Super Bowl LII is set, and the New England Patriots are heavily favored over the Philadelphia Eagles for the Feb. 4 game at Minneapolis’s U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Patriots sit as five-point favorites as of Jan. 24, and that spread has been well earned by the New England offense. The Patriots enter the game having scored 2.6 points per offensive drive this season, including the playoffs, giving them the NFL’s No. 1 offense. The Eagles rank No. 5 with 2.2 points per drive for the season, but that drops to 1.7 after isolating the games with backup quarterback Nick Foles under center in relief of Carson Wentz, who went down with an anterior cruciate ligament injury in December.
Foles struggled during his three starts in the regular season, completing 54 percent of his passes with a 77.7 passer rating, but has since turned it around in the playoffs, completing 78 percent of his passes with a 122.1 passer rating in the postseason. That’s obviously a massive difference: teams that ended a game in 2017 with a passer rating of 80 or less won just 22 percent of those games while a passer rating in excess of 120 led to an 87 percent win rate. If Foles can turn in a performance similar to the one against the Minnesota Vikings — completing 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns — then obviously Philadelphia has a great chance to pull off the upset.
But it’s unlikely he can replicate one of the best quarterback performances in recent history. So if he can’t put in another game on par with the NFC Championship, the Eagles’ defense is going to have to make up the difference.
It appears to be up to the task. Philadelphia’s defense is allowing 1.4 points per drive in 2017, just a fraction of a point worse than the Jacksonville Jaguars, who led the league. New England’s defense was close behind at No. 6 with 1.6 points allowed per drive. The league average heading into Super Bowl LII is 1.8 points allowed per drive.
|Points per drive||Offense||Defense|
Because the Patriots typically have 11 drives per game, we can estimate that by scoring 2.6 points per drive against an average defense they should score 22.3 points, on average, against a defense as good as Philadelphia’s. The Eagles, by this same method, would be projected to score 17.7 points, giving the Patriots a 4.5-point margin of victory, which is close to the consensus point spread of five points.
A better method is to try to derive each team’s true talent level, taking into account everything we know so far while also adjusting for the small sample size of 18 games played, including the playoffs, similar to how we created The Post’s weekly power rankings. Those win rates take into account a team’s actual record and what its record should be based on points scored and allowed — also known as its Pythagorean win percentage — which is then used to simulate the playoffs 5,000 times. By this method, New England wins Super Bowl LII 78 percent of the time, implying a final margin of victory of seven to eight points.
New England Patriots (-5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Winner: New England Patriots, 78 percent
Pick: New England Patriots -5
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