NFL Notes: Week 3

What looked like a “meh” week of football ended up being the opposite. Games we thought were locks were far from it, and we finally got to see Baker Mayfield. On top of that, there were SO MANY bad decisions made. The roughing the passer penalty still sucks.

Here’s a look at a weird week of storylines.

Personal Foul, Touching the Passer

This has become a recurring theme, but there’s still something new to add on to it every week. Clay Matthews was flagged again. That isn’t new. What is new is the increased injury risk to pass rushers making attempts to decrease injury risk to quarterbacks. That was a weird sentence.

Miami Dolphins defensive lineman William Hayes suffered a torn ACL while trying to avoid putting his body weight on Derek Carr. Hopefully the league sees this and realizes the new rules benefit nobody, and pose risks much greater than a 15 yard penalty.

The Bills beat the Vikings. Yes, really.

It wasn’t some lucky bounce last-second win either. Buffalo dominated the Vikings all day en route to a 27-6 victory. Minnesota didn’t score until late in the fourth quarter.  It was a pretty embarrassing performance.

Meanwhile, Josh Allen, who had been nothing short of abysmal threw for nearly 200 yards with a touchdown an no picks. He tacked on another two touchdowns on the ground, AND he hurdled a guy.

The Patriots lost to the Lions. Yes, really.

The newly acquired Josh Gordon was inactive on Sunday night.

Quick side note — Why was this the Sunday night game? I know it was Matt Patricia vs. Bill Belichick, but who thought this was the best game of Week 3?

Anyway, the Patriots might have wanted Gordon to suit up. Instead, they relied their run game, which was not great.

Perhaps more concerning was the predictability of the Patriot offense. Rookie running back Sony Michel played a season-high 23 offensive snaps, just under half of New England’s total. He touched the ball on 65 percent of those snaps, totaling 49 yards from scrimmage. The Lions might be bad, but the Patriots made it easy for them. This seems like poor game planning, but the Patriots don’t do that. Until now, I guess.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but it is not time to panic. Tom Brady is still their quarterback.

Houston, you have a problem

If you remember, I picked Bill O’brien to win Coach of the Year. I didn’t expect him to really do any of the work, though. I just though the Texans would be good and he’d win. Think of Jason Garrett in 2016. He didn’t do anything, but the turnaround earned him the award.

Bill O’brien might be doing too much. A team with as much talent as the Texans should not start 0-3. Blaine Gabbert and Eli Manning, handed them two of those losses, with the latter being a home game. Most of their problems can be traced to O’brien. It’s been a season of poor planning for crappy offenses and not letting Deshaun Watson play to his potential.

Raiders can’t hang

Soon after Jon Gruden said a good pass-rusher was hard to find (yikes), the Raiders blew their third second half lead in as many games. They have yet to score points in the fourth quarter. They came close on Sunday, with a chance to take a lead late in the game. Alas, they did not and Carr threw an interception in the red zone. A few plays later, Albert Wilson iced the game with a long touchdown reception.

You’re in, rookie

Going into Week 3, the only quarterbacks drafted in the first round not to see regular season action were Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen. Both of them played this week, but the situations were very different.

Mayfield came in mid-way through the second quarter on Thursday night when Tyrod Taylor left the game, and led the Browns to a comeback win over the Jets. It was pretty fun to watch.

The Cardinals were down two with four minutes left, and THAT’S when they decided to put Rosen in the game. I’m all for rookies gaining experience, but making his debut on a potential game winning drive seems like a poor choice. Rosen proceeded to throw an interception, and the Cardinals lost. It wasn’t that fun to watch.

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NFL Preview: AFC East

 

1. New England Patriots                                  Projected Record: 14-2

This New England dynasty should conceivably come to an end sometime soon, Tom Brady is 41 and the offense has an embarrassing lack of weapons, but 2018 doesn’t seem to be the year. Due in large part to a pathetic division and surprisingly easy schedule, the Patriots will once again cruise to an AFC East title and a first round playoff bye. The wide receiver corps is thin, but there’s enough collective talent between Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson and twelve games of Julian Edelman to be elevated to competent by the Brady/Belichick regime. The running game also poses a huge question for the Patriots, with Rex Burkhead slotted to be New England’s starting running back. James White and rookie Sony Michel make up the rest of the Patriots running back committee, but both easily usurp the starting job from Burkhead. On the defensive side of the ball, Trey Flowers is a commanding presence off the edge and Devin McCourty remains one of the leagues top safeties. The return of middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower should help shore up an overall porous run defense. The Patriots certainly have their flaws, but nothing drastic enough to prevent them from claiming their sixth straight AFC East crown.

2. New York Jets                                                Projected Record: 5-11

For the first time in a while, there seems to be a real sense of optimism surrounding the New York Jets. The defense has collected a handful of incredibly talented young cornerstones, and Sam Darnold looks to be the quarterback of the future. This season is certainly a rebuilding year, but both the offense and defense should show flashes of what they may one day become. A pair of former top ten picks lead this defense, one from the defensive line and the other from the secondary. Leonard Williams has excelled from his first snap in Green and White, and should join the ranks of elite interior defensive lineman within the next few seasons. Jamal Adams looks primed to build off an up and down rookie season, and has the talent and drive to blossom into one of the league’s premier young talents at the safety position. On offense, all eyes will be on Darnold. His progression will almost singlehandedly determine the Jets faith, and a strong season from the rookie could propel New York to a winning record and possibly even a playoff berth.

3. Miami Dolphins                                            Projected Record: 4-12

It’s usually an ill-advised idea to kick both your best offensive and defensive players to the curb, but that’s exactly what the Miami Dolphins did this offseason. With the departures of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and wide receiver Jarvis Landry, the Dolphins are seriously lacking for talent on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill returns under center, but the rest of the offense is replacement-level talent. Kenyan Drake is an electric force out of the backfield, but the signing of Frank Gore indicates Drake may not be the workhouse one might expect. Their wide receiving corps is largely uninspiring, with the signing of Danny Amendola quickly proving to be one of the more puzzling of the offseason. On the defensive side of the ball, the secondary is a bright spot on a mostly barren unit. Cornerback Xavien Howard is a rising star, and the safety duo of Reshead Jones and rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick should be a top ten pairing. Besides that though, impactful players on the defense are few and far between. Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake are each competent pass rushers in their own right, but there are serious questions about their production in their age 28 and 36 seasons respectively.  Overall, this roster projects to be one of the worst in the league as coach Adam Gase begins the total rebuild.

4. Buffalo Bills                                                   Projected Record: 3-13

After a surprise playoff berth last season, the Buffalo Bills traded away their starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor and replaced him with rookie Josh Allen. Allen, who has yet to finish a season at any level with a completion percentage above 60%, inherits one of the league’s worst offensive lines, a decrepit receiving corps, and an aging running back who  finds himself in legal trouble. While Nathan Peterman will get the start week one, it shouldn’t be long before Allen is under center. Add in a brutal slate of defenses thanks to a second place finish last season, and this Bills offense has a chance to be historically bad. Defensively, the Bills have much more talent than typically found on 3-13 teams. Micah Hyde and Tre’Davious White are two Pro Bowl caliber players manning the safety and cornerback spots respectively, while Jerry Hughes, ageless wonder Kyle Williams and free agent acquisition Star Lotulelei provide stability up front. Tremaine Edmunds, the second of the team’s two first round draft picks, is an absolute stud and will begin the season as Buffalo’s starting middle linebacker. This defense should keep them in games, but there’s only so much they’ll be able to do. Strap in Bills fans, this season should be a rough one.

AFC NORTH

1. Pittsburgh Steelers                                      Projected Record: 11-5

The Pittsburgh Steelers remain the class of the AFC North as they look for their third division title in four years. Lead by All-Pros Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, this offense should once again be a dynamic force. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has shown serious signs of decline, but has been buoyed by the brilliance of the skill position players around him. His decision making and accuracy are sorely lacking, and the years of Roethlisberger as an elite QB may be over. Regardless, the Steelers still have one of the league’s best infrastructures, and their offense should survive as they pursue another championship. In the same vein, the absence of Le’Veon Bell may not be as crippling as one might think. It is unclear at the current juncture how long Bell plans on sitting out, but in his place rookie James Conner can fill in admirably. He will obviously not match Bell’s production, but if he were to contribute 80% of what Bell does the Steelers could more or less run the same offense they would if Bell were there. On the defensive side of the ball, Pittsburgh has serious question marks all over the field. The defensive line remains anchored by Cameron Heyward, but the linebackers corp has a serious hole to fill with the injury to middle linebacker Ryan Shazier. The Steelers are relying on steady production from cornerback Joe Haden, who is slotted to be Pittsburgh’s number one corner to start the season. Haden was solid in his first season with the black and yellow, but will need to return to his once dominant form for this Steeler defense to reach its full potential. This is far from Mike Tomlin’s most talented team in his tenure with the Steelers, but it should be enough to carry Pittsburgh to another division title and a shot at another Lombardi trophy.

2. Baltimore Ravens                                      Projected Record: 8-8

The Baltimore Ravens remain one of the league’s most frustrating franchises as they posses a dominant defense capable of swinging games but also, Joe Flacco. This team has the talent to make a playoff run in the weak AFC, but has a cap on their overall ability thanks to the talents, or lack thereof, of their strong armed quarterback. To further compound the problem, the Ravens front office has failed to surround Flacco with any sort of weapons. John Brown is their most talented receiver, which in itself speaks volumes, and Alex Collins is a league average back at best. Baltimore’s best chance at success this season is keeping the score low and relying on the power of their defense. Baltimore’s defense is one of the most well-rounded in the league, with difference makers littered all across the unit. Jimmy Smith is one of the league’s most underrated talent at the cornerback position in the league, while Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson form a fearsome safety pairing. CJ Mosely remains one of the top linebackers in the league as he captains this Ravens defense, while Michael Pierce wreaks havoc in the middle of the defensive line. This Baltimore team has loads of talent, it just all happens to reside on the defensive side of the ball. If their offense can get out of their own way, look for the Ravens to be in the wild card hunt come playoff time.

3. Cleveland Browns                               Projected Record: 5-11

For most teams, a five win season and a third place finish in the division would be a massive disappointment. But, for a Cleveland Browns organization that has won one game over the last two seasons, those results would practically trigger a parade down the streets of Cleveland. A sense of optimism has swept Cleveland as they have brought in an exciting collection of talent. Tyrod Taylor, the Browns new starting quarterback, spent last season dragging a hapless Buffalo Bills squad to the playoffs only to be kicked to the curb. Jarvis Landry is one of the league’s preeminent pass catchers, and was acquired for the bargain price of a fourth round pick. Finally, the team’s most exciting offseason acquisition was number one overall pick Baker Mayfield. Their quarterback of the future impressed in limited snaps this preseason, and will likely see the field at some point this season. Cleveland has placed a higher priority on surrounding whoever’s under center with plenty of weapons, and now boast an enticing roster including Landry, tight end David Njoku, and running back Carlos Hyde to name a few. Defensively, there is still work to be done but the pieces are slowly coming together. Pass rusher Myles Garrett looked absolutely dominant in his shortened rookie season, and he should pick up right where he left off in his second year. EJ Gaines and Damarious Randall are two intriguing defensive backs who should take big steps forward in 2018, while linebackers Christian Kirksey and Jamie Collins Sr. need to prove they can stick in this league. While there are still a multitude of questions surrounding the Browns, this year should be a big step in their rebuilding process.

4. Cincinnati Bengals                                 Projected Record: 4-12

The most awe-inspiring fact about the NFL in 2018 is that Marvin Lewis is still the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. After years and years of heartbreak and playoff buffoonery, you would’ve thought it was time for the Bengals to find a new head coach. But no, Cincinnati instead chose to once again place their faith in the man with the 0-7 career postseason record. Lewis will look to command a team lacking in talent on both sides of the ball. The wide receiving corps of AJ Green, John Ross and Tyler Boyd is teeming with talent, but the Bengals lack the quarterback to fully unlock all of their skills. Running back Joe Mixon also impressed in his rookie season, but faces a difficult road ahead behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines. The additions of left tackle Cordy Glenn and rookie center Billy Price should provide some legitimacy, but they won’t be enough to transform the troublesome unit. The defense has typically been strong under Lewis, but this year may prove to be the exception. Besides defensive tackle Geno Atkins, the Bengals defense lacks proven difference makers and instead includes a bevy of unproven commodities. Jessie Bates III is slotted to be the teams starting free safety as a rookie, while Preston Brown is poised for another strong year after departing from Buffalo. All in all this team has more questions than answers, and should be primed for a disappointing season.

 

Best and Worst-Case Scenarios: New England Patriots

The Patriots came within eight points of becoming the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since… the Patriots in 2004 and 2005. Following the loss, their offseason suffered a little more turbulence than usual. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s relationship was called into question over reports that indicated that Brady was feeling underappreciated, top receiver Julian Edelman got hit with a four-game suspension for PEDs, they lost their longtime starting left tackle Nate Solder to the Giants and their leading rusher Dion Lewis and Super Bowl XLIX (2015) hero Malcolm Butler left for Tennessee. But, this is a team that hasn’t suffered a losing record since 2000, with the greatest quarterback-head coach combo in history. Unless one of the other three teams has a breakout year, they will not be threatened at the top.

Best case:

The drama between coach and quarterback fizzles out once the games begin. In his age 41 season, Brady defends his 2017 MVP campaign with another brilliant one. He brings the best out of veterans Jordan Matthews and Kenny Britt while Edelman serves his suspension. Edelman comes back in week five, healthy and motivated to step into that top receiver role once again. Rob Gronkowski stays healthy this year and records double digit touchdowns for the first time since 2015.

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The first-round selection of Georgia’s Sony Michel pays off as New England finds their running back of the future. He averaged 7.9 yards per-carry in 2017, and broke out for 181 yards and three scores on just 11 rushes during the Rose Bowl Game. The depth at halfback with newly acquired Jeremy Hill from Cincinnati (led NFL in rushing touchdowns in 2015), James White and Rex Burkhead help the Pats break into the top-seven in the league rushing yards. The last time they did that was in 2016, their Super Bowl winning season. Having a solid running game also takes pressure off of Brady.

Defensively, Dont’a Hightower returns strong after missing 14 games (including playoffs) last season due to pec and shoulder injuries. He sets career highs in tackles (65) and sacks (six) and competes for comeback player of the year. After a rough year, Stephon Gilmore settles in and shows why he was a pro-bowler in 2016 for Buffalo. The Patriots gave up just the fifth-most points last year, and they stay in the top-five once again.

On the schedule, the Patriots sweep through the division for the first time since 2012 and win 13 or more games. They haven’t gone worse than 12-4 since 2009. They get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and make it back to the Super Bowl for the third straight year, where they win their sixth title in the Brady-Belichick era.

Worst case:

Their worst-case scenario is that Brady’s play dips as Peyton Manning’s did at a similar age. But, Manning showed decline prior to his fall. He had his lowest recorded QBR since the stat began to be tracked in 2006 the year prior to his last. Brady continued his dominance in 2017, so his fall seems much less likely to occur than Manning’s was.

Around him, Edelman returns from his suspension rusty after missing over a year. He doesn’t look like the same player who caught 98 passes for 1106 yards in 2016. For the third time in six seasons, Gronkowski misses half of the year (or more) with an injury. Dion Lewis’ dynamic play as a halfback, receiver and returner are sorely missed. Behind the youngest offensive line in the division, none of New England’s current running backs break out. Michel needs time to develop his cuts and vision. Hill battles injuries for the second straight year, and there really isn’t a true identity for the Patriots rush attack, just various players being plugged in based on who plays well recently.

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With Malcolm Butler gone, the secondary struggles as they did in the Super Bowl when Coach Belichick controversially benched his top corner. They gave up 373 yards and three touchdowns to Philadelphia backup quarterback Nick Foles. The Pats now have the oldest starting defensive backs in the AFC East, with both of their safeties, Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty, set to turn 31 before the season starts. With an older, slower secondary, New England struggles against the pass even more than in 2017 when they gave up the third-most yards through the air.

With their woes, the Patriots only win 10 games, and fail to earn a first-round bye for the first time since 2009.

Final prediction: 12-4

 

Landing spots for Dez Bryant

The Dallas Cowboys released wide receiver Dez Bryant on April 13, and he remains unsigned for variety of reasons, some known and some not. It’s highly unlikely that Bryant is jobless come kickoff (91 days), but who will employ him?

Let’s take a look.

Green Bay Packers

Jordy Nelson left for Oakland in free agency, leaving a huge hole in the Packers’ receiving corps. However, Green Bay drafted three wideouts, but a veteran presence might be good to have.

Bryant lacks the leadership skills the Packers are looking for, plus Randall Cobb is still around. They also brought in pass-catching tight end Jimmy Graham. Bryant’s role in Green Bay could be minimal, which we all know he would dislike.

Los Angeles Rams

This was my prediction in April. I still like it.

The Rams have definitely been offseason winners, especially on defense with the additions of Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib.

They did however, lose Sammy Watkins, taking away from an already thin group of receivers. Bryant can easily fill in for Watkins, and Los Angeles has shown no hesitation in acquiring guys with big personalities.

New England Patriots

As of today, this one makes the most sense.

Danny Amendola walked and Julian Edelman was just handed a four game suspension for PED use.

The Patriots have a history of taking players we forgot about and turning them into Pro-Bowlers. We haven’t exactly forgotten about Bryant, but you get the idea.

Dallas Cowboys (not really)

I don’t know why this idea is floating around, but it is. If this happens, I’ll eat Campbell’s tomato soup straight out of the can.

Draft Grades: AFC East

Buffalo Bills: C+

Round 1, Pick 7: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Round 1, Pick 16: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech download

Round 3: Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford

Round 4: Taron Johnson, CB, Weber St

Round 5: Siran Neal, CB, Jacksonville State

Round 5: Wyatt Teller, G, Virginia Tech

Round 6: Ray-Ray McCloud, WR, Clemson

Round 7: Austin Proehl, WR, North Carolina

Tyrod Taylor took the Bills to the Playoffs for the first time in 17 years, but nah, they threw him out and took a gigantic risk on Allen; the third best QB in the Mountain West. Edmunds was a steal at 16, and Buffalo’s best pick. It will be interesting to see how Ray-Ray McCloud plays out.

New England Patriots: B-

Round 1, Pick 23: Isaiah Wynn, T, Georgia DbwrzbGWsAARPRQ.jpg

Round 1, Pick 31: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia

Round 2: Duke Dawson, CB, Florida

Round 5: Ja’Whaun Bentley, LB, Purdue

Round 6: Christian Sam, LB, Arizona St.

Round 6: Braxton Berrios, WR, Miami

Round 7: Danny Etling, QB, LSU

The Patriots own the greatest draft pick of all time, and will still be good in 2018, so none of this really matters. I love Michel at No. 31. He’s an upgrade from Dion Lewis and it might be beneficial for him to run behind his college teammate. Berrios provides a potential Danny Amendola replacement. Trading back a few times prevented New England from taking a more reliable linebacker.

New York Jets: B+

Round 1, Pick 3: Sam Darnold, QB, USC DSqAJwHVQAE3bLb

Round 3: Nathan Shepherd, DE, Fort Hayes State

Round 4: Chris Herndon, WR, Miami

Round 6: Parry Nickerson, CB, Tulane

Round 6: Foley Fatukasi, DT, UCONN

Round 6: Trenton Cannon, RB/KR, Virginia St.

New York’s B+ grade is propelled by Sam Darnold. It was the right pick to make after he ended up being available. The Jets also made the necessary moves to begin replenishing their defensive line, which took a hit with the departure of Muhammad Wilkerson.

Miami Dolphins: A-

Round 1, Pick 11: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama COxAQDAa_400x400.jpg

Round 2: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn St.

Round 3: Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio St.

Round 4: Durham Smythe, TE, Notre Dame

Round 4: Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona St.

Round 6: Cornell Armstrong, CB, Southern Miss

Round 7: Quentin Poling, LB, Ohio

Round 7: Jason Sanders, K, New Mexico

Yeah, it’s kinda suspect that I gave my favorite team the best grade in their division. Get over it.

The Dolphins had one of the best drafts when it came to addressing their needs. They added two linebackers (by far their weakest position) and two tight ends — one who can catch and one who can block. The combination of Fitzpatrick and Reshad Jones at safety is good one.

 

 

Danny Amendola expected to sign with Dolphins

Wide receiver Danny Amendola is expected to leave the New England Patriots and sign with the Miami Dolphins, according to reports.

The 31-year-old Amendola caught 61 passes for 659 yards and two touchdowns in 2017. His best game of the year was the Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, when he hauled in eight catches for 152 yards.

His signing comes just days after the Dolphins dealt Jarvis Landry to the Cleveland Browns.

 

 

Colts hire Eagles’ Frank Reich

The Indianapolis Colts have reportedly hired Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator as their next coach, per Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network.

The hire comes days after Josh McDaniels backed out of the position to return to the New England Patriots.

Reich was also the San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator before joining the Eagles in 2016. His first NFL was with the colts, where he started as an offensive assistant in 2008.

He is expected to fly to Indianapolis tonight to sign his contract, something the Colts really hope actually happens this time.

UPDATE, 5:37 p.m.

Reich has signed a five-year contract, making the deal official.

Garoppolo inks extension with 49ers

 

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Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has reportedly signed a 5-year contract extension worth $137.5M with the San Francisco 49ers. The news was first reported by the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.

The 49ers acquired Garoppolo in 2017 via a made season trade with the New England Patriots, where he served as a backup to Tom Brady for over three seasons.

Garoppolo played in six games in 2017, starting five. During that span he went 5-0, passing for 1,560 yards and seven touchdowns while throwing five interceptions.

He was scheduled to become a free agent, but it was widely expected that the 49ers would sign Garoppolo long term, and they did just that, making Jimmy G their franchise guy.

Trying to explain the Josh McDaniels debacle

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was set to become the next coach of the Indianapolis Colts, but backed out just hours after the Colts announced the hire on Tuesday.

It was rumored that McDaniels might have been scared off by Andrew Luck’s injury anomaly, or owner Jim Irsay’s tendencies to do as he pleases with the team, limiting what McDaniels could control.

On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN reported that control was a large reason for McDaniels’ decision to stay put in New England. Patriots coach Bill Belichick reportedly told his offensive coordinator that he could begin taking on more duties with the team, including roster decisions and salary cap management. New England already lost defensive coordinator/ rocket scientist Matt Patricia, who will be the next coach of the Detroit Lions.

McDaniels deciding to return to the Patriots sparked conspiracy theories suggesting that Belichick was retiring sooner than expected. While highly unlikely, it does make sense that Belichick is preparing McDaniels to be his successor, if the report of increased control is true.

The Colts were expected to hire McDaniels several weeks before they announced him as the coach, but were prohibited from officially doing so because he had yet to coach in the Super Bowl, which the Patriots lost to the Eagles.

Many potential replacements around the league took other coaching jobs during that duration, leaving the Colts with limited options. They are expected to request an interview with Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich.

McDaniels’ agent Bob LaMonte dropped him as a client on Wednesday.

Sideline Intel Staff Super Bowl Picks

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The game is near. Here’s what we think:

Ryan Ladika: Patriots 30 Eagles 27 

I’m picking the New England Patriots. While the Philadelphia Eagles are coming off of an absolute dismantling of one of the NFL’s top defenses in the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, they were also going up against a lesser quarterback, compared to newly-minted 2017 NFL MVP Tom Brady, in Case Keenum. Brady has shown us time and time again that he has the expertise and execution to engineer scoring drives whenever he’s on the field. I don’t realistically see Nick Foles standing toe to toe with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Graham Foley: Eagles 29 Patriots 20

While Brady and Belichick vs. Foles and Pederson seems like a no-brainer for the GOATs, look closer.

The Eagles defense gets incredible pressure by rushing just four, making it difficult to find an open receiver with seven in coverage even for Brady. And don’t forget that No. 1 ranked rush defense.

The Eagles’ offensive line dominated a Minnesota front seven that is far superior to New England’s. With protection, and an incredible run-game going against the 29th-ranked rush defense in yards per attempt, Foles should be able to do enough for a win.

Brady will be Brady and make it close. But Philadelphia has the better team.

Ryan Sharp: Patriots 30 Eagles 16

Last year, the Patriots were down 28-3 in the third quarter of Super Bowl LI. Everybody knows what followed. Two weeks ago, the Patriots turned the ball over down 10 points in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship. Everybody knows what followed.

If Carson Wentz were in this game, the score would be closer, but the result would be the same. Nearly the entire Patriots roster has played in a Super Bowl and they are led by the greatest coach and quarterback of all time. In a game like this, experience can mean a lot. An inexperienced team led by Nick Foles is not an ideal game plan going against the NFL’s most dominant team.

Their roster may not be deep, but with the leadership of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, New England can beat any team in any game. I’m convinced it takes luck to beat them. The motivation of winning a sixth championship certainly helps as well.

Jeff Griffith: Patriots 24 Eagles 17

Nick Foles was outstanding against the Vikings. 22-of-36 for 352 yards and three touchdowns is no stat line to scoff at. That version of Nick Foles can beat anybody, in my opinion. We conveniently forget, though, that his performance in the NFC title game could still be considered a major outlier based on his stats from the three previous games — never eclipsing 200 yards or two scores in a contest aside from a home defeat over the New York Giants. With that being said, there’s much more to this game for the Eagles, of course, and I do think a battle in the trenches favors the NFC champs. But until I see a concrete reason on the field as to why Tom Brady and Bill Belichick can’t get it done on the biggest stage — which we very well could see tomorrow night — I have to go with Dynasty over Destiny. In my mind, it’s going to be low scoring, which can favor Philadelphia, but I think a late touchdown drive seals Brady’s sixth ring.

Jacob Rosenfarb: Patriots 31 Eagles 24

Super Bowl 52 comes down to a matchup between football’s best player and football’s best roster. The Philadelphia Eagles support one of the deepest rosters in the game, with standout players at almost every position. The New England Patriots on the other hand, have Tom Brady and come Sunday that may be all they need. Nick Foles has filled in admirably for the injured Carson Wentz, but he is no match for the defensive genius of Bill Belichick. Defensively, the Patriots will put pressure on Foles and force him into quick decisions, while offensively the Pats will pick on the Eagles corners with quick routes that negate Philadelphia’s ability to get pressure.

Josh Zaklis: Patriots 27 Eagles 21

Both of these teams have the talent to win.

For the Eagles that talent is spread out throughout their team. The Philly defense has played out of their minds the past few weeks and for most of the year, but they will be facing the most dominate quarterback of all time.

In order to slow down Tom Brady, the Eagles must take a page out of the Giants playbook and pressure Brady with their front four. If Brady sees the Eagles pulling defenders out of coverage to pressure him then it is all over for the Eagles as he will be able to identify the weaknesses within seconds and put the ball in a receiver’s hands.

If the Patriot defense can stifle the Eagles on offense then it is up to Brady to find a way to put up points on the Eagles defense which is no easy task. Just ask Case Keenum. He can beat the defense by establishing the run and throwing a lot of quick passes throughout the game to keep the Eagles pass rush off of him.

As for my pick; my heart says Eagles but my brain says never bet against Brady and Belichick.