NFL PLAYOFFS / SUPER BOWL 52
GREG COTE’S NFL PICKS OF THE WEEK
EAGLES (15-3, NFC No. 1 seed) vs. PATRIOTS (15-3, AFC No. 1)
LINE: NE by 4 1/2.
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COTE’S PICK: PHI 27-24.
TV: 6:30 p.m. Sunday, NBC.
“AAAWWWK!” croons the Upset Bird, a lowly crow taking flight with the majesty of an Eagle. “Philadaaawwwk!” There are so many reasons to love and anticipate this domed matchup that is being played in frigid Minneapolis because, evidently, the North Pole was booked. It is bona fide, for one. This is only the 12th time in 52 Super Bowls we’ve had two No. 1 conference seeds go at it. They are a combined 30-6, with 12 Pro Bowlers. It is the first Super Bowl in 39 years — fathom that — in which both teams were top five in the NFL in both points scored and fewest allowed. Also both teams are 12-6 against the spread — these teams take care of business. There is no dispute King Sport’s two best teams are in the title bout. And yet! A perceived disparity makes Philly a clear underdog, although it must be noted that’s largely from an historic context rather than one tied to this season and these teams. New England is the juggernaut going for its record-tying sixth Super Bowl win and second straight, the dynasty with the genius coach and the all-time great quarterback. Philadelphia is the team 0-2 in Super Bowls and looking for its first league championship since Norm Van Brocklin’s 1960. The Eagles also are underdogs, of course, and justifiably so, because they are piloted by a backup QB, Nick Foles, subbing for injured rising star Carson Wentz. Foles vs. Tom Brady, seen as spam versus filet mignon, unquestionably drives this betting line. Philly was written off when Wentz went down. The No. 1-seed Birds have been underdogs throughout the postseason. But here’s the thing. Foles has a 122.1 passer rating in two playoff wins. If he is anywhere close to that good Sunday night, my upset gamble will have a real shot. My gamble also counts on the Phils’ pass rush bothering Brady. If Team Belichick has an Achilles heel, it is that. Pressure on Brady is a big reason the Pats are 0-2 in Super Bowls against the Giants the past decade, and that is a formula that suits the Eagles’ defense. My pick also factors in that Rob Gronkowski, such an essential target of Brady’s, is questionable (concussion), and susceptible to an early exit even if he plays. Bottom line? It’s just a strong hunch. This feels like the Eagles’ time. So: Upset!
HOW THE DARTS LANDED
We were a perfect 2-0 in the conference championship round, including a bull’s-eye upset call on Eagles beating Vikings. The only blemish was not seeing Jaguars playing Patriots so tightly; thought New England would cover that 8 1/2-point line. Now, 256 regular-season and 10 postseason games later, a 32-team field is pared to the only two left standing as Super Bowl 52 awaits. Patriots and Eagles also met in Super Bowl 13 years ago, in Jacksonville, with Pats winning 24-21 in a game close throughout. Let’s hope this game is as good, but with a slightly different result to suit my pick, if you wouldn’t mind. Thank you.
Overall Pct. Vs. Spread Pct.
Conference 2-0 1.000 1-1 .500
Playoffs 6-4 .600 5-4-1 .550
Final 2017 156-100 .609 102-137-17 .432
Final 2016 159-95-2 .626 139-109-8 .560