Super Bowl LII Preview

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Compiled by: Karuga Koinange, Jordan Cope and Michael Mills

Photo courtesy of eaganmn.com

Next Sunday, an NFL champion will be crowned in Minneapolis. Will Tom Brady and the New England Patriots add another ring to their collection, or will Nick Foles write the last chapter of a storybook season for the Philadelphia Eagles? Fans will just have to wait and see. Until then, read what Senior Editor Jordan Cope, Sports Editor Karuga Koinange and Assistant Sports Editor Michael Mills have to say about the big game. Also, find out predictions from some Towson University administrators.

Jordan Cope:

Before Carson Wentz went out with a torn ACL in week 14, picking the Eagles to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl wouldn’t have been a bad prediction. But without Wentz, certainly nobody would have thought the Eagles would win the conference, including myself.   

Here we are, though. Just nine days away from kickoff — and as cliche as it is to say — this year’s Super Bowl will be a matchup between David and Goliath, with Philadelphia clashing against the almighty New England Patriots for the Lombardi Trophy.

The Patriots are five point favorites going into Sunday’s game, and rightfully so. They have the best coach and quarterback in NFL history and will be facing an Eagles team led by Nick Foles — who everyone is waiting for to return to his old, mediocre self.   

After a breakout 2013 season with the Eagles, Foles struggled the following year and was then traded to the Rams where he threw seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2015. From the Rams, Foles joined the Chiefs where he served as Alex Smith’s backup.    

Now, Foles is back in The City of Brotherly Love where he is trying to win the team’s first Super Bowl in franchise history.

In five starts this season, Foles has looked like the 2013 version of himself. He has completed 96 of 152 passes for 1,037 yards and four touchdowns. Add that to the one-two punch of running backs Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount, and the Eagle’s offense can hold their own.

More impressive than the performance of Foles has been Philly’s defense. In the regular season, the team ranked fourth in total defense and only allowed 18.4 points per game.

The team’s defensive unit continues to impress in the postseason, too. They held the former NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons to just 10 points, and the surging Minnesota Vikings to seven to lock up the conference.  

Unfortunately for the Eagles, numbers are meaningless. The team who has the most playmakers, and the team who plays mistake-free football is going to hoist the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday.  

As much as I would love to see the New England reign of Bill Belichick, Brady, Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia end in defeat, it’s not going to happen. New England is too well-coached, and has a weapon that Philadelphia does not: That weapon is the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady — as much as it pains me to say that.   

So Philly fans, please do me one favor after your team loses to New England: Don’t blame the loss on not having Carson Wentz. Instead, admit that the better football team won.

In a Super Bowl that will lose a lot of viewers quickly, the Patriots triumph over the Eagles and win 34-7.

Michael Mills:

In a league designed to prevent dynasties, the Patriots overcame the salary cap, free agency and the NFL Draft to dominate the NFL. Most fans have built up an unrelenting disdain for the franchise that resides in Foxborough, Massachusetts. However, the hate towards the Patriots doesn’t stem from their winning ways; the origin of hate comes from how they win – and I’m not talking about cheating. Every year the New England Patriots find a way to win with an average roster in terms of talent and athleticism – tight end Rob Gronkowski is the one exception to this. Other than Gronkowski, New England’s primary playmakers are wide receiver and former lacrosse player Chris Hogan, and wide receiver and former college quarterback Julian Edelman. The fact that the Patriots can just plug in players and be great is beyond frustrating for many fans.

The New England Patriots success hasn’t happened by chance or luck. It’s happened because of Brady and Bill Belichick. Patriots owner Robert Kraft caught lightning in a bottle with Brady and Belichick. In the span of three months, Robert Kraft hired the greatest coach of all time and drafted the greatest quarterback of all time. The rest is history. Belichick has the perfect system in place, and he finds players that fit his vision. Like most great players do, Tom Brady makes the players around him better. Brady takes an average roster and elevates its talent to a Super Bowl level. On Feb. 4, Brady and Belichick will play for their sixth championship title. Only the Philadelphia Eagles stand in their way. The Eagles will once again try and play the role of spoiler – a role they’ll gladly embrace.

The Philadelphia Eagles are proof of how quickly things can change in the NFL – and I’m not talking about their record from last season to this season. Almost two months ago the Eagles boasted the best record in the NFL with quarterback Carson Wentz – the frontrunner for MVP – under center. Then the walls came crashing down. A knee injury knocked Wentz out for the year. This is after the Eagles had already lost future hall of famer Jason Peters at left tackle, all-pro running back Darren Sproles and starting linebacker Jordan Hicks for the season. In an instance, the Philadelphia Eagles went from being the favorites in the NFC, to the first number one seed in NFL history to be the underdog in every playoff game.

Not only have the Eagles shown resilience in overcoming adversity, they’ve proven that they have the deepest roster and best coaching staff in the NFL. Watching the Eagles is a thing of beauty when head coach Doug Pederson is masterfully orchestrating his game plan.

With Wentz down, Pederson and the Eagles have relied on quarterback Nick Foles. Philadelphia’s last two regular season games were ugly and casted a shadow of doubt around Foles. However, the Eagles did not waver, and they never doubted Foles. In 2013, Foles had a pro bowl year running former head coach Chip Kelly’s offense. Foles threw 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions as he led the Eagles to a division title. So when Wentz went down against the Los Angeles Rams, what does Pederson do? He does what works. Pederson implemented the offense that led to Foles’ success.

With two weeks of preparation leading up to the Super Bowl, there’s no doubt Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is gearing up to shutdown Foles’ run-pass option. Super Bowl 52 will be a nail-biting chess match between two great football minds in Belichick and Pederson. If any coaching staff can go toe-to-toe with Belichick and the Patriots, it’s Pederson and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have a clear advantage on the defensive side of the ball. Although the Patriots finished the season as a top five scoring defense, teams have proven they can move the ball against them. Belichick knows Foles is going to rely heavily on an RPO based offense. Pederson knows to beat the Patriots, he’s going to have to hit Brady and send pressure up the middle.

When all is said and done, it comes down to execution. What awaits next is the longest two weeks of any football fan’s life. A champion will be crowned on February 4th at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Karuga Koinange:

The NFL is considered to be a league with a vast amount of parity. It is extremely rare that you see the same team appear in the Super Bowl back-to-back years, but the New England Patriots aren’t just any team. The Patriots quite possibly have the greatest coach and quarterback duo in NFL history with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at the helm of the franchise.

In another seemingly inevitable playoff run, New England finds itself in the biggest game of the year as Brady and Belichick look to win yet another championship together. The Patriots ran through the AFC, crushing the inexperienced Tennessee Titans and pulling off a comeback victory against a talented Jacksonville Jaguars squad.

Despite rumblings of tension between Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft toward the end of the season, New England has put together an impressive playoff run as Brady and Belichick look determined to cement their legacies.

On the other hand, the Philadelphia Eagles make their first Super Bowl appearance in over a decade. Under the leadership of head coach Doug Pederson, the Eagles have looked like the best team in the NFC all season.

Philadelphia boasts a supremely talented roster with playmakers on both sides of the ball. Following the season-ending injury to quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz, quarterback Nick Foles has taken the reigns under center. Foles had a Pro Bowl season for the Eagles in 2013 before bouncing around the league. That year, he tossed 27 touchdowns, including seven in one game. At 6-feet-6-inches tall and 243 pounds, Foles has shown good arm strength and decent mobility in an impressive run to the Super Bowl.

Foles has had nice targets to throw to in wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith along with tight end Zach Ertz. On the other side of the ball, Philadelphia has a scary good front seven and a solid secondary. Defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan along with pass rushers Brandon Graham and Chris Long can wreak havoc in the trenches while veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins patrols the secondary.

The Eagles kicked off the playoffs with a less than convincing home victory over the Atlanta Falcons. In that game, a goal line stand by Philly’s stingy defense saved the day. In the NFC Championship against the Minnesota Vikings, Foles shredded apart arguably the best defense in the NFL. He threw for over 350 yards and three touchdowns on the night, leading his team to the biggest stage in sports.

Though both teams have looked good in the postseason, I find it extremely difficult to pick against Brady. I have the New England Patriots defeating the Eagles 27-20. At the end of the day, I find it hard to believe that Foles will be able to handle the big stage, unlike Brady who plays in a Super Bowl essentially every other year.

I believe Pederson will come up with a nice game plan, but Belichick will keep his players disciplined as New England shuts down the balanced offense of Philadelphia. I think Brady will counter the aggressive defense of the Eagles with quick throws and keep them on their heels with the occasional play action.

Brady and Belichick prove once again that though there relationship isn’t perfect, they can still work together in order to achieve the ultimate goal.

Kim Schatzel, Towson University President

Eagles. I’m like the rest of the country; I don’t want the Patriots to win.

Final score: I will say 10-3. Just to be different.

Steve Jones, Associate Vice President of Human Resources:

While I’ll leave the most overt Brady/Pats hating to others, I’m gonna have to go with the Eagles on this one. Predicted score is 27-24.
The Pats are a good team. That’s been proven. But. The Eagles are playing with a chip on their shoulder and a purpose in their focus. The hunger for that first ring is quite a bit different than reaching for your 5th or 6th or whatever number they’re on.
Always the bridesmaid and stopping Brady as their motivation, the “Iggles” relish the underdog role and wear it oh so well. Playing indoors will help. But. There’s always the wild card of NFL officiating. And the Pats truly understand how much help that can be. Whoops. Said I wasn’t gonna go there.
Fly Eagles Fly.
Bob Campbell, Acting Vice President of Administration and Finance, and CFO:

The teams are evenly matched, same 13-3 regular season record, both offenses scored an average of 28.6 points per game in the regular season, both defenses allowed about 18.5 points per game.  Guess you can tell I am a numbers person.  Lots of talent on both teams.  But for me this one comes down to a coin flip really.  So I did that and the coin landed “eagle side up”.  Final score: Eagles 35, Patriots 34.

Ray Feldmann, Senior Director of Communications:

I’ll be cheering for the Eagles in the Super Bowl for a few reasons. My late father taught me to always cheer for the underdog, and I think the Eagles certainly fall into that category in this game. And although he won’t be playing in this Super Bowl, I’m a big fan of Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz because he seems like a good guy and he comes from the same FCS football division that Towson plays in.  Final score: Eagles 27, Patriots 24 in OT.

Brian DeFilippis, Vice President for University Advancement:

I think that the Patriots will win this game 24-16.  Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are in their 8th Super Bowl together.  Their experience, skill, and talent will be the difference.  Those two provide a good edge to the Pats over their counterparts for the Eagles.

 Traevena Byrd, Vice President for Legal Affairs and Human Resources:

I am die hard Broncos fan, which explains why I am rooting for whatever team is playing against the Patriots! My score projection is one million to three. Sigh…

This story has been updated with TU President Kim Schatzel’s responses.

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