The NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles (15-3) vs. the AFC Champion New England Patriots (15-3) at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday, Feb. 4 at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Thank goodness for domes! Outside the Super Bowl stadium the temperature won't even reach double digits, with a forecast high of 9 and a low of 0. Inside it'll be fine. Hopefully it'll be nice and toasty in front of your TV, too.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR PHILADELPHIA
The Eagles are in search of their first Super Bowl championship ever and their first NFL title since 1960, which is a brutal reality considering their NFC East rivals -- the Cowboys (5), Giants (4) and Redskins (3) have won 12 of the 51 Super Bowls (23.5 percent) and have appeared in 18 of the games (35.2 percent). The Eagles have been here twice before, losing to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV (27-10) and losing to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX (24-21). Never mind that they want to get that 0 out of their Super Bowl win column, their fans would surely like a little revenge for the loss to the Patriots 13 years ago.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR NEW ENGLAND
At this point it's not like the Patriots or Bill Belichick or Tom Brady can do anything that would hurt their legacies or affect their standing among the greatest of all time -- if not the greatest. But it would just add to their case -- and their history -- if they win back-to-back championships for the second time in 15 years, and three in four seasons for the second time in 17 years. A sixth Super Bowl championship ties their franchise with the Steelers for the most all-time, and it pushes Brady and Belichick into an almost untouchable, historical category. In an era of parity and free agency it's hard to imagine another coach and quarterback winning anywhere near that many championships together ever again. And the fact that they will have won half of them near the theoretical ends of their careers? Nothing short of remarkable.
A LOOK BACK AT SUPER BOWL XXXIX
It's ironic that the Eagles were standing in the Patriots' way the first time they tried to win back-to-back titles and three in four years. That game -- a 24-21 Patriots win -- is mostly remembered for Terrell Owens, who played after having been out since mid-December with a badly injured ankle that required surgery and multiple screws and metal plates to stabilize it. He not only played, after a week of tense speculation, he had nine catches for 122 yards. The game itself was actually tied 14-14 entering the fourth quarter before the Patriots put up 10 quick points. The Eagles tried to rally from there, and even scored to pull within 24-21 with 1:48 remaining. But oddly, on that touchdown drive, they huddled the whole time -- a bizarre, game-management error by Eagles coach Andy Reid. There were reports after the game that he was forced to slow things down because QB Donovan McNabb was vomiting in the huddle. The Eagles did not recover the onside kick after their touchdown, but they did get the ball back on their own 4 with 46 seconds remaining. That drive never got moving, though, and McNabb was intercepted by Patriots safety Rodney Harrison with nine seconds left.
EAGLES PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Nick Foles
The Eagles were thought to be done when they lost star QB Carson Wentz, but Foles has been mostly fantastic since then. In two playoff games, he's completed 77.8 percent of his passes for 598 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. The Eagles couldn't have expected much more than that. It hasn't always been pretty and the Eagles' offense doesn't look as dangerous as it once did. But if Foles is on, he'll give them a shot in this game. He has had turnover-prone stretches in his career, so Philly coach Doug Pederson has to be careful not to put too much on his plate. If he's off, the Patriots will have an easy time. But Foles hasn't been off much so far.
PATRIOTS PLAYER TO WATCH: TE Rob Gronkowski
First of all, he's going to play. Don't get too worked up about the concussion protocol he was in until Thursday. When he plays, he remains one of the most difficult players in the game to defend. Over his last five games -- not including the AFC championship game he left early or the season finale against the Jets where he barely played -- "Gronk" has averaged seven catches for 109 yards and nearly a touchdown per game. The Eagles have had difficulties defending tight ends all season long. Finding a way to at least slow Gronkowski down will be a big key to their success.
The Eagles are good, which is a fact many seem to forget. They weren't just all about Carson Wentz. They had a Top 10 defense and rushing attack too, which are usually the ingredients needed to win in the playoffs. They were the best team in the NFC and were a Super Bowl favorite right up until the moment Wentz got hurt. It's understandable why they were downgraded after that, but Foles has proven to be almost as good in his short time as the starter. If that continues, they will be in this game. But the big question is: Will it continue? And can he match big plays down the stretch with a quarterback as great and as experienced as Tom Brady? Because that is almost always what these big games come down to -- the play of the quarterback. One of them will be required to make big plays in the fourth quarter to win this game. Sure, it could be a blowout. But keep in mind the Patriots' seven Super Bowls over the past 16 years have been decided by an average of 3.7 points. The largest margin of victory - six points - was last year, and that game went to overtime. So yeah, Brady is pretty experienced in these big games and he's pretty proven. Foles isn't. That likely will be the deciding factor. Add in, too, that with two weeks to game plan, Belichick is pretty good at finding a team's weakness. He'll likely see how much trouble the Eagles have had covering tight ends, for example, and unleash Gronkowski. Even if that doesn't work, the Patriots just have too many weapons for the Eagles to control. That doesn't mean the Patriots will run away with this. They likely won't. But the Eagles don't have the offense to build a huge early lead in this game or to run away with it themselves. Their best bet it to keep pace with the Pats and keep the game tight in the fourth quarter. If that happens, bet on Brady. Always bet on Brady unless Eli Manning is involved. … Patriots 30, Eagles 24.