As interesting as the player battles on the field will be in Super Bowl LII, the coaching chess match between Bill Belichick and Doug Pederson is expected to be just as fun.
Belichick, of course, always has the edge heading into every game due to his impressive track record during his tenure with the New England Patriots, but Pederson is no slouch and he’s guided the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl despite losing his starting quarterback and MVP candidate, Carson Wentz, before the playoffs.
Let’s break down the coaching battle.
No one can put together a game plan and prepare for an opponent quite like Belichick. Giving him two weeks to scheme for his Super Bowl opponent is a massive advantage for the Patriots and Belichick will need that time against Philadelphia to figure out how he wants to defend against one of their biggest strengths: RPOs (run-pass options).
The Eagles used RPOs more than anyone in the league this season, while New England had to defend against it the least of any team. Philadelphia are expected to heavily utilise those plays against a Patriots defence that is weakest at the linebacker position.
Lack of athleticism and speed between New England’s linebackers means it will be an even bigger task for Belichick to figure out how to slow the Eagles down.
However, another quality Belichick has in his favour is the ability to adjust mid-game. Even if Philadelphia get off to a fast start and gash the Patriots in the first half, Belichick has proven he can change schemes up on the fly, so the lengthy halftime will be crucial for the Patriots to reformulate their plan of attack after seeing the Eagles first-hand for 30 minutes.
Will be interesting to see how the Pats gameplan for the Eagles RPOs. Jaguars shredded them with same RPO 4 times in first half last week pic.twitter.com/gYJWIPYIjj— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) January 30, 2018
Whereas Belichick is more of a defensive guru, Pederson’s strength lies on the other side of the ball. Forget head coaches, few offensive coordinators around the league have as good of a feel when it comes to play-calling as Pederson, whose scheme has put Nick Foles in a position to succeed by amplifying his strengths and covering up his weaknesses.
Against New England, Pederson will hope to control both the pace of the game and time of possession, keeping Tom Brady off the field while his offence moves the chains.
When the Patriots are in their base defence, expect Pederson to dial up plays like RPOs to take advantage of mismatches with linebackers. When New England bring in more defensive backs, expect the Eagles to attack on the ground.
One aspect to watch is how Pederson responds late in the game if the score is somewhat close. The Patriots’ past two Super Bowl wins have been helped by questionable play-calling on the opposite sideline and Belichick has knack for getting his counterpart to screw up at inopportune times.
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