Each week during the season, Monty Andrews has broken down some of the underlying betting mismatches on the National Football League slate, giving you an inside edge when handicapping the matchups and setting your daily fantasy rosters. We are down to Super Bowl LII and we use Monty's penchant for finding mismatches to handicap The Big Game.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots (-4.5, 48)
It's the biggest game of the NFL season, as the New England Patriots seek their second straight title - and sixth all-time - against a Philadelphia Eagles team that is looking for its first Super Bowl championship. The Patriots come into this year's title contest at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis as modest favorites, thanks to a Tom Brady-led offense that led the league in total offense. The Eagles will look to quash New England's quest at a repeat with a defense that allowed the fourth-fewest yards in the NFL.
Eagles' solid rush attack vs. Patriots' run D problems
There weren't many things the Eagles didn't do well this season, thriving on a dynamic offense led by quarterback Carson Wentz and making opposing teams suffer thanks to a relentless defense. And that's not all; the Eagles were one of the top rushing teams in the league, especially after acquiring Jay Ajayi in a mid-season trade with the Miami Dolphins. And in what is expected to be a highly competitive game, Philadelphia should be able to exploit a New England rush attack that has struggled to keep teams at bay.
The Eagles' running game didn't generate much buzz throughout the season, mostly because Wentz was so spectacular prior to his season-ending knee injury. But Philadelphia might not be where it is without the success of its rush attack, which produced the third-most yards during the regular season (2,115). And while the Eagles struggled with fumbles - committing 11 during the regular season and another three in the playoffs - this is a run game that can move the football against just about any team in the league.
That doesn't bode well at all for a Patriots defense that held opponents to the fourth-lowest run rate in the league (38.0 percent), but allowed opposing rushers to gain a whopping 4.6 yards per carry; only the Los Angeles Chargers were more generous (4.9 YPC). And while New England limited Jacksonville to 101 yards on 32 carries in the AFC Championship, things might be different on a neutral field against an Eagles team whose 4.3 YPC average during the season ranked seventh in the NFL.
Eagles' interception immunity vs. Patriots' secondary struggles
The loss of Wentz - to an injury revealed last week to be even more severe than first thought - was supposed to be the end of the Eagles' title chances. But Nick Foles has emerged as more than capable of spearheading the Philadelphia offense. While he lacks the explosiveness of his young predecessor, Foles has done a magnificent job taking care of the football - and in that regard, the Eagles as a whole have a significant advantage over a Patriots team that didn't produce many turnovers on passing downs.
While Philadelphia boasted one of the lowest passing rates in football during the regular season (55.2 percent), it still led the NFL in passing touchdowns (38) and finished just outside the top 10 in yards per game through the air (240.1). Wentz, Foles and Nate Sudfeld also combined to throw just nine interceptions, sixth-fewest in the league. Foles was at his tactical best last time out, throwing three touchdowns with zero interceptions in last week's NFC Championship rout of the Minnesota Vikings.
Teams threw the ball more than 62 percent of the time against the Patriots, but the New England secondary didn't turn many of those passes into interceptions. The Patriots finished the regular season with 12 INTs - tied with Tennessee for 18th overall - and are the only one of the final four playoff teams without an interception in the postseason; Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Minnesota all have at least two. Look for Philadelphia to use a measured passing game to keep the football out of the hands of the Pats' defense.
Eagles' discipline issues vs. Patriots' paucity of penalties
You might see the first two items on the list and wonder why the Eagles aren't favored. Well, Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense has a lot to do with that - and there are other factors, as well. Oddsmakers aren't convinced that Foles can outduel his New England counterpart, while the Patriots' extensive playoff experience also comes into play. And if Philadelphia can't show more discipline than it did during the regular season, New England will own the kind of penalty advantage that could decide this one.
While it didn't cost them anything in the overall standings, the Eagles were one of the most penalized teams in the NFL in 2017, picking up the fifth-most accepted flags (124) while accruing the eighth-most accepted penalty yards (1,041). Not surprisingly, that resulted in the Eagles finishing fourth from the bottom in total penalty flag differential (minus-17), ahead of only the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos - three teams that missed the postseason completely.
As you might have expected, the Patriots were once again one of the most disciplined teams in the NFL this past season. New England finished its 16-game campaign with exactly 100 accepted flags - eighth-fewest in the league - and its 882 accepted penalty yards also ranked eighth. And the Patriots were even better when it came to drawing flags, finishing with the league's greatest penalty yard differential (plus-313) and the second-best flag differential (plus-27).