The 52nd Super Bowl will see the New England Patriots face the Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots, behind star quarterback Tom Brady, are aiming to win their third title in four years. Here's how the two teams stack up.
This year's Super Bowl matchup is now set.
The New England Patriots defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-20 in Foxborough on Sunday to book their 10th appearance in the National Football League's (NFL) February showcase. The Philadelphia Eagles clinched their first Super Bowl appearance in more than a decade by defeating the Minnesota Vikings 38-7.
These two teams faced off in the Super Bowl in 2005, when New England topped Philadelphia 24-21 to win their third championship in four years. This year, the Eagles will try to prevent history from repeating itself, as the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2015 and 2017.
Here is how the two teams match up:
Quarterback — advantage Patriots
The quarterback is the most important position on the field, and the Patriots have a clear advantage in that category. Tom Brady, 40, will be playing in his eighth Super Bowl and has already has five Super Bowl titles to his name, more than any other quarterback in the history of the NFL.
The Eagles, on the other hand, will be using replacement quarterback Nick Foles since regular starter Carson Wentz, who was arguably the best quarterback during the regular season, suffered a season-ending knee injury at the beginning of December. Foles, 29, has never played in the Super Bowl and has only played three playoff games in his career.
Brady's 66 passing touchdowns in the playoffs is more than Foles has thrown in his entire career, both in the regular season and the playoffs. Brady also recorded the most passing yards in the 2017 NFL season with 4,577 while Foles spent most of the season on the Eagles' bench.
Offense — even
Though New England has a clear edge at the quarterback position, the quality of each team's overall offense is roughly the same. The Patriots and the Eagles both averaged 28.6 points per game in the regular season, although most of Philadelphia's offensive output came when Wentz was on the field.
Philadelphia's strength is on the ground — the Eagles had the third-best rushing attack in the regular season. But they also are very good in the air, even with Foles as the quarterback. Three of the five touchdowns the Eagles scored against the Minnesota Vikings in the conference title game were scored by wide receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith.
Conversely, New England is stronger through the air, which is to be expected since Brady is their quarterback. While Philadelphia tends to rely on three or four pass catchers, New England has five or six guys who are strong in the passing game. However, Brady might be without his best pass catcher, Rob Gronkowski, after he suffered a concussion in New England's win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. His absence would provide a much more level playing field in terms of offense.
Defense — advantage Eagles
The strongest edge the Eagles have is on defense. Though the two sides were pretty close in the regular season in points allowed per game — Philadelphia conceded 18.4, New England 18.5 — the Eagles allowed roughly 60 yards of offense fewer per game and forced 10 more turnovers than the Patriots in the regular season.
Fletcher Cox, who is in his sixth season with the Eagles after they drafted him in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft, leads a defensive line that is arguably the best in the NFL — Philadelphia allowed the fewest rushing yards per game during the regular season.
But New England's defense is not to be trifled with either. The Patriots defense has looked frail at the start of games, but they always turned things around in the second half of their playoff games, having conceded an average of just 6.5 second-half points per playoff game. They also know how to knock down the quarterback — New England's defense sacked Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round and they took down Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles three times in the conference championship game.
Coaching — advantage Patriots
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is widely considered the greatest NFL coach of all time, and with good reason. In his 18-year career in New England, his teams have only missed the playoffs once. He is one of only two head coaches, along with Green Bay Packers legend Vince Lombardi, who have won the Super Bowl five times.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia's Doug Pederson has only been an NFL head coach for two years and this is his first time in the playoffs. While he is to be commended for getting the Eagles to the Super Bowl without star quarterback Wentz, he will be hard pressed to outwit Belichick, who is making his eighth Super Bowl appearance as a head coach.