The eyes of the world will focus in on Atlanta Georgia Sunday evening as the final two NFL teams meet in Mercedes Benz Stadium to face off in Super Bowl 53. While the buildup has been quiet over the last two weeks, the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots both look to this game to validate their season and cement their legacies in NFL history.
This will be only the 14th meeting between these two teams with the Patriots holding the all-time series lead at 8-5. This includes their meeting win Super Bowl XXXVI when the then St. Louis Rams entered the game as a 14 point favorite only to be upended 20-17 by an upstart Patriots team led by 2nd year quarterback named Tom Brady. The fortunes of these two franchises went in different directions after that day but now, 17 years to the day, they are about to meet again on the biggest stage in American Sports.
The chance to be immortalized in Super Bowl history is on the line so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – PATRIOTS: While the Rams’ Jerod Goff had a slightly better regular season statistically, Tom Brady’s performance during the post season has been outstanding leading all passers in yards, completion percentage and quarterback rating. Adding in the playoff experience only solidifies New England’s edge in this area.
Running Backs – PUSH: The Rams’ Todd Gurley was certainly on his way to having an MVP season this year piling up yards touchdowns until a late season knee injury forced him to miss the last two games of the regular season. If Gurley was 100% healthy the Rams would certainly get the edge but since he’s not, no one can deny how well the Patriots entire backfield has been playing both in the running and passing game.
Wide Receivers – RAMS: The Wide Receiver duo of Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods may be one of the best WR combos in the league. Certainly no one could argue that from a physical standpoint they are better than their Patriots counterparts. However, during the playoffs, the Patriots Wide Receivers, led by Julian Edelman, have outperformed the Rams’ wide receivers in every statistical category including: Catches, Yards, Touchdown, Catches for 1st Downs, and yards after the catch.
Tight Ends – PATRIOTS: While the Patriots Rob Gronkowski is not quite the offense threat he was in the past, he seems to have been rejuvenated during the playoffs and his all-around play especially in the running game, has been key to the Patriots success so far
Offensive Line – EVEN: While it’s clear that the Patriots Offensive line has the bigger challenge of them, both the New England and Los Angeles offensive lines have played very well in their respective run and pass blocking games.
Defensive Front Seven – EVEN: While it’s true that the Rams’ defensive line features many 1st round picks, including all world Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald, but from a performance standpoint both lines have performed in similar fashion against the run with the Patriots defense actually getting to opposing passers a little better.
Secondary – EVEN: The Rams hold the statistical edge in yards allowed against the pass, the Patriots secondary has been hold opposing passers to a much lower completion percentage and significantly lower passer rating.
Special Teams – RAMS: The Patriots return game has been much stronger than the Rams during the post season with Cordarrelle Patterson returning kickoffs for an average of 25.8 yards per return. However, the Rams’ kicking specialists, Greg Zuerlein and Johnny Hekker, are game changers.
Coaching – PATRIOTS: In a very short time McVay has established himself as the benchmark for NFL Head Coaching hiring. With his success with the Rams, he has created the model of what the future of the NFL, well….at least in the near future, will look like. However, this week he goes against Bill Belichick who arguably has become one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. With two weeks to prepare, it’s a fair assumption that he has left no stone unturned in preparation for this game.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Betting Line: Patriots – 2 ½
Key’s to a Patriots Victory:
1) Stick With What Works: Games of this magnitude either bring out the best in a team or the worst. Sometimes teams out smart themselves trying to break tendencies or trying to impress on the national stage. The Patriots have become a power running team and they have performed the best when staying balanced. While the Rams are going to do everything to knock around Brady, New England needs to stick with what has made them successful this year.
2) Controlling the Trenches: This game will come down to which team can control the line of scrimmage. If the Patriots are unable to control either the offensive or defensive lines, this could easily be a blowout in the Rams favor. New England needs to stay vigilant on both sides of the ball and not let the Rams get to Brady repeatedly and they need to make sure they can limit the Rams’ running game to put the game into young Jared Goff’s hands.
3) Expect the Unexpected: One of the truly great things that the Rams do is stay unpredictable on 4th down. Whether that mean their offense going for it in unorthodox situations or special team trickery, McVay seems to go against conventional thinking. The Patriots need to stay disciplined on 4th down (and even during kickoffs) to ensure they don’t give Los Angeles extra opportunities with the football.
Sunday’s game will be the 9th Super Bowl New England has played in during the Belichick/Brady era and the third Super Bowl in a row that they have gone to. This game ultimately will be decided by two factors: Can the Patriots Offensive Line manage the line of scrimmage well enough for the Patriots to effectively run the ball and allow Tom Brady to use the play action pass and if the Patriots Defense can slow down the Rams running game and force the Rams to become one dimensional.
Expect an excruciatingly close game where the field position battle late in the game determines the winner.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 33 – Rams 31
This is our site article until Monday….Thanks CK!
My Prediction since I have done one every week
I think CK is being a bit less of a homer than we expect. The Rams had a good year, and they belong here, however, this BB team has overachieved for sure, and will continue to do so. Rams best player is Todd Gurley, Rams best player in these playoffs has been a washed up and overweight CJ Anderson. That is a problem. Can Todd rebound, yes, but against a HC that has made a living of shutting down opponents best offensive weapon, no!!!!!!!
I also do not believe in Goff at all!
Patriots – Rams: 31-20