The Breakdown: Philadelphia not much of an underdog in Super Bowl LII

AJ Forbes, Co-Editor-in-Chief

An army of ardent fans wearing midnight green jerseys and silicone dog masks occupied the streets of Philadelphia after their beloved Eagles sent the Minnesota Vikings home for good in a 38-7 NFC Conference Championship win on Jan. 21. After winning three NFL Championships (games prior to the Super Bowl Era) from 1948-60, the Eagles have been to the “big game” twice but have lost both times. Although they have found success during the regular season, The Birds haven’t been able to keep the momentum moving forward in the postseason.

On the night of Feb. 4 those misfortunes will have turned, the Eagles will be crowned Super Bowl Champions, and that midnight green army will run rampant in the streets of Minneapolis.

The perennial colossus that is the New England Patriots are in the Super Bowl yet again, but are no longer the outright favorite. While Patriots quarterback Tom Brady continues to pile on the stats at 40-years-old, New England’s weakness is their defense, which ranked 29th out of the possible 32 spots. An explosive, fourth-ranked Eagles offense is sure to meet expectations against a defense that struggled to even contain Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Philadelphia’s backup quarterback, Nick Foles, has proven that he is more than capable of producing in the absence of starter Carson Wentz, who tore his ACL late in the season. In two playoff games this season, Foles threw for 598 yards and three touchdowns while completing almost 80% of his passes.

The most amazing part though? The man threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns against the NFL’s first ranked defense (Minnesota Vikings).

It helps that Foles is throwing the ball to the likes of wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor (1,557 combined receiving yards and 17 combined touchdowns) on the outside. Oh yeah, and he has a Pro Bowl tight end in Zach Ertz who led Philadelphia in receiving this season, with 74 catches and 824 yards to go along with eight touchdowns of his own.

One could make the argument that New England’s weakness on their defense is their secondary, who have not had a lot of production in terms of locking down opposing receivers. This is going to be a good matchup for the Eagles’ receiving corps.

On top of a passing game that’s been on fire the past two weeks, the Eagles have a stable of productive running backs (LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Corey Clement) that have a combined 1,678 total yards and 11 touchdowns. As the old saying goes, the way to win championships is to run the ball and play great defense.

Philly coincidentally has both.

The Eagles rank fourth in the NFL in total defense, led by one of the best defensive fronts in football. While defensive linemen Brandon Graham (47 tackles, 9.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles) and Fletcher Cox (26 tackles and 5.5 sacks) hold it down in the trenches, an injury-stricken linebacking corps continues to flourish behind the play of Nigel Bradham (88 tackles and one forced fumble). In the secondary, Jalen Mills also showed out this season with an impressive three interceptions and a touchdown.

The Patriots may have Tom Terrific at the helm, but it is going to take more than the right arm of the first ballot Hall of Famer to win this game. His top receiver, Rob Gronkowski, is coming off of a concussion, while the running backs behind him aren’t going to give New England a sufficient enough ground game to keep the Eagles defense honest. In football, superior defense and the ability to run the ball will win championships most of the time.

If there was a team that could match-up with the prowess of the New England Patriots this year, it was Philadelphia. Don’t get caught in the hype of the Patriots’ resume’. This is another year to play for another championship.

The difference? Those same fans from Philly are going to run rampant through the streets of Minneapolis after that same colossus falls on the night of Feb. 4.