Looking ahead

Super Bowl LII Preview: This one might come down to the wire

Will the Patriots do it again? New England Patriots website

By now, we should all know the participants. In case you’ve been on a quest to listen to your inner self and have been unplugged from society, The Philadelphia Eagles are taking on the New England Patriots in the 52nd Super Bowl. These two teams are pretty dissimilar. To size them up, I’m going to the Tale of the Tape:

 

Eagles

Patriots

Coaches

Doug Pederson, 2nd year, 0 rings

Bill Belichek, the G.O.A.T. C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\MEDIA\OFFICE12\Bullets\BD21301_.gif

Quarterbacks

Nick Foles, backup to injured starter Carson Wentz, journeyman

Tom Brady, the G.O.A.T. C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\MEDIA\OFFICE12\Bullets\BD21301_.gif

Defenses

Top five defense this year C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\MEDIA\OFFICE12\Bullets\BD21301_.gif

Middle of the pack defense

Regional Food Specialty

Philly Cheesesteaks C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\MEDIA\OFFICE12\Bullets\BD21301_.gif

Clam Chowder/Lobster Rolls

Regional Pop Culture

“Rocky” movie series C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\MEDIA\OFFICE12\Bullets\BD21301_.gif

Ben Affleck/Matt Damon/Mark Wahlberg

Historical Landmarks

Liberty Bell C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\MEDIA\OFFICE12\Bullets\BD21301_.gif

JFK Birthplace

Super Bowl Wins/Appearances (excluding this year)

0/2

5/9 C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\MEDIA\OFFICE12\Bullets\BD21301_.gif

 

As you can see, The Pats have the clear advantage where it counts as far as playing the game is concerned, which is why they’re widely considered the favorite. While some give the Eagles no shot, I do believe they have a puncher’s chance. The Jacksonville Jaguars had the Pats on the ropes for a good portion of the AFC Title game, until Brady pulled it off. The Eagles’ offense took advantage of what was known to be a stout Minnesota Vikings defense and blew the doors off them in the NFC Title game.

If the Eagles pull off the upset, they’re going to have to do it by harassing Brady. But first and foremost, they’re going to have to eliminate the run game and short to intermediate pass game. The Pats live off the short/intermediate pass game as if it’s their run game. Sure they run the ball, but the 7-10 yards and under routes are where they can kill you. If the Eagles’ linebackers can hold that part of the game down while the defensive line generates a pass rush sans the blitz, look for this game to be closer than expected. On offense, they’ll have to establish the run game to allow the play action passes to be more effective. That’s what helped them move the ball with ease all season.

The Pats will win if they can contain the explosive and diverse Eagles offense. We all know the Pats can score with anybody, but it’s their defense that is suspect. The Eagles were able to take advantage of every weakness they saw in the Vikings’ defense. Being that the Vikings’ defense is better than the Pats defense, many would think this should be a walk in the park. When you give Belichick and his defensive coordinator Matt Patricia two weeks to prepare, the outcome could be different. Having tight end Rob Gronkowski back will help the run and pass game immensely. Brady isn’t considered the best of all-time for nothing. So having him opposite a relatively inexperienced quarterback at this stage should be in his favor.

Prediction: I see the Pats winning yet another title by the score of 28-24. This time, it’ll come down to the Eagles needing a touchdown, and the Pats stopping them from scoring, turning it over on downs inside the redzone. A pass breakup by an unheralded linebacker on a potential game-winning touchdown pass will be the final play. This will be their second title run of winning Super Bowls three out of four years two different times, but 10 years apart. That feat in and of itself is unimaginable. Nowadays, the NFL prides itself on diversity and parity. That is until one of their favorites is now a dominant weekly fixture. Then, it won’t take much to suspend one or the both of them.

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After rallying in the ninth inning in Game 1 to take the pivotal opener of this best-of-three ALWC series, the Astros were in the driver's seat to try and end the series on Wednesday with another win at Target Field. Here is a quick rundown of Game 2:

Final Score: Astros 3, Twins 1.

Series: HOU Wins 2-0.

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier.

Losing Pitcher: Cody Stashak.

Houston gets the first hit and first run in the fourth

Through the first three innings, neither team could get a hit off of Jose Berrios or Jose Urquidy, though the Twins did load the bases in the bottom of the first on two walks and an error, but Urquidy would strand the runners before getting 1-2-3 innings in the second and third.

Meanwhile, the Astros lineup was retired in order in three perfect innings by Berrios. That changed in the top of the fourth when Houston would get back-to-back two-out walks to set up the first hit of the game, an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.

Dusty Baker makes another early call to the bullpen before Twins tie it up

Urquidy was able to keep the 1-0 lead by working around a two-out single in the bottom of the fourth, the first hit for the Twins. He returned in the fifth, allowing a leadoff single before a strikeout for the first out. Dusty Baker would pull another early hook, like Greinke the day prior, dipping into his bullpen early to end Urquidy's day at just 76 pitches in the fifth. His final line: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 76 P.

Brooks Raley was who Baker called on to face the top of the Twins' lineup. He would walk his first batter, putting runners on first and second, get a strikeout for the second out, then allow an RBI-double to Nelson Cruz that almost scored a second, go-ahead run. Instead, the runner was out at home thanks to a terrific defensive play by Carlos Correa, bulleting the ball to Maldonado at home, who made a great tag to save the run and keep it tied 1-1.

Correa homers, Astros advance to ALDS

After Raley completed the fifth inning for Urquidy, Cristian Javier was the next reliever out to begin the bottom of the sixth. He would toss a 1-2-3 frame, sending the tie game to the seventh. In the top of the seventh, Carlos Correa broke the tie with a long, loud two-out solo home run to center-field, putting the Astros back in front 2-1.

Javier held on to the one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh by working around a leadoff walk, then returned for the eighth. He would get through it scoreless, despite allowing a one-out walk to Nelson Cruz, who would be pinch-ran for by the speedy Byron Buxton. After a strikeout for out number two, Javier would catch Buxton between first and second base in a rundown, getting the big final out of the inning.

Houston added insurance in the top of the ninth, getting two on base before an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, his second of the day to make it 3-1. That left things up to closer Ryan Pressly, making his first appearance of the postseason. He would notch the save, advancing the Astros to the ALDS for their fourth-straight year.

Up Next: The Astros will now have a few days off to travel to the west coast before starting their ALDS with the winner of the A's / White Sox ALWC series. Game 1 of their ALDS will be on Monday, October 5th, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, with start time TBD.

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