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Who next to follow in the footsteps of the Eagles?

Steve Shoup

It was a Super Bowl to remember this month, as the Philadelphia Eagles upset the form guide to clinch their first Super Bowl title in franchise history. The New England Patriots were understandably the favorites going into this match-up, given their recent successes and the fact that the Eagles lost their franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz, just seven weeks before the Super Bowl final. With 74 points shared between the two teams, it was one of—if not the most—enthralling Super Bowls ever witnessed.

Wentz tore his ACL in December, throwing replacement quarterback, Nick Foles, firmly into the Super Bowl spotlight. Foles was very close to retiring from the sport he loved in 2016 following his release from a contract with the Los Angeles Rams. But he would go on and deliver the game of his life in Minneapolis, becoming the first ever player to both throw for and catch a touchdown in a Super Bowl final. Foles was named Super Bowl MVP after completing 28 of his 43 passes, including three touchdowns.

It was an evening where the stars aligned and the football gods served up more than three hours of feel-good drama— and where the underdog roared. Whether we’ll see such an exciting Super Bowl again remains to be seen, but there are certainly plenty of fans of NFL teams around the country yearning for it to be their time in 2019.

There are still 12 franchises without a Lombardi Trophy in their cabinet, which Dan Hanzus likes to call the “Denied Dozen”. Logic would dictate that the Minnesota Vikings are certainly the number-one side knocking on the door the hardest to prevail in a Super Bowl. Aside from some question marks over their quarterback role, the Vikings are in good shape to challenge the Eagles for the NFC title and a place at Super Bowl 2019. It would also be remiss to rule out the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were narrowly edged out in the AFC title game. Their issues lie with the performance of quarterback Blake Bortles, who is still displaying a frustrating level of inconsistency in his play. Furthermore, spare a thought for the Houston Texans, who might have also qualified for the AFC title game had it not been for a season-ending injury to up-and-coming quarterback Deshaun Watson. If Watson can stay fit, then he (alongside the likes of DeAndre Hopkins and Jadeveon Clowney) could be genuine box office.

NFL isn’t the only sport where winning droughts have been prolonged and agonizing for long-suffering fans. In soccer, England are almost always priced relatively low in the World Cup odds of emulating their 1966 World Cup soccer success, but all too often they have flattered to deceive. Closer to home, the U.S. side failed to even qualify for this summer’s FIFA World Cup finals in Russia, leaving the American players at home, still dreaming about lifting the Jules Rimet trophy for the first time.

Returning to gridiron, we’ve still got six months to wait until the 2018 NFL schedule begins in earnest on September 6. Nevertheless, the 2018 draft on April 26-28 will be the most fascinating weekend leading up to the new season, while the franchises scramble to prepare their rosters for the gruelling 16-game schedule ahead.  There will be plenty of talented players in the draft, with the likes of Baker Mayfield and USC quarterback Sam Darnold likely to attract the attention of the Cleveland Browns, who have first pick in April’s Draft.

 

 



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