Super Bowl LII Prediction: Patriots Survive Slow Start Before Pulling Away Against Eagles
Predictions are useless. But they’re also fun. So for Super Bowl LII, I’ll go ahead and have a little fun with it. I’ll predict every single quarter, in detail.
At long last, the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles finally take the field in their “rematch” of Super Bowl XXXIX on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. It pits the greatest quarterback and (arguably) the greatest coach in NFL history against an upstart but relatively inexperienced head coach in Doug Pederson and a competitive & decently talented but similarly inexperienced backup quarterback in Nick Foles.
My stance on the coaching matchup is well-documented on this website by now. Head coaches facing Belichick for the first time typically do not have a good day. Pederson at least sounds like he has half a clue about how to stay competitive (or even beat) the Patriots. So he has a leg up on the Vance Josephs of the world. But ultimately, you can have a clue and Belichick can still be three steps ahead of you.
Super Bowl 52 Prediction: Slow Start, Fast Finish
I see this game being close early on, with the Patriots doing their typical feeling-out phase while the Patriots prevent the Eagles from making the same big plays they made in the NFC Championship against the Vikings. But eventually, the Patriots will take advantage of the Eagles’ inexperience specifically in the Super Bowl.
The Pats will be much more used to the long halftime and gas Jim Schwartz’s defense by running a lot of plays in the hurry-up. It will look similar to Super Bowl LI, except this time the Patriots won’t be in need of a comeback.
So here’s how I’m predicting the game to go, quarter-by-quarter…
The Patriots start conservatively, as they have in most other Super Bowls. In fact, they score zero points for the eighth straight Super Bowl. Dion Lewis gets stuffed at the line of scrimmage on runs, while Tom Brady can’t convert a couple of third-down plays. The Eagles draw first blood – with a field goal. Pederson and Foles try to go for early strikes, including a conversion on an early fourth-and-1 play around midfield. But the Pats’ typically tight red zone defense holds them to three.
A typically aggressive Philadelphia team shows ominous signs that it’s using up too much energy early on.
Score at end of first: 3-0 Eagles
New England makes some adjustments in their pass protection. Brady spreads the Eagles defense out and goes to the hurry-up with quick passes. He starts feeding the ball to Dion Lewis and James White. Nigel Bradham, Dannell Ellerbe and the Eagles linebackers can’t quite keep up. The Eagles answer the Patriots’ first touchdown with a score of their own as Foles is able to make a couple of big plays down the field, and LeGarrette Blount gets his “revenge” touchdown by falling forward at the goal line.
However, the Patriots, who won the coin toss and deferred, grab another late TD to get the first half of their double-score. Pederson and the Eagles go for the anti-Jaguars by attempting some plays down the field to escape the first half with more points, but they’re unsuccessful.
Score at halftime: 14-10 Patriots
The Patriots get their double-score. Brady starts to get Rob Gronkowski more involved after a relatively quiet first half. The Pats make some adjustments to split Gronk out wide against cornerbacks and take advantage. Gronk hits pay dirt. The Eagles, meanwhile, start to stall out on offense. Tight man-to-man coverage leads to two “coverage sacks” by Trey Flowers and Adam Butler. They finally grab a turnover when LeGarrette Blount loses a fumble for the second straight Super Bowl. James Harrison recovers the fumble.
On one of the Patriots’ next three possessions after their first touchdown, they grab another. This time, Dion Lewis gets the ball in the flat and makes at least one man miss. Pederson and Foles start to press. They take more shots downfield and pull out some trick plays. They make some, but the Pats are able to hold them to another pair of field goals.
Score at end of third: 28-16 Patriots
Now, the Eagles get nothing on the scoreboard. But that’s because Pederson knows he needs to stop kicking field goals and go for touchdowns. The Pats get a pair of fourth-down stops, including one in the end zone. Brady and the Patriots are content to run the ball, and Lewis and White gash a tired Eagles defensive front. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz still hasn’t made many adjustments.
The Pats punch in one more touchdown, and later settle for a field goal when the Eagles finally get a red zone stop. As the clock starts to tick under three minutes, someone on the Eagles defensive line gets frustrated and starts a fight. A skirmish muddies up the end of what turned out to be an easy win for the Patriots. And amazingly, it’s the first time ever that Brady and Belichick (and Patriots fans) are able to relax at the end.
FINAL SCORE: Patriots 38-16
And at some point, probably once the Patriots go up 35-16, a shell-shocked Pederson makes a face like this:
But I know, these things are useless. That’s why you might as well go all out and predict how the whole damn thing goes.
— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.