Patriots, Eagles set to meet for Super Bowl LII

Tom Brady and Danny Amendola after their win over JacksonvilleThe New England Patriots are already heavy favourites to win Super Bowl LII, but they almost didn’t make it there. The Patriots trailed the Jacksonville Jaguars for most of Sunday’s AFC championship game before a Tom Brady touchdown toss to Danny Amendola gave New England the lead late in the fourth quarter of the 24-20 win. The Philadelphia Eagles had a much easier time wrapping up the NFC with a 38-7 demolition of the Minnesota Vikings, but they enter the build-up to the title game as decisive underdogs against the more-experienced Patriots.

New England already has five championships with Brady as quarterback and Bill Belichick as head coach, and not even a cut on the thumb of Brady’s throwing hand could keep him from helping the Patriots reach their eighth title game appearance of the era. Their odds to win a sixth title appear high as opening betting lines gave them the biggest advantage of any Super Bowl team since 2009. While this might seem like a positive sign, New England was heavily favoured in both of its Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants, and the possible loss of top receiving option Rob Gronkowski to a concussion is a huge concern ahead of this year’s game.

The Eagles overcame injury problems of their own in order to reach the Super Bowl. A torn ACL ended starting quarterback Carson Wentz’s season and many observers expected Philadelphia to fall from its perch atop the NFC with backup Nick Foles thrust into the starting role. But Foles looked like a quarterback worthy of a Super Bowl start with his performance against the Vikings, roasting a formidable Minnesota defense for 352 yards passing and three touchdowns. Philadelphia’s defense also did its part by forcing three Vikings turnovers including an interception return for a touchdown.

The Patriots appear to be making a habit of postseason comebacks after last year’s miraculous rally against the Atlanta Falcons and Sunday’s last-minute win over Jacksonville, but falling behind to the Eagles’ stifling defense might not provide the same opportunities. As for Foles, if he has shown any weakness, chances are Belichick and his coaching staff will find it and alter their defensive scheme accordingly. New England and Philadelphia were the NFL’s top two teams during the regular season, yet their meeting on football’s biggest stage was anything but preordained. The result of Super Bowl LII is likely to be similarly unpredictable.