A version of this story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Feb. 5 State of the Black Athlete issue. Subscribe today!
Who has the edge when Tom Brady's Patriots face Nick Foles and the upstart Eagles? We break down the matchup by the numbers.
Who comes out on top?The Pats are No. 1 overall thanks to their offense -- first in points (27.94) and yards (394.2) per game. The Eagles, meanwhile, allowed the fewest rushing ypg (79.2) and had the third-best opponent QBR (44.6). But according to ESPN's efficiency metric,* the biggest mismatch is the Eagles' O vs. the Pats' D -- especially if QB Nick Foles can repeat his stellar NFC championship performance.
Tom Brady vs. Nick FolesThis is 40 -- for Tom Brady anyway. Brady led the NFL in attempts (581) and passing yards (4,577), completing more than 66 percent of his passes. Eagles fans, meanwhile, will be hoping for a repeat performance of Foles' NFC Championship game, where he threw for two TDs of 40+ yards. The Patriots are vulnerable on deep throws: They gave up the second-most yards per play and fourth-most per game. But aside from that superb championship game, so is Foles -- an abysmal 0.7 QBR on his regular season passes of more than 20 yards.
Brady and Foles combined for 31 yards rushing this regular season. That means that they'll have to attack pressure from the pocket, where Brady is known for his ability to deftly slide away from the rush to create his own throwing lanes. But against Brady, teams create that rush, mostly, with their front four; Brady gets blitzed on just 23.6 percent of his drop-backs (38th out of 44 quarterbacks who attempted at least 100 passes). That's likely because of a stellar QBR when pressure that ranks only behind Minnesota's Case Keenum and Brady's former backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, who appeared in just six games. What about Foles? His QBR is 32nd -- and yards per play 42nd -- when the heat is on. The Patriots, tied for seventh in the NFL with 42 sacks, figure to do their part to squeeze Foles, who has yet to throw an INT this postseason.