Guide to Super Bowl LII: Predictions, X factors, more for Eagles-Patriots

Your destination for all things Swim. You have successfully created your Sports Illustrated Account. With a roster stocked with talent, that certainly qualifies them as one of the biggest underachievers this season. The Vikings are the heavy favorite in the NFC, picked to win the conference by 10 of our 11 prognosticators. All the Week 1 replacements who set the tone for Baltimore Ravens. When Eagles have the ball

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And that's a blueprint for success. The Patriots are the first team with 10 Super Bowl appearances. They're in their previous nine. The Steelers, Cowboys and Broncos are tied for the second-most appearances at eight apiece. They've proven they're an elite team that is able to overcome any obstacle, no matter the circumstance.

Well, there's the whole Brady-Belichick thing. They've dominated the league for the past couple of decades, winning five championships. One came against the Eagles after the regular season.

They're going against legends, and doing so without their best player, Wentz. Eagles will win if: They're able to pressure Brady with their four-man rush. Their D-line has been the team's top strength over the course of the season. If defensive end Brandon Graham and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox are able to dominate, and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz doesn't have to bring many blitzes, the Eagles will be well-positioned to capture their first Lombardi Trophy.

Malcolm Jenkins , S. Jenkins' versatility should be on full display in what I expect to be an aggressive defensive game plan under Schwartz.

Look for Jenkins to get some matchups against Rob Gronkowski pending his status. He has the skill set and the physicality to compete in coverage. And don't forget about Jenkins coming hard off the edge in those Philadelphia blitz packages.

Add in the ability to drop down as a run defender, and Jenkins can have a major impact against Brady and the Patriots' offense. There are several similarities between the Eagles and the franchise's other two Super Bowl teams and All three started , set or matched franchise records in wins, finished in the top 10 in total offense and defense, lost their final game of the regular season and beat the Vikings in the playoffs.

Matt Bowen, NFL writer: Brady, Belichick and New England's ability to win critical game situations on the league's biggest stage. Domonique Foxworth, The Undefeated senior writer: My head tells me never bet against Brady, but my gut disagrees. My gut tells me that the Eagles will be able to move the ball and score against New England, more than the Patriots will against Philadelphia's defense and special teams.

Mina Kimes, senior writer: Foles put up the performance of his career on Sunday. Can we expect lightning to strike twice? Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Bill Barnwell, NFL writer: The Jaguars forced Ben Roethlisberger into five interceptions the first time these two teams met in the regular season , which is an outlier -- it was the first time Roethlisberger had thrown more than three picks in a game since Jacksonville won the game thanks to two pick-sixes and had just yards of offense before a yard Leonard Fournette touchdown in garbage time.

If the defense doesn't force a second nightmare game from Roethlisberger, the Jaguars probably don't have the offense to keep up with Pittsburgh. Matt Bowen, NFL writer: The Saints' defense ranks eighth overall in sack rate 7. With the ability to squeeze the pocket and challenge receivers, New Orleans can force Nick Foles into making throws in tight windows. That leads to turnover opportunities, field position and more possessions for the Saints' balanced offensive attack to control the tempo.

New Orleans has a big advantage in quarterback play, and year-old Drew Brees hasn't been to the playoffs since the season. He'll be ready for whatever Jim Schwartz throws at him. Kevin Seifert, national NFL writer: Top defenses often beat top offenses in the playoffs. The recent history of this matchup suggests the Vikings' top-rated defense can stand up to the Rams' high-scoring offense.

Minnesota's exceptional tackling, as evidenced by an NFL-low 1. And a Vikings' pass defense that tightens considerably near the end zone, having given up a league-low 13 touchdown throws in the regular season, doesn't bode well for quarterback Jared Goff 's chances. The Rams managed a season-low seven points against the Vikings in Week 11 -- 24 points lower than the average in their 15 other games.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin forecasted this rematch months ago in a conversation with Tony Dungy , calling the matchup "fireworks. Drama was abundant the first time these two teams met in the regular season. A sequence of unpredictable plays on the Steelers' final drive packed more suspense in a matter of minutes than many games do in their entirety.

This time around, though, we expect Antonio Brown to be on the field, even if he's not at full strength. But the Patriots -- at home -- will ultimately find a way to prevail. They still possess a multiplicity of weapons that present a massive challenge for a Steelers defense that aimed this offseason to upgrade its ability to slow down New England. Chris Hogan , Rex Burkhead and James White should all be back to action, complementing the most dominant force on the field in the teams' first matchup: With Brandin Cooks ' speed capable of influencing safety play and creating more room for Gronk and the red-hot Dion Lewis , look for the Patriots to prevail.

Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: After surviving the Philly cold in the divisional round, Drew Brees and the Saints head back indoors to face the NFL's hottest defense in a rematch from Week 1. So much about the Saints has changed since the Vikings claimed a victory in the opener. Alvin Kamara has established himself.

The offensive line has taken shape. But it's their defense -- which ranked 32nd in efficiency through the first two games, but eighth since then -- that is the biggest difference. A lower-scoring game will come down to the quarterbacks in the fourth quarter, and Brees gives the Saints the edge they need.

His numbers in fourth quarters when tied or trailing by one score tell the story: The Patriots are the most resourceful, adaptive and multiple team in the history of the NFL.

They will do whatever is absolutely necessary to win. Patriots 31, Vikings We may get our first clunker of a Super Bowl since the 48th edition.

Vikings 24, Steelers The Vikings ride their No. But in the Super Bowl, the Vikings defense makes the difference, especially playing at home. Patriots 35, Vikings The Vikings become the first team in NFL history to make the Super Bowl in their home stadium, which gives sportswriters a week of free content—a minor escape from writing the st feature on The Patriot Way.

Steelers 31, Vikings I had Steelers-Eagles as my midseason pick, but with Philly terribly weakened now the Vikes will ride home field to the Super Bowl. The Case Keenum magic will end at home against a Steelers attack that will have all their weapons back. Vikings 27, Steelers I usually favor explosive offenses but this is the year of the Vikings and their fabulous defense. They are fast, physical and extremely well-coached.

And they have enough offense, with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, to win. The fact that they are playing the Super Bowl at home is gravy; this is the year of the Vikings. Vikings 21, Steelers Ben Roethlisberger leads a two-minute drill, and completes what looks to be an eight-yard touchdown to Jesse James with two seconds left to tie the game.

The ball is jostled as he hits the ground after he extends his arms over the goal line. The play is reviewed, and it is determined the catch did not survive the ground.

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