I couldn’t pull for the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC championship. Grow up in Minneapolis, and you’re not going to pull for the team that’s playing the Minnesota Vikings.
But I can respect them. The Eagles were 11-2 when they lost their quarterback, presumptive MVP Carson Wentz. They immediately stopped being the best team in the NFC and were demoted to underdog.
When was the last time a conference’s No. 1 seed was twice a playoff underdog at home?
The Atlanta Falcons were favored against Philadelphia two weeks ago by a field goal. It was the first time in NFL history that a No. 1 seed was an underdog against a No. 6 seed.
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Minnesota was favored last week by a field goal.
How deeply has Philadelphia embraced the underdog role? I’m not going to draw a “Rocky” analogy because if the NFL ran boxing, Philadelphia’s Rocky Balboa would have been in the concussion protocol after the first round of every fight.
The Falcons and Vikings were favored because Philadelphia’s quarterback was Wentz’s backup, Nick Foles.
Many assumed Minnesota’s top-ranked defense would destroy him. Instead, it was the Eagles’ defense that destroyed Vikings quarterback Case Keenum, who is mobile, or was until Sunday.
Foles escaped Minnesota’s rush with apparent ease, and when he scrambled, he found receivers. He found receivers when he didn’t scramble. It was like room service in the Vikings’ secondary.
Philadelphia’s opponent in Super Bowl LII is the New England Patriots. Of course, it’s the New England Patriots. I know I’m not supposed to like the Patriots. The only people that like the Patriots are fans of the Patriots. To be unaligned is to be against them.
But I inexplicably found myself pulling for them Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Who sustains excellence in the NFL, or any other sport, the way they do? This Super Bowl will be the eighth for the Patriots in the last 18 seasons.
New England trailed 20-10 in the fourth quarter. So in the fourth quarter Tom Brady threw for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Who didn’t see it coming?
Few of us saw Philadelphia coming Jan. 6 when the playoffs began. The Eagles have the Patriots where they want them: The early line favors New England by six.
More from this issue of the Tom Talks newsletter:
Super Bowl LII
New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles
6:30 p.m. Feb. 4
U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis