John’s Well-Educated Guesses: Super Bowl Edition

Thanks to everyone that has been reading this column.  My picks were rarely correct, but I didn’t take any lollipops.  Only the tough decisions.

We finally made it.  It’s been another fun year to be a Patriots fan.  Still dominant in the AFC East, Number one seed, overcoming adversity and injuries…this is an easy team to like. (And I would imagine an easy team to HATE).  Either way you gotta say that they take care of their business. 
Now they need to finish it.

I have an ominous feeling that these kind of campaigns always get derailed.  Whenever we look like we are going to do something truly unbelievable, it gets snatched away by a helmet catch or a missed extra point.   We got our F – You Super Bowl last year.  Another one would be insane to think about….So naturally I feel like I should expect the worst.

Winning does seem like fate though.  The parallels and storylines are too sexy to let slip away.  Second dynasty.  Against the Eagles to close it out.  Both coordinators are leaving (Remember that picture of Belichick hugging both Crennel and Weis after ’04?)  

There is an air of finality to this season.  A feeling of determination.  While I think both Brady and Bill will be back next year and the foreseeable future, there is an undeniable vibe that the party is coming to an end.  That something is going to change…Let’s hope to end it on a high note.

I’ve been hearing a lot about this Eagles defense and their ability to get home with only four rushers.  I am glad our offensive line is basically healthy.  I have confidence in both Waddle and Fleming to man that Right Tackle spot, but I would start there if I am the Eagles defensive coordinator. Obviously that has been the only way the Patriots have lost in recent memory (Both Giants Super Bowls, AFC Championship against the Broncos.)

The Eagles defensive season stats are mostly impressive.  4th in points per game at 18.4.  They let up 306 yards per game which is also 4th best.  Very interesting to see they are 17th in the league in pass defense and 1st in run defense.  They certainly are formidable, but didn’t we just beat a better defense with more sacks in the AFC Championship?  I need at least 21 to feel comfortable.

I do expect them to frustrate us at times.  We should spread them out and get our backs involved through the air.  Get the ball out quickly and negate their pass rush.  I’d love to see some up-tempo stuff early, but remember that this is a marathon game and I don’t want to run out of gas.

Their offense has overachieved with their back-up in charge down the stretch.  Pretty impressive.  I’m told to watch out for the Run-Pass Option.  Apparently they are very effective with those plays, and Jacksonville was also successful running those concepts against us.  To beat it, you have to play press-man coverage and disrupt their timing.  Stop the run and win one-on-one battles.  I think the matchups mostly favor the Pats.  Alshon Jeffrey is a big, physical receiver….but that is why we got Gilmore.  (After Julio Jones ate our lunch last year, they knew they had to get a stud for this exact situation.)  Zach Ertz is sick, but Pat Chung is great at covering Tight Ends.  Jay Ajayi and Blount can be troublesome when they get going, but they are not Leveon Bell.  Malcolm Butler will cover Nelson Agholor. 

If we can take away the easy stuff, Foles is gonna have to take his shots deep and to the outside.  That’s what we want to force, but if he is dropping dimes like last week, we could be in trouble. 
I don’t expect the Eagles to beat themselves.  If you let them dink and dunk, they are good enough to put together 13 plays.  Just got to get enough stops to let the offense do their thing.

Here are the last predictions of the year.  See you for the recap….maybe.

Prediction:  The National Anthem goes over 2:00.  This is a lock.

Prediction: Nick Foles throws for over 300.  I think the Eagles are going to come out hot and make this a game, at least early.  They will move the ball easily inside the 20s, but the Pats just gotta hang tough in the red zone to be ok.

Prediction: Gronk wins MVP – Why not?  I think he can really be the difference in the red zone, even if it’s just making 2 guys cover him.  (Also, they don’t want to give it to Brady but might have to.)

Prediction:  Pats win again, 27-21.  Who’s got it better than us?