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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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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