Super Bowl LII: Three key match-ups between Eagles and Patriots
The New England Patriots will face the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII, 13 years after the two sides met in Super Bowl XXXIX.
On that occasion, a certain Tom Brady helped the Patriots triumph 24-21 in Jacksonville.
While each team understandably has a new cast of characters for the rematch, the two constants are Brady at quarterback for New England and Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Omnisport's Ron Clements looks at three key match-ups that could prove decisive in Minnesota on February 4.
Doug Pederson's offense against Bill Belichick's defense
Matt Patricia is the Patriots defensive coordinator and Frank Reich is the Eagles offensive coordinator, but this has been Belichick's defense for years and Pederson has his fingerprints all over the Eagles offense.
Pederson has put together two excellent gameplans to get the Eagles to the Super Bowl and will have two weeks to come up with a method for Belichick's Patriots.
The Eagles used a lot of run-pass options in their 15-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round. Pederson then put the ball in the hands of Nick Foles in the NFC championship game and the quarterback responded fantastically, with 352 passing yards and three scores against the NFL's top defense.
Now Pederson will face perhaps the best coach the NFL has ever known. If he can come up with an answer to Belichick's creativity and deliver the Eagles their first Super Bowl championship, he will forever be a legend in Philadelphia.
Eagles tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai against Patriots pass rushers
Vaitai has struggled at times while filling in for Jason Peters, but the second-year player from TCU kept Minnesota's sack leader at bay. Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had 13 sacks during the regular season and another in last Sunday's win over the New Orleans Saints, had just one tackle on Sunday and zero sacks in Philadelphia's 38-7 win.
While the Patriots defense lacks a dominant pass rusher, New England still ranked seventh with 42 sacks during the regular season. Defensive end Trey Flowers led New England with 6.5 sacks while outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy had 5.5 and defensive tackle Deatrich Wise had five. Vaitai could see multiple players across from him in the Super Bowl, including former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end James Harrison, and must play as well as he did against the Vikings to keep Foles upright.
Malcolm Jenkins against Rob Gronkowski
The Eagles will certainly try to pressure Brady with Fletcher Cox, Chris Long and Derek Barnett up front, but Brady has a quick release and will push the ball downfield.
While Danny Amendola made several clutch catches in the 24-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Dion Lewis has been dangerous all season, the key to stopping the Patriots will be containing Gronkowski.
The big Patriots tight end missed the second half of the AFC championship game and the Patriots won the Super Bowl last year with an injured Gronkowski shelved. However, assuming he is cleared from Sunday's concussion over the next two weeks, the 28-year-old figures to be a big factor in New England's gameplan.
Stopping Brady will not be easy, but Gronkowski was New England's leading receiver all season and has to be priority number one for the Eagles.