The Philadelphia Eagles had one of the better defenses in the NFL during the regular season. New England’s went through stages. It was terrible at the start of the season. But they got better as the season went on. One of them could have a serious impact on the outcome of Super Bowl LII.
But which one?
Without Carson Wentz at the helm of the offense, no one gave the Eagles a chance in the playoffs. It didn’t matter how well the defense played. No one believed Nick Foles could get enough out of the offense to beat the Atlanta Falcons or the Minnesota Vikings.
The lack of faith was so strong that even though they were the No. 1 seed in the NFC and playing at home, they were the underdog to Atlanta and Minnesota. But they proved the world wrong by winning both games by a combined score of 53-17.
Nick Foles played much better than anyone expected. But both wins were still powered by the Eagles defense. While people are giving Foles and the Eagles offense more respect now, the general perception is that whatever chance Philadelphia has of winning the Super Bowl lies with their defense.
Many even believe that it is so good that the Eagles might actually pull off the upset and win the game.
The Eagles do have a great defense; one that has played exceptionally well the last couple of weeks. But fans should not be shocked if it doesn’t live up to expectations against the Patriots. Not because anyone is hurt or because Tom Brady has made a deal with the Crossroads Demon.
They simply aren’t nearly as good on the road as they are at home.
At home, they were the best in the NFL last season allowing just 12.4 points a game. But on the road, they were more of an average, run-of-the-mill unit and gave up 23.5 points/game (16th). It’s why teams want to have home-field advantage for as long as possible in the playoffs—and it worked for the Eagles.
This is not to say that their defense is not going to play well against the Patriots in Minneapolis just because the game is not in Philadelphia. But the unit may not be as dominant as fans are expecting it to be.
On the other hand, playing away from home could be exactly what the Patriots needed to gain an advantage.
The regular season was an odd one for the New England Patriots. They are typically one of the toughest teams in the NFL to beat at home. But this season they lost twice in Foxborough, and they gave up on average 20.1 points/game.
But on the road, it was a different story. When the Patriots played away from Foxborough, the defense only allowed 16.1 points/game (second best in the league).
There are, of course, many factors that impact how a team plays at home or on the road. Teams do, of course, tend to play better at home. They are more comfortable at home. Their surroundings are familiar, and the environment is certainly much, much nicer.
At the same time, while uncommon, it is not unusual for a team to play better on the road. Some have been known to thrive off the hate and vitriol from the home team’s fans. Rather than let it get them, they elevate their game in order to shut the crowd down—which can also energize a defense.
Which way happens to be the case for the Patriots? Who knows. But the stats don’t lie in this case. New England is a much better defense on the road. While they may feel at home playing in their third Super Bowl in four years, it is essentially a road game for them— and that’s a good thing.
For the Eagles, on the other hand, it is not such a good thing.
So, what does all this mean in regard to the game? It could mean something, but at the same time, it could mean absolutely nothing. Stats allow the media and fans to paint a picture of how they think a game will play out.
But if the stats were reliable, Vegas would have already gone bankrupt.