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Super Bowl LII: How They Got There

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Patriots:

The 2017 Super Bowl Champion’s road to the playoffs was not as pleasant as many expected. In the off-season, the Patriots lost key components: Chris Long, Martellus Bennett, LaGarrette Blount and Michael Floyd. Yet, they countered by dealing their first and third round pick to the Saints for established young wide-receiver Brandin Cooks.

When the season ensued, the Thursday Night matchup ended in a loss, as the Kansas City Chiefs molly-wopped the Patriots 42-27. Just before the Patriots could revive their former selves, the Panthers waltzed into Foxborough and left with a 33-30 triumph, dropping the Patriots to 2-2 and prompting the pundits to write them off. Writers and fans alike undervalued the team, though, expecting the older team to continue to dissipate.

Tom Brady thought otherwise.  

He and Bill Belichick won 11 of their next 12 to end the season 13-3. The number-one seeded Patriots achieved a first-round bye, yet troubles within the organization between Belichick and Brady were documented. Feuds between the two sparked when Brady demanded that Jimmy Garoppolo be traded, alleviating the perceived pressure behind him. Then, Belichick banished Brady’s personal lifestyle trainer, Alex Guerrero, from entering the team’s facilities.

Throughout these struggles, the Patriots continued to dominate.  After plowing through the dismantled Titans, the Patriots pulled a Houdini act in the AFC title game.  Down 10 points against the Jaguars with only 12:00 minutes on the clock, Brady (hurt from a cut on his throwing hand that required 12 stitches) scored back-to-back touchdowns, giving the Brady/Belichick duo a chance at their sixth Super Bowl title.

Eagles:

Head coach Doug Pederson’s Philadelphia Eagles’ road to the playoffs was a season of dreams, especially for second-year quarterback Carson Wentz. Former Patriot, Chris Long, signed with the Eagles in the off-season, along with dynamic receivers Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery. During the draft, the Eagles selected premier pass-rusher Derek Barnett, now anchoring the Eagles front four.

The season commenced and the Eagles flew above the competition, looking as if they were the best team in the NFL at 7-1.

Then, from nowhere a mid-season move shocked fans but jolted the offense. The Dolphins’ Jay Ajayi joined the Eagles’ LaGarrette Blount and the duo have soared since.

Wentz carried the load in the regular season, breaking into stardom with 3,296 passing yards, 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions in his first pro-bowl season.

Then, disaster struck.  

Wentz suffered a torn ACL directly after leading the Eagles to a crucial win against the Los Angeles Rams, turning the signal calling duties over to much maligned quarterback Nick Foles.

Foles took the challenge with open arms, commanding the Eagles in the final three games of the season. In the playoffs, Foles answered the bell: the Eagles, beating a surging Falcons team, and obliterating a highly touted Vikings defense, are now on their way to the Super Bowl.

Even without Wentz, pro-bowl teammates Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Fletcher Cox and Malcolm Jacobs feel confident they can dethrone the NFL’s top power, winning the franchise’s first Super Bowl.

Nick’s Pick: Patriots 34-24

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