A tumultuous NFL season comes to a close Sunday night when the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots square off in Super Bowl LII.
The NFL TV ratings took a step backward this year, with regular season numbers off by 10 percent from 2016.
Many believe this dip was related to players kneeling/protesting during the national anthem.
However, NFL Player’s Union Chief DeMaurice Smith said it’s “intellectually dishonest” to solely blame the protests for the rating’s dip.
“I believe every bit of detailed analysis demonstrates that [just blaming the protests] is wrong,” Smith said Thursday in Minneapolis. “NASCAR – their championship series [viewership] is down 24, 25 percent. From 2006, I believe they’re down 45 percent. There isn’t a television show, news show that isn’t at least experiencing a double-digit decline. To try to pin declining ratings on any single thing is being intellectually dishonest.”
Whatever the reason for the rating’s decline, it should be interesting to see if it continues Super Bowl Sunday, usually an NFL ratings bonanza, attracting over 100 million viewers eight years in a row.
And it should be an entertaining contest between a pair of 15-3 teams that were the best clubs in their respective conferences during the regular season.
Here is a preview of Super Bowl LII:
New England is looking for its sixth Super Bowl title, which would tie them with Pittsburgh for the most in NFL history.
The Eagles are looking for their first-ever Super Bowl championship.
If the Eagles are going to win this game, their talented defensive front better get a lot of hits on New England QB Tom Brady, making the superstar QB uncomfortable in the pocket.
“[The Eagles need to] sack Tom Brady,” Denver linebacker Von Miller wrote for The Players’ Tribune. “That’s it. End of article. When you play the Patriots, getting to Tom Brady is where everything starts.”
And the Eagles have the talent to do just that, with one of the NFL’s best defensive lines, featuring end Brandon Graham, who had 9.5 sacks in the regular season, and a great defensive tackle in Fletcher Cox.
The Eagles also have one of the NFL’s top defensive minds in coordinator Jim Schwartz, and he should have the mother of all game plans to deal with New England’s top-shelf offense.
“Jim Schwartz’s scheme is built on penetration, and when you can get up the field, you disrupt everything,” former New York Giants center Shaun O’Hara told philadelphiaeagles.com. “You stop the running game in its tracks. You make Tom Brady uncomfortable because he has nowhere to go. It’s how the Eagles have to beat New England, and given the strength they have up front, they can win this way.”
But CBS analyst Boomer Esiason thinks it’s a mistake for the Eagles to rely too much on their defense, considering who they are facing.
“Most people would say, ‘Leave it in your defense’s hands.’ Forget that,” Esiason said. “Do not leave it in your defense’s hands because we have seen time and again, Tom Brady will bring a team back, especially late in the fourth quarter.”
So the Eagles will need to put some points on the board offensively to keep up with Brady, and remember, they are starting backup quarterback Nick Foles with starter Carson Wentz on injured reserve due to a knee injury.
“This is a process,” Foles said. “This is a journey. You want to go out there every game and play lights out, but that’s very, very hard to do. I haven’t played lights out, obviously.”
Foles did play well in the Eagles’ NFC Championship game blowout win over Minnesota, but the prior three games, he was pedestrian. Posting mediocre numbers in the final two regular season contests, and Philadelphia’s 15-10 win over Atlanta in the second-round of the playoffs.
Plus, Foles has never played in a Super Bowl, while Brady has played in seven. So it stands to reason the Eagles’ QB will be more nervous than his counterpart. In fact, overall, the Patriots have a huge Super Bowl experience edge over their opponent.
“The Patriots have 33 players with Super Bowl experience on their roster, the Eagles only six,” said Esiason. “So there’s going to be some mind games played by the Patriots.”
The Patriots also have some quality bulletin board fodder provided by Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey, channeling Joe Namath, and predicting a win before the game.
“Ain’t no if. Ain’t no if, man,” Jeffery told NFL.com. “Speak it into existence. When we win this game on Sunday, ain’t no telling [what] we’re going to do, but we’re probably going to celebrate, have some fun. We’re bringing that trophy back to Philly, man.”
One of the NFL’s top players, Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson, thinks Jeffrey made a big mistake.
“You can not do that two days before the game,” Peterson told Fox Sports 1. “I understand that you have confidence, I understand that you have the belief in yourself, but keep that to yourself and you can say that after the game that I knew we were going to win it. When I saw it this morning I told my friend, ‘Aw man Philly just lost the Super Bowl.’”
We will find out late Sunday night if this is true.