Key Matchups For The Patriots

January 26, 2018
New England Patriots

The New England Patriots are 5-point favorites to win Super Bowl LII. If you look at their roster on paper, it is easy to see why. Not to mention their 7 prior Super Bowl trips, 5 of which resulted in a championship. All legal betting online sources have the Pats to win this game, despite the Pats narrowly escaping the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship. They face a tough Eagles defense, and the Patriots’ secondary will be busy covering multiple viable receivers. Let’s take a look at how the Pats can capture back-to-back championships.

New England has a deep running corps on paper, but injuries have depleted their options. RB Dion Lewis has emerged as the primary target and he has been working. He’s averaged more than 20 touches in his last 4 games. In the AFC Championship, Lewis was limited to only 66 yards on 16 touches, but he managed to secure a victory at the end through an 18-yard rush. James White and Rex Burkhead provide other options, though Lewis will undeniably have the majority of carries.

In terms of making forward progress, Lewis is better off going left against Nigel Bradham, the Eagles’ weakest rush defender. Going to their strong side of Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Mychal Kendricks. The Pats may also need to lean on fullback James Develin and tight end Dwayne Allen to provide support for the rush offense, but in that scenario, key players are overcommitting and missing out on the pass game. Expect QB Tom Brady to be guiding the offense as opposed to Lewis, because the Pats have a better chance of scoring through passing.

Brady has his pick of talented receivers, but some of them face tough matchups. Danny Amendola has been Brady’s go-to guy, but Amendola is up against Patrick Robinson. Robinson had a pick-6 against QB Case Keenum in the NFC Championship, meaning he poses a dual-threat aginst the offense. Chris Hogan broke out last year, but his targets are minimized this season. He faces matchups against Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills. Expect Brady to look elsewhere due to this strong coverage. Brandin Cooks will likely be his first option out of these 3 and the majority of his routes will likely be short.

The Pats’ X-factor is TE Rob Gronkowski. Gronk is a massive receiver and is somehow open in double coverage most of the time. With his size, he is able to tower over safeties and corners. The Eagles’ best bet is try to contain Gronk as much as possible, but without overcommitting to him. If anything, the Pats can use his double coverage to their advantage because it will likely free up Cooks, Amendola and Hogan.

Philadelphia may have the best team in terms of stats this year, but New England is favored in Super Bowl betting lines for a reason. Their experience and ability to stay cool under pressure will help them immensely. Tom Brady is the true X-factor, as he has somehow gotten better each year. In what may be his final game, expect Brady to show out. The Pats should bank on the Eagles over-stacking on players like Gronk, though it is up to the unsung players stepping up to make the difference.