Sports Blog: Super Bowl LII Preview
Super Bowl 52 (LII) will feature a narrative as old as time: the proverbial favourites clashing against the underdogs. It will be National Football League (NFL) legends Tom Brady and Bill Belichick leading the New England Patriots against Nick Foles (I don’t blame you if you haven’t heard of him) and the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Patriots are looking for Lombardi Trophy #6, while the Eagles are still hunting for their first. Philadelphia has not won the league championship since 1960, when there were half as many teams and before the name Super Bowl even existed. Despite boasting the top record in their conference, Philly has been doubted all throughout the postseason. The Eagles have even taken their underdog label a step further by donning rubber canine masks after victories and encouraging their fans to do the same.
It’s not hard to see why the Eagles have been counted out. All hope was seemingly lost for Philadelphia in early December when Eagles quarterback and MVP front-runner Carson Wentz went down for the season with an ACL tear. Enter: Nick Foles, a journeyman quarterback who has spent the majority of his professional career as a backup. The Eagles chances at winning the big game will likely hinge on whether or not Foles holds back the offence. He hasn’t let them down so far.
With a spectacular performance in the National Football Conference (NFC) Championship game, Foles has led the Eagles to only their third Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, the last of which came in 2005, also against Brady and the Patriots. Though there are no Eagles players remaining from that game, the city and the fan base are certainly looking for revenge. By beating the Eagles in Super Bowl 39, New England captured its third Super Bowl in a four-year span.
Thirteen years later, they are trying to do so once again. After victories over the Seahawks in Super Bowl 49 (2015) and the Falcons in Super Bowl 51 (2017), the Patriots are on the cusp of not only their third league title in a four-year span, but also the sixth Lombardi Trophy of the Brady/Belichick era. That would tie the most won by any franchise in the history of the NFL. The Patriots advanced to Super Bowl 52 by pulling of yet another dramatic come from behind victory, this time by defeating the Jaguars in the American Football Conference (AFC) Championship game after falling behind 10 points in the fourth quarter.
As is the case it seems with every year’s lead-up to the Super Bowl, there is a close eye being kept on an injured star and what his status will be for the game. This year: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. After being taken out of the AFC title game with a concussion, whether or not he will suit up this Sunday is in doubt. The Patriots will certainly need Gronkowski, universally considered to be the single biggest matchup nightmare in the NFL, against one of the league’s top defenses.
The Eagles have fielded a dominant defensive unit all season long, but have saved their best performances for the postseason. After holding the NFL’s seventh ranked offence (Atlanta Falcons) to 10 points in the Divisional Round, they allowed only seven points to the NFL’s fifth ranked offence (Vikings) in the NFC title game, while also forcing three turnovers. For the season, the Eagles defence had the fourth most takeaways in the league. To beat a juggernaut like the Patriots, Philly will not only have to win the turnover battle, but will have to put pressure on Brady early and often with their pass rush. That will have to especially be true late in the game, considering New England’s penchant to outlast their opponents down the stretch (see: their 25-point comeback in last year’s Super Bowl).
Brady has defied Father Time the last two seasons and on Sunday will be the oldest quarterback (40 years old) to start a Super Bowl. Not to mention, Belichick is 65, meaning the end could very well be finally near for the Patriots dynasty. The downfall of sports legends often comes swiftly and it could come this Sunday night.
Will we see the continuation of a modern sports dynasty or a football crazed city finally capturing the type of football glory that has been out of reach for nearly 60 years? Super Bowls are historic and football history’s next chapter is about to be written.
(And if you are solely interested in the new commercials and watching Justin Timberlake perform the halftime show, that’s cool too.)