TAMPA – Unless you are a Chowd who drives the cah wicked fah and pahks in the yahd, you probably aren't all that jacked up about the Patriots returning to Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis. Anybody but Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, who is foddy!
The Patriots have been so good for so long that Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, 49, actually quarterbacked the Cleveland Browns to a 19-11 win over the New England in 2000, the Pats' only losing season under Belichick.
The Patriots finished that year 5-11, then began a streak of 17 consecutive winning seasons, including 15 postseason and an astounding eight Super Bowl appearances.
It's the Patriots legacy, seeking to win their sixth Lombardi Trophy to tie the Steelers for the most in the NFL, against the Eagles quest for history. They are among the 13 teams that have not won a league title, losing both of their appearances in the big game. Philly lost to the Raiders in Super Bowl XV following the 1980 season and fell to – who else? – the Patriots 24-21 in Super Bowl XXXIX in Super Bowl XXXIX.
"Pretty boy Tom Brady," Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson said after Sunday's 38-7 win over the Vikings in the NFC Championship game. "He's the best quarterback of all time, so nothing I'd like to do more than dethrone that guy."
The Eagles are 5.5 point underdogs, the biggest margin since the Arizona Cardinals were nine point underdogs to the Steelers in XLIII.
But also don't underestimate the many great story lines that will surround Super Bowl LII the next two weeks.
BRADY, BELICHICK AND KRAFT
If you're talking about the Patriots reign over the NFL, there is some juicy palace intrigue this year.
It stems from an ESPN story by Seth Wickersham which details some "serious disagreements," between Belichick, Brady and owner Robert Kraft that threaten to fracture the dynasty. The schism surrounds anything from the access to players by Brady's trainer Alex Guerrero to the trade of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Kraft's eternal loyalty to Brady.
All parties have denied any rift, but it won't stop the speculation. Exactly when will they break up the band and who will be the last man standing?
NICK FOLES CINDERELLA STORY
The injury to Eagles franchise quarterback Carson Wentz would have destroyed most teams. But Foles was able to hold things together and put together some monster performances in the playoffs. Not bad for a guy who couldn't pick up a football for about eight months after leaving the Rams in 2015, "had no love for the game," and "wanted to retire from the NFL.
PATS LOSING COORDINATORS
Super Bowl LII will be the last for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who will become the head coach of the Colts, and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who will become the head coach of the Lions.
Considering former quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien is the head coach of the Texans, the AFC South has a real Patriots influence. Belichick's tree has blossomed but never runs out of fruit.
Berkeley Prep's Nelson Agholor has more catches, yards and touchdowns for the Eagles than his first two seasons combined. Lakewood's Bernard Reedy was cut by the Bucs and landed with the Patriots. Not bad for a guy who made $11 an hour last summer as a driver for a wheelchair and ambulatory transportation company in Tampa Bay. USF's Eric Lee has started five games and had 3.5 sacks for the Patriots.
THE EAGLES BUILDER
Eagles GM Howie Roseman has proven rebuilds in the NFL don't have to take four years. Roseman, a Florida grad, helped the Eagles quickly move on from the Chip Kelly error, er, era, that probably set the franchise back. He's one of the best traders in the NFL, getting picks for Sam Bradford, trading for cornerback Ronald Darby and running back Jay Ajayi and building depth that survived the loss of Wentz and others.
BRADY BACK IN MINNESOTA
New Brady angle! His mom grew up a few hundred miles from Minneapolis in Browerville, Minn., where young Tom spent summers milking cows, fishing and winters ice fishing with his grandparents. Lots of uncles, aunts and cousins.
LaGarrette Blount keeps showing up in the Super Bowl. The former Bucs running back, who rushed for 1,007 yards as a rookie, is seeking his third championship ring. His 10 career playoff rushing touchdowns is the most among active players. Not bad for a guy the Bucs got rid of after three seasons for a lack of focus and off-field issues.
The Patriots haven't found anything Danny Amendola can't do. Julian Edelmen is out for the season. Rob Gronkowski got knocked out of the AFC Championship game with a concussion. No problem. Amendola threw it, ran it and caught two touchdown passes, including the game-winner.
JAMEIS WINSTON'S BFF
Darby was traded from Buffalo to the Eagles for receiver Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round pick. He suffered an ankle injury that cost him 10 weeks. When he returned, he had a bad game against the Giants that led to a Twitter rant against fans and then an apology. The former Florida State star played well vs. the Vikings and had a key block in Patrick Robinson's 50-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Around here, Darby may be best known as Winston's former Seminoles teammate who has twice vouched for the Bucs quarterback after sexual assault allegations. Winston has never been charged. In fact, Darby said he was in the backseat of the car during a ride in March of 2016 when a female Uber driver in Arizona said she was groped by Winston, who is under NFL investigation.
Contact Rick Stroud at [email protected] Follow @NFLStroud