March Madness 2018 February Bracketology: Bracket Dominated by ACC, B1G

It took a week for me to recover from the tough Super Bowl loss, but with the Winter Olympics, spring training, and March Madness coming up and the NBA and NHL seasons still finishing up, I will be actively posting for the rest of February.

Tomorrow, for the 2nd year in a row, the NCAA will be releasing a February preview at this year’s March Madness bracket, portraying the top 16 teams and dividing them into the four regions, therefore previewing the top four seeds of each region.  The Top 16 will be seeded based on their performance so far, not what is expected of them in the coming weeks.  Rather than making a bracketology after the fact like I did last year, I’ve put together my own version beforehand.  Although I am focusing on the top four in each reason, I have made a complete bracketology.

Let’s get started.

East Region

Fun Fact: Boston’s TD Garden will host the East Regional Finals, including the east region’s Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight match-ups.

The Top Four

  1. Image result for villanova logo blue Villanova
  2. Image result for duke logo blue background Duke
  3. Image result for clemson logo colored background Clemson
  4. Image result for west virginia logo colored background West Virginia

Villanova has put up great season after great season, and not only are they a clear #1 seed, they are the clear #1 overall, especially after Virginia’s recent loss.  Duke takes the #2, even though they’ve had a rough patch over the last couple weeks.  They were a clear #1 seed two weeks ago, but they’ve lost to Virginia, St. John’s and North Carolina since.  They went from 17-2 to 19-5.  Meanwhile, Clemson has emerged as an elite team in the ACC, earning them the #3.  I still see West Virginia getting a #4 even after their loss to Oklahoma State, although you could argue they should be moved down a seed after a rough patch of their own.

The Rest of the East

5. Kentucky

6. Florida

7. Rhode Island

8. Florida State

9. Butler

10. Virginia Tech

11. Providence/UNC Greensboro

12. ETSU

13. Vermont

14. Georgia State

15. Rider

16. UNC Asheville

This is a pretty strong region, and I couldn’t see that many upsets happen.  But you should watch out for Vermont, who has dominated their conference over the last two years.  They challenged Purdue in last year’s tournament, and they may be able to do the same to West Virginia, who we have seen lose to some lower end teams in recent years.  Remember when Stephen F. Austin shocked them in 2016 (I had predicted it)?  They have also lost to teams like Oklahoma State and Iowa State this year, both of whom have struggled to win games in the Big 12.

Midwest Region

The Top Four

  1. Related image Xavier
  2. Image result for michigan state logo Michigan State
  3. Image result for texas tech red raiders logo Texas Tech
  4. Related image Ohio State

MSU did impress me today with their win over Purdue, but in my opinion, they fell just short of taking the #1 seed from Xavier here.  You could argue for Texas Tech to be seeded higher as well, but I feel that teams like Duke and Kansas are more deserving of #2 slots.  But Texas Tech is a clear #3 as well as Auburn, another top team that couldn’t get a #2 on my bracket.  Ohio State grabs the #4 after a strong run where they upset Purdue and beat other Big Ten foes in Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa.  The Buckeyes have had some tough losses, but they’ve also put up some impressive victories against conference rivals.

The Rest

5. Wichita State

6. Louisville

7. Michigan

8. Arizona State

9. Kansas State

10. Middle Tennessee

11. Loyola-Chicago

12. Arkansas

13. Buffalo

14. Pennsylvania

15. Bucknell

16. Weber State/Grambling

 

Again, upsets will be tough in another strong region, but Middle Tennessee is ambitious to go on another playoff run.  They have pulled a major first-round upset in each of the last two years.  This year, in a higher seed, they have an even better chance at a deep run.  In this scenario, if they were able to get past Michigan, they would get another chance at Michigan State, who they shocked back in 2016 as a #15 seed, therefore ruining my 2016 bracket.  I’m not underestimating them again.  Loyola-Chicago and Buffalo are other teams to watch for.  If you’re looking for a higher seed to pull a late round upset, watch for Wichita State, who has only gotten stronger after switching to a conference with more competition for them.  I could also see Louisville bouncing back from a rocky start to the year.

 

South Region

The Top Four

  1. Image result for virginia logo Virginia
  2. Image result for cincinnati bearcats logo colored background Cincinnati
  3. Image result for auburn logo Auburn
  4. Related image North Carolina

Virginia’s loss to Virginia Tech this weekend has lowered their chances at a #1 seed, but I still think they’d qualify for one if the season ended today.  I have Cincinnati grabbing a #2 seed.  They have really impressed me of late as they take control of a conference race against Wichita State, Houston, and other contenders.  Auburn takes the #3.  They climbed their way into the Top 10 as the season progressed, and I cannot see them budging,  The defending champs grab the #4 seed after another strong season.  They aren’t quite what they were last year, but they are still Top 16 material.

The Rest

5. Oklahoma

6. Miami

7. Nevada

8. Seton Hall

9. USC

10. New Mexico State

11. Louisiana

12. UCLA

13. Belmont

14. Charleston

15. FGCU

16. Wagner/North Carolina A & T

I think this is a more upset-friendly conference.  New Mexico State-Nevada is an intriguing match-up that could go either way.  I could also see Louisiana, Belmont, or UCLA pulling an upset.  But UCLA would have to get past Trae Young and the Sooners in this scenario.  Speaking of Oklahoma, I could very well see them outplay UNC and advance to the Sweet 16, or even the Elite Eight (they would have to upset Virginia to go that far) with the help of Trae Young.

 

West Region

The Top Four

  1. Related image Purdue
  2. Image result for kansas logo Kansas
  3. Image result for arizona logo Arizona
  4. Image result for tennessee volunteers logo Tennessee

Even after falling short to Michigan State, Purdue should grab the #1 seed if they keep things up, even if they fall short to the Spartans again in the conference tourney.  Kansas should still get a #2 seed.  Although they aren’t living up to their usual expectations, their squad is still Top 10, and despite Texas Tech’s big year, I still think they are the best team in the Big 12.  Arizona is leading their own conference (the Pac-12) and having a strong year as usual, and they aren’t Top 10 material, but they at least have enough in them to grab the #3 seed.  Meanwhile, Tennessee has bounced back from a rough 2016-17 season to become one of the SEC’s top teams as well as one of the nation’s Top 16.

The Rest

5. Saint Mary’s

6. Gonzaga

7. Creighton

8. Houston

9. Washington

10. Nebraska

11. Boise State

12. Texas A & M/Montana

13. South Dakota State

14. Stephen F. Austin

15. UC Santa Barbara

16. Northern Kentucky

I definitely see a lot of upsets happening here.  Stephen F. Austin pulled a big one the last time they made the big tournament, can they do it again?  South Dakota State also came close to pulling an upset in their 2016 March Madness appearance.  I could also see Boise State, and either Texas A & M or Montana potentially pulling an upset.  The teams that could suffer against this strong group of underdogs include Tennessee, Saint Mary’s, and Gonzaga.  Will they let these lower seeds mess with them?

 

That’s all for my February bracketology.  Be sure to catch the March Madness February Bracket Preview tomorrow at 12:30 PM EST.

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Super Bowl LII Video Preview

 

Welcome to the final article in my series of Super Bowl LII previews.  Today, I have summed it all up in my video preview.  I was going to make an iMovie trailer as well but was not able to finish as I spent the day preparing for the big game.

Here is my schedule for the series.  Articles that already up include links to the article.

Super Bowl LII – Patriots vs. Eagles: Boston Sports Mania Preview

Monday, Jan. 29Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

Tuesday, Jan. 30The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Wednesday, Jan. 31The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance 

Friday, Feb. 2Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats

Sunday, Feb. 4: Super Bowl LII Video Preview 

Sunday, Feb. 4: Watch the big game and stay tuned for my Recap!

 

Below is my final preview of the game, in video form.

I hope you all have a great Super Bowl Sunday, whether are throwing the Super Bowl party of the century or just enjoying the game with your family.  Who do you think will come out on top?  Make your prediction in my Instagram contest (My username is andrewr.1008).

 

 

Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats

Welcome to my fifth article in my series of previews for Super Bowl LII.  Today I will be making my final prediction including the winner, score, MVP and stat projections.

Here is my schedule for the series.  Articles that already up include links to the article.

Super Bowl LII – Patriots vs. Eagles: Boston Sports Mania Preview

Monday, Jan. 29Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

Tuesday, Jan. 30The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Wednesday, Jan. 31The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance 

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats

Saturday, Feb. 3: Super Bowl LII Video Preview and iMovie Trailer

Sunday, Feb. 4: Watch the big game and stay tuned for my Recap!

The Final Pick

Typically, I just predict the score. But it’s the Super Bowl, so I went a little deeper.  I simulated the entire game based on my basic score prediction.  Below are the final score, scoring summary and stat predictions I came up with.

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Although I have the Patriots winning in the end, it will be a close one here.  The Eagles are not to be taken lightly.  Whether QB Nick Foles comes through or not, the Eagles have a great offense that will keep the game close.  Their defense could also get on QB Tom Brady’s nerves.

I expect the Eagles to depend on their RB duo of LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi against the struggling Pats run defense.  I also think Nick Foles will keep up the good work despite a few mistakes against a strong Pats secondary.  But, even though Tom Brady will be under a lot of pressure against the strong Eagles front seven, I think he will thrive and lead the Pats to another comeback style Super Bowl victory in Minneapolis.

 

Projected Stats/Scoring and Turnover Summary

Team    1   2   3   4   TOT

NE        10  10  3  14   37                                                                                                                          PHI       7    10  14  3   34

1st Quarter:

Tom Brady to Chris Hogan for 6 yard TD.  Stephen Gostkowski PAT made (7-0 NE)

Jay Ajayi for 3-yard rush TD.  Jake Elliott PAT made (7-7 TIE)

Stephen Gostkowski 49 yard FG made (10-7 NE)

 

2nd Quarter:

Nick Foles intercepted by Stephon Gillmore (10-7 NE)

Nick Foles to Torrey Smith for 2 yard TD.  Jake Elliott PAT made (14-10 PHI)

Stephen Gostkowski 36 yard FG made (14-13 PHI)

Jake Elliott 42 yard FG made (17-13 PHI)

Tom Brady to Danny Amendola for 6 yard TD.  Stephen Gostkowski PAT made (20-17 NE)

 

3rd Quarter:

Stephen Gostkowski 45 yard FG made (23-17 NE)

Nick Foles to Zach Ertz for 4 yard TD.  Jake Elliott PAT made (24-23 PHI)

LeGarrette Blount for 2-yard rush TD.  Jake Elliott PAT made (31-23 PHI)

 

4th Quarter:

James White 2 yard rush TD.  Stephen Gostkowski PAT made (31-30 PHI)

Jake Elliott 54 yard FG made (34-30 PHI)

Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski for 10 yard TD.  Stephen Gostkowski PAT made (37-34 NE)

Nick Foles intercepted by Malcolm Butler* [37-34 NE (Final)]

 

*Yes, I think Malcolm Butler will get the game-winning INT again

 

I’m predicting another close, exciting Super Bowl.  Here my offensive stat projections.

 

 

Stat Projections

NE

Passing:

Tom Brady: 37/55, 346 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack (My Projected Super Bowl MVP)

 

Rushing:

James White: 17 rush, 68 yards, 1 TD

Rex Burkhead: 11 rush, 31 yards

Dion Lewis: 7 rush, 21 yards

 

Receiving:

Rob Gronkowski: 10 REC, 104 yards, 1 TD

Brandin Cooks: 5 REC, 73 yards

Danny Amendola: 7 REC, 66 yards, 1 TD

Chris Hogan: 7 REC, 58 yards, 1 TD

Rex Burkhead: 4 REC, 20 yards

Dwayne Allen: 2 REC, 15 yards

Dion Lewis: 2 REC, 10 yards

 

PHI

Passing:

Nick Foles: 35/53, 311 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 2 sacks

 

Rushing:

Jay Ajayi: 21 rush, 95 yards, 1 TD

LeGarrette Blount: 18 rush, 44 yards, 1 TD

Wendell Smallwood: 4 rush, 12 yards

Corey Clement: 3 rush, 9 yards

 

Receiving:

Zach Ertz: 11 REC, 80 yards, 1 TD

Alshon Jeffery: 8 REC, 77 yards

Torrey Smith: 6 REC, 70 yards, 1 TD

Nelson Agholor: 6 REC, 62 yards

Corey Clement: 2 REC, 10 yards

Jay Ajayi: 1 REC, 6 yards

Brent Celek: 1 REC, 6 yards

 

 

 

That’s all for my Super Bowl LII prediction.  Stay tuned for a video preview and an iMovie trailer tomorrow that sums it all up.  Enjoy the game, and go Pats!

 

 

 

Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance in the Game

Welcome to my fourth article in my series of previews for Super Bowl LII.  Today I will be talking about interesting stats I’ve seen and what they mean to the game.

Here is my schedule for the series.  Articles that already up include links to the article.

Super Bowl LII – Patriots vs. Eagles: Boston Sports Mania Preview

Monday, Jan. 29Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

Tuesday, Jan. 30The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Wednesday, Jan. 31The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance 

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats

Saturday, Feb. 3: Super Bowl LII Video Preview and iMovie Trailer

Sunday, Feb. 4: Watch the big game and stay tuned for my Recap!

 

Super Bowl Fast Facts

Below are 5 fun facts that could mean a lot to the game:

 

1. The Patriots have struggled to stop the run, and the Eagles are 7-0 this season when the LeGarrette Blount-Jay Ajayi duo has combined for 100+ yards

Expect the Eagles to run the ball, especially based on the fact that their 7-0 when Blount and Ajayi combine for 100 or more yards.  The Patriots have struggled to stop elite running backs all season, and the Philly RB staff could just be a pain in the neck for the Pats.  Will the Pats finally stop the run, or win despite failing to do so?  This stat gets me a little worried, especially with LeGarrette Blount seeking revenge on New England.

2. Only eight teams won a conference championship in the Super Bowl era by 30+ points before the Eagles did.  Only two won the Super Bowl.  Will the Eagles look burnt out in the big game?

This brings up a good point, especially thinking about Eagles QB Nick Foles.  It may be a sign that we do not see a repeat of the NFC Championship for him, and the carriage will turn back into the pumpkin.  However, he had shown promise prior to that game, back in his first stint with the Eagles.  Was Foles’ performance a one-time thing, or is he just a good QB looking for a little consistency?  It’s good news for the Pats if Foles gets off to a rocky start.

3. In the Brady-Belichick era, none of New England’s other Super Bowl opponents have had both a Top 5 scoring offense and scoring defense.  In each category, the Eagles are 3rd and 4th, respectively.  

This worries me a little bit, but I don’t necessarily think it means that the Pats will lose.  However, not even the Giants in 2007 or 2011 had what this Eagles team has.  If they didn’t have QB Carson Wentz for three-quarters of the season though, they may be lower on the offensive side of things.

They have a lot of great weapons offensively and even acquired RB Jay Ajayi midway through the season.  But if Nick Foles can’t keep up the good work, this Eagles offense will not challenge the Pats nearly as much, bringing hope for them to win.  I do think this Eagles team could give New England a scare and come close to victory, but I think the Patriots are capable of beating a team with top 5 scoring offense and defense, especially with Philly’s backup QB under center.

4. Pats QB Tom Brady has as much Super Bowl experience as the entire Eagles 53-man roster combined (7 games)

This is an unbelievable stat, and Bill Belichick is great against teams with minimal playoff experience.  This is the perfect example.  A lot of Pats players have not played an NFL season without making the AFC Championship, while this entire Eagles roster has only made 7 combined Super Bowls.  Belichick will take advantage of the lack of experience on the Philly roster.  That may help him win this game.

5. According to ESPN, the most significant difference in yards per attempt between the QBs facing off in a Super Bowl was between Tom Brady and Eli Manning in Super Bowl XLII, and Brady, the much better QB lost.  Can Nick Foles be the next QB to shock Brady?

2007 was Brady and Eli Manning.  This year, it’s Brady against a backup quarterback (Foles).  Although the YPA difference between Brady and Manning (4.0) was greater than the difference between Brady and Foles (2.9), if you are measuring this on overall performance, Manning in 2007 was slightly better than 2017 Nick Foles.  But, you cannot rule out an underdog victory, especially based on these stats.

 

Some of these stats are favoring the Pats.  Others favor the Eagles.  But what it really comes down to is how these two teams match-up.  I will preview that in the next article that will be posted shortly.

 

The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Welcome to my third article in my series of previews for Super Bowl LII, where the underdogs, the Eagles will try to come through on the big stage against the defending champions.

Here is my schedule for the series.  Articles that are already up include links to the article.

Super Bowl LII – Patriots vs. Eagles: Boston Sports Mania Preview

Monday, Jan. 29Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

Tuesday, Jan. 30The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Wednesday, Jan. 31: The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Thursday, Feb. 1: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats

Saturday, Feb. 3: Super Bowl LII Video Preview and iMovie Trailer

Sunday, Feb. 4: Watch the big game and stay tuned for my Recap!

 

The Case for the Eagles

Image result for nick foles eagles

The Eagles are coming off a big win going into this big game.  Nick Foles broke out, throwing for 352 yards and 3 TDs to lead the Eagles to a 38-7 victory.  What Foles proved is that the Eagles have the offensive weapons of a Super Bowl-winning team, they just need a productive night out of their QB.  Nick Foles is the X-factor and the biggest question for the Eagles.  Although the Patriots secondary will be ready to keep Foles’ receivers well covered and make it hard for him to find them in either scenario, having a rough game doesn’t even give him a chance to win it.  Getting into a rhythm is step one for Foles and the Philly offense.

The Eagles have strong receivers that can at least try to get past a tricky Pats secondary, so if Foles picks up where he leaves off, the Eagles could soar.  Otherwise, Foles and the Eagles offense will struggle as the carriage turns back into the pumpkin and the Patriots dominate.  The Eagles also have a great run game that they should take advantage of against a defense that has struggled against running backs.  That’s something that’s not a problem in Philly, as they allowed the 2nd least rush yards during the 2017 regular season.

Speaking of the defense, they’ll need to be on top of their game for the Eagles to win.  If they have a good day, they could get on QB Tom Brady’s nerves and mess up the New England offensive scheme.  Although many people are saying otherwise, the Eagles do have a chance to win the Super Bowl.  These underdogs quietly made their way in through productive offense and dominant defense.  If you’re a Pats fan like me, don’t assume that the Pats are all set and will have it easy.  This will be a close one, at least in my opinion.

It will be especially close if the defense can pressure TB12 and Nick Foles can keep up the good work.  Those are their two major keys to win the game.  They’ll also need to win the turnover battle, get the run game going against a Pats defense which has struggled against running backs this year, and keep receivers open for Foles to make sure he doesn’t throw preventable interceptions.  If Foles makes mistakes like that, it could put a wrench in Philly’s entire gameplan, even if he looks good for the majority of the game.

Although they are clear underdogs, will the Eagles win Super Bowl LII?  Stay tuned for my Super Bowl LII Predictions this Friday to find out what I think.

The Case For the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Welcome to my second article in my series of previews for Super Bowl LII, where the Patriots will try to defend their title and win a 6th Lombardi Trophy.

Here is my schedule for the series.  Articles that are already up include links to the article.

Super Bowl LII – Patriots vs. Eagles: Boston Sports Mania Preview

Monday, Jan. 29: Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

Tuesday, Jan. 30: The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Wednesday, Jan. 31: The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Thursday, Feb. 1: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats

Saturday, Feb. 3: Super Bowl LII Video Preview and iMovie Trailer

Sunday, Feb. 4: Watch the big game and stay tuned for my Recap!

 

The Case for the Pats

The Patriots come in to this game with momentum, completing a 4th quarter comeback to advance to the Super Bowl.  QB Tom Brady’s thumb did not appear to be a problem during the AFC title game.  However, TE Rob Gronkowski left the game after a hit to the head, which we later  found out had caused a concussion.  It was tough for Brady and the Pats to succeed without both Gronk and WR Julian Edelman (Missed 2017 with Torn ACL).  The good news is that Gronk is practicing again, which means he’s on pace to clear the NFL concussion protocol and return for this Sunday’s big game.

The Pats are known to do well against inexperienced QBs, and whether this was the case or not, the Eagles are already questioning whether Nick Foles will even put up numbers similar to what he did in the NFC title game, as he led the Eagles to blowout the Vikings, 38-7.  Foles tossed 3 TDs and over 350 yards.  This was the first game that he made that big an impact.  Will he keep up the good work, or will the carriage turn back into a pumpkin for Foles?  Regardless of Foles’ performance, the Eagles are a good team.  They give their QBs better protection than Blake Bortles got last week against New England, and the Pats were held to just two sacks against Jacksonville.

They also have almost as good a run game as Jacksonville does, between the stars like Jay Ajayi, the young guns like Corey Clement, and their dependable end zone back in LeGarrette Blount.  Will the Pats struggle as much as they did against Leonard Fournette and Corey Grant?  These dark horses, or “underdogs” as called by Lane Johnson, are not to be underestimated.  Bill Belichick was not about to take them lightly either.  This is a playoff game.

There is one thing that could mess Foles up, even in the midst of a big game, the Patriots secondary. Will CB Stephon Gillmore finally get the interception he is long overdue for?  He’s made some great plays, but an interception for Gillmore hasn’t been seen for a long time.  The Eagles do have a great defense too, though, so just because the Patriots get the ball, it doesn’t mean it will be easy.  DT Fletcher Cox could be a threat to TB12 among others in the Eagles front seven, and the Pats o-line is especially weak on the right side, where they’ll be without Marcus Cannon.

But with Gronk in the game, I do think they’ll be able to beat out the Eagles secondary, as long as Brady is well protected.  In order to win, the Pats will need to do so.  They’ll also need to keep Nick Foles’ receivers well covered and their secondary needs to have another big game.  That way, whether it’s elite Nick Foles or struggling Nick Foles that shows up for the Super Bowl, the Pats have him covered.  They’ll need to make sure the Eagles don’t control the turnover battle, as fumbles, picks and strip sacks are the last thing they need.  Lastly, they’ll need a big game out of other receivers besides Gronk.  If Gronk plays, he’ll have just recovered from a concussion.  They’ll also have to depend on guys like Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola.  Mixing up who they throw to will confuse the Eagles D, but it will only be effective if multiple receivers perform well.

Will the Patriots win Super Bowl LII?  Stay tuned for my Super Bowl LII Predictions this Friday to find out what I think.

Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

The match-up is set.  The Patriots and Eagles will face off in Super Bowl LII.  Today I will address how they got there, and give you your first look at the match-up.

But first here is the official schedule for my Super Bowl LII Preview. This will be part of each Preview article and will include links to the articles that are finished.

Super Bowl LII – Patriots vs. Eagles: Boston Sports Mania Preview

Monday, Jan. 29: Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

Tuesday, Jan. 30: The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Wednesday, Jan. 31: The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Thursday, Feb. 1: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats

Saturday, Feb. 3: Super Bowl LII Video Preview and iMovie Trailer

Sunday, Feb. 4: Watch the big game and stay tuned for my Recap!

How They Got There

Patriots

 

The Pats won in comeback fashion again, this time against the Jacksonville Jaguars, 24-20.  Early on, Blake Bortles, Leonard Fournette, Corey Grant, and the rest of the Jaguars offense dominated, taking a 14-3 lead and challenging the Pats for their chance at making it to their 10th Super Bowl, and their 8th with Tom Brady.  The Pats were unable to stop this powerful Jags offense for most of the 1st half, although they did narrow Jacksonville’s lead with a TD before the half, making it 14-10.  The Jaguars’ powerful pass rush also got on Tom Brady’s nerves in this half.

By halftime, Pats fans were getting worried, and some (but not me) gave up hope.  But the 2nd half brought a turn-around for the Patriots.  In the 3rd quarter, we began to see a better defensive performance by New England, as they held Jacksonville to just a measly 3 points in that quarter.  Lawrence Guy was able to sack Bortles as he led the Pats defense to begin to get pressure on him.  The Jags scored another field goal to begin the 4th and led 20-10.

But better defense set the Pats offense up to come back in the 4th quarter.  Despite TE Rob Gronkowski being ruled out with a concussion, the Pats came back, led by Brady, Danny Amendola (who scored both 4th quarter TDs) and Brandin Cooks.  The Pats came out of nowhere after being down by 10, scoring 14 unanswered points to win the game and advance to the Super Bowl.  But how will they fare against the Eagles, who obliterated the Vikings?

Eagles

 

The Vikings got off to a fast start as Case Keenum connected with TE Kyle Rudolph for a touchdown.  But after that, Nick Foles broke out, leading the Eagles offense to blow away an otherwise unstoppable Vikings defense.  He somehow tossed 3 TDs and 352 yards against the typically dominant Vikings D.  I also don’t know how this defense gave up 38 points.

Not only did Foles do well, but his top four receivers (Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor) all had over 50 yards receiving, combining for 306 of Philly’s receiving yards and all 3 receiving TDs.  The combination of end zone back LeGarrette Blount and lead running back Jay Ajayi also had a big game compared to recent performances.

After that win, the Eagles truly do deserve to fight for that Lombardi Trophy in Minneapolis, although it would have been cool to see Minnesota win it at home, or be stopped by the Patriots dynasty.  But will the Eagles put up the same numbers against New England, who has far more experience in the Super Bowl?  Many of New England’s players don’t even know what it is like not making the AFC Championship game.

A First Look at the Big Game

With TE Rob Gronkowski on the practice field as of Saturday the 27th, it’s a good sign that Gronk will be able to clear the concussion protocol and play by Sunday’s big game. Gronk’s status will help determine New England’s offensive schemes against an Eagles defense that can be tricky at times.

Either way, especially with T Marcus Cannon injured, DT Fletcher Cox and the Eagles’ defensive line could pressure QB Tom Brady and hit him a few times. But I do think Brady should be able to find his receivers against the younger, but still powerful Eagles secondary. With or without him, Gronk will have to get past Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins among others as they will likely keep the star tight end double covered.

Brady will have to mix it up a little, not only passing to Gronk, and dependable passing backs James White and Rex Burkhead, but also to his wide receivers who helped him win with Gronk and Burkhead out late into last week’s game. Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, and/or Chris Hogan could have a big game here. But will we see the Eagles look like their inconsistent selves again, or will we see QB Nick Foles and the Eagles offense pick up where they left off?

If they can, they will significantly challenge the Patriots, whose pass rush has struggled to pressure the QB at times this season.  However, it has gotten better since LB James Harrison joined the Patriots.  Not only has he himself made an impact, but he’s also made an impact on other players’ performances, serving as a veteran influence.  The Pats sacked Jags QB Blake Bortles twice last week.  One was by Harrison, and the other by DT Lawrence Guy.  However, the Eagles give Foles better protection than Bortles gets with their strong offensive line.

This also helps running backs, who the Pats have struggled even more against.  In their Week 7 win against Atlanta, their big flaw was giving up big plays to Devonta Freeman.  It cost them in Week 1 against Kareem Hunt.  Can RB Jay Ajayi be next?  Will end zone threat Blount Force Trauma get revenge on his former team?  Or will it be younger RBs like Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood who thrive?

The good news is, despite their front seven woes, they have maintained a strong secondary all season long, and don’t be surprised if they annoy Foles’ receivers and pick Foles off a couple times. I do think Foles will continue to thrive though, finding his receivers for most of the game, but making brutal mistakes against this strong secondary that cause the Eagles offense to trail a little behind the “Brady Bunch.”

Who will win Super Bowl LII?  What is the game plan for each team?  What Super Bowl and season-long stats will burden, encourage and/or influence each team?  Find out this week as I release more articles each day.