The New England Patriots are going back to the Super Bowl -- their eighth in the past 17 seasons -- after a win over the Jaguars that included a huge penalty discrepancy so, as expected, conspiracy theorists jealous fanbases are out making more noise than usual by loudly asking one question: Did the NFL rig the game to make sure the greatest dynasty in sports history made it back to the Super Bowl? 

The answer to that question is a resounding no, of course. After all, the NFL once took four games of Tom Brady, draft picks, and a million bucks away from the Patriots because they used slightly under-inflated footballs during a 45-7 blowout of a game. The Patriots are going back to the Super Bowl because they're the Patriots, not because NFL officials missed some calls like they almost always do.

But that won't prevent viewers from keeping a close, critical eye on Gene Steratore, the referee of Super Bowl LII. So, with nearly two weeks to go until the Super Bowl, it's time to take a look at Steratore's history of refereeing games played by the Patriots and the Eagles. Of note: Steratore became a referee in 2006 after previously serving as a field judge. The statistics that follow do not include Steratore's history as a field judge. 

It turns out, both teams boast a great record in Steratore-refereed games. According to Pro Football Reference's database, the Eagles are 10-3 (0.769) in games refereed by Steratore and the Patriots are 12-5 (0.706). So no, the Patriots will not enter the game with some sort of advantage by playing under a referee who favors them. It's actually the Eagles who own the better win percentage in Steratore-refereed games. 

Steratore has officiated one Eagles-Patriots game and that 2007 game ended in a Patriots' win. But in that game, the Patriots got called for more penalties than the Eagles did, racking up seven flags for 44 yards compared to the Eagles' three penalties for 18 yards. 

Here's the entire list of games the Eagles have played under Steratore:

  • Sept. 23, 2007: Eagles 56, Lions 21 (W)
  • Nov. 25, 2007: Patriots 31, Eagles 28 (L)
  • Oct. 5, 2008: Redskins 23, Eagles 17 (L)
  • Dec. 7, 2008: Eagles 20, Giants 14 (W)
  • Nov. 29, 2009: Eagles 27, Redskins 24 (W)
  • Sept. 11, 2011: Eagles 31, Rams 13 (W)
  • Oct. 30, 2011: Eagles 34, Cowboys 7 (W)
  • Oct. 28, 2012: Falcons 30, Eagles 17 (L)
  • Dec. 29, 2013: Eagles 24, Cowboys 22 (W)
  • Nov. 10, 2014: Eagles 45, Panthers 21 (W)
  • Sept. 27, 2015: Eagles 24, Jets 17 (W)
  • Jan. 3, 2016: Eagles 35, Giants 30 (W)
  • Nov. 5, 2017: Eagles 51, Broncos 23 (W)

And here's the Patriots' list:

  • Nov. 25, 2007: Patriots 31, Eagles 28 (W)
  • Nov. 13, 2008: Jets 34, Patriots 31 (L)
  • Dec. 28, 2008: Patriots 13, Bills 0 (W)
  • Oct. 18, 2009: Patriots 59, Titans 0 (W)
  • Dec. 6, 2009: Dolphins 22, Patriots 21 (L)
  • Jan. 20, 2010: Ravens 33, Patriots 14 (L) -- Wild Card playoff game
  • Nov. 21, 2010: Patriots 31, Colts 28 (W)
  • Nov. 13, 2011: Patriots 37, Jets 16 (W)
  • Jan. 14, 2012: Patriots 45, Broncos 10 (W) -- Divisional Round playoff game
  • Oct. 7, 2012: Patriots 31, Broncos 21 (W)
  • Oct. 6, 2013: Bengals 13, Patriots 6 (L)
  • Nov. 24, 2013: Patriots 34, Broncos 31 (W)
  • Nov. 23, 2015: Patriots 20, Bills 13 (W)
  • Nov. 13, 2016: Seahawks 31, Patriots 24 (L)
  • Dec. 24, 2016: Patriots 41, Jets 3 (W)
  • Oct. 22, 2017: Patriots 23, Falcons 7 (W)
  • Dec. 3, 2017: Patriots 23, Bills 3 (W)

The main takeaway from all of this? Most officials appear to be pro-Patriots because the Patriots have won a gazillion games since the Bill Belichick, Tom Brady dynasty was formed in 2001. The Eagles also haven't been too shabby in the past decade-plus, evidenced by their record in games that Steratore has refereed. 

There are a ton of reasons to be angry at the NFL. Steratore's assignment probably isn't one of them -- unless he decides to use an index card to measure a first down again.