Super Bowl 53 is finally upon us. After all the mini-camps and training camps, after four weeks of pre-season, 17 weeks of the regular season and 3 weeks of playoffs, it’s come down to the final two teams. One, looking for a record tying 6th Super Bowl, and one looking for revenge from their last meeting 18 years ago.
All odds courtesy of Oddsshark.com
LA Rams vs. New England Patriots
Line: Patriots by 2½
The last time these two teams met in the Super Bowl was in 2001. The Rams were in St. Louis and were going for their 2nd Super Bowl victory. But kicker Adam Vinateri put a stop to their hopes with a last second field goal as time expired beginning the start of the Brady/Belichek era in New England. Since then the Patriots have gone 5-3 in the Super Bowl and are looking for #6. The Rams have gone thru some lean years since their last appearance. They’ve moved back to LA and have seen the return of the “greatest show on turf”. We’re going to take a look at both teams and how they stack up beginning with the Offense.
QB – It’s Tom Brady vs. Jared Goff. What can be said about probably the greatest quarterback of all time? He’s gunning for a 6th Super Bowl ring for the second time. He missed out last year against Philadelphia, and with his two losses to Eli Manning and the Giants, he could have had 8 rings. As for Goff, he is exactly the QB who the Rams picked #1 overall in 2016. He’s definitely the future of the NFL and has nerves of steel. But age and experience leads the way.
RB – For the Rams, the two headed monster of Todd Gurley and CJ Anderson is just what the doctor ordered. They’ve been dominant during the playoffs, with each having a 100 yard rushing day. The Patriots hit pay dirt when they drafted Sony Michel out of Georgia. He’s been a compliment to the running game. But the wild card is James White, who has been valuable as a rusher as well as a pass receiver. Still, LA has a massive advantage on the ground.
Receivers – WR Brandin Cooks gets another shot at a ring. Last year, he was with the Patriots. This time he’s with the Rams and both he and fellow receiver Robert Woods got a ton of yards in the air. TE’s Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett are nice options for Goff as well. The Patriots have familiar faces with TE Rob Gronkowski heading the charge. As we said preciously, injuries have slowed him down this season, leading Brady to have to go to Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan. Both teams have strong receiving corps, I call it even.
Offensive Line – The Rams have the 2nd best offense in the league. That has a lot to do with the LA front five. John Sullivan is at center, with Rodger Saffold III and Austin Blythe at the Guard positions and Rob Havenstein and Andrew Whitworth at Tackles. They’ve only allowed 33 sacks all season. The Patriots front five have also been effective, having the 5th best pass offense in the league. David Andrews is at Center, Ted Karras and Joe Thuney are at Guard, and Trent Brown and Marcus Cannon are at Tackle. The fact that one of their better tackles left last season and were able to solidify their line by giving up only 21 sacks this season gives New England the edge.
Let’s go to the defense. The Patriots are ranked 7th this season giving up 20 points a game to the Rams 24 per game. Let’s take a look at the defensive lines.
Defensive Line – For the Rams, their led by Defensive Tackle Aaron Douglas, who was on a tear all season with 20½ sacks this year. Free agent pick up Ndamukong Suh at the other tackle spot was a smart move given his controversial history. Michael Brockers is the defensive end on that line. For the Patriots, Trey Flowers leads the way at defensive end. Adrian Clayborn is at the other end position with Lawrence Guy and Malcolm Brown on each side at tackle. The domination by Douglas give the advantage to LA.
Linebackers – The Patriots go with three starters, with Kyle Van Noy on the Left, Dont’a Hightower in the middle and Elandon Roberts on the right. The Rams go the other way with four starters. Cory Littleton leads the Rams in tackles. He’s on the left side along with Dante Fowler Jr., Mark Barron and Samson Ebukam on the right. Both have teams have a strong linebacker corps. Let’s call it even.
Secondary – This is also a close battle on the secondary. The Rams go with John Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner at the safety positions, Aqib Talib is their leader at cornerback along with Marcus Peters. The Patriots have Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty at Safety. Jason McCourty and Stephon Gilmore are in at cornerback. It’s going to be hard going for the Patriots secondary with their task on the Rams receivers.
Special Teams – Not many surprises for both teams, but this will be a key element late in the game. The Patriots have kicker Stephen Gostkowski who was 4-6 from within 40 yards or more. Punter Ryan Allen has laid punts inside the 20 yard line 21 times this season. Julian Edelman takes the Punt Returns. Cordarrelle Patterson takes the Kick returns, he does have a TD this season. The Rams rely on kicker Greg Zuerlein. He has been very reliable from 50 yards or more having gone 4 for 6 on the season.
Johnny Hekker averaged 46.3 yards per punt this year. Jojo Natson takes the punts, Blake Countess takes the kick returns. Call it even.
Coaching – Sean McVay’s plan for making the Super Bowl happened after taking over for beleaguered coach Jeff Fisher in 2015. From there, he took Jared Goff under his wing, put together a plan to fix the maligned defense and put together one of the top offenses in the league. The result is a team one game away from a Lombardi trophy. As for Bill Belichek, he has survived accusations of cheating and a tarnished reputation. But in the end, he could be looking at yet another Super Bowl ring. He already has 5 with the Patriots and two as defensive coordinator of the Giants. He’s a master strategist, and that gives him the edge.
Intangibles – LA has warm weather, the beach and sun. It also has horrible traffic jams, smog and landslides. Contrary to the song, it does rain in Southern California right around this time of year. As for New England, they have clam chowder, Boston cream pie and being a native New Yorker, I don’t have any regards for anything Boston, especially when I have to deal with yet another World Series victory.
Final Analysis – Oddsshark.com has this game being even. The over and under is +/-45. A stat to note, in each of the Patriots games in the Super Bowl, they’ve only score 3 points in the first quarter. New England is notorious for being slow starters, and with the running game the Rams have, LA has the ability to slow this game down to a crawl. If that’s any indication, the Patriots could be looking at the same situation they had last year. But for the Patriots to win, they’re going to have to rely on the experience of Tom Brady as they’ve done before. It’s going to be close, but put your money on experience.
Smooth’s Pick – New England (30-27)
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That’s going to do it for this season of Smooth’s NFL Football Picks. Thanks so much to joining us this season. And we’ll see you next time.