The checklist of gamers sitting out this weekend’s convention championships is nearly as spectacular because the beginning lineups: Julian Edelman. Carson Wentz. Dalvin Prepare dinner. Dont’a Hightower. Allen Robinson. Sam Bradford.
Following the NFL’s season of carnage that claimed the likes of, amongst others, Aaron Rodgers, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, J.J. Watt, DeShaun Watson, Odell Beckham Jr. and Joe Thomas, this yr’s last 4 all overcame not solely the chances – “Minneapolis Miracle , anybody?” – however devastating accidents to key starters.
“Now we have a troublesome and resilient crew,” Philadelphia Eagles defensive finish Chris Lengthy stated of the NFC’s high seed , which is lacking its second-year QB in Wentz, an MVP hopeful when he blew out a knee in December.
Even earlier than Wentz’s harm thrust backup Nick Foles into the beginning job for the playoffs, the Eagles misplaced nine-time Professional Bowl left deal with Jason Peters, playmaking center linebacker Jordan Hicks, versatile return specialist Darren Sproles, and particular groups captain Chris Maragos.
But, right here they’re, 60 minutes from Minneapolis and Tremendous Bowl 52.
“I believe that begins on the high with Doug, as a result of he units the tone for being resilient and even keeled,” Lengthy stated of his coach, Doug Pederson. “On the finish of the day, we’ve got a troublesome group of fellows.”
So do the Minnesota Vikings, who’re attempting to succeed in their first Tremendous Bowl in additional than 4 a long time and fulfill mantra to “Convey it House” and grow to be the primary NFL crew to play the title sport in its personal stadium.
And so they’re doing so behind Case Keenum, who crashed Tom Brady’s playoff occasion together with fellow perennial backup Foles and Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles.
Collectively, the 4 quarterbacks left standing have a mixed 5 Tremendous Bowl rings, two NFL MVP awards and 4 Tremendous Bowl MVP trophies. Brady, after all, owns all of that himself.
Such is the panorama of those playoffs following a season of ache during which so many superstars have been rendered sideline spectators with damaged bones, snapped ligaments, torn muscle mass.
Keenum changed an injured Bradford, who had changed an injured Teddy Bridgewater. Bradford, now again in uniform as Keenum’s backup, blew out a knee within the first month of the season, as did rookie operating again in Prepare dinner, who wanted reconstructive surgical procedure to restore a torn ACL.
Behind resilient coach Mike Zimmer , who resisted the urge to give up simply earlier than he received the Vikings’ head teaching gig in 2014, Minnesota rolled proper alongside. Keenum deftly took over for Bradford, and Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray grew to become a productive backfield tandem.
“We have got a bunch of fighters on this crew,” Zimmer stated. “They have been a resilient bunch all yr lengthy. I anticipate it to proceed to be that means.”
The Patriots are additionally a bunch of fighters; they reached their seventh straight AFC title sport regardless of dropping Edelman, Brady’s high goal, to a torn ACL within the preseason, and Hightower to a torn chest muscle in November.
Play caller Josh McDaniels and Brady, who led New England to a fifth Tremendous Bowl title final yr regardless of the absence of Rob Gronkowski, adjusted accordingly to Edelman’s absence with one other terrific yr.
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy stepped in for Hightower and ranked third on the crew with 73 tackles and second with 5½ sacks regardless of lacking three of the ultimate 5 video games with a calf harm.
Van Noy’s sack whole was only a half-sack shy of Hightower’s profession excessive set in 2014.
“The factor about Ok.V. is he is very versatile,” stated Patriots security and defensive captain Devin McCourty. “So we have used him a bunch of various methods. … He is been an enormous asset to our crew.”
The Jaguars are the healthiest of the remaining playoff groups. They’ve just one opening-day starter on injured reserve: former Professional Bowl receiver Robinson, who tore his left ACL on Jacksonville’s opener.
4 months faraway from reconstructive surgical procedure, Robinson is now touring with the crew, so he’ll be on the sideline Sunday at New England, serving as a mentor to a uncooked receiving corps.
“Each particular person on this locker room put in numerous work to get so far, with me being one in all them,” stated Robinson, who was poised for one more huge yr after dominating the league’s greatest secondary in coaching camp.
His harm on Jacksonville’s third offensive snap created an enormous void for the offense. Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns tried to select up the slack, however they ended up on the sideline at one level with accidents, too, leaving rookies Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook to imagine larger roles.
Cole, an undrafted rookie from tiny Kentucky Wesleyan, had 42 catches for 748 yards and three scores within the common season. He added a clutch 45-yard catch that arrange a late TD in Jacksonville’s 45-42 stunner at Pittsburgh final week.
“I want I might simply get up tomorrow and really feel like I did Sept. 9,” Robinson stated, “however I perceive it is going to be a course of. I do know I will be again to that time and higher.”
Like so many different stars, Robinson shall be in road garments Sunday, cheering on his teammates in hopes of getting a sideline go to the Tremendous Bowl.