6:30 p.m. on NBC
This is it. Super Bowl LII.
You already know what’s on the line. But here's a reminder, just in case: the Eagles’ first world championship since 1960, the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy, revenge on the New England Patriots for Super Bowl XXXIX 13 years ago, the opportunity to turn the page on an NFL dynasty, the chance to start another and history.
It’s been two weeks since the Eagles were crowned conference champions, and in that time, just about every story and angle has been covered to death. If you made it this far and aren’t completely sick of the hype, maybe you’re looking for reassurance.
If it’s reassurance you’ve come looking for, we have it – in the form of statistics. Numbers that might look favorable for the Eagles on paper, though ultimately mean nothing once the game kicks off.
That’s the best we can offer. Philadelphia’s fate is in the hands of the football gods now.
The last time the Eagles were in the Super Bowl, they turned the ball over four times. That’s a killer, especially in a big game against the Patriots.
But this is a very different New England squad from years past. The Pats' offense is still more than capable of capitalizing on mistakes. The defense, on the other hand, is far less likely to force such a mistake.
In their last six games, going back to Week 14 of the regular season, the Patriots have just one takeaway as a team. For the entire season, the defense ranked 25th in creating turnovers.
As long as the Eagles stick to fundamentals and put ball security above all else, this time, it’s unlikely the Patriots will overwhelm them with turnovers.
In theory, the Eagles should be able to get something going on the ground. While the Patriots' defense finished the regular season ranked 20th against the run, the unit was tied for 30th – essentially second to last – in yards allowed per rushing attempt.
Ball carriers averaged 4.7 yards per carry, though New England frequently held the lead, forcing many teams to abandon the run. If the Eagles can stick with it, they should have success.
Then again, the Patriots' D was much better on the ground down the stretch, limiting their last four opponents, including playoffs, to 3.2 yards per rush. However, that’s not been the norm this season.
It’s not going out on a limb to say the Patriots need to score some points to win on Sunday. That doesn’t mean touchdowns are going to be easy to come by for Tom Brady and crew.
In fact, if the Eagles’ last four games are any indication, New England may struggle to reach the end zone.
The Eagles’ defense has surrendered a grand total of 33 points during that span (8.25 points per game), and no more than 10 to a single opponent — a run that includes their two playoff games vs. Atlanta and Minnesota.
I don’t care if that is the greatest quarterback of all-time under center for the Patriots. Looking back at past Super Bowls, dominant defenses tend to upstage Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
The best defense is a good offense, and the Eagles have proven the old adage true all season long.
Obviously, the Eagles' D is capable of shutting opponents down. The unit ended the regular season ranked No. 1 against the run and fourth in total yards and scoring. It’s one of the stingiest, if not the stingiest, units in the NFL.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt they weren’t on the field all the time. The Eagles’ offense led the league in time of possession with a regular-season average of 32 minutes, 41 seconds, controlling the football, and thus, the game. The Birds' offense controlled the ball for at least 32 minutes in each playoff game, too.
Credit the defense for getting off the field, too. Yet, once it has the ball, the offense has no trouble playing keepaway.
There’s no denying the X-factor in all of this is Brady versus Nick Foles. Brady has five Super Bowl rings, three league MVPs and 13 Pro Bowl invitations to his name. Foles had a historic half-season back in 2013 and was a backup quarterback less than two months ago.
Who’s under center aside, the Eagles reached this point because they are a great team. They were a great team before a season-ending injury sidelined Carson Wentz (see story), and they’re still a great team now.
Brady may be the best player in this game and in the NFL today, and quarterback is the most important position in football. But there are going to be 46 players active and playing for both teams in this contest, and it could take all of them to win it.
Brady or no Brady, would you take the Patriots’ 46 over the Eagles’ 46? We’re about to find out.