When you think of the players who will likely play the biggest roles in determining the Super Bowl on Sunday, the obvious candidates immediately come to mind.
Let’s take a look at the 10 most important players that will be on the field on Sunday, ranked in order.
1. Nick Foles
There’s no bigger wildcard in the Super Bowl than the Philadelphia quarterback, who showed in the NFC Championship Game he can do a fine Carson Wentz impression. If he plays like that again, the Patriots’ biggest advantage in the game suddenly disappears, making the Eagles extremely hard to beat.
2. Tom Brady
He’s the greatest quarterback of all-time, so yeah, he’s pretty important. The question isn’t really whether Brady will play well, but if he’ll get enough time in the pocket to make his throws. If Philadelphia can generate enough pressure without having to blitz, Brady won’t look so superhuman.
3. Rob Gronkowski
The Patriots tight end is coming off a concussion suffered in the AFC Championship Game, but all signs point to him being good to go. When Gronkowski on the field, he’s as big of a difference maker as there is for any skill position player. Even if he’s not getting the ball, the mere threat of him will draw enormous attention.
4. Fletcher Cox
The secret to beating New England isn’t really a secret. Pressure Brady up the middle and take away his clean pocket to make him uncomfortable. Cox is more than capable of doing just that as a defensive tackle who can cave the interior of the line. If he can get to Brady enough, that will tilt the axis in the Eagles’ favour.
5. Trey Flowers
New England’s pass rush doesn’t exactly light the world on fire, but Flowers is easily the best of the bunch. In all likelihood, the Patriots will dare Philadelphia to throw the ball, but that strategy is predicated on getting at least a little bit of pressure on Foles. If Flowers can’t, it’s unclear who else on New England can.
6. Malcolm Jenkins
Talk about a challenge. The Eagles safety is expected to spend most of his time covering Gronkowski, as well as helping out near the line of scrimmage against New England’s run game. Jenkins is used to corralling tight ends on his own, but Gronkowski is in a stratosphere of his own.
7. Brandon Graham
While Cox dos his work inside, Graham wreaks havoc on the outside in Philadelphia’s wide-9 alignment. A two-pronged attack on Brady will be key and Graham is always a threat for a strip sack. Expect New England to use their running backs and tight ends to help right tackle Cameron Fleming handle Graham.
8. Patrick Chung
Similar to Jenkins, New England’s strong safety will often have his hands full against a deadly tight end in Zach Ertz. He’ll also be used at times as a slot cornerback, as well as a stuffer against Philadelphia’s ground attack. Versatility is the Patriots’ calling card and there are few players on their roster as versatile as Chung.
Patrick Chung vs. tight ends this season, including playoffs:— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) January 24, 2018
23 receptions on 42 targets (54.8 completion percentage), 235 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, 2 pass breakups, 77.0 passer rating.
That’s an average of 1.3 catches for 13.1 yards per game.
9. David Andrews
It’s not often that a centre is one of the most important players in the biggest game of the year, but protecting Brady from pressure up the middle isn’t just important to New England, it’s a priority. Andrews will be needed to be on top of his game in one-on-one situations and as a helper to the guards.
10. Zach Ertz
The Eagles’ leading receiver this season was none other than Ertz, who is a mismatch nightmare for slower linebackers and smaller defensive backs. He’s not on the same level of Gronkowski, but he can affect the game in similar ways, especially on third down and in the red zone.
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