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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Houston's winning streak moves to six

Eighth-inning rally powers Astros to series sweep over Rangers

Yuli Gurriel brought in the go-ahead run late in Sunday's game. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Winners in the first three games of this series and their last five games overall, the Astros continued their climb towards the A's for first place in the AL West. They completed the four-game sweep, ending a successful homestand on a positive note before heading on the road.

Final Score: Astros 6, Rangers 2

Astros' Record: 24-17, tied for first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Brooks Raley (2-2)

Losing Pitcher: Joely Rodriguez (1-2)

Astros strike first, McCullers Jr. goes six scoreless

After the Rangers went down 1-2-3 in the top of the first, Houston grabbed an early lead off the bat of Alex Bregman. He provided the third single of the inning, a one-out RBI to put the Astros in front 1-0, a score which would hold steady for a while. Another run didn't come across until the bottom of the fifth when Houston would load the bases with one out when Carlos Correa would get an RBI groundball to double the lead to 2-0.

Lance McCullers Jr. did well with the small lead, backing up his recent eight-inning gem with a quality start against Texas. He allowed a couple of hits each in the third and fourth but would erase the runners with no damage allowed. The Rangers threatened in the top of the sixth with a leadoff double before the runner moved to third on a wild pitch, putting him in a great position with no outs. McCullers Jr. would come away unscathed, finishing the inning and his day by retiring the next three batters. His final line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 95 P.

Rangers tie it against Scrubb

First out of Houston's bullpen was Andre Scrubb, and he would not fare as well as the Astros starter. A leadoff single turned into a two-run game-tying homer, making it 2-2 before Scrubb would sit down the next three in order. Still tied in the top of the eighth, Brooks Raley had a terrific inning, striking out the three batters he faced.

Houston rallies ahead in the eighth for the four-game sweep

The top of Houston's order mounted a threat in the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases with one out to try and regain the lead. Yuli Gurriel would come through with the go-ahead at-bat, getting a sac fly to put the Astros back in front 3-2. A two-out walk loaded the bases again, setting up Chas McCormick to provide two insurance runs on a two-RBI single.

Myles Straw added one more on an RBI single, making it a four-run game at 6-2 heading to the ninth. Enoli Paredes made his long-awaited return from the IL, appearing for the first time since April 8th to try and close things out in the ninth. He tossed a scoreless inning, finishing off the four-game sweep, extending Houston's winning streak to six games, and keeping them in step with Oakland for the AL West lead.

Up Next: After a day off on Monday, the Astros will begin a six-game road trip on Tuesday. They'll kick off a three-game set in Oakland against the A's at 8:40 PM, an exciting matchup to determine who will head into the weekend atop the division. While Cristian Javier (3-1, 3.08 ERA) is the expected starter for Houston, Oakland has not yet determined their rotation for the series.

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