2018-02-03 / Sports

Super Bowl LII: by the numbers

We think the Patriots will win their sixth Super Bowl in a close game, 27-23

Controversies surrounding the national anthem, concussion protocols and what constitutes a catch have plagued the National Football League this year, resulting in fan discontent and lower television ratings.

None of that grumbling is likely to matter once the Philadelphia Eagles and defending champion New England Patriots meet at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis this Sunday to vie for the right to be called champion of the 52nd annual Super Bowl, or SBLII to those of you who still use Roman numerals (all XVII of you).

Another number that is probably important to a good number of fans is VI XXX. The hype and slick marketing pitches will subside at around 6:30 when the game actually kicks off.

Lastly, channel-surfing fans might want to bear XXX in mind. The NFL estimates that the break between the second and third quarters will last about 30 minutes.

More than 100 million Americans are expected to tune into the television broadcast, a projection backed up by advertisers who are spending as much as $5 million for a 30-second spot.

New England Patriots New England Patriots As the league’s marquee event, the Super Bowl has always been bigger than football, drawing non-fans who are partying with friends and watching the big-budget, celebrity-studded halftime shows, as well as the quirky commercials that populate the four-hour long TV extravaganza.

Oddsmakers in Las Vegas have made the Patriots a 4.5-point favorite with the total set at 48.5 points. More than $4.5 billion is expected to be wagered, though the majority of that will be bet illegally through offshore websites and local bookies.

Both teams bring compelling back stories to the contest.

In New England, rumors of a strained relationship between star quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick have surfaced, leading some to surmise that this could be the last hurrah for the five-time champions. In addition, a mysterious thumb injury suffered by Brady during practice nearly derailed the Patriots season prior to the AFC Championship Game. A sixth Lombardi Trophy would move the Patriots into a tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most by a single franchise in NFL history.

Philadelphia has also had its share of drama. Starting, second-year quarterback Carson Wentz, an MVP candidate, was lost for the year with an ACL tear during week 14 of the regular season. In came back-up signal caller Nick Foles, a seven-year veteran in his second stint with the Eagles. Foles has largely silenced his critics by leading the team to consecutive underdog wins over the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings.

Here’s an idea of what to expect when the teams finally take the field:

Philadelphia Eagles Philadelphia Eagles When the Patriots have the ball:

Tom Brady, Tom Brady and more Tom Brady.

Perhaps no player is as indispensable to his team. He’ll attack an Eagles defense that ranks 17th against the pass, but is number one against the run.

The key for New England will be to keep Brady upright in the pocket and away from the Eagles’ vaunted pass rush. His ability to connect with a healthy Rob Gronkowski, who suffered a concussion in the AFC title game, will also be of paramount importance.

If Gronkowski is hampered, wide receivers Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola provide Brady with quality options in the passing game.

The running backs are a multi-faceted group led by Dion Lewis, who excels as both a runner and pass catcher. Rex Burkhead and James White provide depth and versatile skill sets.

When the Eagles have the ball:

Foles may not have the physical skill set of Wentz, but what the cagey veteran lacks in athleticism he makes up for in leadership skills and a cannon arm.

That wing was on full display in the NFC title game, where he threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns while completing 78 percent of his throws.

He’ll likely need to have that type of game again if the Eagles are to claim their first-ever Super Bowl victory.

The receiving corps is led by another tight end, Zach Ertz, and receivers Ashlon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, who combined for 209 catches, more than 2,600 yards and 27 touchdowns this season.

Running backs Jay Ajayi, a mid-season acquisition from Miami, and LeGarrette Blount, a former Patriot, will attempt to punish a New England rush defense that regularly gives up huge chunks of yardage and ranks 30th in the league.

In what we expect to be a close, but relatively high-scoring duel, our prediction is Patriots 27, Eagles 23.

Sunday, February 4

Kickoff: 6:30 PM

Broadcast: NBC

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