‘You want to treat us like underdogs? We’ll give you underdogs.’
Despite tying for the best record in the NFL this season and earning the top seed in the NFC, Philadelphia haven’t been given the proper respect that typically comes with those accomplishments. They were considered underdogs twice on their home field in the playoffs, against reigning NFC champions Atlanta in the divisional round and against the Vikings on the heels of the ‘Minnesota Miracle’ in the NFC Championship Game. Both times they defied expectations and advanced.
And now their underdog status has reached its zenith, with the mighty New England Patriots‘ dynasty standing in the way of the franchise’s first Super Bowl title in a contest many are viewing through a David vs Goliath lens.
But there’s a reason why the Eagles are here, and it’s not to serve as fodder for someone else’s storybook ending. This is the rare case where the consensus underdog may actually be better than the favourite and end up proving it.
As charming as it might be to associate the Eagles with one of their city’s icons and the ultimate underdog, Rocky Balboa, this team is fittingly more of a Philly Shell fighter than a brawler hoping to connect on a haymaker.
Philadelphia have arguably the most talented roster in the NFL, from top to bottom. Their athleticism and depth, wielded by strong coaching, is why they won 13 games this season and looked like the clear-cut best team in the league before their most important player was taken away.
If the Eagles have anything in common with Rocky, it’s their ability to get up after being knocked down.
When Carson Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14, Philadelphia not only lost their starting quarterback, but a player who was the frontrunner for MVP. It was just assumed that their Super Bowl hopes were dashed in an instant and that a regular season full of promise had gone up in flames.
But the Eagles have lost just one game since and that too was a meaningless match-up in Week 17, at which point they had already locked up the one seed. That’s just not possible to do with a back-up quarterback unless the rest of your team is incredibly well-rounded and capable of mitigating the blow.
It’s completely reasonable to point to Nick Foles as the reason why Philadelphia are underdogs. But there’s another way of looking at it and that is by recognising that the Eagles have minimised how crucial of a role their biggest weakness plays. Quarterback is undoubtedly the most important position in football, but what Philadelphia have done is make Foles’ production a byproduct of their success, not the catalyst.
They actually can. Philadelphia don’t necessarily need Foles to play well if they can get pressure on Brady and reduce his effectiveness. And if Foles does channel his inner Wentz and play like he did in the NFC Championship Game, nothing less than another heroic effort by Brady will be needed for the Patriots to lift the Lombardi Trophy again.
New England have the biggest advantage at the most important position, but if that is somehow neutralised, the Eagles have the talent and ability to capitalise everywhere else.
While that doesn’t mean the roles should be reserved and Philadelphia be considered the favourites, it is time to kill the underdog narrative.
There’s a still a good chance, however, we see the dog masks one last time.
The biggest spectacle in American sports is nearly upon us as the NFL season culminates with Super Bowl LII.
Whether you’re an NFL fan or just eager to get a taste of the experience, there are several venues across the UAE that will open their doors in the early hours for live viewing of the game, which is set to kick-off at 03:30 Monday morning.
Whoever you’re rooting for, be sure to check out the Super Bowl at one of the following places:
Original Wings and Rings
There’s nothing quite like enjoying American football while feasting on buffalo wings, which is why you can’t go wrong heading to this popular spot in DIFC.
Doors will open at 03:00, with entry priced at Dh150 per person, inclusive of one main course and one beverage.
Visitors also have a chance at winning a voucher worth Dh1,000.
Where: Liberty House Building, Level C, DIFC
Contact: Original Wings and Rings Facebook page
Switch it up from the usual sports bar scene by enjoying all the action on the field in the classy setting at Emirates Golf Club.
Featuring 16 televisions and a three metre screen, Spike Bar has you covered for the game and for food and beverage, with a Dh50 breakfast buffet on offer, as well as happy hour drinks for Dh28.
Where: Emirates Golf Club
One of the premier hot spots in the emirate, McGettigan’s will be screening the game while offering specials with beverage bucks deals, a bites menu and their signature wings and burgers.
The venue will also be hosting members of the local Emirates American Football League, so the atmosphere is bound to be electric.
Where: Jumeirah Lake Towers Cluster J
Contact: McGettigan’s Facebook page
Stars ‘N’ Bars
Get the total experience at this American Sports Bar situated in the capital.
The venue will be showing Super Bowls of the past from 21:00 to 03:00, alongside karaoke from 22:00 to 02:00 and a tailgate party from 22:00 to 03:00.
When the game kicks off, you can keep up with the action on 76 TVs and a three-metre large screen outside on the dining terrace.
Where: Yas Marina, Yas Island
Contact: Stars ‘N’ Bars Facebook page
The Sportsman’s Arms
If you’re a fan of brunch, The Sportsman’s Arms may be the ideal spot to catch the game while filling up on delicious food and cold beverages.
The bar will offer a four-hour package of unlimited beverages, bucket of wings, ribs and sliders for Dh295, before breakfast is served from 07:00. You can also opt for bucket deals of 10 beverages for Dh200 and 20 for Dh350.
Where: Zayed Sports City
Contact: The Sportsman’s Arms Facebook page
Super Bowl week has brought with it plenty of media frenzy as always.
The New England Patriots are playing in their eighth Super Bowl since 2002, so they’re used to having all eyes on them in the lead-up to the biggest game of the year. You won’t see Bill Belichick or Tom Brady giving crazy quotes on the media days, although the Patriots coach has been caught smiling multiple times already.
The Philadelphia Eagles, meanwhile, have really embraced their underdog status but aren’t talking like a team short on confidence.
Here are some of the top quotes from the week:
“I think Tom Brady’s earned the right to have that be a decision he makes when he wants to make it.”
-Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, son of owner Robert Kraft, telling NFL Network it’s Brady’s choice when he wants to step away from the game. An ESPN article ahead of the playoffs described a power struggle between ownership, Brady and Belichick, with Brady’s future a topic of contention.
“Why does everyone want me to retire so bad? I don’t get it. I’m having fun. The team’s doing good. I know I’m a little bit older than most of the guys, but I’m really enjoying it.”
-Brady’s response when asked about Kraft’s comments on his decision to retire. The 40-year-old quarterback has maintained he wants to play into his mid 40s and judging by his current form, he may well get there.
“You can’t take it easy on the GOAT. He’s a helluva dude and a helluva player. He’s trying to play a mind game with me. It’s that Jedi mind trick.”
-Eagles defensive end Chris Long speaks on former team-mate Brady, who he won a championship with last year in New England. Brady joked earlier in the week that Long “respects his elders” and not hit him so hard if he gets a chance in the game.
“All of that dynasty stuff, that s*** doesn’t matter to me. I’m not worried about their dynasty. They may have a dynasty but that’s what we are looking to start here in Philly. I am trying to win a trophy man. We want to bring this thing back to Philly for the first time.”
-Philadelphia wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is aware of what the Patriots have accomplished – winning five Super Bowls in the Brady and Belichick era – but he’s not about to bend down and kiss their feet.
“Some of those have worked out maybe a little better for one side than the other. Certainly, Mike got the best of the Chad Johnson trade, still waiting for the payback on that. I don’t think that’s coming.”
-Belichick on the trade he made with the Cincinnati Bengals to get former star receiver Chad Johnson (Ochocinco) in 2011. The Patriots coach almost predictably gave a long-winded answer when asked about special teams coverage, but this shot taken at Johnson was definitely a surprise and came out of nowhere.
“When you get to be as old as him maybe your memory is short.”
-Robert Kraft took a friendly jab at Brady, who is 36 years his junior. The joking remark to the Boston Herald was in response to being asked about Brady’s famous words when the two first met. Kraft maintains Brady told him “I’m the best decision this organisation has ever made”, while Brady claims he said “you’ll never regret picking me”. Regardless of who’s account is true, they both ring true for Kraft and the Patriots.