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Eagles vs. Patriots

Eagles vs. Patriots
Money Line (As of Jan. 31):

Eagles (2.70) Patriots (1.48)

The Philadelphia Eagles have been typecast throughout these NFL playoffs as the underdog. It started in the Divisional Round at home against Atlanta. It continued in the conference championships against Minnesota.

They are once again the underdog in Super Bowl LII against Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots going into Sunday.

They started as 5.5-point underdogs at the beginning of last week but that has shifted, with Philadelphia now a 4.5-point underdog. By the end of last week, a large majority of the money – 87 per cent as of last Friday – was on the Eagles to cover the spread. There hasn't been much in the way of change. As of this Wednesday, that number stood at 86 per cent.

Philadelphia is 9-3 against the spread versus teams with a winning record, which almost the same winning percentage that New England has (16-5, 76 per cent) against the spread versus winning teams.

Having Nick Foles, well established as the back-up before a brutal knee injury to Carson Wentz ended his season and put what had been a brilliant campaign for the Eagles into serious jeopardy just before the playoffs, as the starter is basically the first and only checkmark on the list of why this team is the underdog.

The Eagles have twice advanced against the favourites to appear in the Super Bowl – the very same game they had been building toward throughout the season with a healthy Wentz as their starting quarterback and the mid-season acquisition of running back Jay Ajayi to add to their ground attack.

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How realistic is an upset for a third straight game... on the biggest stage of them all... against a quarterback and coach that have reached legendary status for their run of success in New England, culminating in five championships and possibly a sixth this weekend?

The way Philadelphia's defence has been trending, it's a definite possibility.

Of course, Case Keenum isn't Tom Brady.

But the Eagles made life about as miserable as possible for Keenum and the Vikings offence for all but one series in the NFC Championship, keeping the favourites to just one touchdown all game and averaging just 8.5 points allowed through two playoff games so far. Just 229 yards allowed through the air per game and only 78 yards allowed along the ground per game. Only Carolina, ousted in the first round, has given up fewer rushing yards in the playoffs and, as stated before, they played only a single game.

For Atlanta and Minnesota, it was a challenge to run the ball against this Philadelphia defence – an area the Eagles excelled in during the regular season as well. It was also a challenge to pass the ball against this Philadelphia defence. What should bode well for New England is tight end Rob Gronkowski seems optimistic he'll play Sunday following a concussion in the AFC championship.

That's a big target for Brady, and one that adds another element for the Eagles defence to plan around.

Now, they face the Patriots, who make it seem like executing a game plan to perfection can be accomplished in their sleep, and have, as a result, fortified a mystique as the ultimate champion, nearly impossible to knock off the pedestal.

Just when it looked like the Patriots were done in the AFC title game against Jacksonville, Brady orchestrated two more drives against a strong and certainly confident Jaguars defence to win the game and secure another berth in the Super Bowl. On top of their offence, the Patriots boast a rather staunch defence, as well.

These teams enter this game with identical wins-loss records through regular season and playoffs – both 15-3. They're both 12-6 against the spread. The Over has dominated (10-3) in Philadelphia's last 13 games on field turf and, despite all signs pointing to a low-scoring game two weeks ago versus Minnesota, was triumphant in the NFC finale after Foles and the offence went crazy scoring three touchdowns through the air in a game Philadelphia alone put 38 on the score board – a half point below the original Total Points heading into the game.

The Over is 8-2 in New England's last 10 playoff games.

The trends are out there. But this is a one-game winner-take-all scenario. The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl. Nick Foles has been given a daunting task to lead this offence. He didn't break out against Atlanta but shredded Minnesota's secondary a week later. The Eagles' defence hasn't been perfect; just dominant.

About 70 per cent of the money as of Wednesday has been put on the Eagles to win Sunday.

As underdogs in these playoffs, the Eagles have been money so far.

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