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Will the Patriots win a record-tying sixth Super Bowl championship or will the Eagles win their first? Our writers hash it out

Can Nick Foles punctuate Philadelphia’s fairytale playoff run with the hard-luck club’s first title in 57 years? Photograph: Eric Gay/AP” data-reactid=”22″>

Can Nick Foles punctuate Philadelphia’s fairytale playoff run with the hard-luck club’s first title in 57 years? Photograph: Eric Gay/AP

What the Patriots need to do to win

Tom Brady’s hands? I’m being glib, but when a team pulls off as many come-from-behind wins as this one, over such an extended period, what else are we supposed to say? You probably don’t need reminding that the Pats trailed by 25 points in the third quarter of last year’s Super Bowl. Or that they stuck 14 fourth-quarter points on a previously dominant Jacksonville defense in last month’s AFC title game.” data-reactid=”27″>PB: Let Philly build up a lead, then stick the ball in Tom Brady’s hands? I’m being glib, but when a team pulls off as many come-from-behind wins as this one, over such an extended period, what else are we supposed to say? You probably don’t need reminding that the Pats trailed by 25 points in the third quarter of last year’s Super Bowl. Or that they stuck 14 fourth-quarter points on a previously dominant Jacksonville defense in last month’s AFC title game.

Perhaps the more nuanced version of that same answer is: keep on adjusting. As brilliant as Brady is in the clutch, it is Bill Belichick’s capacity for tweaking his gameplan on the fly that makes this team so hard to beat. We saw it against the Jaguars, whose offense exploded in the first half but ground to a halt as New England started finding ways to keep Blake Bortles in the pocket. A different approach will be required against Nick Foles and company, but these Patriots know they need not panic if they don’t have the right answers at the start.

What the Eagles need to do to win

Brady is the one essential piece of the puzzle, and has played some of the best football of his career even this year at 40 years old. There might not be a team in the NFL better equipped than Philly to generate pressure with a four-man front at the tail end of a long season, however, thanks to an extraordinarily deep rotation which can alternate the likes of Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Tim Jernigan and Vinny Curry with Beau Allen, Derek Barnett and Chris Long. That group must play up to its potential for the Eagles to prevail.

Carson Wentz was lost to a season-ending injury in December. But the Eagles’ coaches have done a masterful job of crafting game plans around Foles’ strengths and masking his weaknesses, putting him in a position to make plays. They will play with irreverence and they will put up points as they have all year, with or without their franchise player.” data-reactid=”33″>BG: There’s been no shortage of hand-wringing over Nick Foles, the back-up quarterback thrust into the starter’s role when Carson Wentz was lost to a season-ending injury in December. But the Eagles’ coaches have done a masterful job of crafting game plans around Foles’ strengths and masking his weaknesses, putting him in a position to make plays. They will play with irreverence and they will put up points as they have all year, with or without their franchise player.

Not surprisingly, it will come down to the defense, which rated among the NFL’s best all season long. The Eagles must harry Brady and shorten the game to keep New England’s offense off the field. It’s the common thread in nearly all of the Patriots’ high-profile defeats, including their AFC title game loss to the Broncos two years ago and both Super Bowl setbacks to the Giants.

Unsung player to look out for

Story Continues

New England’s Kyle Van Noy shined in the AFC title game after finishing third on the team in tackles during the regular season. Photograph: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images” data-reactid=”58″>

New England’s Kyle Van Noy shined in the AFC title game after finishing third on the team in tackles during the regular season. Photograph: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

What you’re most looking forward to seeing

Nick Foles. So what does Pederson have up his sleeve here, and how will Belichick counter? And after each team pulled out the flea-flicker in the conference title games, what fresh misdirection lies in store?” data-reactid=”63″>PB: The coaching duel between Bill Belichick and Doug Pederson. The Eagles opened up the playbook against Minnesota, and were rewarded with a monster game from Nick Foles. So what does Pederson have up his sleeve here, and how will Belichick counter? And after each team pulled out the flea-flicker in the conference title games, what fresh misdirection lies in store?

One bold prediction

Your MVP will be …

The winner will be …

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