Super Bowl 52: Opening Night Predictions and Schedule for Eagles vs. Patriots

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2018

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 21:  Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates his teams win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Minnesota Vikings 38-7.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Super Bowl festivities truly begin in earnest on Monday, Jan. 29, at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota, when Opening Night takes place.

Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots coaches and players will address the media in individual time slots, and if this year's version is anything like year's past, it should be an interesting few hours.

Let's break down the schedule and preview the event itself below. 



Doors Open: 6:30 p.m. ET

Eagles Interviews: 8 p.m. ET

Patriots Interviews: 10 p.m. ET

WatchNFL Network and ESPN2


Preview and Predictions

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts after winning the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Ima
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

If you've ever watched this event before, you know there will be no shortage of wacky characters, oddball questions and a general sense of spectacle. Opening Night—previously known as Media Day—is, in a word, weird. 

Maybe Kel Mitchell will return: 

Arash Markazi @ArashMarkazi

Kel Mitchell is reprising his role as Ed from Good Burger at Super Bowl Opening Night for Nickelodeon. https://t.co/ZKxkBjSH70

We can dream, right?

But let's break down some of the storylines that will be discussed.

For one, Tom Brady's hand. There will be questions about this topic for sure. Yes, despite having stitches, the issue didn't affect Brady in the AFC Championship. It's hard to imagine it getting worse in the two weeks before the Super Bowl, especially now that the stitches have been removed.

Nonetheless, it will be a major point of conversation.

So will the coaching future of several assistants on both teams. New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels presumably is the top candidate for the Indianapolis Colts head coaching position, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will reportedly become the next head coach of the Detroit Lions, according to Kyle Meinke of MLive.

Both will be asked about their reported positions, but since both cannot officially be hired until New England's season is over, neither will comment. 

Both Philadelphia quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz were considered potential candidates for the many coaching vacancies around the NFL, but it appears unlikely either will be taking a head-coaching position next year.

DeFilippo's contract is expiring in Philadelphia, so he could be tapped for the various vacancies at offensive coordinator around the league. So that could be a topic of conversation as well, but again, he can't take on another position until after the Super Bowl, so it's unlikely anyone will be commenting on the matter.

Expect questions about Brady and Belichick's future in New England after Seth Wickersham of ESPN reported earlier in January that a rift had grown and a power struggle developed between Brady, Belichick and owner Bob Kraft. 

"We're just focused on Philadelphia" will be the gist of any responses to those questions.  

Speaking of Philadelphia, expect to see some dog masks. A lot of the conversation will center on how many left the Eagles for dead after starting quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz tore his ACL. Nick Foles stepped in and, while struggling at points in the regular season, has been superb this postseason in leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl. 

It's Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, against Foles, who has spent most of his career as a backup. That contrast is easily one of the most fascinating storylines to follow. 

Of course, dig deep into the X's and O's and things get fascinating as well. Belichick is a football genius, nobody disputes that, but Doug Pederson has emerged as one of the best playcallers in the NFL. The Eagles have converted 59.3 percent of their third downs in the postseason, for instance—the best mark in the NFL.

That's no coincidence. During the regular season, they converted 41.7 percent of their third downs, good enough for eighth in the league. 

Another interesting strategic note will be the fact the Eagles, like the Jacksonville Jaguars, are good at generating pressure with their front four, allowing them to drop additional players into coverage. Brady has traditionally been superb against the blitz, punishing teams that dedicate extra players to get in his face. 

If Philly's front four can sustain consistent pressure, they may not stop Brady, but like the Jaguars, they can create matchup issues for New England. 

Of course, like he did against Jacksonville, Brady adjusts, so the Eagles will need to be solid on offense. Don't be shocked if the Eagles try to establish the run early and often to limit Brady's time with the ball. 

All of those strategic points, and more, may come up at Opening Night, though neither team will want to show their hands too much.

Finally, given the full scope into which politics played a part in the NFL this season, those conversations may be broached, too.

Players like Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long, who have given thoughtful and insightful answers to those questions throughout the year and have been active in the community and giving of their time and money, will likely make their voices heard again.