Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick pose with the trophy at the post-game ceremony and celebration after the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick pose with the trophy at the post-game ceremony and celebration after the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
By Evan Bleier / January 30, 2019 5:00 am

Time, as a Lone Star-swilling philosopher once theorized, is a flat circle. And that can extend to professional football, which has tendency to be cyclical.

Case in point: Seventeen years to the day after the Patriots beat the Rams 20-17 at the Superdome in New Orleans in Super Bowl XXXVI, the two franchises will meet again in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.

In the 17 years in between, things have changed a lot. The Rams moved from St. Louis and now play in Los Angeles. Rams coach Sean McVay, 33, has since graduated middle school and grown facial hair. Fans now can check the score on iPhones.

Really, other than the teams that are involved, there aren’t many similarities between Super Bowl XXXVI and Super Bowl LIII except for two—  Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

Belichick and Brady are the only members of either franchise who took part in Super Bowl XXXVI, and, in the 17 years in between, they’ve been fortunate enough to participate in seven more.

For reference, here’s the complete list of Brady and Belichick’s past Super Bowl appearances.

Feb. 3, 2002: Super Bowl XXXVI – New England 20, St. Louis 17
Feb. 1, 2004, Super Bowl XXXVIII – New England 32, Carolina 29
Feb. 6, 2005, Super Bowl XXXIX – New England 24, Philadelphia 21
Feb. 3, 2008, Super Bowl XLII – New York Giants 17, New England 14
Feb. 5, 2012, Super Bowl XLVI – New York Giants 21, New England Patriots 17
Feb. 1, 2015, Super Bowl XLIX – New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24
Feb. 5, 2017, Super Bowl LI – New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 28
Feb. 4, 2018, Super Bowl LII – Philadelphia Eagles 41, New England Patriots 33

Sunday’s game will mark the coach/quarterback duo’s ninth Super Bowl appearance, more than twice the amount of any other coach/QB pairing in the history of the league. (Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw went 4-0 with the Steelers, Tom Landry and Roger Staubach went 2-2 with the Cowboys, Marv Levy and Jim Kelly went 0-4 with the Bills, and Bill Walsh and Joe Montana went 3-0 with the 49ers.)

Also, following Sunday’s game, Brady and Belichick will have taken part in 17 percent of all Super Bowls ever played (53). To match that rate, “a Major League Baseball player would have had to appear in 19 World Series, a hockey player in 17 Stanley Cup Finals, and a basketball player in 12 NBA Finals,” according to Sports Illustrated.

An impressive statistic, but far from the only significant digit to take into account before Sunday’s showdown at Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

To help unearth a few more, we went back and analyzed the box scores from Brady and Belichick’s first eight Super Bowl appearances to come up with 22 numbers to bear in mind heading into Super Bowl LIII.

Record: 5-3
Teams Faced: 6
Points Scored: 202
Average Points Scored: 25.25
Points Surrendered: 198
Average Points Surrendered: 24.75
Average Margin of Victory: 3.8 points
Average Margin of Defeat: 5 points
First Downs: 199
Lost Turnovers: 9
Forced Turnovers: 12
Pass Completions: 235
Pass Attempts: 357
Passing Yards: 2,576
Average Passing Yards: 322
Passing Touchdowns: 18
Interceptions: 5
Average Quarterback Rating: 98.0
Rushing Yards: 774
Average Rushing Yards: 96.75
Rushing Touchdowns: 7
Field Goals: 9

So what’s the takeaway from all those stats for this coming Sunday?

Basically, if you are planning to wager on the game, think long and hard about taking the Patriots to cover the spread (which is 2.5 or 3 points in most places). While it’s true that New England’s average margin of victory (3.8 points) in the Super Bowl would be enough to cover, the team has had a three-point margin of victory in three Super Bowls and fallen short of that margin (and lost) in another three.

Looking at those numbers, it would appear betting the game’s over/under, which now sits at 56.5, would be a better gamble. On average, the Patriots’ previous eight Super Bowls have seen a total of 50 points scored, well below the 56.5 over/under which has been set by Vegas for Super Bowl LIII.

Remember, football is cyclical. Pound the under.