I hate betting against Brady and Belichick, but I’m doing it. No bet is ever safe when you go against the Patriots, but the Eagles have the blueprint to make this a game the whole way and be right there for the outright win at the end.
The Eagles have to win time-of-possession and convert consistently on 3rd down to win this game. They’re capable of doing both. The Jaguars were able to hold the ball for almost 36 minutes against the Patriots and it left Brady with less time than usual to operate throughout the game. With Ajayi and Blount powering the run game behind a really strong O-line, the Eagles can replicate a lot of what the Jaguars did well vs New England. The Eagles have won time-of-possession in both playoff games (32 mins vs ATL, 34 mins vs MIN) and can do so today if they execute on 3rd downs. Nick Foles is 16-27 (59%) on 3rd down conversions for the playoffs and the run game should help his chances Sunday in that department. New England’s defense ranks 31st in the NFL in terms of rush yards allowed per attempt (4.6) and Ajayi and Blount should have success running at New England’s linebackers.
*updated Mon 2/5
Bill Belichick loves taking away the opponent’s #1 weapon but, for the Eagles, who is that? The Pats have to choose between Ajayi, Ertz and Jeffery and you can’t overcommit to any one of them. The more likely scenario you will see is Stephon Gilmore covering Alshon Jeffery, Patrick Chung covering Zach Ertz, and then Malcolm Butler & Eric Rowe split between Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor. The Eagles should have success in the run game and with Agholor matched up against Eric Rowe because he’s been at the bottom of the CB ranks all season.
*updated Monday 2/5
When Brady has the ball, the Eagles have to pressure him up the middle. TB is way less effective when he doesn’t have a lot of time to step into his throws in the middle of the pocket, which is why it’s key to rush him directly up the middle and not just along the edges. Fletcher Cox is one of the best defensive tackles in all of football and, combined with the rest of the Eagles front 7, will have chances to hit Brady. Brady will 100% have his moments – Gronk and Cooks will have their big plays, Dion Lewis and James White will move the ball, and Brady will just be Brady and make plays. Having Ronald Darby matched up with Cooks and Malcolm Jenkins against Gronk will help the Eagles chances of limiting both of those guys’ ceilings. Hogan and Amendola will be the two to watch because Brady will likely test the rest of the Eagles secondary and not force it Darby or Jenkins’s way.
I’m backing the dog here. To say I’m not worried about Brady is a lie…anyone in their right mind would be a little concerned. But I know the matchups and I know the numbers – the Eagles have advantages on both sides of the line, they have the ability to run the ball well, and they have a few advantages in the passing game. They’re playing loose and why shouldn’t they? They have nothing to lose in this game. Nothing. I’m not afraid of fading Brady – in the 5 Super Bowls he was a favorite, the Patriots went 1-4 ATS. And that one win was last year’s ridiculous comeback against the Falcons. All 7 of Brady’s Super Bowls, win or lose, have been decided by 6 points or less and underdogs are 12-5 ATS in the Super Bowl since 2000, winning 7 of the last 10 outright. Doug Pederson has taken this team to a level nobody could even imagine after Wentz went down and it seems him and Foles are ready for the moment. I think Pederson and his staff will be ready for the moment and the Eagles will be in this game with a chance to bring it home for Philly.
Eagles +5, 3 units (1/2 point bought)
*Plays are rated 1 to 5 units
I’m releasing prop bets for the game in a little while on Twitter, keep an eye out.