to take some time to hit you with a really in depth breakdown and prediction for Sunday’s matchup, so I’ll start by putting out 5 people/things that I think will be key to the big game. Without further ado, here is the list…
5. Matt Patricia- The Patriots defensive coordinator will presumably be coaching his last game for New England on Sunday before he heads off to the Detroit Lions to become their head man. I’ll be looking for a big performance from him and it’s going to be interesting to see how he decides to attack this Philly offense. With Foles throwing the ball well and beating teams that are trying to force him to beat them, it might be a good idea to put the focus on the passing game over Jay Ajayi and the running backs.
Ajayi has shown the ability to be a beast as has LeGarrette Blount (we know as well as anyone) but I have faith that the New England defense could hold them down even if they decide to focus on Foles and the aerial attack.
4. The Eagles secondary- I don’t think it’s a secret that the Philadelphia secondary is the vulnerable area of their team. They are going to need to shut up the doubters and play their butts off if the Eagles hope to have a shot. Much has been said about Philly’s great front four and the pressure they can put on the quarterback. People constantly harp on the fact that the way to take down the Pats is to pressure and hit Tom Brady, and for the most part that is true. But if the secondary gets picked apart, the rush won’t have time to get there as much as they need to and it’ll just turn into another clinic by TB12.
I’ve heard how Ronald Darby is this great cornerback for Philadelphia and to that, I just have to laugh. Darby spent a few years in the AFC East with Buffalo and was constantly picked apart by the Pats. Now he’s going to stop them? Okay. Throw in the fact that this Philly team plays a lot of zone and it doesn’t really seem like Brady is going to have much trouble eating them for lunch. We’ll see if they can hold long enough to make him feel the heat from Fletcher Cox and company.
3. Nick Foles- I have doubted many quarterbacks and teams in my life. I took a look at both Giants teams that beat the Patriots in ’07 and ’11 and scoffed at their mediocre talent level. When I saw the 2012 Ravens and the 2015 Broncos, I just thought that their quarterback play was trash and even if they had a good game or two, it wasn’t sustainable. All of those teams beat the Patriots on their way to becoming world champions. It scares me to doubt a signal caller and a squad like this, especially when they are hot.
But yet, here I am doubting Nick Foles. I’ll readily admit that he has played well over the last two games against some pretty good defenses. Although he is a backup, he’s had success as a starter before and is probably one of the better guys holding a clipboard in the league. So, what are we getting from him come Sunday? It’s tough to say because I view him as a real wildcard. He could absolutely blow up and this game could go sideways fast, or he could play well and put the pressure on the Patriots. I’m undecided on my official take here, but trust me, I’ll have it to you by the end of the week.
2. Doug Pederson- Is this man a good NFL head coach? We don’t really know. He went 7-9 last year in his first go-round, which actually isn’t that bad for a rookie head coach with a rookie QB. This year however, his team went 13-3 even while losing that QB (who had turned into an MVP-level star) for the year in December. He’s guided them by two good teams and has this underdog team believing they can win it all. That is all great, but let’s see what he’s really made of.
There’s a belief by some that he’s more of a product of a great staff around him and this year could always just be a flash in the pan. We’ve seen a lot of “great” coaches have a year or two of success before falling off. Now, he’ll have a real test against a great coach and a great team and it’ll be interesting to see if he wilts and makes mistakes under the spotlight.
1.Rob Gronkowski- I know that the easy thing to do is put Tom Brady in the top spot as the biggest key to this game, but I honestly believe Gronk might actually be right there with him. “We won last yeah’s Supah Bowl without him though,” you might say. While that is true, we also had Julian Edelman setting the pace for the offense and making plays. Knowing that Jules is obviously not going to be on the field, we’re going to need a big day from the big tight end.
One thing that complicates this a bit is the fact that Gronk is still in the concussion protocol, which puts his health in doubt. I feel that he’ll be okay and be cleared to play come the weekend, but it is worth monitoring. If healthy, the best tight end in the NFL should feast on a defense that doesn’t cover the position well. He’s a total game breaker and I’m thinking we might see a few spikes from Gronk on his way to a Super Bowl MVP award.