Why the New England Patriots will win Super Bowl LII

Luke Willson and Irfaan Gaffar talk about Roger Goodell’s statements to the media about the murky catch rule and the new deal regarding Thursday Night Football.

They’re back.

For the second straight year and the eighth time in the Brady-Belichick era, the New England Patriots are playing in the biggest game of the season — this time, against the underdog Philadelphia Eagles.

We’ll never be privy to what’s going on in the shared brain of GOAT Tom Brady and peerless, fearless (and sleeveless) head coach Bill Belichick, but we can certainly break down the strategies that will allow them to claim their sixth Super Bowl trophy.

Here are three ways the Patriots will ensure victory over the Eagles.

1. The Gronk-vantage

One of the biggest question marks going into the Super Bowl is the health of Rob Gronkowski. The giant tight end is a total game-changer, and can single-handedly alter a defence’s approach depending on where he lines up for the snap.

As of Wednesday’s injury report, Gronkowski is still in concussion protocol after being knocked out of the NFC Championship with a head injury, but told reporters he expects to play on Sunday.

Judging by the great glove debacle of two weeks ago, the Patriots will keep Gronk’s official status under wraps for as long as they can. But if he plays (and it’s looking like he will), he represents a massive boost for the Pats’ offence — and too big a problem for the Eagles’ defence to overcome, no matter how accomplished they’ve been this season.

2. They’ll be ready for the RPO

Is there a prop bet involving how often viewers will hear the letters R-P-O this Sunday? There should be, especially when Nick Foles hits the field. As we’ve seen so far in these playoffs — not to mention, during his historic 2013 run in his first stint with the club — Foles’s confidence and success is directly tied to the effectiveness of the Eagles’ run-pass option.

As Pro Football Focus pointed out earlier this week, the Jaguars showed us how effective the strategy can be against the Patriots — at least for a little while, anyway.

The Titans employed a similar game plan for part of their game in New England, and while both teams ultimately lost, neither club quite matches the diverse offensive weapons of the Eagles.

That said, the two warm-up tests less provide a blueprint for success against New England as opportunity for the Patriots to dissect in order to eliminate RPO weakness.

While neither the Jags or Titans can quite match the Eagles’ talent at the skill positions, no team learns and adjusts more quickly than Belichick’s Patriots. We expect to see the defending champs focus on shutting down the passing game and forcing Foles to hand off the ball or risk throwing into traffic. NFC Championship game notwithstanding, Foles hasn’t exactly been reliable throwing the long ball.

3. They’ve got the GOAT

What can we say about Brady that hasn’t already been said? The 40-year-old solidified his status as the greatest we’ve ever seen when he drove New England all the way back from a 28–3 deficit last year for his fifth Super Bowl title in his seventh appearance.

Brady didn’t show his age this year as he put together another MVP-calibre season at the helm of the league’s top offence, and his ability to make plays under pressure is unparalleled.

Brady threw for 4,577 yards and 32 touchdowns this season and executed an impressive late-game comeback against the Jaguars in the AFC Championship like clockwork. He’s started more Super Bowls than anyone else, isn’t even remotely afraid of the spotlight, and has had two weeks of practice to find the holes in the Eagles’ secondary.

Just don’t ask him about retirement.

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