On Sunday, the Eagles will face the Patriots in a rematch of the 2004 Super Bowl. The Eagles come into this game after beating the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons and the NFL’s number one defense in the Minnesota Vikings. The Eagles hope to end a 52-year drought of not winning the Super Bowl, and will look to do so against the team looking to add a sixth title to their resume. Who needs to step up for the Eagles? Who do the Eagles need to watch out for? I take a look at two players to watch from the Eagles and one from the Patriots. I also give my prediction on who will be Super Bowl Champion.
Alshon Jeffery – WR
Jeffery was one of my players to watch against the Minnesota Vikings because of his history against the Vikings while on the Chicago Bears. He is here again because of something he said while as a member of the Bears. Shortly after the 2016 regular season ended, Jeffery, an impending free agent, told reporters:
Alshon Jeffery: “I guarantee you we are going to win the Super Bowl next year.” #Bears
— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) January 1, 2017
Now obviously he didn’t specify which team he was referring to, as he was about to be a free agent, but at this point his guarantee is still in play. He has definitely done his part so far in the playoffs to help with that guarantee, with nine receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Nick Foles has a perfect passer rating when targeting Jeffery:
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 30, 2018
When asked what the Eagles will do “if” they win the Super Bowl, Jeffery doubled down on his guarantee from a year ago, saying “we’re bringing that trophy back to Philly.” The Eagles will need Jeffery to keep up his dominant post season if they want to see that trophy back in Philly.
Jalen Mills – CB
Much has been said about how dominant the Eagles’ defensive line has been, but the Eagles’ secondary has been stellar this postseason too and much of that success is attributed to the play of corner back Jalen Mills. Mills, a seventh round pick in the 2016 draft, was the subject of many Eagles’ fans angry rants about his lack of pressure on wide receivers and many ill-advised pass interference penalties. Mills has done his job to silence the critics this postseason, however, and has held wide receivers in check:
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 1, 2018
Yards per coverage snap is the total amount of yards allowed in coverage divided by the number of snaps in coverage, regardless of the amount of targets. So simply put, Mills has been locking down receivers when they line up against him. Mills will have a tall task on Sunday as he will be lined up against speedy wide receiver Brandin Cooks. If Mills can stay away from biting on double moves, Mills has the physicality to disrupt Cooks’ speed.
Dion Lewis – RB
For the Patriots, the player to watch isn’t Tom Brady. He’s always being watched. The player to watch is running back, and former Eagle, Dion Lewis. Lewis had a failed stint on the Philadelphia Eagles, rushing for 171 yards and two touchdowns in two years with the team. Lewis was traded to the Cleveland Browns after the 2012 season and fractured his fibula before ever appearing in a game for the Browns. Lewis did not play another regular season game until he was picked up by the Patriots prior to the 2015 regular season. Lewis has blossomed into one of the more dynamic backs in the league and is a threat rushing and receiving the ball. Lewis also fights for the extra yards when hit in the back field, gaining positive yards on 42.9% of runs where he was hit in the backfield. He will be facing a tough test when he sees the Eagles’ number one rush defense, but he has the tools to hurt the Eagles and help Tom Brady set up the play-action pass.
At the end of the day, the Patriots’ have Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck. Arguably the best quarterback and head coach tandem the league has ever seen. However, despite those advantages, the Eagles have the advantage in every other aspect of the game. I expect the Eagles to be up early in the game but to not make the same mistake the Falcons did last year and the Jaguars did two weeks ago by playing conservatively. Doug Pederson loves to keep his foot on the gas and he will be in the driver’s seat as the Eagles go on to win 31-24 and win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.