Two big story lines
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady chase history
Belichick already owns the most Super Bowl rings (five) of any NFL head coach, but a sixth would tie him for the most total NFL championships. George Halas and Curly Lambeau won six NFL titles before the advent of the Super Bowl. Brady would become the first NFL player with six rings, breaking his current tie with ex-49ers and Cowboys LB/DE Charles Haley.
The Patriots defense made a U-turn
After stumbling through a 2-2 start during which the Patriots defense allowed 32 points per game, they’ve turned things around under defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who will soon be named the Detroit Lions coach. New England’s defense has surrendered only 14.4 points per game since Oct. 1.
Two key matchups
Patriots RB Dion Lewis vs. Eagles LB Nigel Bradham
Lewis, a former Eagles draft pick, has flourished in the Patriots offense. The 27-year-old is peaking with a career-best 1,110 yards (896 rushing) from scrimmage this season. His elusiveness will depend on how Bradham, the Eagles’ leading tackler, can keep up with the dual threat.
Patriots WR Danny Amendola vs. Eagles CB Patrick Robinson
Statistically, Amendola had the best connection with Brady, catching 71 percent of his targets. And only Rob Gronkowski (54 percent) converted more of his targets for first downs than Amendola (45 percent). Almost all of Amendola’s catches came from the slot, where he’ll be defended by Eagles cornerback Patrick Robinson. Robinson led the Eagles with 18 pass deflections this season.
The Patriots will win if …
They win in the red zone
The Super Bowl features two of the NFL’s best red-zone offenses in the Eagles (second, 5.33 points per trip) and Patriots (third, 5.3 points per trip), according to Football Outsiders. But only the Patriots have a top red-zone defense in this matchup. The Eagles have been vulnerable inside the 20-yard line, where Brady & Co. can separate themselves.
They stay within reach
The game is hardly ever out of reach for the Patriots, as demonstrated by last year’s epic comeback from down 28-3 to defeat the Falcons in the Super Bowl. Bad news for the Eagles: Brady has been even better in the fourth quarter this season. His 103 passer rating in 2017’s final quarters tops his career-average 95 passer rating in the fourth.