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A few items of interest that set up the week leading to Super Bowl LII:
Nick Foles. Amazing what can happen with extensive practice reps. No, Carson Wentz doesn’t have to worry about getting his job back, but Foles’ NFC title game performance against one of the NFL’s best defenses – 352 yards, 3 TDs, fueled by deep strikes – sets up the possibility that he could become one of the most unexpected quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl. It wasn’t too long ago when Foles contemplated retirement. Now he’s mentioned in the same breath as Joe Montana? Well, at least when it comes to stats. Foles joined the 49ers legend as the only quarterbacks to complete 75% of their passes in back-to-back postseason games. Of course, Tom Brady is hot, too, with a few distinguishing marks of his own.
If the Super Bowl were played this Sunday rather than next, it’s very possible that Rob Gronkowski would be a no-go. The Patriots’ star tight end still hasn’t been cleared from concussion protocol and didn’t hit the practice field until Saturday after getting knocked out of the AFC title game. Although Gronkowski was limited in Saturday’s session, rather than a full participant, it provided an encouraging sign that he will ultimately be cleared to play in LII. Typically, players in concussion protocol are allowed gradual activity as an element of the protocol monitors how a player responds to physical exertion. His status undoubtedly provides the most significant injury story leading up to XLII, with the Patriots having moved on from the setback with Tom Brady’s throwing hand (12 stitches) that dominated the news cycle and fueled anxiety in New England before Championship Weekend. It’s too early panic. In recent years, with more scrutiny and awareness regarding concussions, the return-to-play timeline has expanded to the point that it’s not unusual for it to take 10 days before a player is cleared from protocol and extremely rare if it happens in fewer than 7 days.
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They’re calling the media party on Tuesday the “Bold North Media Thaw,” providing a not-so-subtle hint for the week of navigating Super events in the Twin Cities. Check out some of the featured attractions: Ice fishing on Lake Waconia, snowmobile rides, a cross-country ski race, the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, a Polar Plunge (to benefit Special Olympics Minnesota). Quick, where’s the warming hut? The forecast for Super Bowl Sunday calls for snow and a high of 15 degrees, with the low dipping to -4. A great day for a domed stadium, like the sparkling U.S. Bank Stadium the Vikings call home. During the week, Wednesday projects as the warmest day with a high of 32, before a reality-check low of 3. Highs are not expected to get past 10 degrees on Thursday and Friday, with lows below zero. Word of the week: Brrrr!
The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 will flow out of the annual marathon selection meeting on Saturday. The major continuation debate for the 48-member panel again keys on Terrell Owens, who ranks fifth on the NFL’s all-time TD list (156), but didn’t advance to the top 10 among finalists last season, undoubtedly because of assorted off-the-field drama…which supposedly isn’t supposed to be a factor in assessing his merits. On top of that, Randy Moss (fourth all-time, 157 TDs) is now in the mix. Will Moss leap-frog Owens in the queue? We’ll see. The only “lock” among the 15 finalists: Ray Lewis. Beyond that, a lot of uncertainty and some momentum for ex-cornerback Everson Walls, a first-time finalist in his final year of eligibility before he would shift to the seniors’ pool.
Super history book
Wednesday marks the 30th anniversary of Doug Williams’ grand moment on the big stage, when he became the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl. The then-Washington quarterback – now the team’s top personnel executive – blew away the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII with a magnificent second quarter, when he ignited the upset by leading his team to five touchdowns in the quarter. MVP honors came after he threw for a then-Super Bowl record 340 yards.
“Those are my guys, but it’s straight enemy mode.”
– Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount, facing former Patriots teammates that he won a Super Bowl with last year.
Stat’s the fact
The Eagles have held opponents to 10 points or less in four consecutive games, dating to Week 16. It’s the longest-such streak by a Philadelphia defense since 1974. Last team with back-to-back postseason games allowing 10 or fewer? The record-setting Baltimore defense from the 2000 campaign. The Ravens allowed 10 points or fewer in four consecutive postseason games – and 23 points overall — en route to claiming the Super Bowl XXXV crown as a wild-card entrant.