The stage has been set; the biggest of them all: Superbowl LII. The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles have claimed their respective conference championships and are now preparing to do battle in U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis on February 4th.
But a question was put to me recently:
Will the Eagles be under less pressure because they are coming in with a backup under center?
Well, to answer that as vaguely as possible: Yes… and no.
Both teams will be feeling the pressure of this momentous occasion. There’s no escaping it, and it’s only going to continue to build as the day draws closer. For the Eagles, the pressure is largely internal. The players want it. Those passionate, light post-climbing, tailgate-brawling, driving-a-dune-buggy-on-the-Rocky-steps Eagle fanatics want it, badly. The good Eagles fans want it too. The city of Philadelphia is crying out for its first pro-football championship of the Superbowl era. However, as soon as the team announced that Carson Wentz was done for the year, everybody outside of the organization put a line through the Eagles.
On December 12, ESPN analyst Bill Barnwell covered the big questions in the aftermath of the Wentz ACL injury. In short, Barnwell reported that Philadelphia’s odds to win the Super Bowl with Wentz was at approximately 4-1, but that dropped to 14-1 when the severity of the injury was confirmed and Nick Foles took over. Philly still held an 11-2 record at that point, sitting atop the standings in the NFC but were effectively written off as a serious contender.
Another article, penned by our own Mike Rigz, detailed how these Philadelphia Eagles are the biggest Superbowl underdogs since 2009. On that day, the underdogs prevailed with the New York Giants beating New England 17-14, courtesy of one of the greatest ever Superbowl moments; David Tyree’s helmet catch.
No one person has been as widely criticised as Foles. He has ridden a wave of doubt all the way through his second tenure as the Eagles starting quarterback. He has answered all the questions levied against him in the playoffs with impressive totals of 598 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 turnovers. Very few people are giving Foles a chance, but let’s not forget, Tom Brady won his first title in 2001 after beginning the season as the backup to Drew Bledsoe.
The Eagles aren’t letting the criticisms get to them though. In fact, they’re embracing it, dog masks and all. Philly was given the underdogs tag for their previous two playoff games vs Atlanta and Minnesota, both wins. The haters are being used for motivation, and with the 5.5 point line favoring the Patriots, there’s been some more fuel added to the fire.
|Superbowl Teams Defensive Ranks|
|Superbowl||Winner (Def Rank)||Score||Loser (Def Rank)|
|XXXIX||Patriots (9)||24–21||Eagles (10)|
|XL||Steelers (4)||21–10||Seahawks (16)|
|XLI||Colts (21)||29–17||Bears (5)|
|XLII||Giants (7)||17–14||Patriots (4)|
|XLIII||Steelers (1)||27-23||Cardinals (19)|
|XLIV||Saints (25)||31-17||Colts (18)|
|XLV||Packers (5)||31-25||Steelers (2)|
|XLVI||Giants (27)||21–17||Patriots (31)|
|XLVII||Ravens (17)||34-31||49ers (3)|
|XLVIII||Seahawks (1)||43-8||Broncos (19)|
|XLXIX||Patriots (13)||28-24||Seahawks (1)|
|L||Broncos (1)||24-10||Panthers (6)|
|LI||Patriots (8)||34-28||Falcons (25)|
Boosting the Eagles confidence is the outstanding play from the other side of the ball. Philadelphia’s defense is playing at a very high level, which alleviates the pressure on Nick and means he can focus on another stellar performance. The “No Phly Zone” is putting the franchise in a great position to steal its very first NFL Championship. Everyone knows the old Bear Bryant quote “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships”. Looking back at earlier years defensive rankings (based on total yards allowed per game in the regular season), 7 of the 13 Championship teams since Superbowl XXXIX have had the stronger defensive unit, including 3 of the past 4 winners. This season’s defensive rankings? Philadelphia Eagles – 4th. New England Patriots – 29th.[the_ad id=”73965″][the_ad id=”63198″]
There is no bigger pressure cooker in professional sports than the Superbowl. We’ve seen NFL legends falter on the world’s biggest stage. Brady himself has a 5-2 record, with both of those losses coming at the hands of Eli Manning. No team is ever going to enter any Superbowl unabashed and carefree. The Patriots are about to play in their third Superbowl from the past four seasons, whereas the Eagles are playing in just their third ever, and I can guarantee that New England feels just as anxious as Philadelphia does right now. Sure, there might be a sense of familiarity with the occasion, but come game time, the butterfly’s will flare up and every man on that field will do whatever they can to ink their name into the record books.
No one is expecting Philadelphia to win this game. So, in that respect, the Eagles have nothing to lose. When it all comes down to it, there’s just one more game to achieve glory; one more moment to seize. Tom Brady might well be standing up there for a record 6th time, or Nick Foles could do what no-one expects him to: become Philadelphia’s first Superbowl winning quarterback. After all, Henry Kissinger once said: “A diamond is just a chunk of coal that did really well under pressure”.
Until then, keep on doubting this team. They’re keeping track of it all.
Daniel is an up and coming writer and longtime lover of the NFL. Even though he is Australian, he is a long-suffering Philly Eagles fan and has played Fantasy Football for over 10 years. Since the early games kick off around 4am Monday morning in Australia, he will regularly be found on the couch, with a large coffee in hand and watching Redzone through bleary eyes. Daniel married the love of his life in 2012, and the couple are happily raising twin boys (also as Eagles fans, hopefully).