Super Bowl LII brings together two of the NFL’s most popular franchises, though they come in with much different history.
The New England Patriots made the Super Bowl for the third time in four seasons and looking to repeat as Super Bowl champions. The Philadelphia Eagles are back in the Super Bowl for the first time since the end of the 2004 season (when they lost to the Patriots) and still chasing their first Super Bowl title.
There will be a lot of issues to discuss over the next two weeks, and these are the five storylines you’ll hear the most about before kickoff of Super Bowl LII:
1. The Eagles go for their first Super Bowl
Eagles fans are 60 minutes from finally seeing their team lift a Lombardi Trophy. The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl. Their last NFL championship came in 1960, six years before the first Super Bowl.
The Eagles had some very good teams through the years and came up short. Their chances of getting to the Super Bowl this season took a major hit when quarterback Carson Wentz went down with a season-ending knee injury, but they won both NFC playoff games as underdogs to make it.
The Eagles are one of the most popular and longest-suffering franchises the NFL has. If they’re able to beat all the odds and finally bring home a Super Bowl to Philadelphia, it would be an amazing end to this NFL season.
2. And the Patriots go for their sixth Super Bowl, and even more history
If we’re being honest, another Super Bowl title really won’t move the needle in the arguments for Bill Belichick as the greatest coach ever and Tom Brady as the greatest quarterback ever. If you hate the Patriots, they could win five more Super Bowls and you wouldn’t acknowledge Brady and Belichick as the best ever. And Patriots fans anointed the duo long ago. If you are somewhat neutral and logical, you probably gave Brady and Belichick GOAT status after their fifth Super Bowl championship. It’s hard to argue against them.
However, a sixth Super Bowl championship would be pretty amazing. No player has ever won more than five Super Bowl rings. Charles Haley and Brady are the only players with five titles. Belichick is the only head coach to win five. Getting a sixth ring should eliminate any reasonable argument against Brady or Belichick. Whether Patriots haters want to give them credit or not, it would be a heck of an accomplishment.
3. Patriots fatigue setting in?
It’s not like the NFL can do anything about this Patriots dynasty. New England is just better than everyone else, in a league that is set up for everyone to rebuild quickly. Nobody has had a run quite like the Pats, and it rolls on. That has caused an unprecedented bitterness toward the Patriots (many people probably got very angry just reading the No. 2 item on this list), and plenty of fatigue. Consider this: Brady has been the Patriots’ starting quarterback for 16 seasons, if you discount 2008 when he missed all but a quarter due to injury. He has made it to the Super Bowl in half of those seasons. Even when the Patriots trailed the Jaguars by 10 points in the fourth quarter of the AFC championship game on Sunday, we still ended up with the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Most fans don’t want another Patriots Super Bowl. They’ll hate-watch it, because the only thing more fun than freaking out every time a 50-50 call goes the Pats’ way is watching the Patriots lose. However, outside of New England, the last thing anyone wanted was another Super Bowl Sunday with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Too bad the rest of the AFC isn’t good enough to stop it.
4. Nick Foles trying to become one of the most unlikely Super Bowl-winning QBs ever
Already, Nick Foles has authored one of the most unexpected stories in recent NFL seasons. He threw for 352 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Eagles’ 38-7 win over the Vikings and their top-ranked defense in the NFC championship game. Nobody saw that coming. It looked like the Eagles’ chances of making a Super Bowl ended when Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL, but Foles triumphed.
Foles has had a really weird NFL career. He had one of the best seasons for a quarterback in NFL history in 2013. Seriously. He still has the third-highest passer rating in a single season ever, and the top 10 is made up of Hall of Famers, borderline Hall of Famers and Foles. Then Foles couldn’t replicate that magic the next season, spent the 2015 season as an ineffective starter over 11 games with the Rams, was the Chiefs’ backup in 2016 then signed to be the Eagles’ backup this season. Now he’s starting a Super Bowl.
If Foles leads a win, they’ll probably build a Foles statue next to the Rocky statue in Philly, and his story will be propped up as a best-case scenario any time a good team loses its quarterback to injury. All he has to do is beat the Patriots and Tom Brady. No sweat.
5. The health of Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady
It doesn’t seem like Brady’s hand will be as big of a story as it was before the AFC championship game. Those questions were answered with an unbelievable fourth-quarter comeback against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. But it’s the Super Bowl, and everything is a story. When a quarterback has 10 stitches in his throwing hand, it’ll be a topic.
More pressing is Gronkowski’s health. He was knocked out of Sunday’s game with a concussion suffered on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Jaguars safety Barry Church. Gronkowski is arguably the best tight end in NFL history, and whether he’s cleared to play will be a huge story over the next couple weeks. Needless to say, losing a Hall of Fame-caliber player would affect the Patriots, although they have played well without him in the past.
Having the extra week before the Super Bowl will help Brady’s hand heal even more, and it presumably will help Gronkowski play as well. And over that extra week, you’re going to hear a lot about both medical issues.
More NFL coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Brady, Pats punch Super Bowl ticket after comeback
• Refs’ questionable calls help Patriots, spark debate
• Ugly helmet-to-helmet hit knocks Gronk out of title game
• Win or lose, Philly lampposts are greased up for fan riots
• Vikings fans get a very Philly-esque welcome
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