The New England Patriots are no stranger to the NFL’s biggest stage. They are the defending champions and erased a 28-3 deficit to win against Atlanta last year. No other team in this current NFL could pull off a comeback like that. The Pats found themselves up against a wall again in this year’s AFC Championship against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Down 20-10 in the fourth quarter, QB Tom Brady led 2 touchdown drives to come back and seal a trip to Minnesota. While the Patriots are 5-point favorites to win according to Super Bowl 52 odds predictions, the Eagles should not be taken lightly. What can the Pats do to ensure another victory in their legacy?
Not having to fight back to cover a deficit would probably help. New England does not trail teams often. They did in the AFC Championship and they did in last year’s Super Bowl. Brady is an undeniable Hall of Fame talent with an uncanny ability to bring his team back in the fourth quarter, but why put that stress on yourselves? If the Pats can get out to an early lead and the defense keep the Eagles in check, there is no need for a crazy comeback. To the Pats credit, they seem to thrive in these types of situations, so perhaps that is their best method going forward.
Speaking of the defense, they need to pressure QB Nick Foles. Foles is playing great, probably the best of his career, but with enough pressure, he might fall back into his old ways that got him to his status as a rotating backup. Foles did not throw a pick in the NFC Championship. DC Matt Patricia should be aiming to reverse that and blitz him to force a quick pass and likely mistake. The Eagles have plenty of offensive weapons, but the Pats defense has been good all year and they are used to playing under high-pressure situations.
Before moving to contain Foles, they need to worry about RBs LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi. Blount was on the Pats winning team last year, though he may still have a bone or two to pick against his former team. Ajayi was picked up midseason via the Miami Dolphins and has been flourishing in Philadelphia. While both backs were limited to under 100 yards combined in the NFC Championships, they have the potential to explode if given the space. Shutting down the run game will put more offensive responsibility in Foles’ hands, which could lead into turnovers.
On the offensive front, RBs James White and and Dion Lewis need to be more effective. They were kept to less than 40 yards between them in the AFC Championship, and while Tom Brady is an elite QB, he could use a little break from time to time via some run plays. The receivers need to come out ready to play. WR Danny Amendola saved the Pats on those 2 touchdown drives against Jacksonville. Brandin Cooks had a phenomenal game and will be a target for Brady throughout Super Bowl LII. If Rob Gronkowski is out, expect these 2 to be the main offensive channels for the pass game. Chris Hogan will be another player to watch out for.
New England has been here before. There is no need to panic. The defense needs to step up and manage Nick Foles and their threatening run offense. If the offensive line can keep Brady protected and let him work, New England will be off to the races. Super Bowl betting usually centers on the favorite, and the Patriots are oddsmakers’ go-to team. If they play smart, they’ll have their 6th championship.