So we’ve survived to Super Bowl 52, through a year of fake news, three (?) pregnant Kardashians and the Ball family. Although that doesn’t even cover a microscopic amount of what 2017 gave us, they were undoubtedly unpredictable events that took place this past year. And who would predict one of the biggest underdogs in the NFL, The Philadelphia Eagles, would be up against the goliaths of the league, The New England Patriots. In the biggest national sporting event of the year. It’s a situation that could only be formed in storybooks. Nevertheless, here we are. A lot of fans, and even experts say this game comes down to New England’s forceful offense line vs Philadelphia’s front seven. So if you want to lie and sound like you’ve followed this season you can say that, but there are a lot more levels to this matchup. So before you jump into that plate of nachos or artichoke dip, here’s a cheat sheet for what to know:
First off, know your simple betting lines and spreads. Without surprise, The Patriots are favored, the point spread has jumped around a bit with having Gronkowski on concussion watch. Now that he’ approved and back (for now) the odds are set at Patriots -5 (meaning that the Patriots are favored to win by that much or more). The over-under (aka total number of combined points between teams) is at 48, same as where it started. Bets can get creative during the Super Bowl, including the length of the national anthem, what will be Justin Timberlake’s opening song at Half Time, or what the first commercial will be; so if you’re not a sporty person don’t worry, there are still lots of ways to lose your money.
The National Anthem:
Usually an unimportant aspect of the Super Bowl, however, this season put this one minute and 40-second tune in the spotlight. All season, many players have been kneeling during the National Anthem to protest against the treatment of black Americans, specifically related to police brutality. The movement was started by past NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. This action has caused friction within the NFL community and fan bases, shooting down ratings 9%, and enough political attention to get the President involved (but honestly, what isn’t he over-involved with). Not many Eagles or Patriots players have been involved in the protests, so censoring the teams hasn’t been too important, but the Super Bowl is a live event and NBC has already declared they will show any protests that happen during the anthem.
The New England Patriots (AFC Champions)
The undisputed “favorites” of the game, they were predicted to be here as soon as the season started. Their victory over The Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51, where they came back from 28-3 deep in the 3rd, will forever go down in history. Literally, The Patriots Super Bowl rings each have 283 diamonds as a physical (and petty) reminder. Led by head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, it seems like there’s nothing this team can’t do.
Things to know:
Star Wide Reciever Julian Edelman tore his ACL in a preseason game against the Detroit Lions, taking him out all season. Everyone thought this would be a huge hinder in the Patriots season. Wrong. While they may have not had the record they had last season (they’ve lost three games instead of two), they had receivers like Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks, and Chris Hogan ready to pick up any slack.
Head coach Bill Belichick:
Though his bleak and grumpy demeanor never won over the media in press conferences, head coach Bill Belichick has won more than his fair share on the field, boasting five Super Bowl wins with The Patriots and eight Super Bowl appearances in total. He may be the best coach the league has ever seen, and doesn’t seem to be retiring anytime soon. He has kept the team steady and winning regardless of injuries or drama (cue Deflategate, and Gisele’s false concussion allegations of Brady). He keeps himself pretty out of the limelight as much as a coach of his caliber can, but this personality keeps a lot of secrets to what his strategies are and what keeps him on top, it also makes fans love him and his troll-like stature even more.
Tom Brady (QB)
#12, The Goat, Tom Terrific, at this point, whatever you call him, Brady has become a household name. He’s now 40 years old and in the best shape of his life. No quarterback has been better under pressure this season (95.5 passer rating), but this is far from his first rodeo. Brady’s looking at his sixth possible Super Bowl win and eighth appearance (RIP to when the Giants were great and Eli wasn’t on the back burner). He’s likely to play with a hand injury as he had 12 stitches in his right hand in the AFC championship, but he’s still likely to dominate.
Rob Gronkowski (TE)
“Gronk” just got cleared from concussion protocol (Patriots fans rejoice!). He’s been lightly practicing with the injury he got during the AFC championship against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s already lived out an impressive season with over 1000 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns. He might be one of the best tight end’s in recent NFL history. Gronk however, is so injury prone he could have a hospital named after him. He’s suffered 16 injuries as a player and has missed 22 regular season games due to them. Patriots fans will just be hoping he can keep himself intact for the whole game.
Dion Lewis (RB)
The Patriots took a chance featuring Lewis as their primary running back, Mike Gillislee was doing the job at the beginning of the season and holding up fine, but the Patriots wanted someone faster and more mobile. Lewis picked up the slack then added an extra gear, ending the regular season with 896 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns. Injuries to Rex Burkhead and James White left Lewis as literally The Patriots last man standing.
The Philadelphia Eagles (NFC Champions)
The ultimate underdog story, and Birds fans won’t have a problem rubbing that in everyone’s face. With a 2nd season coach for The Eagles and back up quarterback Nick Foles having to take over after Carson Wentz, who tore his ACL in December. They have been the little engine that could all season. Philly fans are insane, and that’s really putting it lightly. Philadelphia had to grease the light poles of the city the night of the NFC championships, just to prevent fans from climbing onto them. No one can predict how far they would take it and how entertaining it could be if they won the Super Bowl.
Head coach Doug Pederson:
On paper, Pederson is a quarter of the coach Belichick, so it’s a good thing no Super Bowl has ever been played on paper. Pederson is only having his second season with The Eagles, Belichick has been with The Patriots since 2000. That’s 17 + years of Belichick’s demeanor of disdain in press conferences, where Pederson is quite the opposite. Known to make it a coaching duty to really know his players beyond just their names, he knows their backstories, hometowns, family life and believes it a core part of making a roster of players into a team. He believes a lot of this has led to The Eagles success this season, this puts more trust in him from the players. Enough trust to have The Eagles play much more aggressively, to the point where they hold the record of second most fourth down attempts this season. His aggressive mentality is what brought Philadelphia to the Super Bowl and he won’t be shying away on Sunday.
Things to know:
There’s a lot of hype around the team and their success this season. This lies in a lights-out defense, with possibly the best front line in the league: Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jordan Hicks, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, Tim Jernigan, and now Nick Foles. Originally ranked the 3rd best front line in the league at the start of the season, has now risen to first after it’s been a key dynamic in the success of The Eagles.
Nick Foles (QB):
He will have to play ringleader this game, and that’s no easy task. All the pressure was on him at the NFC championship game, where he pulled off a landslide win of 38-7 vs the Minnesota Vikings. He played a phenomenal game against the Vikings defense ranked #1 in yards allowed and scoring. He threw no interceptions, completed 78.8% of his passes and 3 touchdowns. He was agile with excellent pocket awareness vs the team with the best third-down defense in the league. Basically, Foles played the best game of recent career, many think that’s due to the pressure of the NFC championship. But he’s known to not play well under pressure usually (64.2 passer rating), and there’s no bigger stage than the Super Bowl.
Fletcher Cox (DT):
If you had to pin the Eagles success down to one player, it would be Cox. The massive 6’4 310-pound defensive tackle is scary to just see, much less play against in his 6th season. He’s quite the character too, donning a Mexican wrestler mask at his last press conference 3 days ago. With 5.5 sacks this season and likely more to come this Sunday, he’s been a pivotal force of the defensive line.
Brandon Graham (DE):
Known to be one of the best defensive ends in the league, specifically as a pass rusher (a pass rush is a tactic used by the defense to either sack the quarterback or force the quarterback to make a mistake in the play). He’s been getting after each quarterback week after week. His constant ability to make plays in the running game is what has pulled him into the spotlight and brought the team from good to great.
So that’s it. Now you can eat those nachos or artichoke dip, it’s not a day to have a diet. show off some new knowledge (or just talk about Justin Timberlake’s halftime show, I don’t care, if you’re still reading this article I’ve already done my job). I’m predicting 28-20 Patriots, and Eagles to score first. Happy Super Bowl!
photo credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23mN7e42zCQ