Even the most casual of football fans know that the New England Patriots are once again heading to the Super Bowl. If you’re one of those casual fans, here are five talking points you can strike up with your friends in two weeks at the Super Bowl party.
#1. – Defense Wins Championships? Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is probably going to win his third Most Valuable Player award for his body of work this season, due in large part to the Patriots’ defense.
Although Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has focused more on defense during his career and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is widely expected to take a head coaching job somewhere else in the NFL after this season ends, defense has not been a strong suit for New England this year.
The Patriots rank 29th out of 32 teams in yards allowed per game and are 31st in average yards allowed per play. And that’s after they were even worse earlier in the season.
In the end though, the only direct corollary between wins and losses is points, and the Patriots were fifth in the league there (Philadelphia was fourth.)
While the game will more than likely be won or lost through the performance of Brady, the fact that New England’s defense was able to hold Jacksonville scoreless in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line might give some hope to concerned Patriots fans.
#2. – Give Him a Hand. Despite endless speculation over Brady’s hand during the week after an injury, it didn’t seem to bother him all that much on Sunday.
Brady ended the day completing 26 of 38 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns; that showed marked improvement over mediocre performances during the final few weeks of the regular season.
The injury occurred in practice after Brady’s hand accidentally hit the helmet of running back Rex Birkhead. Reports indicate that he required a minimum of ten stitches in the palm of his throwing hand.
#3. – Is This the End? Injured or not, Brady’s age has also been a topic of discussion this season. Brady turned 40 in August, one year older than when Peyton Manning’s appearance in Super Bowl 50 made him the oldest quarterback in Super Bowl history.
Brady’s quest for youth has also led him to develop a close friendship with trainer Alex Guerrero, something that has caused alleged tension with Belichick after allegations that Guerrero began influencing other members of the team to the point where it began to conflict with the team’s training staff.
Rumors also abound that Belichick was also upset about the recent trade of Patriots’ backup Jimmy Garoppolo.
#4. – Speaking of Jimmy G, Garoppolo was the heir apparent to Brady, but without a set timeline on when Brady’s tenure would end, the Patriots waited on making a decision over Garoppolo’s future, ultimately trading him to San Francisco in November for a second-round draft pick.
This was the final year of Garoppolo’s rookie contract, meaning the Patriots would either have to franchise Garoppolo or pay him even more than Brady, something they were not willing to do unless they were certain he’d be their starter in 2018.
Why was he traded to San Francisco, specifically? Although Belichick is renowned for not being forthcoming on such questions, some such as ESPN’s Adam Schefter have speculated it was due in part to Belichick’s respect for members of the 49ers organization and his wish to put Garoppolo where he could thrive.
Even though Jimmy wasn’t in Foxborough on Sunday, he still reaped indirect benefits from the Patriots’ win.
#5. – Okay, What About the Eagles? With all the intrigue behind the scenes with the Patriots’ unprecedented success, it’s easy to forget about Philadelphia, who they defeated in 2005 for their third Super Bowl title.
After the loss of starting quarterback Carson Wentz, the Las Vegas odds makers put the Eagles as underdogs during their two playoff games despite getting more regular season wins than any team in the NFC.
The Eagles embraced this slight, with fans wearing dog masks to signify their struggle against the skeptics.
They’ll also need another career performance from Nick Foles, who dominated the league’s best defense on Sunday.
It looks like the City of Philadelphia will also need to seek another substance to slather their light poles with as well, something more slippery than Crisco, if the Eagles can succeed in two weeks.