The season ends with the 52nd installment of the Super Bowl, and the PFT Postseason Picks Competition (I’ve capitalized the letters to make it seem like a bigger deal since I’m winning) pulls into the station with yours truly already clinching the victory by one game.
There won’t be a tie because both MDS and I have picked the same team to prevail in the 267th game of the year. With the decisive choice ultimately being MDS with the Vikings in the NFC title game and me with the Eagles, I’m 7-3 to date, with MDS at 6-4.
And, yes, he won the regular-season contest fairly easily. But no one gives out trophies for regular-season performance. (Except hockey.)
MDS’s take: Everything about this game points to the Patriots. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady almost seem destined to earn a sixth Super Bowl ring, and the Eagles just seem like the last obstacle in their path.
So what do the Eagles need to do to win? I don’t necessarily think Nick Foles needs the huge performance he had in the NFC Championship Game, but he does need to play well, and to avoid turnovers. If Foles is throwing interceptions or getting strip-sacked, the game could get ugly for the Eagles. If Foles is playing efficient football and LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi are making plays, things will get interesting.
In the end, however, this feels like the culminating moment of Tom Brady’s career. I’m not convinced he can keep playing well until he’s 45, as he says he can. I’m not even convinced he’ll get back to another Super Bowl after this one. But I am convinced he’ll have an MVP-worthy performance on Sunday, and the Patriots will win.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 28, Eagles 20.
Florio’s take: Experience always matters. The fact that Patriots coach Bill Belichick claims it doesn’t underscores that it absolutely does. For the NFL this is Super Bowl LII; for Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, this is Super Bowl VIII. That’s half of a full season — and roughly every other year — spent preparing for and playing in the Super Bowl, a game with a two-week buildup, nearly a full week at the game site, a halftime that lasts nearly 30 minutes, and the biggest worldwide audience of the year.
Yes, the Eagles have a couple of guys who have played for the Patriots in recent Super Bowls. But that’s hardly enough to overcome the Belichick-Brady factor, especially as they close in on matching the Steelers with six Lombardi Trophies — and a shot next year at seven.
The Eagles have the personnel on defense to potentially make life difficult for Brady, with a front seven that can create pressure up the middle and a secondary that can handle, from time to time, the New England route-runners. But Brady has proven time and again that his extensive experience and lingering physical skills have combined to create a sweet spot that allows him to figure out whatever a defense is doing, and to stay one step ahead of them.
When Philly has the ball, New England will find a way just often enough to deal with the run-pass option, taking away the easy underneath slants and ins while also preparing to attack the ball, if the decision to made to hand it off.
Like most Belichick-Brady Super Bowls, this one probably will be close, with Belichick and Brady having the ability to make the key play at the right time to officially double the number of championships since Malcolm Butler intercepted a pass that, thanks to the systems Belichick has put in place, knew was coming.
In hindsight, we’ll able be saying we should have known what is coming on Sunday night in Minnesota.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 30, Eagles 27.