Super Bowl LII: A frosty welcome for Eagles in Minnesota as Brady's Patriots chase history
|Super Bowl LII: Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots|
|Date: Sunday, 4 February Time: 23:30 GMT|
|Venue: US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, online and the BBC Sport app plus follow live radio and text commentary.|
Everyone loves an underdog, right? Well, at Super Bowl LII this Sunday there's a clear one, as the Philadelphia Eagles come up against NFL thoroughbreds the New England Patriots.
Most of the Eagles' players will be appearing in their first Super Bowl - in fact, their entire 53-man roster has seven appearances in the showpiece between them, a figure Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has all by himself.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, meanwhile, will rack up an incredible 11th Super Bowl outing as the Pats look to equal the Pittsburgh Steelers' long-standing record of six titles.
So, given all that, surely the locals in Minneapolis are getting behind the Eagles as they face this uphill battle?
Not in the slightest.
You see, it was these very same Eagles who crushed the Minnesota fans' own Super Bowl dreams at Lincoln Financial Field Stadium just under two weeks ago.
The Vikings enjoyed a brilliant regular- and post-season built on the foundation of a rock-solid defence and were one game away from making history by playing in a Super Bowl in their home stadium when they ran up against the Eagles in the recent NFC Championship game.
The Eagles mauled the Vikings 38-7 with quarterback Nick Foles to the fore, and it appears the locals are now getting their own back.
- How to follow Super Bowl LII on the BBC
- Ten reasons to watch the Super Bowl
- The dos and definitely do nots of the Super Bowl half-time show
Mall bans, flying beer and booing
Philadelphia players have been taking to social media to recount some of their experiences this week, with defensive lineman Vinny Curry claiming that when he enquired where he might get Eagles memorabilia at a local NFL shop he received the reply: "Not in this mall."
One bar offered "free beer" to Eagles fans with the added caveat that it would be "thrown at you!", while some locals have been seen wearing purple shirts with a Patriots logos on bearing phrases such as "I'm a Vikings fan, Go Patriots!".
At a media session, meanwhile, many of the Eagles players were booed by the paying fans in attendance.
"They're apparently still not over last week, but it is what it is," said Eagles tight end Zach Ertz.
Some of his team-mates appeared to enjoy the occasion at least, with defensive end Brandon Graham wearing a dog mask in a nod to his side's billing as underdogs.
How to watch the Super Bowl on the BBC
The BBC will bring you comprehensive coverage of Super Bowl LII across all platforms.
Watch live coverage of the game from 23:15 GMT on Sunday, on BBC One, Connected TV and online plus the BBC Sport website and mobile app, and follow text updates and analysis online.
You can also follow #BBCNFL on Twitter to join the debate during the match.
The key to the game - stop Brady
If the Eagles are to upset the odds they'll have to stop Brady in his tracks by putting him under constant pressure - it's a well-known tactic but so hard to execute for the full 60 minutes.
Brady has won five Super Bowls and four MVPs while throwing 15 touchdown passes in the big game. He came back from the dead at 28-3 down to stun Atlanta last year and engineered a late 10-point comeback to beat the Jaguars to return to the NFL showpiece this season.
No quarterback is better under pressure, but the Eagles generate the right type of pressure up the middle of the field without using too many players - it's a similar style to the New York Giants teams that have handed Brady his only two Super Bowl defeats.
Brady is also a slow starter - his teams have never scored a first-quarter point in seven Super Bowls - so watch for the Eagles to swarm all over him early on. If they're too slow he'll cut through them with short passes, but if he's constantly under pressure and being hit, Philadelphia's underdogs might just stand a chance.
Brady aside, who are the ones to watch?
Nick Foles (Eagles): The quarterback started the year as back up to Carson Wentz, who was a star of the league until getting injured in December. Foles was solid, if unspectacular, for the most part, but exploded to life in the NFC Championship game against the Vikings, producing one of the best post-season performances ever seen. Can he now do it on the biggest stage of all?
Fletcher Cox (Eagles): If there's one man who can get in Brady's face it is Fletcher Cox, the giant defensive lineman. Even when he's not causing havoc, he's often double-teamed allowing his team-mates more space.
Rob Gronkowski (Patriots): The giant tight end is one of the stars of the league, on and off the field. A huge man with good hands and deceptive speed, he's a nightmare for opposing defences and he's Brady's top weapon.
James White (Patriots): Much like team-mate Danny Amendola, White is nothing short of average in the regular season but comes alive in the play-offs. The diminutive running back scored three touchdowns in last year's Super Bowl and has six scores in his past three play-off games in total.
Super Bowl LII stats and facts
- Teams wearing white have won 12 of the past 13 Super Bowls - the Patriots will wear white this year after having the choice.
- Bill Belichick's 11th Super Bowl as a coach is the most in NFL history - he has appeared in 34% of Super Bowls played since he entered the league.
- Only two quarterbacks have started less regular-season games then Nick Foles (three) and gone to the Super Bowl - both of them won.
- Brady is the sixth quarterback to make the Super Bowl after leading the league in passing yards - all five previous players lost.
- This is the sixth Super Bowl rematch - the team who won the first game has won four of the five previous rematches. New England beat Philadelphia in 2004.
- The Patriots will play a record 10th Super Bowl and can tie Pittsburgh for most wins (six) with victory. Brady and Belichick will make a record eighth Super Bowl appearance as a coach/QB combination - they have a record five wins together.
The famous half-time show
The half-time show is as important as the football for some Super Bowl observers.
Previous performers have included Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson and Beyonce.
This year, Justin Timberlake will take to the stage. A few eyebrows were raised when he was given the nod as his previous Super Bowl appearance included Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction".
He's giving little away regarding his plans but he has ruled out an NSYNC reunion.
Analysis - the Patriots dynasty
Two-time Super Bowl winner Osi Umenyiora
Belichick is the key for me; as long as he is there they are going to be successful. They are showing no signs of slowing down, and as long as Belichick is the coach over there they are going to keep winning games.
Everything he has done is quite frankly unprecedented. We have never seen anything like this before. He is using players who aren't the top, top players and he is winning every single year, it's ridiculous. And that's why I say he is the best coach we have ever seen, because of what he has been able to do in the NFL, a league that is ultra-competitive. When he leaves, that's when you will see the Patriots fall off the cliff.
Former Texans & Giants defensive back Jason Bell
I think Brady is the key, I do believe Belichick is a special coach, but I have to go back to what Osi has said on many occasions where players have to play the game. He may not be the greatest player of all time, but he is definitely the greatest quarterback. When it comes down to the stretch and in the fourth quarter it seems like Tom Brady finds a way to bring them back to a two-minute situation.
Together they have had magic. And as long as they can keep that relationship and everybody is healthy they are going to be dominant.
And finally... Acara the Orangutan & April the Giraffe opt for Patriots
It would not be Super Bowl week without animals making predictions and unfortunately for the Eagles they seem to be siding with the Patriots.