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Super Bowl 52: Preview

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A preview of the NFL's 52nd Super Bowl, a match between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles.

At 5:30 p.m. on Friday, February 4th, 2018, a kickoff will commence at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, signaling the beginning of the final professional football game of the 2017-2018 season: the 52nd annual AFC-NFC Super Bowl. The contestants this year are the New England Patriots of the AFC and the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFC.

The Eagles of Philadelphia have taken a long road to arrive at this game. After stumbling in a week two loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Eagles marched their way through the next few weeks after trading for Jay Ajayi of the Miami Dolphins. Their next loss came at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks in Week 13. To complicate matters even more for the upstart team, they lost second-year player and MVP candidate Carson Wentz to an ACL injury against the Rams. The injury has now been revealed to include an LCL tear as well, per NBC Sports Philadelphia. Leading them into the playoffs was Nick Foles, who had spent the previous season as the backup to Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and winning a game. This is Foles’ heaviest game to quarterback yet, but he won’t do it alone. Second year coach Doug Pederson–a former Chief himself–said that “we (the Eagles) all believed in him” in a speech at Lincoln Financial Field on January 21st. Ajayi will field the majority of carries, and without running back Darren Sproles, the Eagles will have Corey Clement added to their stable for the game. Tight end Zach Ertz, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, defensive end Chris Long and linebacker Mychal Kendricks all look to make it difficult for the overbearing Patriots.

It's scrub daddy, just kinda standing there, smiling like a doofus. What a winner.

Nick Foles following the NFC Championship game versus the Minnesota Vikings, per NBC Sports.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Patriots are no stranger to facing birds in the big game. They’ve made an appearance in the last three, against the Seahawks in 2016, the Falcons in 2017, and now the Eagles in 2018. 40-year-old quarterback Tom Brady has five rings to call his own, and is looking to add one to another hand. That might not be too difficult, despite an injury he sustained to his thumb prior to the AFC Championship game during a practice. There’s a reason casual NFL fans hate the Pats. They’re here, they’ve always been here, and it doesn’t seem like they’ll ever go away. After narrowly escaping Foxborough with a 24-20 comeback victory over the Blake Bortles-led Jacksonville Jaguars, the Patriots silenced any doubts they’d be the favorites entering the game. Brady enters the game with 32 TDs and 60 playoff starts under his belt, as opposed to Foles’ 5 touchdowns in relief of Carson Wentz. Running back James White is a favorite receiver of Brady’s out of the backfield. Star tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Julian Edelman are questionable for the game, per the Patriots, but veteran Danny Amendola and backup receivers Brandin Cooks and Phillip Dorsett are more than good enough targets for the future first-ballot Hall of Famer. On the defensive side of the ball, edge rusher Trey Flowers and cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler look to terrorize the unproven Foles.

Stephon Gilmore bats down a final heave to the end zone from Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles in the AFC Championship game, per ProFootballTalk.

I predict the game will go as follows: The Eagles will jump to a quick lead in the first half, 14-3. Nick Foles’ inaccuracies and downfalls will be hidden behind a complicated run-pass option scheme that will stymie the Patriots for the first half. After halftime, however, a visibly frustrated Tom Brady will cement his legacy by scoring 21 unanswered points to lead the game 17-24 with four minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. While it is entirely possible, considering crazier things have happened before, Nick Foles’ 4th quarter comeback most likely won’t happen, and the Eagles will lose 31-17.

However, in an alternate world, the game would finish this way: Tom Brady’s thumb injury proves to be a substantially larger deal than anyone had previously expected, as he leaves the field after a rough sack by Chris Long. Backup QB Brian Hoyer can’t connect with the backup offensive weapons as well as Brady can, and the Patriots never get out of the basement, losing 17-24.

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Super Bowl 52: Preview