Super Bowl 53 is now less than a week away. The New England Patriots will be playing the Los Angeles Rams for the Lombardi Trophy on February 3. The Patriots are favored to win at the moment by 2.5 points. So what can we expect in the game?
(Hey, I hear your groans! This is pro football, not NCAA Top 25 predictions. I gotta be better at pro than college football.)
There are a variety of factors that will make a difference in the outcome of the Super Bowl. Let’s look at them.
Super Bowl Experience
The Super Bowl is the biggest single game event in the US. Instead of playing a series of games, it is just one game played to the end and a winner crowned.
Anyone who has ever played in a Super Bowl describes the nervous feelings of anxiety that is experience, both prior to and through the first full series (think first four downs) until they settle down. For some players, it is even longer time to settle down.
The Patriots have been to the Super Bowl time and again. Through 8 previous appearances, Brady has won five and lost three. He and his teammates know what it takes to win, and will do everything possible to win.
The Rams come into the game with four previous Super Bowl appearances and one win. But this current crop of Rams do not have Super Bowl experience.
Goff is a third year quarterback, will little playoff experience. He will need to settle down and get to business fast, putting aside the jitters.
Give the edge to the Patriots on experience.
This is the real battle, Tom Brady versus Jared Goff. The Old versus the New. Does the New Generation of Quarterbacks unseat the Old Regime on Sunday?
Brady wears the rings of five previous Super Bowls on his fingers. He has been there and knows what it takes to win. All too often, when things looked down and hopeless, Brady has taken the Pats on his shoulders and won, just like against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.
The GOAT (Greatest of all Time) is ready to win another Super Bowl and has the skills and team to do so. And if he wins, he would have six rings, the most of any NFL quarterback. And then…………maybe retirement, so there is even more incentive to win.
Goff is in his third year of NFL play. Last year, he took the Rams to the playoffs where they lost to the Atlanta Falcons.
Goff has proven he can play in big games. But the Super Bowl is the biggest of all, and he is playing against a legendary team, quarterback and coach. Goff will have to get off to a fast start against a team with a strong defense that knows how to throttle quaterbacks.
Big Advantage – Patriots.
The Patriot running game is going to play a significant role in this game with the lack of a strong downfield passing game. Combination runningback/wide receivers like James White and Cordarrelle Patterson will be key contributors in the event of a Patriots victory. Expect the Patriots to isolate White, Patterson and Burkhead against linebackers since the Rams had problems covering Saints running back Kamaro coming out of the backfield.
The Rams have their own one-two punch, C.J. Anderson and Todd Gurley. Gurley especially becomes an even greater threat in the fourth quarter as defenses tire. (The one worry for the Rams is whether Gurley is truly healthy. His performance in the NFC Title game was limited, suggesting he may not have recovered fully from an earlier injury.)
If the Rams can control the line of scrimmage while on offense, expect Gurley and Anderson to rack up big yards against the Patriot defense.
Edge - Rams
The passing game for the Patriots is less than what it has been in previous Super Bowl seasons. Gronkowski is experiencing the wear and tear on his body, and that has led to a down season for him. Josh Gordon had taken up a bit of the slack, but he has been suspended again, so that threat is gone.
Brady’s go to guy will be Julian Edelman, the 5 foot 10 inch slow receiver who somehow gets open time and again. He will also be looking to Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett, if the Patriots can get good matchups with the Ram defense.
To further bolster the passing game, expect the Patriots to isolate White, Patterson and Burkhead against linebackers since the Rams had problems covering Saints running back Kamaro coming out of the backfield.
To counter Edelman, the Rams will have to hammer Edelman right off the line of scrimmage and keep at it while getting in Brady’s face and disrupting his passing. Look to Donald and Suh to be trying to get to Brady all game long.
For the Rams, they will need to be airing it out and looking to Brandon Cooks for big down field catches. If Goff can hit him, then the Patriots will have their hands full shutting down a potent Ram offense, especially since their secondary is suspect with Mahomes having burned them time and again in the AFC Championship game.
Expect the Patriots to counter Cooks with cornerback Jon Jones and safety Devin MoCourty, which worked for the Pats against the Chiefss’ Tyreek Hill. Or, the Pats can keep it simple by having their top cornerback, Gilmore, shadow Cooks all game long.
Edge - Tie
Offensive and Defensive Lines
The Patriots offensive line has been playing huge in the last couple of weeks. Brady has had the time to stay in the pocket and find open receivers, something that was directly responsible for the win against the Chiefs. The line must continue to perform well against both Donald and Suh to give Brady time to find open receivers.
The Rams defensive line has come of age in the playoffs. They have limited the Saints and Cowboys to 98 total combined rushing yards in the last two games. Third and long was a common scenario that both the Saints and Cowboys found themselves in time and again. If the Rams can do the same to Brady, then Donald and Suh should have big games against Brady.
Expect the Patriots to double and triple team Donald all day long while Brady utilizes short, quick outs to limit the damage Donald can do.
Last year, both the Rams and the Patriots had outstanding Special Teams play. This year, neither has been as good.
The Rams may have problems with kicker Greg Zeurlein when they take the field. Though he did have a good year, he was only 66% on 12 field goal attempts from 40 yards or more. This could play an important part in the game if the Rams have trouble getting into the Red Zone. And if Zeurlien’s foot injury is not fully healed, then the Rams could have major scoring issues.
The Rams also have issues with kick returns. Naston performs better on punt returns. If the normal kick returner Blake Countess’ foot injury restricts his playing time, then the problem is compounded with Naston having the duty.
The edge goes to the Patriots.
Belichick versus McVay, what can one say?
Belichick has been a coaching genius throughout the Patriots success since joining the team. He continues to find ways to win, through good and bad.
Sean McVay is the upstart. NFL teams are looking for new versions of him and his offensive mindset, but there are few around. McVay will have to come up with some new twists to thwart Brady and the Patriots, but his lack of Super Bowl experience may work against him.
Give the Patriots a big edge in coaching.
If Brady comes into this game and plays like his normal big game self, he will lead the Patriots to victory. His “intangibles” are something that the Rams will not be able to overcome. Never count him out, especially down by one score with time running out.
The Rams will win if they can keep the pressure on Brady, causing him to make mistakes leading to turnovers while Goff starts out fast and scores quickly.
Give this game to the Patriots. Brady wins his 6th Super Bowl and then retires.
Final Score: Patriots 33, Rams 27
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