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.
For some people, the Super Bowl halftime show is almost as important as the actual game (I try to steer clear of these people), however it is something that happens, so I decided to rank all of them and publish my Top 20 Super Bowl Halftime Shows EVER! If there's any you don't remember or like the look of, why not give them a watch?
20. Shania Twain, Sting & No Doubt (Super Bowl XXXVII)
19. Diana Ross (Super Bowl XXX)
18. Paul McCartney (Super Bowl XXXIX)
17. Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Nelly & N'Sync (Super Bowl XXXV)
16. The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, Queen Latifah, Boyz II Men (Super Bowl XXXII)
15. The Blues Brothers, James Brown & ZZ Top (Super Bowl XXXI)
14. Stevie Wonder (Super Bowl XXXIII)
13. The Who (Super Bowl XLIV)
12. The Rolling Stones (Super Bowl XL)
11. Bruce Springsteen (Super Bowl XLIII)
10. Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, P. Diddy, Kid Rock, Nelly & Jessica Simpson (Super Bowl XXXVIII)
9. U2 (Super Bowl XXXVI)
8. Madonna (Super Bowl XLVI)
7. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Super Bowl XLII)
6. Bruno Mars & Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Super Bowl XLVIII)
5. Lady Gaga (Super Bowl LI)
4. Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz & Missy Elliott (Super Bowl XLIX)
3. Beyoncé & Destiny's Child (Super Bowl XLVII)
2. Michael Jackson (Super Bowl XXVII)
1. Prince (Super Bowl XLI)
Many say that anything can happen in the Super Bowl, but what crazy things could we see this year? Well I've made some bold predictions for the big one in Minnesota. If any of these actually happen then I think I probably deserve God status, right?
1. Jay Ajayi rushes for 200 yards
2. Tom Brady is held under 150 passing yards
3. Chris Hogan scores 4 touchdowns
4. Dion Lewis scores 2 kick return touchdowns
5. Jake Elliott hits a 62+ yard field goal
6. The Patriots run two fake punts
7. Both teams score over 45 points
8. Chris Long gets 3.5 sacks and breaks the Super Bowl sack record
9. Malcolm Butler wins the game with a last second interception
10. The Patriots have no penalties called on them
On Sunday February 4th, the Philadelphia Eagles are taking on the New England Patriots for the chance to be named the Super Bowl champions in Minneapolis. These teams have been the best two outfits in the NFL this season, but what if you could combine their respective rosters to create an ultimate Super Bowl starting lineup? Well I have done just that, enjoy!
QB - Tom Brady (NE)
If Carson Wentz was healthy then this would have undoubtedly been a tougher decision, but Brady is the GOAT and Nick Foles most definitely isn't.
RB - Jay Ajayi (PHI)
Dion Lewis pushed Ajayi close for this spot but I felt the London born half-back's power gave him the edge, despite his fumble issues.
WR - Alshon Jeffery (PHI)
The former Bears wideout has come up big for the Eagles in the important moments this year and I feel he can continue his streak of clutch catches in the most important game of all.
WR - Brandin Cooks (NE)
I was tempted to put Danny "Playoff" Amendola in this slot but I felt Cooks' ability to go vertical and stretch the field was too much to ignore.
TE - Rob Gronkowski (NE)
Gronk might just be the greatest tight end of all time and, although Zach Ertz is an elite player, there was no way that this spot wasn't going to him.
Flex - Zach Ertz (PHI)
There were quite a few players I could have given the flex title to (Amendola, Lewis and Agholor to name a few) but Ertz was one of the most consistent tight ends in the NFL this season and deserves a starting role.
LT - Nate Solder (NE)
Vaitai has been solid for the Eagles since coming in to replace Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters but Solder edges this one, just.
LG - Joe Thuney (NE)
A tough decision again but I think Thuney's athleticism gives him the upper hand over Wisniewski.
C - Jason Kelce (PHI)
The older Kelce brother has been one of the best centre's in the league this year and was even given an award by Pro Football Focus for his performance in 2017, he was an obvious choice for this spot.
RG - Brandon Brooks (PHI)
The Pro Bowl guard had no competition here.
RT - Lane Johnson (PHI)
Probably the best right tackle in the NFL, simple as that.
DE - Brandon Graham (PHI)
Graham had a career high 9.5 sacks this year and is the best edge rusher on either team.
DE - Trey Flowers (NE)
Almost all of the Patriots pass rush comes from this man and he'll be hoping to make Foles uncomfortable in the Super Bowl.
DT - Fletcher Cox (PHI)
After Aaron Donald, I'd say Cox is the next best interior D-linemen in the league and will be key to bringing the inside pressure on Brady on Sunday night.
DT - Timmy Jernigan (PHI)
This was close for me as Malcolm Brown has also had a very good year for the Pats, but the former Ravens player is a great compliment to Fletcher Cox.
LB - Nigel Bradham (PHI)
A solid linebacker and a good leader, he gets a spot as much due to lack of competition as he does on performance.
LB - Kyle Van Noy (NE)
Van Noy has stepped up in Hightower's absence and had an reasonably impressive season for New England.
LB - Mychal Kendricks (PHI)
After beating his brother's Vikings team in the NFC Championship, this playmaker will look to cause even more havoc in the big game.
CB - Stephon Gilmore (NE)
Despite a slow start to his Patriots career, Gilmore proved he was worth the money over the second half of the year and has also been playing well in the playoffs so far.
CB - Jalen Mills (PHI)
Mills has taken a huge leap forward over the past 12 months and has had a few key interceptions this season, as well as a lot of important tackles.
S - Malcolm Jenkins (PHI)
The veteran safety is top class both on and off the field.
S - Devin McCourty (NE)
Arguably the Patriots' best defensive player.
KR - Dion Lewis (NE)
This guy just makes plays whenever the ball is in his hand.
PR - Danny Amendola (NE)
Did you really think I was going to leave him out?
K - Jake Elliott (PHI)
As good as Gostkowski is, the Eagles rookie has made some huge kicks this season (remember that 61 yard winner against the Giants?).
P - Donnie Jones (PHI)
Jones gets the nod over Allen.
ST - Matthew Slater (NE)
The best special teamer in the NFL, nuff said.
Mowlem is a sports writer from Reading, United Kingdom. All articles are written by Reece Mowlem (unless stated otherwise).