The 52nd Super Bowl shapes up as a collision between teams representing two of America’s oldest cities, Boston and Philadelphia.
I am anticipating a close game that will be determined by a number of factors, such as...
▪ The Better Team Factor: The Eagles have more talent on defense, and before quarterback Carson Wentz went down with a knee injury in December, no NFL offense was more productive. The Patriots have the incomparable Tom Brady.
Edge: Patriots, 10 points.
▪ The Backup Quarterback Factor: If Brady sustains an injury that puts him on the sideline, his replacement will be Brian Hoyer, who has passed for 9,895 yards during a nine-year career spent largely as a journeyman. The Eagles, meanwhile, are experts on backup quarterbacks, as they are starting one in Nick Foles. If Foles is hurt, the Philadelphia offense will be in the hands of Nate Sudfield, who has passed for 134 career yards.
Edge: Patriots, one point.
▪ The Super Sunday Historic Moment Factor: Former Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb has denied it, but rumors persist that during the Eagles’ 24-21 loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl 39, he revived a famously gross scene from “The Exorcist.” As for New England, its championship dynasty forever will be associated with Malcom Butler’s goal-line interception against the 2014 Seahawks, which caused millions of residents in the Puget Sound region to endure stomach problems for the rest of their lives.
Edge: Patriots, four points.
▪ The Clever Response To The Dumbest Of All Dumb Media Day Questions Factor: Asked what kind of tree he’d be if were, you know, a tree, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson — a Bellingham native who starred at Ferndale High — answered “Douglas Fir.”
Edge: Eagles, two points.
▪ The TV Sitcom Based On A Bar Factor: Boston was the home of “Cheers,” a place where everybody knows your name. Paddington’s Pub, home of the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” gang, is a place where everybody wants to know your PIN number.
Edge: Patriots, three points.
▪ The Revenge Factor: Steve Spagnuolo, the Eagles linebackers coach in Super Bowl 39, told a Philadelphia radio station last week that he believed the Patriots obtained inside information on his team’s defensive scheme. Brady blistered the Eagles in the second half, engineering three scoring drives in a span of four possessions.
“It was evident to us,” said Spagnuolo “We believe that Tom knew where we were pressuring.”
As Spagnuolo would point out in an attempt to clarify his suspicions, stealing signals during the course of a game is not illegal and does not fulfill any definition of cheating. But still, if the Eagles manage to upset the defending champs, the sight of head coach Bill Belichick trudging to the locker room, with his head down, will become an indelible snapshot in the “City of Brotherly Love.”
Edge: Eagles, two points.
▪ The Food Factor: Pitting Philadelphia cheese steak against Boston cream pie is a mismatch. A sandwich, glorious with grease, versus a goo-filled pastry? Hello?
Edge: Eagles, four points.
▪ The Music Factor: Boston boasts The Cars, Aerosmith, James Taylor, Donna Summer and, of course, the symphony orchestra known for its rendition of a song pertaining to a flag essentially designed by Philadelphia native Betsy Ross.
But nothing about Boston’s musical heritage can compare to “the sound of Philadelphia.” Thinking here of the Delfonics, the Stylistics, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and the Spinners.
“Can’t get no rest
Don’t know how I work all day
When will I learn?
Memories get in the way?”
The first verse from the Spinners’ “Games People Play,” the best juke box song ever.
Edge: Eagles, 12 points.
▪ The Invincible Factor: If New England is behind by one or two or even three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, it will find a way to turn the Eagles into idiots who forgot how they built their lead. The Patriots are experts of the strategy — the football equivalent of the rope-a-dope maneuver in boxing — that leaves opponents too fatigued, physically and mentally, to throw a lights-out punch.
Edge: Patriots, six points.
When it’s all said and done (and sung and eaten), I’m seeing New England 24, Philadelphia 20.
That mirrors the Las Vegas line favoring the Patriots by 4 points. Same conclusion, slightly different methodology, but I’ve learned enough about Brady and Belichick over the years that it’s difficult to offer anything more than a gut hunch.
Memories get in the way.