For the eighth time since Tom Brady and Bill Belichick joined forces, the New England Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl. And for the second time, they'll be squaring off against the Philadelphia Eagles.
New England and Philadelphia also met in Super Bowl XXXIX, following the 2004 NFL season. In that first matchup, Brady outdueled Donovan McNabb en route to his third Super Bowl ring. Brady has since added two more rings, while the Eagles franchise is still looking for its first.
This time around Brady will be opposed by Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles, who took over for the injured Carson Wentz in December. Despite some early struggles, Foles has found his way and has the Eagles offense cruising once again.
Despite the Eagles' recent success, however, they'll enter the Super Bowl as underdogs, according to OddsShark.com.
Super Bowl 2018 Schedule, Odds
Date: Sunday, Feb. 4
When: 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Odds: Patriots -5, Over/Under 48
For the Eagles to have a chance in this matchup, they will likely need to keep consistent pressure on Brady.
The Jacksonville Jaguars entered the AFC Championship Game with arguably the NFL's best defense, but Brady even picked them apart when he was able to stand in a clean pocket. Pro Football Focus shared the quarterback's numbers when throwing without pressure:
Brady is a master at getting the ball out quickly to avoid pressure, but the Eagles do have the pass-rushers to potentially cause him some trouble. Four different Eagles pass-rushers generated at least five sacks this season, led by Brandon Graham's 9.5.
Another key to the game could be something out of both teams' control: Rob Gronkowski's health.
Gronk was knocked out of the AFC Championship Game with a concussion after a hit from Jaguars safety Barry Church. According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, the Patriots are optimistic he will be cleared to play, but his status is still up in the air for now.
If Gronk gets back on the field in time to play, expect him to be a major part of the Patriots game plan on offense. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Eagles struggled defending tight ends this season:
With a healthy Gronkowski on the field, the Patriots may have too many weapons for the Eagles defense to handle. The Patriots were the NFL's second-highest scoring team this season despite injuries to Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola, both of whom are now healthy.
With Gronkowski, Amendola and Hogan to go along with Brandin Cooks, James White and Dion Lewis, Brady has the weapons to spread the ball around and find the best matchup.
If Brady can keep the Patriots rolling on offense, it's difficult to envision Foles being able to match him on the other side. Foles is playing his best football in years, but to ask him to win a shootout against a future Hall of Famer is probably more of a challenge than he's capable of handling.
Super Bowl Prediction
If Gronkowski is held out, momentum swings towards the Eagles, and they may have a shot at the upset. However, if the Patriots take the field at full strength, Brady won't be slowed down.
Brady will spread the ball around and lead New England to its sixth Super Bowl title while picking up another Super Bowl MVP.
Patriots 27, Eagles 20