FOR the uninitiated or the Super Bowl newcomers it must seem that the big game is just an annual New England Patriots challenge match, but they're not always in the end-of-season showpiece even though it may seem that way recently. What else do you need to know about the Super Bowl?
That the New England Patriots are showing up in Minnesota as 1.50 favourites against the Philadelphia Eagles (2.70) will be no surprise to even those who will tune in for the first time – after all Tom Brady transcends the sport and is a global icon, partially for his super model wife but also because he's won five of these and Sunday will be his eighth Super Bowl trip.
So, what if you are a first-time viewer, what are the two teams like? Who should you be supporting? What and who should you watch out for? Hopefully we'll give you a few helpful hints right here.
When & Where
The game is taking place in Minneapolis at the $1 billion home of the Minnesota Vikings – who came within one game of being the first team to play a home Super Bowl. Kick-off is at 11.30pm GMT and in the UK you have the choice of Sky Sports or the BBC to watch all the action on. Strap yourselves in though as it's a long night!
Justin Timberlake is the entertainment for the world-famous half time show, last time he did the Super Bowl he exposed more than we bargained for of Janet Jackson – she's 7.0 to appear again as a guest in a move that would undoubtedly ‘break the internet'. Pink will sing the national anthem, which will most probably be observed as usual, but there's 4.0 on offer for a player to use the biggest stage of all for another ‘kneel down' protest.
It's not just a sporting occasion in the USA, it's an event – Super Bowls dominate the most-watched shows in American TV history and in fact 19 of the top 20 are all the NFL's showpiece, with just the final episode of Mash stopping a whitewash. So with over 100 million people watching that's why a 30-second commercial will cost $5m this year.
The teams play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy – named after the former Green Bay Packers coach who won the first two events while it was still called the AFL-NFL Championship Game but then sadly died of cancer. Players and staff also get Super Bowl rings for their victory – the NFL pays for 150 rings at $5,000 each and every one is specially designed for the victorious team.
The Eagles are making their third trip to the Super Bowl, they've lost their previous two, while the Patriots are in their tenth – no team has been to more. Only the Steelers have won more as well. The Patriots are looking to retain their Super Bowl title after last year's epic win over Atlanta, the last team to do that was…yes, you guessed it, the Patriots. Even better, they beat the Eagles to do it, back in 2005 – which was also their third win in four years. If they win on Sunday it will be their third win in four years – spooky!
The Eagles have been a close-but-no-cigar type of team over a number of years, getting to the play-offs and four times around the turn of the century moving within a game of the Super Bowl but falling at the final hurdle. They've also had to deal with losing their star quarterback Carson Wentz this season with injury and have been the underdog in both play-off games they ended up winning – they're even bigger underdogs against the might Patriots.
Is this Tom Brady guy THAT good?
In a word, yes. He turned 40 this year but has been as good, if not better, as ever. He owns most of the quarterback records and has won five Super Bowl rings and four MVP (Man of the Match) awards in those games – he's 1.65 to get a fifth. Brady was famously drafted way down in 199th place as a slow, gangly quarterback, but will surely go down as the greatest NFL player of all time when he's finally done.
It's not just the numbers, it's the winning mentality – Brady constantly has different running backs and receivers alongside him but always seems to get the job done. He makes fringe players better, and he's also the master of the comeback. Facing Brady makes opposing teams think differently, and play differently – and although he takes a beating at times, he always gets right back up.
Who do the Eagles have at QB?
They did have Carson Wentz who was the best player in the NFL until a knee injury ended his season. His back-up Nick Foles began slowly but has been a star in the play-offs, throwing three touchdowns but crucially no interceptions – he's 2.15 to again not be picked off and it's 3.75 for Brady to have more interceptions in the game. Foles is just the fourth back-up to play in the Super Bowl after three or fewer regular season starts under his belt – two of the previous three, however, won it all.
This game may struggle to recreate the almighty events of last year, when the Patriots erased a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter before stunning Atlanta in overtime. However, there may be similarities this time around as the Eagles will come out swarming all over Brady and the Patriots are notorious slow starters in this game so it could again be close – it's 12.0 to go into overtime.
The lengthy half time gives the veteran Patriots time to make adjustments and makes inexperienced teams sweat over any lead they have, so it's quite possible that another comeback is on the cards. There's no going to bed early this time around with the knowledge Brady has come from at least 10 points down four times in the final quarter of play-off games, so keep an eye on the in-play market even if the Patriots are behind, or take 7.0 on them winning the game after trailing at the half.
Most importantly, sit back and enjoy one of the biggest games in the world of sport.