NFL-Five Super Bowl storylines to follow
Feb 2 (Reuters) - Five storylines to watch for during Super Bowl LII between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots on Sunday.
*Patriots Last Hurrah?*
New England’s run to an eighth Super Bowl appearance in the last 17 years has been accompanied by a narrative of friction between their leading architects – owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. Prior to this post-season, the three men issued a joint statement attempting to dispel the notion of a rift, but their response to the reports may have spoken volumes. With a 40-year-old Brady defiantly playing into older age while Kraft and Belichick perform a balancing act of power, a breakup of the dynasty may be near.
*The Backup Quarterback*
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is as unlikely a Super Bowl QB as Brady is an inevitable one. The 29-year-old Foles, who once considered retiring during an uneven career, was thrust into the starting role for Philadelphia when signal-caller Carson Wentz went down with an ACL injury in early December. Foles has responded with a pair of strong playoff wins but he will face the test of his career on football’s biggest stage. He will also try to become the first backup QB to triumph in the title game since Brady pulled it off in Super Bowl XXXVI.
*Rob Gronkowski’s Health*
New England’s indestructible tight end was concussed against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship. He remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol, though he appears on track to play. If healthy, Gronkowski’s physical presence further tilts the balance of the game New England’s way. If he is less than 100 percent, the Eagles dodge one of the Patriots' key weapons.
*Patriots Become Eagles*
Philadelphia running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive end Chris Long each won last year’s Super Bowl as members of the Patriots. Both had an opportunity to return to the Patriots but chose a move to the NFC and can now join Ken Norton and Deion Sanders as players who won back-to-back Super Bowls with different teams. Brady jokingly said he hopes Long respects his elders and does not hit him too hard, but there will be no mercy shown between friends turned foes.
New England is a heavy betting favorite over the underdog Eagles but the Patriots history suggests late drama may be on the horizon. The Patriots’ come-from-behind 34-28 overtime triumph over Atlanta in Super Bowl LI was the largest margin of victory in any of their last eight Super Bowl appearances. Whether a late field goal, or miracle catch, the Patriots have a knack for being a part of theatrics under the bright spotlight. (Compiled by Jahmal Corner, Editing by Ed Osmond)
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