TWELVE months ago, Tom Brady orchestrated the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
From 28-3 down against the Atlanta Falcons, Brady clawed back the deficit to lead the New England Patriots to a 34-28 win and cement his place in NFL history.
But for Brady, it doesn’t end there. On Monday morning (Australian time) he will line up once again for the Patriots in his eighth Super Bowl in pursuit of a sixth winners ring, more than any other player in history. Victory would also be New England’s sixth, the equal most for any one team – all five thus far have come under legendary coach Bob Belichick, who leads them once again here.
But Brady and the Patriots are just one half of the equation – they face a Philadelphia Eagles outfit who recorded a near identical season to their Super Bowl opponents.
Check out their records from the regular season in the AFC East and NFC East Divisions respectively.
With each recording a further two playoff victories on their way top the decider, what sets the two teams apart enough to justify the Patriots’ $1.48 favouritism over the Eagles at $2.67 with TopBetta?
Here are three key points to watch out for in Monday morning’s Super Bowl LII:
Will Rob Gronkowski play?
The key piece of team news centres around New England’s rockstar tight end Rob Gronkowski, who remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol after receiving a knock in the AFC Championship game.
Already missing wide receiver Julian Edelman, a fit and firing Gronk bustling off the line of scrimmage is vital for the Patriots.
It seems likely he will play, but his absence remains a real possibility. That would almost surely swing the market in favour of the Eagles, with a potential swing of up to two points on the spread.
Tom Brady v Nick Foles
In his first appearance on American Football’s biggest stage, can Nick Foles match it with arguably the greatest of all time?
The weight of history appears to be against the man who started the campaign as Philadelphia’s back up QB, although he did dominate the league’s best defense in the NFC Championship game. Come Monday morning though, he may have to rely on his own side’s comparatively superior defense to do the heavy lifting for him.
Ultimately, Foles’ goal will be to keep Brady off the field. The champion quarterback dwarfs his opponent in almost every metric and as we saw last year, when he decides it’s go time, he is almost unstoppable.
Under the radar
With all the focus on Brady and Foles, it is easy to forget the plethora of talent on show in this season’s Championship game.
Pats’ wide receiver Danny Amendola has risen to another level in the playoffs, registering as many touchdowns in two matches as he did the entire regular season. His rapport with his star QB appears at its peak and with so much of the Eagles’ attention elsewhere, he may steal the limelight when it counts most.
No team in the league has a defensive front four better at putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks than the Eagles. They will be out to nullify Brady’s influence and if their front four continue their stellar form, which included a league-high 33 sacks in the regular season, they may just provide Foles et al with the platform to steal the show.
There is talk that New England’s preparation has been far superior to 12 months ago, when they were overcooked and flat throughout the first half when slipping to a huge deficit against Atlanta.
This time around things appear more relaxed, with Brady, Belichick and the Pats organisation on the cusp of extending one of sport’s greatest dynasties.
Philadelphia has never won a Super Bowl and last came closest when suffering a three-point defeat to none other than the Patriots in 2014.
The greatest unknown going into the game appears to be Gronkowski – but should he play, we would expect the majority of money on the spread to be in favour of New England with a -4.5 point handicap. He’s likely to line up and for that reason, we’ll side with their star power.
The post-season form of Danny Amendola has also been hard to ignore and he looks one of the better prop bets at $13.00 for the first touchdown of the match.