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Five reasons to cheer for Eagles to fly vs. Patriots

Five reasons to cheer for Eagles to fly vs. Patriots

If you’re stuck wondering which team to root for in Super Bowl LII now that your team is home for the offseason (or you’re looking for some last-minute affirmation), there’s no need to fret.

Why? Because as much as a Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriotschampionship appears to present two sides, we all know, deep down, there’s only one way to go.

OK, so maybe not everyone feels that way. But after this, there should be no ifs, ands or buts about your allegiance to the Birds on the biggest Sunday of the year. Ready or not, here are five reasons you should be pulling for the Eagles in Minneapolis:

1. Because who isn’t sick of the Patriots dynasty?

Nothing against Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the sustained success that New England has found. Question them and their ethics all you want, but videotaped hand signals and deflated footballs are not the only reasons that Brady is an MVP candidate at age 40, Belichick is the NFL‘s toughest matchup on the sidelines and the Patriots are now vying for a sixth Super Bowl title. This team is good, whether you like it or not, and it has been for a lot longer than any other franchise of this era.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons
You really want to see this again? USATSI

That’s all the more reason, however, to hope for change. We can all appreciate a little nostalgia in fresh developments. Take “Star Wars,” for example, an appropriate analogy here with the overused “Evil Empire” Patriots comparison. “The Force Awakens” was darn near a carbon copy of the 1977 original, albeit in updated form. But we got that with New England in 2016. Brady, Belichick and the Pats, forces of old, came storming back to give us the same story against the Atlanta Falcons, albeit in updated form. Now it’s time for “The Last Jedi” — something strikingly unfamiliar, a bridge into a brand new story and, thus, the end of the Pats dynasty.

If you’re rooting for the Brady Bunch just so Tom can stick it to the fans who are disillusioned enough to think cheating is the only reason he’s one of the greatest to ever play the game, good for you, perhaps. But let’s be real. If 2016’s title — or trips to three of the last four Super Bowls, for that matter — didn’t win everyone over, why will a sixth Lombardi Trophy? We’re past due for a changing of the guard, and what better team to close the book on this overlong New England run than the team that just barely lost to the Pats in the big game more than a decade ago?

2. The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl

As we make a gigantic leap from discussing the Patriots’ hunt for a sixth Super Bowl win, there’s something extra special about a championship game featuring a team that’s never won it all, and we’ve seen it unfold more than a few times in recent history, from the Chicago Cubs’ curse-shattering World Series win in 2016 to the Seattle Seahawks‘ historic blowout of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. It doesn’t always work out in favor of the club vying for its first ‘ship (see: 2015 Carolina Panthers), but when it does, bringing home a Lombardi Trophy for the first time in franchise history is like putting the cherry on top of the NFL’s biggest sundae — er, Sunday.

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Even 2004, when the Eagles last made the Super Bowl, seems like ages ago. Getty Images

Philadelphia isn’t completely devoid of championships. Although there are inevitably some same-state Pittsburgh Steelers fans who are bent on convincing you that any NFL games before 1967 didn’t count, the Eagles were the NFL’s top dogs in 1947, ’48 and again in ’60. And yet, for them and their hungry followers, the last five decades have done little more than tease a city starved for a trophy. Even the last great Eagles run, which saw Andy Reid coach the team to historic success and, of course, the club’s last Super Bowl appearance against you-know-who in 2004, included a whopping four NFC Championship Game losses, three of which came back-to-back-to-back.

If you can spare a shred of mercy, you’ll root for the Eagles to accomplish what’s always seemed impossible, putting at ease fans of all ages who tasted — but never truly consumed — a championship course over the last 50-plus years.

3. Philadelphia is the ultimate underdog story

Forget the city’s affair with Hollywood’s affable boxing star, the one and only Rocky Balboa. Forget the longtime championship drought and, thus, years of league-wide ridicule. This year’s Eagles team alone makes for its own underdog story, and that’s probably an understatement.

Here’s a group that finally found its next franchise quarterback only to see him go down with a season-ending injury — along with a Hall of Fame left tackle, a starting linebacker and a slew of other starters or captains — right as the playoffs drew close, then spat in the face of an “underdog” label in their own house, both knocking off the defending NFC champions and handing the universally lauded Minnesota Vikingsthis year’s most embarrassing loss en route to a Super Bowl with Nick Foles at quarterback.

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Nick Foles could be a Super Bowl winner, and that should tell you everything about this Eagles team’s fight. USATSI

Now, Vegas is playing right into the Eagles’ hands by making the Patriots rather comfortable favorites in Super Bowl LII. No one can blame the oddsmakers for hyping New England, but if you’re not in awe of how much adversity Philadelphia overcame to get to this point, you’re missing one of the most triumphant stories of the season. This isn’t just about players wearing German shepherd masks to poke fun at the odds. It’s about a team with a second-year coach exceeding everyone’s expectations, refusing to be slowed by otherwise detrimental injuries and, week after week, finding different ways to win. Without Carson Wentz and without the respect they’ve earned, especially in recent weeks, the Eagles are shaping up to be the underdog Philly’s always wanted — and, maybe, the one the rest of the NFL needs.

4. The Eagles are incredibly likable

Say what you will about their fans. Some of their NFC championship behavior was inexcusable, but it has also brought about a positive response, and the positive response is much more aligned with how this team has carried itself in 2017. If you want to get cute and ride with the “Evil Empire” description for New England, then the Eagles are absolutely, positively your “Republic” or “Resistance” or whatever “Star Wars” term for “good guys” you prefer.

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Carson Wentz’s spirit has been echoed by the rest of the Eagles’ locker room this season. USATSI

With Wentz at the helm, the Eagles made it clear from the get-go that they weren’t much of a selfish group, standing together not only as a socially conscious unit but as a spiritually connected team. Heavy on their faith in the face of adversity, they have mirrored their coach’s fluctuation between unusual calmness and perfectly timed aggressiveness, all while continuously talking up the selflessness that characterizes the locker room. Pick any one player from the starting lineup or the depth chart, and you won’t find an ego that’s overshadowed what Philly has done over the course of 2017.

Malcolm Jenkins worked tirelessly as a Pro Bowl player but also as a champion of social activism, meeting with local law enforcement, campaigning for legislation and eliciting $89 million in charity donations from the NFL. Chris Long donated his entire year’s base salary to fund students’ education. Wentz spent considerable time connecting with less privileged fans and providing for families in need before coaching up and cheering on the man who’s taken his chance of winning this city a Super Bowl.

The easiest thing to note about these Eagles is that they are more unified, more team-oriented and even more compassionate than most.

5. An Eagles win would restore hope for all, especially defenses

If the Patriots win (again), what do we learn? (Cue the scream from the back: “That cheating is OK!”)

Actually, a sixth New England title probably just reminds us that it’s never a bad thing to have a freakish 40-year-old quarterback or a grizzled head coach like Belichick. Conversely, an Eagles victory would be a victory for all, not merely because of the implications of a rare Patriots defeat but because Philadelphia is exactly the kind of team that every team can strive to be. Wentz obviously played a big role in the team’s run to the playoffs, so a franchise quarterback can’t be understated, but still, if the guys in green proved anything by clinching a spot in Super Bowl LII, it’s that everydayteams can still win championships — and so can defenses.

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Defense can still win championships, and the Eagles can prove that against the Patriots. USATSI

If Nick Foles, a guy whose lone Pro Bowl season was flushed down the toilet by lackluster years outside of Philly, can come back and win it all, anyone can have hope. If the Eagles can lose Wentz, left tackle Jason Peters, running back Darren Sproles, linebacker Jordan Hicks and kicker Caleb Sturgis and still beat the Patriotsin the Super Bowl after weeks of being the underdogs, anyone can have hope. And if their ferocious defensive unit, which carried them through some latter stages of the season and stood pat not only against the Falcons but also the Vikings in the postseason, can withstand Brady and bring the Eagles a title, we can all have hope that, in the end, this game is, has been and always will be about the team — not just the quarterback or the coach, but the team.

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