MINNEAPOLIS – Players, coaches and fans of the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles were settling in on Tuesday after arriving in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the Opening Night of Super Bowl week.
The biggest game in the NFL calendar, and one of the most eagerly-anticipated sporting events of the year – regularly drawing over 110 million viewers in the United States – is just six days away.
Tom Brady, New England’s record-breaking quarterback, is chasing an unprecedented sixth ring in his eighth Super Bowl appearance.
The Patriots, under the expert stewardship of veteran head coach Bill Belichick – who has won a record five Super Bowls helming the team – are widely expected to retain their title after their historic comeback from 28 points down last year against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Massachusetts-based Pats have 32 players on roster with Super Bowl experience, compared to just six Eagles who will know what to expect come Sunday night.
To put the gulf in experience into perspective: Brady has played in seven Super Bowls throughout his 18-year career, while the entire Philadelphia squad has just seven appearances combined.
The underdog tag is something which the Philadelphia Eagles have embraced this post-season.
Having entered the playoffs as the league’s highest-ranked team, earning the number one seed in the process, they lost starting quarterback Carson Wentz to a season-ending knee injury in Week 14.
Many pundits assumed they had also lost any realistic hopes of making a deep playoff run.
They did not expect the explosive rise of second QB Nick Foles, who has silenced the many doubters by marshaling the Birds to their first Super Bowl appearance since the 2004 season. On that occasion, they lost to the Patriots, who were then led by a considerably-younger Brady and Belichick.
Despite the Patriots’ greater experience, Brady was quick to dismiss the notion that the Eagles were coming into Minneapolis as the bottom dog.
“There’s no underdogs in the Super Bowl. They’re the first seed in the NFC, they’re 13-3, they had an incredible season. I don’t buy into any of that,” Brady said on Monday night.
Nick Foles, who was just 13 years old when he watched Brady win his first Super Bowl in 2002, reminded viewers that the main goal for Philadelphia was not to beat Brady, Belichick or the Patriots, but to play the balanced team game that had propelled them to this point, despite all the injuries suffered.
“It’s about the journey, it’s about the men I’ve done it with, it’s about the organization. You go through so much with a team, so just to be here and to beat the Patriots would be wonderful,” Foles said.
Glacial weather is expected in the Twin Cities, although the Big Game will be played indoors, much to the relief of the thousands of fans who have pilgrimaged to the North Star State.
Super Bowl LII will kick off on Sunday night at the US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, home of the Minnesota Vikings, at approximately 6:30 pm Eastern Time.