Super Bowl Week: Picks
Who do you want to win, and why?
Eric: It’s hard to root for any of them if I’m to be honest. I know I was hoping for a Vikings win before they forgot how to play the game last Sunday, but given the options left to me, I suppose the continued success of the Evil Empire would be just too much to bear. The Eagles have something resembling a personality…. I’ve heard.
James: As a Giants fan this is a tough question for me, as I don’t like either team, and will probably just watch the game not cheering for either of them. I would really love to cheer against Brady, but because it’s the Eagles playing them I would probably choose the Pats just to keep the Eagles from winning a Superbowl, and to keep the Giants as the only team to beat them in the Brady era.
Luke: Confession time; I am a Patriots fan so this might be a bit one sided. Whilst I can see the allure of a storied franchise like the Eagles winning their first title, as far as I am concerned they can win it against anyone other than the Patriots. Despite his protestations about playing forever, our time with Tom Brady is limited and the window is closing. It would be amazing to have him bring home a 3rd title in 4 years, (again) which would provide a certain symmetry having done it early in his career. There would be something pretty sweet to have James Harrison win a ring as a Patriot rather than a Steeler too. Finally, and most importantly, you can never have enough Super Bowl victories can you?
Mark: After speaking to a couple of people, I am certainly in the minority of people who think it will be closer than a lot of people think. But, I still think that Brady and Belichick will come out on top again. The level of coaching on the sidelines for New England is unparalleled in modern pro-sports and, for one final time, before McDaniels and Patricia leave the nest, I think they will have the tactical nous to overcome whatever Phili throw at them. Sure, they have plenty of scar tissue to call upon!
Matt: Like James, I too am a Giants fan. It’s mundane – how good the Patriots are and how consistently they come back to break other team’s hearts. That being said, I don’t find the Eagles that fun to watch without Wentz. I guess I’ll try to enjoy another Brady showcase.
Any surprises you expect?
Eric: It’ll probably be a surprise to most that it will not be a blow out. I expect a well prepared gameplan from both sides. Belichick is known for getting his team right for the day and the match up at hand, while Doug Peterson has shown himself to be unpredictable in how his offence runs. He has changed to a more balanced approach in the playoffs which has served them well. I would also put forward that Chris Hogan might well be the main target of Brady.
James: I expect it to be a lot closer than people might expect and it should be an entertaining game
Luke: The bookies currently have the Patriots as five point favourites but I would expect it to be even closer than that. It could come down to a Stephen Gostkowski Field Goal conversion similar to Adam Vinatieri many moons ago. If we are discussing surprise players then I think you don’t have to look any further than Danny Amendola for the Patriots, who routinely shows up in the big games. His ability to make clutch catches, particularly on 3rd down make him a valuable asset in the Patriots machine. On the Eagles side of the ball a surprise performer could be Trey Burton. Depending on whom you speak to, Burton is either the second or third choice Tight End in the Eagles Offence behind Ertz and Celek. What Bill Belichick coached teams do is to take away a team’s best weapon. On paper that is Ertz. This could lead to players like Elandon Roberts or Marquis Flowers having to cover Burton who is a true receiving Tight End. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lead the Eagles in catches with one going for a touchdown.
Mark: It may not be a surprise per se, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Alshon Jeffery will have a big game. Stephon Gilmore may have made the big play vs Jacksonville, but the he and his band of merry man in the New England secondary haven’t exactly filled me with confidence this season. I would be surprised if this the Eagles rack up a raft of points with Jeffery leading the way.
Matt: I don’t think it’ll as close as the people-who-think-it-will-be-close do. Patriots to win it by seven, with the Eagles getting a late score to make it look respectable.
Who will be the MVP?
Eric: Odds will be short on this one as it will most likely be Tom Brady. I’ve hit the post a few times over the last few years. Last year I had Robert Alford, who had a right shot at it before not being able to bring in what turned out to be Julian Edelman’s miracle catch and I was definitely robbed when Kam Chancellor didn’t get it when the Seahawks triumphed over the Broncos. I’ll most likely look for value in someone like Stephon Gilmore.
James: Has to be Brady.
Luke: Even though I’m nearly 100% sure that one of the Quarterbacks will win it as they usually do, I’ll offer up a third option – Rob Gronkowski. I’m fairly certain he will clear concussion protocol and will be healthy for the game but I foresee two touchdowns for the Buffalo native. As he missed the last Super Bowl triumph due to injury, I think he will really want to stamp his authority over this one with the excellent Malcolm Jenkins left in his wake. Here are just a few key statistics for Gronk from the 2017 regular season:
- 3rd overall in yards per catch for Tight-Ends (15.7)
- 1st overall in 1st down conversion % for Tight-Ends (82.6%)
- 1st overall in yards per game for Tight-Ends (77.4)
Mark: I’m going to go for Tom Brady. This will be his seventh trip to the big dance and he is playing so well that I would take this version of Brady over any other. He keeps finding new ways to dismantle defences, elevate players around him and drive his team forward. He vanquished anyone doubting his league MVP award calibre with his performance against Jacksonville and did it all without his top-receiver and a busted hand.
Matt: Danny ‘playoff’ Amendola to show up in a big spot.
Eric: New England Patriots 31-27 Philadelphia Eagles
James: New England Patriots 34 – 30 Philadelphia Eagles
Luke: New England Patriots 24-21 Philadelphia Eagles
Mark: New England Patriots 28-24 Philadelphia Eagles
Matt: New England Patriots 30 – 23 Philadelphia Eagles
Does Belichick retire or leave after this?
Eric: No. There might not be anything to prove or much left to accomplish, but for Don Shula’s all time record. It’s most probably out of reach, given that it would take another 70 odd wins, but you’d never know. One thing’s for certain, he isn’t going to be heading anywhere else. The whole romantic notion of a return to the Giants is just that. Belichick is more of a textbook like his dad, rather than a romance novel.
James: I think he’ll stay. As long as Brady is still going he’ll hang around.
Luke: No. I think there is still life in the old dog yet. With McDaniels and Patricia set to leave his staff, there will have to be a re-building of sorts in 2018 but I think it is a challenge he will relish. Watch for his sons Steve and Brian to maybe see some sort of promotion within the organization. I think it could be Nick Caserio on Offence and Belichick himself calling the Defense whilst Brian Flores is groomed for the eventual coordinator role.
Mark: As long as he has Tom Brady performing at this level, I can’t see him leaving. I think the ESPN article has only worked to reinforce the siege mentality at 1 Patriot Place and they’ve closed rank even more in recent weeks (if that was even possible…). He’ll stay around for 2-3 years and then usher in a new era while he and Brady ride off into the sunset together. There’s no chance he’s leaving – yet.
Matt: He’s not done yet, no. Another two seasons I think. Here’s hoping it does downhill in those two years to give someone else a chance.
Who’ll we see challenging next season?
Eric: No points for putting forward the Patriots. Without seeing how the off season unfolds through the GM/Coaching merry-go-round, Free Agency and the Draft, I’ll stick with the Jaguars, Saints and Eagles competing at the business end once again. Looking for teams who didn’t make the post season who could make the leap to contenders next year, the Texans would be a possible candidate with the return of key players like Watt and Watson.
James: The AFC has become a bit boring with the Pats and Steelers dominating. However the Jaguars looked much improved this year and it would be nice to see them challenge again next season, and with a few more improvements hopefully they can take the Pats next year. The NFC is always a wildcard with different teams emerging each year. I’d love to say the Giants but I think they are a year or two off competing again. I’m sure the Packers will be back next year with Rodgers at full health, and I can see the Rams going further after the experience of this year. Of course a lot will depend on what happens in Free agency and the draft before we see the real contenders emerging.
Luke: I think the Patriots will be back challenging next year as they usually do, although they could lose a lot of talent in free-agency this year so it might be a small hiatus from the “Big One”. Jacksonville and Houston and Pittsburgh could challenge in the AFC but I firmly believe in the case of the Steelers that whilst Tomlin remains in charge, they will be out-coached by teams with inferior rosters. In the NFC, Philadelphia look like they are just getting started, and with Wentz to come back from injury they have plenty of room to improve. The Rams, Vikings, and Saints will challenge again. If the 49ers can put together a decent offseason, they could be a dark-horse for a wild-card spot.
Mark: I tipped the Saints to make, and win, the Super Bowl and for the all the noise surrounding Diggs’ catch and the ‘Minnesota Miracle’, that’s exactly what it was. With a healthy defense and Drew Brees playing as well as he has in years, I think New Orleans will challenge again next season. The Cardianls too, but that’s just because I’m an eternal optimist.
Matt: I can’t wait to see if what happened in San Francisco towards the tailend was just a honeymoon period with Jimmy G, or if they’re for real. I hope they improve and make that division even more competitive. Atlanta and New Orleans could go a step further in 2018 I think. Both teams have nice pieces on both sides, and seemed to adjust well as the season went on.
This OTI piece was compiled by Matt Carolan. Matt is a New York Football Giants fan from Co Wicklow, and is currently working in marketing. Matt can be found on twitter at