17 years to the day after Super Bowl XXXVI, the Rams will be playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl once again. Not only that, but it’s a renewing of a legendary rivalry between two of America’s premier sports cities: Boston vs Los Angeles. The last time these two teams played each other on the grand stage, Tom Brady was a young up and comer against the ‘Greatest Show on Turf.’ This time, the up and coming Rams are taking on a juggernaut in the New England Patriots, who are now going to their 11th Super Bowl. This should be a good game, and will likely be an offensive shootout. Let’s look at the two teams that are still standing when the dust has settled.
AFC Champion: New England Patriots (11-5)
Super Bowl Wins: 5 (36, 38, 39, 49, 51)
Super Bowl Losses: 5 (20, 31, 42, 46, 52)
For the fourth time in five years (and third time in a row), the New England Patriots are in the Super Bowl once again. Since 2001, this is their ninth appearance. Nine appearances in 18 years literally gives the Patriots a 50/50 shot. Despite all the talk that the Patriots were looking weak, and that Tom Brady was washed up, the Patriots once again earned a first round bye, and looked as dominant as ever in the playoffs. This season, Tom’s had a very quiet year, throwing for 4300 yards, but he’s been overshadowed by Drew Brees, Jared Goff, and Pat Mahomes. The Patriots went 11-5 this season, which is the worst record they’ve had in a decade. Once the playoffs hit, they’ve been nothing short of dominant, and they’ve done that by controlling the clock and pounding the football with Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White. Let’s look at New England’s road to the Promised Land. The Patriots demolished the LA Chargers, with Tommy throwing for 300+ yards and Michel getting 3 TDs. Next week, the Patriots played a very close shootout against the upstart Chiefs. There were two different stories in the game. In the first half, the Patriots dominated, going up 17-0. Then after a slow start, the Chiefs scored 31 second half points to force OT, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Pats’ juggernaut. It proves that even with one of the weakest rosters in years, Belichick is dominant enough of a coach to take them to the Super Bowl. And Tom Brady has 0 intention of retiring, which means that we could be seeing his dominance for another few years. Maybe he’ll make a couple of more Super Bowls.
NFC Champion: Los Angeles Rams (13-3)
Super Bowl Wins: 1 (34)
Super Bowl Losses: 2 (14, 36)
The Rams certainly believed in the mantra ‘Super Bowl or Bust’ this year. The Rams acquired plenty of stars in the offseason: trading for Brandin Cooks, Aquib Talib, Marcus Peters, and Dante Fowler, as well as signing Ndamukong Suh, AND giving Brandin Cooks, Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald monster contracts. My question is, how in the hell do the Rams have the cap space for all these dudes? Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, and Brandin Cooks have a combined $182.5 million in guaranteed money. The Rams have scorched the NFL this season, going 10-1 going into the bye week, including a shootout win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football, which is the greatest game ever played. Then after their bye week, the Rams looked like a completely different team. Jared Goff started throwing a bunch of picks & they lost 2 very ugly games to the Eagles and Bears. Then the Rams picked up CJ Anderson and became a power run offense, running for 167 yards in his first game with LA, then 132 the next week. Let’s look at the Rams road to the Super Bowl. They had a dominant divisional round performance against the Dallas Cowboys, with both Anderson and Todd Gurley getting 100+ rushing yards. Now I have to talk about their tainted NFC Championship win. Thanks to a blatant missed PI call, the Rams forced OT and got the win over the white-hot New Orleans Saints. Many fans (myself included) believe that the Saints were robbed out of that game, and we were right in saying that it shouldn’t have gone to overtime. Although this win was tainted, some people (mainly Colin Cowherd) bring up the point that the Rams had more yards, yards per play, and time of possession. In theory, the LA Rams should have won, and they did win. But if the refs made the PI call, the Saints would’ve won. It will go down as one of the biggest officiating blunders of all time. Also, there are many fans on twitter and other forms of social media saying that the league needs to change their overtime rules, similar to college football in that the other team gets a shot to score, regardless if they scored a TD or not. More on that in another post. The point is, the Rams are in the Super Bowl, and this is their first trip since the Brady-Belichick empire got its start. Can the Rams avenge their last Super Bowl loss to the Patriots? We’ll have to see.
Let’s get into some of the factors for each team in Super Bowl LIII.
Los Angeles Rams: Pound the rock and get the ball out to your playmakers
Jared Goff Stats: 364-561, 4,688 Yards, 32 TDs, 12 INTs, QBR of 101.1
Todd Gurley Stats: 256 Carries, 1,251 Yards, 17 TDs, 59 Catches, 580 Yards, 4 TDs
CJ Anderson Stats: 67 Carries, 403 Yards, 2 TDs, 5 Catches, 41 Yards, 1 TD
At the first half of the year Jared Goff was throwing the ball everywhere, with Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks each getting 1200 yards receiving. Todd Gurley was nigh unstoppable on the ground, getting a league leading 17 rushing TDs. Then after Cooper Kupp tore his ACL, Goff started to look like his rookie self again, playing very bad, and then Todd Gurley got hurt, so the LA Rams signed reborn cannonball CJ Anderson. With the last couple of games in the regular season, as well as the postseason, the Rams shifted from a spread offense to more of a west coast overnight. I’m getting a real early Joe Gibbs Redskins vibe from the Rams, with them pounding the rock and passing only when necessary. The Rams have a red-hot offense, and had one of the top scoring offenses in the league. The Pats have one of the best scoring defenses, and the Rams NEED to get points on the board. TD, field goal, something. If the Rams are going to win this game, they need to pound the rock, keep the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands, and minimize whatever mistakes Jared Goff may make.
New England Patriots: Control the Clock, and Pound the Rock
Tom Brady Stats: 375-570, 4,355 Yards, 29 TDs, 11 INTs, QBR of 97.7
Sony Michel Stats: 209 Carries, 936 Yards, 6 TDs, 7 Catches, 50 Yards
James White Stats: 95 Carries, 425 Yards, 5 TDs, 87 Catches, 751 yards, 7 TDs
The New England Patriots haven’t given up a sack at all this postseason, going up against Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Chris Jones, Justin Houston, and didn’t give up one sack. The Chiefs defense may have ranked 31st in yards, but they were tied with Pittsburgh for the most sacks in the league with 52. That, along with controlling the clock have been the keys for New England’s offense. The standout on the Patriot offense this year wasn’t any of their receivers, but rookie running back Sony Michel. Sony Michel missed a few games and almost ran for 1,000 yards, and proves that despite being in a committee, he can be an every down back. He could be the consistent runner the Patriots have been lacking, and has quickly been a huge part of New England’s gameplan. The Patriots just played efficient football, and it’s hard to beat New England when they play efficiently. The Rams’ defense may have a lot of star power, but haven’t played exactly ‘lock-down.’ The Rams have ranked 19th defensively, giving up 358 yards per game. Their weakness is their linebacking corps, and they’ve been exposed time and time again by the likes of Drew Brees, Pat Mahomes, and even Nick Foles. Tom Brady shouldn’t really have a problem picking their defense apart, but Sony Michel could be in store for a huge day on the ground, with the Rams giving up 122 yards per game. In order for Brady to get a ring for his other hand, he just needs to continue to be efficient, and run the ball down people’s throats.
Los Angeles Rams: D-Line raises Hell
While the Rams have loaded DBs, the strength of their defense is in their D-Line. Dante Fowler, Aaron Donald, and Ndamukong Suh have a combined 26.5 sacks, with Aaron Donald leading the NFL with 20.5. All the Rams have to do is let Suh and Donald bull-rush every single play, and put Brady on his ass. If they are able to not only hit Brady every play, but manage to sack him a few times (which hasn’t happened in the playoffs this year), then they’ll have a chance. The Rams D-Line also have the daunting task to stop the Patriots running back committee, who have been gashing defenses in the playoffs. Sony Michel in 2 games has almost as many rushing TDs as he’s had all year. Suh and Donald can plug up the middle, but the outside linebackers and D-Ends need to cover the outside and do their best to stop the outside zone runs and underneath passes. The Rams defense has a tough task ahead of them, but they’re everyone’s last hope in keeping Brady from getting a ring for his other hand.
New England Patriots: Bend don’t Break
Just like always, the Patriots mantra has been just keep the opposition from scoring. The Chargers didn’t stand a ghost of a chance in Hell of beating the Pats, despite all the talent they have. In the first half of the AFC title game, the Patriots shut the Chiefs out in the first half, but they started to give up a bunch of points in the second half, and Brady had to bail them out. If the Pats defense lets the Rams score, it could open the floodgates. They need to keep doing what they’re doing, and just keep the Rams out of the endzone. If they do that, then they’ll get the record tying Lombardi.
Final Analysis and Prediction
Just like all of the Tom Brady Super Bowls, this could very well be a close matchup. This game will most likely be a shootout, and whatever mistakes are made in this game will be fatal. I’m going to pick the New England Patriots to win their sixth ring, because it’s hard to bet against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. The Pats have been here 8 times before, and know what it takes to win the big one, and it’s hard to outcoach the ‘Lord of Darkness.’ The Rams are a very good team, and will put up one hell of a fight, but it won’t be enough to stop Tom Brady’s wrath en route to lifting a sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Prediction: Tommy Boy gets a ring for his left hand