Patriots, Eagles battle for immortality in Super Bowl LII

 C.J. Gunther / EPA / Shutterstock

C.J. Gunther / EPA / Shutterstock

The Patriots vs who? It's become a preseason expectation to see the Patriots in Super Bowl. On Sunday, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will team up for their 8th Super Bowl appearance together, having won it an astonishing five times. This level of dominance is unlike anything we’ve seen before in pro football, but it nothing out of the norm for the Patriots.

When comparing the experience of the team's leadership, the Eagles seem to be overmatched. Bill Belichick is coaching in his record-11th Super Bowl as a coach (twice as an assistant with the Giants, once as a Patriot assistant); Doug Peterson is in his first as a head coach. Nick Foles is in also starting in his first Super Bowl.

On paper, the Eagles match-up stat for stat with the Patriots and have just as much talent if not more, but the experience factor is what gives the Patriots an edge. Tom Brady, at 40 years old, has maintained his excellence and will look to hold up his sixth Super Bowl trophy which would undoubtedly establish him as the greatest quarterback ever, as if that hasn't already been done.

 JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF

JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF

The Patriots excellence can be credited to Bill Belichick and his program that he has built for success. Belichick put this roster together from top to bottom and led this team back to the promised land with 18 undrafted players on the roster. The Eagles have nine. Every single player was handpicked by Belichick to run his system to perfection, and it has paid off tremendously. Belichick is the only coach in the league with full roster control, a trust that he has built with owner Robert Kraft.

It's easy to count the Eagles out of the game before it even starts, but the Eagles are playing their best football. Nick Foles proved that he is not just a backup in the conference championship game and silenced all doubters who believed the Eagles wouldn't make it this far. The Eagles managed to overcome adversity after losing their MVP candidate in Carson Wentz, and still have been clicking on all cylinders.

This Eagles team is solid, and would probably be favored in this game if Carson Wentz was starting. Tom Brady will once again have his hands full against a tough defense that has only surrendered two touchdowns this playoff season. The Eagles have a solid attack, efficient in the run game with Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount, a passing attack that showed it could flourish against the number defense in the league by carving the Vikings secondary, and a defense that is playing at its best.

Despite being overlooked in this matchup, the Eagles players are incredibly confident going into the game. “Right now, at this time of the season, I don’t think anybody can call us underdogs,” starting cornerback Jalen Mills said. “Two teams left, about to play in the Super Bowl… No way we’re underdogs right now.”

The Eagles know exactly what challenges they are facing going up against the highly favored Patriots, but don't expect them to back down. “It’s pretty funny, but it’s definitely motivation," said Eagles defensive end Vinny Curry. "If people want to call us underdogs, so be it. You can call us anything you want to call us, but you still have to line up against us Sunday and play. Since we’ve been called underdogs, we’ve been winning. So, keep calling us that.”

Tom Brady knows not to take his opponent in this game lightly. "They're well-coached. They're good in all three phases. They play complementary games. They do a great job. There's no underdogs in the Super Bowl," Brady said. "They're the first seed in the NFC. Man, they're 13-3. They had an incredible season. I don't buy into any of that. I think they're as dangerous as any team in the league. It's going to come down to whoever plays the best, and hopefully it's us.”

Ultimately, this game will come down to which defense plays the best. Both offenses have proven capable to put up points in bunches, and Foles will look to go tit for tat with Brady. The Eagles managed to jump out to a comfortable lead against the Vikings, but if they do establish a lead, don't count the Patriots out; Brady has already earned his stripes in second half comebacks (refer back to last year’s 28-3 halftime deficit where Brady led them back to victory.) Even with all of the experience that the Patriots have, the Eagles are fully capable to pull off the upset.

Prediction: 21-17 Patriots win.