New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has led his team to a third Super Bowl in four years after a remarkable come-from-behind victory on Sunday.
Brady shook off a hand injury and threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola with 2:48 remaining, rallying the Patriots to a 24-20 comeback victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC championship.
The 40-year-old, wearing a black bandage on his right hand after cutting it during practice earlier in the week, showed no signs of being hampered.
But many fans suspected the game was rigged because the National Football League had previously released promotional material appearing to show the Patriots and the Minnesota Vikings would play each other.
On January 16, the NFL released an advertisement on its Facebook page showing Brady and Vikings player Case Keenan with the wording: "Watch the PATRIOTS vs. the VIKINGS battle it out for the coveted Super Bowl title!"
Fans jumped to the conclusion that there was a conspiracy to ensure that the Patriots, one of the most popular and successful teams, would feature in the biggest game of the season.
The Super Bowl is played between the winners of American football's two conferences: the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC).
This year, the Patriots played the Jaguars in the AFC championship while the Vikings took on the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC equivalent.
Remarkably, the Facebook post remained on the NFL page for three days until it was removed last Friday.
An NFL spokesperson said the image was a "regrettable mistake" and that the NFL had other graphics with star players for the Eagles and the Jaguars.
"Really no surprise. NFL had already released the ad last week with the two teams," wrote one social media user after the Patriots' victory.
Others highlighted several infractions that were not called against the Patriots and of one referee celebrating with the Patriots after they scored a touchdown.
This isn't the first instance in which Brady and the Patriots have been involved in controversy during the AFC Championship game.
In 2015, Brady was involved in an incident known as "deflategate" in which 11 of the 12 balls he used during the game were significantly underinflated.
If a ball is underinflated, it can be gripped more easily, which allows for easier and more controlled throws.
Brady was suspended for four games and the Patriots lost future draft picks after the investigation by the NFL was concluded.
Despite the controversy, Brady has continued to enhance his reputation as one of the game's best ever as he has now led eight four-quarter comebacks in a championship game.
The Patriots lost key player Rob Gronkowski earlier in the game due to concussion and were down 20-10 early in the fourth quarter but overran the Jaguars to score the last 14 points to win 24-20.
The conspiracy theory has since been quashed as the Patriots will now play the Eagles, who dismantled the Vikings 38-7 to claim the NFC Championship.
Super Bowl LII will take place in Minnesota on February 5 at 10.30am local time.