This year is no different.
The Patriots elected to have James White, their No. 4 running back in terms of 2017 statistics, represent the position at one of eight precious podiums during Monday's Opening Night festivities in St. Paul. (In hindsight, with the "Patriot Way" squarely in mind, maybe it was no coincidence that Belichick kept his top ball carrier out of the spotlight on a night that already was devoid of Gronk and Malcolm Butler.) And yet White isn't the "little guy" with the most golden of opportunities against the Eagles.
That designation belongs to the running back who once played for Philadelphia.
At 5-foot-8 and 195 pounds, the former University of Pittsburgh product is no enforcer. Take a look at the film, though, and it won't take long to recognize his shifty impact. His 896 yards on the ground led New England in 2017, a season that saw Belichick dole out more than 100 carries to former Buffalo Bills bruiser Mike Gillislee and another 60-plus to Rex Burkhead. His 5.0 yards-per-carry average is indicative of the big-play patience he possesses. And his integral role in the Pats' committee of backs makes him an obvious X-factor in Super Bowl LII.
Cast aside by the Eagles after two seasons in Philadelphia, Lewis started looking like his 2015 breakout self during the Patriots' run to the postseason this year. And in a game that may force Philly defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to get creative in covering Gronkowski, not to mention containing speedster Brandin Cooks on the outside, all while getting after Brady on a regular basis, the diminutive, albeit productive, back thinks he and the rest of the Patriots' interchangeable runners could be key to a victory.
"I think we can make plays," Lewis said at Opening Night. "We've got a lot of great talent at the running back position. Everybody's capable of making plays."
Actually making the plays would not only lessen the load for guys like Burkhead and supplement New England's aerial attack, setting up screens and forcing the Eagles linebackers into the open field, but it would also, as the veteran acknowledged, put the Pats on track for another Super Bowl victory. (It might also put Lewis on track for a big payday. Even his ex-Pats teammate, Eagles bulldozer LeGarrette Blount, campaigned for his old friend to cash in as a free agent this week.)
As Lewis talked up those lofty desires, never forgetting to highlight New England's sound preparations and his own desire to earn another ring, he also didn't shy away from addressing his Philly roots.
A fifth-round draft pick by Howie Roseman, the Eagles' unofficial general manager to this day, he said he already talked to former Birds teammate LeSean McCoy about this week's game. And when asked whether he compares himself to another dynamic running back with a smaller stature, the Eagles' own Darren Sproles, Lewis said he "definitely learned a lot watching his film."
Now? Lewis wants to be himself -- and the guy who plays a part in stealing the Lombardi Trophy from the Eagles' grasp.
In a game where just about everyone could overlook him, he should have that chance.
To find out who could be the Eagles' X-Factor,.