Super Bowl LII Recap

914353674

The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33. Nick Foles was Super Bowl MVP after a very entertaining game in perhaps the greatest shootout in postseason history as records galore were set in this game. I have a few thoughts, though keep in mind, I’m a very emotional Patriots fan so forgive me if I get a little intense.

-I’ve got to write stuff for the winners first. The Philadelphia Eagles were the better team and Doug Pederson wore his big boy pants. He seemingly made every single correct call imaginable. That play call shortly before the half that everybody is raving over was nothing short of ballsy.

Who cares that it was an illegal formation that didn’t get called (only 6 men were on the line of scrimmage, need to have 7)? That’s what it takes to beat the Patriots.

-Have to give a ton of credit to Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. He played the game of his life. He went 28-43 with 373 yards, 3 TD’s and 1 pick that wasn’t really his fault. It was more Alshon Jeffery trying to make a one-handed grab that snuck out of his grasp and into the waiting arms of Duron Harmon. Now the question is what becomes of him because he certainly can’t be their backup after what he did this postseason. They’re either going to have to trade him or trade Carson Wentz so that he can start. Either way, they’re getting a huge haul.

-Corey Clement was a surprise star for the Eagles in this game. Now yes, the undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin was having a nice season leading up to this game, but he had 4 catches for 100 yards, including this questionable touchdown.

He was bobbling it as he was going out. Based on the way the game gets officiated nowadays, that should’ve been an incompletion. That’s 2 TD’s by the Eagles that the officials botched, the first coming on a 4th down play on an illegal formation, the other coming on third, which essentially put 8 points on the board that shouldn’t have been there. And I hate to be that salty asshole, but look at the score differential.

-Zach Ertz’s touchdown was about as clear as day and the fact that we went through so much trouble debating whether or not it was a catch is everything that’s wrong with the catch rule today. How could this possibly be misconstrued as not being a catch, he took about four steps after gaining possession before he dove into the endzone.

-The play of the game though was the strip sack by Brandon Graham. Both offensive lines played out of their minds in this one and Shaq Mason honestly didn’t do a bad job on Graham here. It’s Graham making that extra effort to stick his arm out there and he managed to get the football in a play that a lot of people are calling a reverse of fortunes to what happened with the Tuck Rule 16 years ago and quite frankly, it’s hard to argue with them.

-The fact that the Patriots still had a chance after that play is just amazing to me. For a moment, when Brady chucked this Hail Mary, I thought it might find a Patriots player’s hands. But alas, the ball hit the turf and I was stunned to see that the clock had hit zero. That play did not feel like it lasted 9 seconds.

-The Eagles are fortunate that they were able to make the plays they did because they needed literally every single one of them to beat Tom Brady, the way he was playing. 28-48, an NFL playoff record 505 yards and 3 TD’s. The great ones don’t lose, they just run out of time and that seems to be what happened in this game with Brady. Father Time is not a factor to the 40 year-old Tom Brady and neither really is the Madden Curse because it wasn’t Brady that lost the game, it was the defense. The NFL MVP curse is alive and well, though. Since 2001, the NFL MVP has played in the Super Bowl the same year 9 times (Kurt Warner 2001, Rich Gannon 2002, Shaun Alexander 2005, Tom Brady 2007, Peyton Manning 2009, Peyton Manning 2013, Cam Newton 2015, Matt Ryan 2016, Tom Brady 2017). They all lost. In fact, the NFL MVP has not won the Super Bowl in the same year since Kurt Warner in 1999.

-Epic rant coming. I’m not going to sit here and say I know more about personnel strategies than Bill Belichick because I obviously don’t. This is more just coming off what I see on the surface. But what the fuck was so bad about Malcolm Butler that he didn’t see a single defensive snap?!?! Now from what I know as of this writing, Butler wasn’t benched for disciplinary reasons, rather it was performance-based. Now yes, Butler was having a down season overall, but you’re going to bench him now? Or was his two weeks of practice leading up to the Super Bowl just so bad that he wasn’t worth playing? Because I can’t imagine that Johnson Bademosi was a better option to have in the critical stretches of the game. The way quick guys like Nelson Agholor and Corey Clement were burning Rowe and Bademosi all game, don’t you think a guy who can run like Butler would be a solid replacement? Again, I’m not Belichick and I’m not an insider with the Patriots. But this just seems like a horrible oversight, especially considering how poor all the corners not named Stephon Gilmore played all game. This basically guarantees Butler won’t be returning to the Patriots next season. He’s quoted as saying “they gave up on me,” after the game. No chance does he return, even if he does get franchise tagged.

-I just got an update on my phone that says Rob Gronkowski won’t commit to playing next season. As if I needed more of this shit piled on. If he does retire, he will be in the discussion for greatest tight end of all time. He vanished in the first half but was terrific in the second, including these two touchdowns.

Overall, Gronk finished with 9 catches for 116 yards and 2 TD’s in the big game after only having 1 catch for 9 yards at the half.

-We also got amazing games out of both Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan. Amendola continued his playoff mastery with 8 catches for 152 yards while Hogan recorded 6 catches for 128 yards and this TD grab.

-Losing Brandin Cooks early in the second quarter was a huge blow to the Patriots offense as they lost a guy who could really stretch the field. You saw how well Brady threw the ball all game, imagine if he had Cooks as well. Here’s the hit from Malcolm Jenkins, which would’ve definitely been targeting and an ejection if this were college.

-Special teams for both sides got off to an ugly start. Al Michaels did note that apparently there were some complaints about the paint job on the Super Bowl LII logo, which was located right where the kickers had to kick. Perhaps it was too slippery? Whatever the case, Jake Elliott and Stephen Gostkowski both missed extra points while Gostkowski also missed a field goal, as not great snaps played a factor for both. Also, that end-around try on the kickoff return on the Patriots final drive was fucking stupid. Don’t get cute, that’s the quickest way to lose games. If you’re going to do that, it had better work otherwise you’re going to look as stupid as the Patriots did on that play.

-Alshon Jeffery dominated Eric Rowe for the first quarter or so of the game including this beautiful touchdown grab in the first quarter.

You can’t teach that. Jeffery just used his size to bully Rowe and Foles put the ball in the absolutely most perfect spot possible. The caption the NFL’s twitter page put on this pretty much sums it up. However once the Patriots made the switch that I felt like they should have done from the very beginning by putting the bigger Stephon Gilmore on him, he was shut down.

-The Eagles’ clock management was also tremendous. They killed over 6 minutes on their opening drive, telling the world what type of game this was going to be, then killing about 7 minutes on the drive for the game-winning score. It just seemed like the Eagles had an answer for everything the Patriots tried defensively.

-I thought Pink gave a tremendous performance in the National Anthem and it’s made significantly more impressive by the fact that she currently has the flu. Michael Jordan has his flu game, Pink now has hers.

-Not sure which commercial was my favorite, there were some pretty good ones. I particularly liked the Danny DeVito M&M’s commercial because any day I can see him on my screen is a good day, regardless of what’s in store for my Patriots. The Giants Dirty Dancing commercial was also cute. I also saw teasers for the Han Solo spinoff and Jurassic World 2. Both are probably going to suck but I’m going to see them at least twice in theaters anyway because both franchises have me by the balls.

That’s going to do it for my recap of what was really an excellent football game that did not go the way I had hoped it would. But such is life. The Patriots have been playing with fire with all these close Super Bowls, it was only a matter of time before they got burned. Let me know what you thought of the game in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. It’s baseball season now, bitches.

Super Bowl LII Preview

So it’s all come down to this. Super Bowl Sunday. The Eagles and Patriots took very different routes to get to this point. The Eagles were running roughshod over the league before losing their potential MVP quarterback in Carson Wentz to an ACL tear. He gets replaced by Nick Foles, who had been inconsistent up until the NFC Championship game, where he absolutely lit up the NFL’s #1 defense in the Vikings. Meanwhile the Patriots got off to a rough start and everybody wondered if this was the beginning of the end of their dynasty. Then they remembered they were the Patriots and proceeded to collect win after win en route to another AFC Championship game appearance, where they had to overcome a 10-point 4th quarter deficit to defeat the upstart Jaguars. So lets do what I always do with championship games and go position-by-position to see which team has the advantage.

Quarterback

Patriots: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

Eagles: Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld

Advantage: Patriots

912822392

Was there really ever any doubt? Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time whether he has protective bandages over his throwing hand or not. While Nick Foles played extremely well in the NFC Championship game, he’s too inconsistent for me to really give him a chance here. And as much as I love Nate Sudfeld, him being the previous Indiana quarterback, he can’t hold a candle to Brian Hoyer. Hoyer was the 49ers starting quarterback to start the season and how many guys can say they have a winning record as a starter for the reborn Browns? Just Hoyer. So this was a pretty easy choice here.

Runningback

Patriots: Dion Lewis, James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden

Eagles: Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, Kenjon Barner

Advantage: Patriots

908492606

While I do think that the Eagles runningbacks are better rushers, the Patriots runningbacks are far more dynamic and versatile. Ajayi and Blount are good running the football, but they have bricks for hands out of the backfield. They usually have Clement receiving the passes. Lewis, White, and Burkhead are all not only good rushers, but they’re good receiving out of the backfield as well, which is why they’re getting the nod over the Eagles backs.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Patriots: Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister

Eagles: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith, Mack Hollins, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton

Advantage: Patriots

904663232

A healthy Julian Edelman would’ve made this an easy choice, but alas, we take what we get. This is probably one of the most balanced receiving groups the Patriots have had since the Moss-Welker days as they have a speedster who can take the top off (Cooks), possession receivers that can move the chains (Hogan and Amendola) and a huge red zone threat (Gronkowski). The Eagles have a similar group of guys (Agholor moving the chains, Smith the speedster, Jeffery the huge red zone threat), but I think the Patriots have utilized them most effectively this season.

Offensive Line

Patriots: Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, La’Adrian Waddle, Cameron Fleming

Eagles: Hal Vatai, Stefen Wisniewski, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson

Advantage: Eagles

911791918

Finally, the Eagles are on the board here and it’s thanks in large part to probably the best right side of an offensive line I think I’ve ever seen. You can make an argument for all three of Kelce, Brooks, and Johnson being the best at their respective spots on the offensive line in the entire NFL. While the Patriots’ O-line is solid, they don’t have nearly enough talent to contend with the Eagles. And imagine if Jason Peters were healthy on the left side. Vatai is the weakest link on either of these offensive lines, but his teammates are so good they make up for his shortcomings.

Defensive Line

Patriots: Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, Adam Butler, Alan Branch, Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, Ricky Jean Francois, Eric Lee

Eagles: Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Beau Allen, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Vinny Curry

Advantage: Eagles

908511324

There’s just too much talent on this Eagles defensive front. In fact, I think Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan, the starting DT’s, are going to be the most critical pieces if the Eagles hope to beat the Patriots. Brady does pretty well when there’s pressure coming from the tackles but he’s like a deer in the headlights when there’s pressure coming up the middle. Cox and Jernigan are one of the best DT duos in the NFL and they’re going to need to get lots of pressure to stifle Brady. For the Patriots, their defensive line is a patch-up job as they lost a lot of their guys to either free agency in the offseason or to injury and it’s resulted in them being possibly the weakest unit on this team.

Linebacker

Patriots: Kyle Van Noy, James Harrison, Elandon Roberts, Marquis Flowers, David Harris

Eagles: Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Dannell Ellerbe, Kamu Grugier-Hill

Advantage: Eagles

872288680

This was probably the closest one to choose from and I debated calling this a tie. But I hate ties so I decided to go with the pure talent aspect and that’s where the Eagles won out. Both teams lost their star middle linebackers midway through the seasons (Dont’a Hightower for the Patriots, Jordan Hicks for the Eagles) and they’ve both been trying to get by with the pieces they have. While Van Noy is having a career year, the talent around him in Elandon Roberts and a 39 year-old James Harrison doesn’t quite stack up to what the Eagles have in Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham.

Secondary

Patriots: Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Johnson Bademosi, Brandon King, Jordan Richards

Eagles: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Rasul Douglas, Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, Rodney McLeod

Advantage: Patriots

908476752

It was a tale of two halves of the season for the Patriots’ secondary and no better was it personified than in the play of Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore looked lost in Matt Patricia’s system his first few weeks, as he would blow coverage after coverage while the Patriots would get lit up by quarterbacks that probably shouldn’t be doing so. He suffered a concussion midway through the year and after he returned, he’s been his old Pro Bowl-caliber self, locking down any receiver that he’s matched up on. Eric Rowe has also been a bright spot in this secondary as well and it’s interesting to note that the Patriots acquired him from the Eagles in a trade a couple years ago after a poor showing to start his career in Philly. For the Eagles, their secondary is considered their weak spot as their cornerbacks in particular have been very inconsistent this season.

Specialists

Patriots: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden

Eagles: Jake Elliott, Donnie Jones, Nelson Agholor, Rick Lovato, Kenjon Barner

Advantage: Eagles

908527670

I’d probably give this a tie to the kickers and punters, as both units for both teams have been very solid this season. The thing that puts the Eagles over the top is Kenjon Barner as their return man. While he isn’t Devin Hester by any means, Barner would definitely be an upgrade over Lewis and Amendola as returners.

Coaching

Patriots: Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia

Eagles: Doug Pederson, Frank Reich, Jim Schwartz

Advantage: Patriots

913463056

Got to go with the Patriots here for obvious reasons. While it can’t be overstated the job that Pederson and company have done with this Eagles team, it’s Bill Belichick for Christ’s sake. Plus, he’s got two head coaches serving as his coordinators in McDaniels and Patricia, who will be taking over the Colts and Lions respectively after this game ends.

Scoreboard: Patriots 5, Eagles 4

No need to even watch the game now, congratulations to the Patriots on their sixth Super Bowl victory. As a Pats fan, I pray I don’t regret that sentence. This will be my third championship prediction segment, first time around I picked the Dodgers to win the World Series (I was wrong) then I picked Alabama to win the CFP National Championship (I was right). So really there isn’t anything to suggest how this is going to go based on my picks. Let me know who you think is going to win the Super Bowl in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Divisional Round Picks: Day 1

The Wild Card Round was rough for my picks segments, as the only game I hit on was Jaguars-Bills (one of the worst playoff games I’ve ever had the privilege to miss most of due to being on a plane). But now the winners of those games face the teams that had a week to prepare for them but history has shown that it’s not always a guarantee the team with the extra week will win. So with that, let’s get to the picks.

Atlanta Falcons (10-6) vs Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

The Falcons dispatched an inexperienced Rams team in Los Angeles in their 26-13 victory. The Rams special teams unit made botch after botch, most of them revolving around Pharoh Cooper and the Falcons managed to take advantage. They take on an Eagles team that is actually quite similar statistically. The Eagles averaged exactly one more yard per game than the Falcons did offensively and defensively both teams sport top 10 defenses. The Eagles were the talk of the NFL for most of the year, getting out to a 10-1 start and finishing the year as the 1 seed in a stacked NFC at 13-3. Quarterback Carson Wentz was having an MVP-caliber year and may be the favorite had he not torn his ACL in the Eagles’ 43-35 win over the Rams in Week 14. Nick Foles has been the Eagles quarterback since then and he hasn’t been particularly great, just good enough to get the job done. The Eagles were 2-1 in his starts, the one loss being when he didn’t play a whole lot in Week 17 against the Cowboys and was sat to rest in favor of former Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who actually finished with the highest completion percentage amongst quarterbacks playing their first game at 83% (minimum 20 attempts). Foles’ line as starter was 47-87 for 439 yards with 5 TD’s and 2 INT’s in 3 starts, which isn’t awful overall, but it’s a far cry from what Carson Wentz was doing. The Eagles’ rushing attack was also quietly very good, as the stable of LeGarrette Blount, midseason acquisition Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and Wendell Smallwood combined to be the 3rd best rushing attack in the NFL. They also got a potentially career-saving year out of Nelson Agholor at receiver and a breakout season from tight end Zach Ertz. Defensively, the Eagles thrived under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who may be in line for his second head coaching gig when all is said and done. They were 4th overall in scoring and total yards and were best in the NFL at stopping the run. However I think they’re going to run into some problems against the Falcons. They’re going to have to ask Nick Foles to keep up with the reigning NFL MVP Matt Ryan and I just don’t think he’ll be able to do that. It’s not 2013 where that isn’t so ridiculous a thought (seriously, go back and look at Foles’ stats when he was the Eagles’ starter in 2013. He was fantastic). But despite how good the Eagles have been defensively overall, stopping the pass has been more of a weak point for them, as they’re only average at that (17th against the pass). Their corners will have a hard time stopping the trio of Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Taylor Gabriel. Plus, the Falcons were a top-10 defense this season and have guys that can fly around the field and cause problems for the Philly offense. I’m actually going to pick the Falcons to advance to the NFC championship game for the second consecutive year. However had Carson Wentz been healthy, I think this might be a different story.

901979006

Projected Score: Falcons 27 Eagles 20

Tennessee Titans (9-7) vs New England Patriots (13-3)

What a game between the Titans and Chiefs. I expected the Chiefs to win in a bloodbath, which it looked like they were well on their way to doing. However Travis Kelce suffering a concussion late in the first half plus a lack of touches for Kareem Hunt really hurt the Chiefs as the game went along and allowed the Titans to creep back into the game. It was 21-3 at halftime in favor of the Chiefs, then Marcus Mariota threw a touchdown pass to himself and momentum seemed to swing in the exact opposite direction. The Titans were able to pull out a 22-21 victory over the Chiefs and will take on the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. The Patriots had a year that seemed akin to their 2014 run with a blend of 2015 in it. They got off to a slow 2-2 start to the point where everyone was questioning if this was the year the Patriots would finally fall off. But then the Patriots remembered they’re the Patriots and finished the year going 11-1 and seemingly fixing every problem they had in the first four games. Except there’s one little blemish for New England that makes there some resemblance to the 2015 team: injuries. It started with Julian Edelman tearing his ACL in a preseason game against the Lions and it hasn’t let up since. The list of Patriots on IR include Edelman, Dont’a Hightower, Marcus Cannon, Derek Rivers, Malcolm Mitchell, Vincent Valentine, Shea McClellin, Cyrus Jones, Nate Ebner, and Martellus Bennett. That’s a lot of key contributors. But the Patriots have had guys step up in big ways. Kyle Van Noy was able to adequately fill the void left by Hightower’s injury. The combination of La’Adrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming have adequately filled in for Cannon. The Patriots have continued to follow their “next man up” mantra and it has helped them finish near the top in the NFL in many major categories. They’re the #2 scoring offense, #1 in total yards, #2 in passing, #10 in rushing, and #5 in scoring defense despite being #29 in yards allowed. That’s the definition of a bend-but-don’t-break defense right there. One of the breakout stars for the Patriots has been Dion Lewis, who has reinvented himself from just a scat back that was used as a change of pace to an all-around back that isn’t afraid to run through defenders from time to time. In fact, Lewis led the NFL in rushing in the second half of the season to finish with 896 yards rushing on just 180 carries (5 yards per carry). I’m predicting in this game that Lewis will again be a big factor in a Patriots victory over the Titans to advance to their 7th straight AFC Championship game against either the Steelers or the Jaguars.

at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Projected Score: Patriots 30 Titans 17

That’s going to do it for my picks for day one of the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Let me know what you think about this slate of games in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.