It pains me to admit this given that I grew up a fan of (and played for) the J-E-T-S, but I’m as amazed as everyone else by this New England Patriots dynasty. Over the course of my nine-year career I was incredibly lucky to have played in 9 playoff games. Many NFL players don’t get to play in any.
During the Brady/Belichick era the Pats have played in 8 Super Bowls (counting this Sunday). So they’ve played in almost as many Super Bowls as I’ve played in total playoff games.
I’ve recently spoken with a couple of friends who are beat writers covering this game and they're amazed at how Super Bowl week in the New England locker room is almost like any other week during the regular season. They are so used to being in this position that it has become business as usual.
That being said, there’s going to be an Eagles team on the opposing sideline next Sunday that isn’t going to lie down and just give them the game because they are the mighty Patriots. Here are a two things that worry me about Philly.
A Tougher Road Traveled
One of the most important components of a team’s success in the playoffs (and especially in the Super Bowl) is their experience playing in these big games. Checkmate New England.
BUT, it is also important to look at the opponents each team needed to play to get to the last game. The AFC was really weak this year and that is evident considering the Pats had to play the Titans and the Jags in the playoffs.
The NFC was much better and the Eagles (who are the #1 seed and yet were considered underdogs in all of their playoff games) need to beat a really tough Atlanta team, as well as an even tougher Vikings team (who they destroyed).
Because of this Philly’s confidence couldn’t be any higher going into this game and I would be confident as well. They’ve beaten great football teams to get to this point. NE can’t really say the same thing. Philly isn’t going to be scared.
Doug was our Offensive Coordinator in Kansas City when I was playing and he is one of the best guys I’ve been around. He's a smart, tough coach who loves his players. On Sundays, no matter what situation presented itself, Doug was always cool, calm, and collected and that kept our offense focused.
Not only will Philly be mentally ready because of Doug’s leadership, I know the guys in his locker room want nothing more than to win this game for him as the do for each other.
O & D Lines
Whether it was Eric Mangini, Rex Ryan, or Andy Reid, whenever we were getting ready to play in a big game they would always remind us that it starts and ends with the play of the offensive and defensive lines. Philly has some bad boys up front on both sides of the ball. I’ve had the misfortune of playing against Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce, Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks, and Pro Bowl tackle Lane Johnson. They’re a nasty combo of power and speed that can cause fits for any defensive line.
On the other side of the ball they have Fletcher Cox. Now Philly has a lot of other really good defensive lineman as well. But they have Fletcher Cox. When I was playing I would try to study other guys at my position to copy what they did. But there are some guys that are so good I couldn’t hope to do what they did. Fletcher Cox is one of those guys. An unmovable, athletic, mauler who is unstoppable at the point of attack. Philly has to be feeling good about the big guy match up going into Sunday.
Having said all of this, I am still cautiously optimistic that I can pick the outcome of Super Bowl LII.
Prediction: NE 33 Philly 28.