This Sunday sees the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eales go head-to-head in Super Bowl LII in what will be a fascinating encounter between one of the longest dynasties in North American sports and the new kids on the block. The two teams have had differing journeys to arrive in Minneapolis for the biggest game of the year.

The Patriots came into this season as the biggest favourites to win the Super Bowl since its creation. Many experts though their squad was so strong they predicted an incredible undefeated year, a feat which narrowly eluded them in 2007. However, the season did not pan out that way, as the Patriots started poorly losing two of their first four matches and many wondered if this would finally be the year the Brady-Belicheck dynasty would end.

“how those doubters have been proven wrong”

How those doubters have been proven wrong again, as the ageless Brady has produced one his finest seasons – in the year he turned forty. If he claims the ultimate prize again at an age when no other quarter back has even won a playoff game, it would be a truly remarkable achievement.

Rumours regarding Tom Brady and Bill Belichick falling out over the trade of Jimmy Garoppolo threatened to derail the Patriots playoff run. But it was business as usual. They brushed aside the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round and completed a composed come-from-behind win in the NFC Championship against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tom Brady will be the key man for the Patriots this Sunday, starting in a record eighth Super Bowl. He’s proven his class on this stage many times before, winning the Super Bowl MVP four times. Belicheck and offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, will entrust him to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage to expose the Eagles defence. If Tom Brady performs to the best of his abilities it will go a long way to seeing the New England Patriots winning a sixth Super Bowl.

Despite being the key man, the Patriots have other weapons than their heralded QB. Brandon Cooks will provide a vertical threat that they have lacked in previous seasons and tight end, Rob Gronkowski, at times can be impossible to cover. The rest of their receiving core is solid, even if Julian Edelmen will be missing through injury. James White and Dion Lewis also give the Patriots useful options from running back.

“offence must be balanced by defence”

None the less, if the Patriots are to win Super Bowl LII then they will need to perform on both sides of the ball. Their defence looked vulnerable at the start of the season after losing linebacker Dont’a Hightower to injury. Yet as the seasons progressed Belicheck has massively improved his young defence and managed to get the best out of the players he has. The defence is not as watertight as it has been in past seasons, only ranking tenth in the regular season, but it’s strong enough to apply pressure on Nick Foles and rattle him in his first ever Super Bowl.

Before the season started no one was predicting the Philadelphia Eagles to win the NFC East, let alone reach the Super Bowl, but they have surprised everyone having a fantastic season under quarterback Carson Wentz and rookie head coach Doug Pederson. Many thought the second year quarter back had been the league’s MVP until he tore his ACL in a week 14 win over the LA Rams.

The unlikely man: Foles has stepped up in the absence of Wentz. Credit: Matthew Straubmuller

The Eagles were doubted again when the injury to Carson Wentz forced the team to turn to their backup quarterback Foles. And this showed with the team considered underdogs in both the Divisional Round and the NFC Championship Game, despite being the number one seed and having home advantage.

Fans and experts alike did not believe that Foles could produce performances to the same standard that Wentz had delivered. He had failed to impress since a good run for the Eagles a few years ago. However, he proved a cool pair of hands in beating the Falcons and provided a masterclass at the quarterback position in dismantling the Vikings defence in a 38-7 rout.

“foles is essential to any chance of an EAGLES UPSET”

Foles must continue his great form into the Super Bowl as a good game from him will be vital if the Eagles are to have any chance this Sunday. However, it’s one thing for an inexperienced quarterback to have a stellar playoff run, it’s another coping with the pressure on this biggest stage facing quite possibly the greatest quarterback the sport has ever seen.

The Eagles haven’t reached the Super Bowl solely due to the performance of their quarterbacks. They have a well balanced offence with a good receiving core including Super Bowl winner Torrey Smith and one the most dynamic running back combinations in the league. LeGarrett Blount and Jay Ajayi have combined well, giving the Eagles the third best run offence in the NFL.

“THE LESS TIME BRADY SPENDS ON THE FIELD, THE BETTER”

It’s crucial that these two players have a big game to relieve some of the pressure on Foles. If the Eagles can establish the run they will increase their time of possession and keep Tom Brady off the field. The less time Brady spends with the ball in his hands the more chance Philadelphia has winning its first Super Bowl ever.

The Eagles will need their defence to be in top form to stop Brady and they do have the qualities needed to do just that. They have a very strong defensive line which was number one ranked against the run and they can rush the quarterback with just four players. This is essential against Brady as it means they can get pressure on him without sacrificing a man needed to cover receivers.

However, in the end I don’t think the Eagles will have quite enough to stop the Patriots juggernaut. Brady is in the form of his life as he continues to defy ‘father time’ and produce outstanding performances. That, combined with Foles’ lack of experience on the big stage should see the Patriots run out winners in what should be a closely fought game.

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