Super Bowl 2018 predictions: Expert picks for Eagles vs. Patriots
Don't get us wrong: Even with Cousins wearing green and white, the Jets would still be the 30th-ranked team and would have only a 16 percent chance to reach the playoffs up from 10 percent. What if we know Carson Wentz is healthy to start the season? Or in Week 5? We'll sum it up like this: The difference in the Eagles' chances to win, in the model's mind, between Wentz and Nick Foles is generally about 4 percentage points per game.
After all, we've seen that Foles is a capable fill-in. In Week 1, we give Philadelphia a 65 percent chance to beat Atlanta with Wentz under center and a 61 percent with Foles. But all those percentage points do add up: We would project over 10 wins with 16 games of Wentz, but 9. How much better are the Colts with Andrew Luck than without him? The difference between him and Jacoby Brissett hovers around 11 percentage points per game. The Colts are about a seven-win team with Luck and just better than a five-win team with Brissett, so there's a real difference there.
Luck is held in high esteem by the FPI, but, similar to the aforementioned Jets scenario, he isn't the only part of the equation. In order for the Colts to be playoff contenders, they'll need more than just Luck's health to break in their favor. A season ago the Patriots and Steelers squared off in what many presumed would be a precursor to a playoff showdown between the two teams.
But we will get another game between New England and Pittsburgh -- in Week 15, no less -- this season. And according to our pregame matchup quality metric, which considers the quality of the two teams in the contest, that is the best game of the year. But in terms of playoff chances, Patriots-Steelers is not actually the most important game of the year.
For that, we can look at leverage -- the percentage chance to reach the playoffs each team can gain or lose depending on the result. And if we look at that, we get a whole different set of games with high stakes to look forward to in the upcoming year.
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Will the Eagles, with Nick Foles in position to become one of the most unlikely Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks in history, shock the world and win their first Super Bowl? For all of that, this year's extensive Super Bowl matchup breakdown can be found here. Odds, pick against spread. Super Bowl 52 should not be a defensive struggle. There are too many ways for both teams to move the ball. Foles will get going with better support from his rushing attack, while Brady will keep letting it rip in the air.
This game has the feel of a back-and-forth affair with neither team starting slow. It probably comes down the last possession, and Brady will need only one final minute to push the Patriots to victory — and the first Super Bowl repeat since they beat the Eagles in Super Bowl They are aggressive and hard-hitting, but Brady needs to get to them before they can get to him.
He'll find good mismatches in the middle of the field, and the Patriots can counteract the Falcons' strengths with Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman. Brady should also get consistent support from LeGarrette Blount in the power running game to open up a few shots downfield to AFC title game hero Chris Hogan. Although the Falcons will be a little prepared for this based on facing their own offense in practice, the Patriots' specific versatility within their scheme is difficult to slow down.
The Falcons' weaknesses in the red zone will be exploited by both run and pass. That leaves it to Ryan to match Brady drive for drive. So far, few teams have been able to keep up with Ryan in the NFC. The Patriots will do their best to take Jones out of the game, but the Falcons will know this and make sure they get all their other targets involved.