This Sunday the New England Patriots face the Philadelphia Eagles on the biggest night of the American sporting calendar. That’s right, it’s time for Super Bowl LII!
Expected to attract a global audience of around 115m, this year the 52nd Super Bowl heads north as the city of Minneapolis plays host to what promises to be one of the most intriguing NFL deciders in years. With the talismanic Tom Brady leading them, the Patriots are heavily fancied to claim a third Super Bowl in four years, but the Eagles will be out for revenge against the opponents who beat them in their only previous Super Bowl appearance back in 2005.
The respective teams (and fans!) may find conditions at this year’s Super Bowl a little bracing, with forecasters predicting temperatures as low as 2 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s -16 Celsius!). Good job it’ll be played inside a dome at the 67,000 seat U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings.
The road to the Super Bowl
The Eagles posted a 13-3 regular season record in Doug Pederson’s second year at the helm – a huge upturn in form on previous campaigns. It was an improvement that ensured they made the play-offs for the first time since 2013. After a tight 15-10 victory against the Falcons, they surprisingly eased through the NFC Championship game 38-7 against a Minnesota Vikings side desperate to secure a Super Bowl appearance on home soil. The Eagles will be hoping quarterback Nick Foles (who replaced first choice signal caller Carson Wentz in week 14) will be able to repeat his heroics from that game.
The Patriots continued where they left off after once again tasting glory at Super Bowl LI, posting, like the Eagles, a 13-3 regular season record. In the play-offs, the Patriots overcame a nervy start to run out dominant 35-14 winners against the Tennessee Titans, before a tense match-up against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots – with more than a little help from a patched-up Tom Brady – staged a terrific fourth-quarter comeback to secure their Super Bowl berth in a thrilling 24-20 win.
Most Valuable Player – top three picks
Tom Brady (Patriots)
It’s no surprise that NFL’s biggest star is strongly tipped to secure an unprecedented fifth Super Bowl MVP title. Brady battled against a hand injury to help the Patriots reach the big game, and his team will be hoping a return to full fitness will prove decisive in helping the Patriots tie the Pittsburgh Steelers’ record for Super Bowl wins (6).
Nick Foles (Eagles)
Everyone loves a comeback story, and they don’t come much better than Foles. Written off by fans and pundits alike at the start of the campaign, the quarterback stepped up to the plate admirably in the absence of Carson Wentz and will be hoping to finish off his own personal fairytale by driving the Eagles to victory in Minneapolis.
Danny Amendola (Patriots)
As with all Patriots’ players, the 32 year-old wide receiver tends to live in the shadow of Brady. However, Amendola’s contribution to his side’s run to the Super Bowl cannot be understated. His clutch performance against the Jaguars, culminating in an astonishing late touchdown grab swung the game in the Patriots’ favour, and he will be looked upon again by Brady as arguably his most reliable target. If the Eagles employ the tactic of double teaming Rob Gronkowski, to limit the monstrous tight-end’s influence on proceedings, then expect Amendola to once again become Brady’s go-to-guy. Amendola can be relied upon to stay calm and deliver when his team are most under pressure.
And finally,… The Halftime Show
No Super Bowl preview would be complete without mentioning the Halftime Show. This year, Justin Timberlake will be providing the entertainment, his first as headliner for the show following guest slots in 2001 and 2004.