5 Key Super Bowl LII Matchups
The NFL is a game of matchups and there are plenty of exciting ones to look forward to in Super Bowl LII. I've picked out 5 matchups that I think we'll be interesting to keep track of on Sunday night. Because of Thursday's article about which Eagle should cover Gronk I've left that matchup out of this article.
Fletcher Cox vs. Patriots interior linemen
After Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox is probably the best defensive tackle in the league and his success against the Pats interior offensive line will be a huge factor in this game. From a PFF grade standpoint, Cox had a 91.5 rating this year, whereas none of the Patriots offensive line graded over 81.3. Also, Brady has notoriously done worse against inside pressure in comparison to edge rush, so if Cox can toss around the likes of Joe Thuney, David Andrews and Shaquille Mason like he has done to so many of his opposition this year, then the Eagles have a real chance of causing the upset.
Danny Amendola vs. Patrick Robinson
Danny "Playoff" Amendola had a huge game in the AFC Championship against the Jaguars but I think he'll have a tougher time against Patrick Robinson this week. Robinson had a PFF grade of 90.6 when covering in the slot this year, ranking him as one of the best in the league in that roll. As good as Amendola is, there are better matchups for the Patriots in the passing game so I'm not expecting the slot receiver to see as many targets as usual.
Alshon Jeffery vs. Stephon Gilmore
The Eagles No.1 receiver has been outstanding in the postseason so far, boasting a 158.3 passer rating for Nick Foles when he's been targeted. On the flip side, Stephon Gilmore has looked better each and every game he has played in his first year New England and is likely to shadow Jeffery throughout the game. This is going to be a close matchup and could have a huge impact on how effective the Eagles can be on offence.
Trey Flowers vs. Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Vaitai has done much better than expected since coming in to replace the injured Jason Peters, however he still can be taken advantage of. Flowers is a very effective pass rusher and will look to dominate the Eagles' left tackle and put some blindside pressure on Nick Foles.
Zach Ertz vs. Patrick Chung
Despite not having a touchdown in the playoffs, Ertz has made big plays at big times for the Eagles and has continued to be a reliable target for Foles. Patrick Chung is reasonably good in coverage but I think he could struggle against a player that has been dominant all season long. This could be the matchup that the Eagles can exploit on offence and get them across the line to win their first Super Bowl.
When facing the Patriots, the biggest question for the opposing defence is always about who they will choose to attempt to cover the almost unstoppable Rob Gronkowski. This conundrum is something the Eagles will have to face in the Super Bowl on Sunday, so I've looked at the options and given my verdict on who should be tasked with taking on Gronk.
Mychal Kendricks - Linebacker
Kendricks is an incredibly athletic outside linebacker with great speed, his 4.47 second 40-yard dash much quicker than Gronkowski's more pedestrian 4.68 second time, and he has been reasonably good in coverage this season. However, the issue here is the height difference, with Gronkowski a full 6 inches taller than his counterpart. Kendricks could certainly keep up with Gronk on vertical routes but I feel he could struggle covering the Patriots tight end on cut routes or double moves, not to mention he'd have almost no chance in a contested catch situation.
Nigel Bradham - Linebacker
Bradham has been superb in coverage this year boasting a PFF coverage grade of 86.9, sixth amongst all linebackers. On top of this, Bradham ranked first in yards allowed per coverage snap and coverage snaps per reception. Like Kendricks, Bradham is shorter than Gronk but the difference in this case is 4 inches (every little helps), however this could still be an issue for the 6 year veteran. Bradham has been superb in coverage this year, but Gronkowksi is like nothing he would have come up against this season and he could really struggle on the longer developing and vertical routes.
Malcolm Jenkins - Safety
On pure coverage ability, Jenkins is the best option due to his cornerback experience so would likely be able to stay with Gronk on most of his routes. The problem with Jenkins however, is the size difference between the two players in both the height and weight departments. Even if the Eagles safety was in perfect coverage, Gronkowski could use his body to bully Jenkins and make the necessary catches.
Double Coverage (or Nigel Bradham)
I personally don't believe any of the above players can effectively cover Gronk alone, therefore the Eagles will have to either put two defenders on the tight end or get Jim Schwartz to cook up some clever zone coverages to keep him quiet. However, if the Eagles do have to leave a single man on Gronkowksi then I feel Nigel Bradham would have the best chance to limit Brady's favourite target. The only thing that is certain is that it's going to be a very interesting matchup to watch.
Mowlem is a sports writer from Reading, United Kingdom. All articles are written by Reece Mowlem (unless stated otherwise).