Super Bowl LII preview: Patriots vs Eagles

Super Bowl LII between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles is just a few days away. As much as the NFL might not like it, the reality is that the gambling-averse league is the most popular sport to wager on in America, and its biggest game is the mecca of betting. As Business Insider noted, nearly $5 billion will be put at stake by gamblers, both so-called “sharps” and complete neophytes who don’t know the first thing about betting on football. $5 billion. That’s more than the GDP of over 40 countries.

Where has the “smart” money been going? The Patriots opened as six-point favorites after another historic comeback over the Jaguars in the AFC Championship.

They didn’t play their best for much of that game and found themselves in a ten-point fourth-quarter hole, yet still managed to score 14 points in the final frame against the league’s best secondary, and they did so without Rob Gronkowski. Add that to another mostly-dominant 13-3 regular season and this team has an air of inevitability around it. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick already have five Super Bowl rings together. How can a Philadelphia team, one led by its backup QB no less, possibly take down the NFL’s greatest dynasty?

Yet, most of the early betting money went on the Eagles to cover, so much so that the point spread moved all the way to New England -4.5.

What had people believing in the City of Brotherly Love?

Underdogs in their first two playoff games, Philadelphia proved it has the most complete roster in all of football by edging the Falcons 15-10 and then whitewashing the Vikings 38-7. They won those games in two very different ways; Nick Foles played the game-manager role against Atlanta, letting the defense do the heavy lifting, but then launched an all-out aerial assault on the Vikings, throwing for 352 yards and three TDs.

On the whole, their offensive and defensive lines dominated the trenches. Their pass rush generated pressure without blitzing, as it has done all season, and the offense showed it can still push the ball down the field when it needs to.

Juxtaposed against the Patriots, the Eagles are the stronger team in nearly every area of the field...except, of course, one rather important spot.

Quarterback play will, in all likelihood, be a crucial factor in the Super Bowl, just as it has been a crucial factor in almost every NFL game ever played (apart from those games Denver managed to win with Tim Tebow). Tom Brady has already cemented his legacy of the best QB of all-time, and he tends to shine brightest in the biggest moments. Nick Foles is a great story and has done an admirable job getting Philadelphia to this point, but this is a true David vs Goliath matchup at QB, which is why the 4.5-point spread won’t likely get any shorter for the Eagles.

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