And then there were two: Patriots, Eagles gear up for NFL finale

The entire NFL season now comes down to one final game. Most NFL fans could foresee another Tom Brady championship run, but who would have foreseen the Nick Foles-led Philadelphia Eagles coming this far?

Foles is an unproven journeyman, and yet he has the opportunity to make his mark in denying the New England Patriots another championship title. Though Philadelphia possesses one of the deadliest defenses in the game today, will it be able to contain the multi-faceted New England offense? Based on what occurred in last weekend’s conference championships, this will prove to be an exciting and one-of-a-kind Super Bowl.

Normally-dominant New England struggled in the American Football Conference Championship against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Thanks to an unforgiving defense and an elite performance from quarterback Blake Bortles, Jacksonville came a mere four points from upsetting the dynasty-holders and truly shocking the world. To the dismay of Patriots fans, this proves how vulnerable New England can actually be. For the majority of the game, the Patriots were rattled by the Jacksonville offense of Bortles and rookie running back Leonard Fournette.

Up until the fourth quarter, Bortles was able to effectively pick apart the usually dominant New England secondary. Instead of functioning in his usual “game manager” role, Bortles was given permission to unleash his strong arm. While this in the past has led to accuracy troubles and interceptions, Blake’s downfield performance proved lethal. With the help of receivers Allen Hurns, Marquise Lee and Dede Westbrook, Bortles was able to stay in the driver’s seat for nearly the entire game. This was aided by the consistent looming threat of Leonard Fournette, whose presence on the field required constant pressure on the defensive line. All in all, New England had quite a bit of trouble stopping the dynamic Jacksonville offense. Had this game not been saved by New England’s fourth quarter defensive revival and desperate offensive outburst, Jacksonville would have — and arguably should have — easily taken the win.

While the AFC Championship was in retrospect an emotional roller coaster, the National Football Conference Championship between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings seemed to be quite a mismatch. This 38-7 blowout can be summed up in two words: pure dominance. On both sides of the ball, Philadelphia held ultimate control, pushing the Vikings around in whatever manner it desired. Backup quarterback Nick Foles put up an absolutely stellar stat line: 352 yards, three touchdowns and a passer rating of 141.4. The Eagles defense lived up to the hype, holding Minnesota to seven points and creating three turnovers. Minnesota was entirely unprepared for this matchup and simply could not create momentum. Though Philadelphia was considered an underdog due to its lack of starting quarterback Carson Wentz, it is now considered to have a legitimate chance to knock off the New England Patriots.

For the Patriots and Eagles, everything comes down to this matchup — the reigning dynasty against the persevering underdogs. Will we see Tom Brady, arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, earn his sixth championship ring? Or will we see Nick Foles, Alshon Jeffery and the ferocious Philadelphia defense silence the doubters? Only time will tell.

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