It’s the final game of the 2018 NFL season, maybe you’ve heard of it? See our Super Bowl LIII staff picks and vote for who you think will win.
So, the stage is set. The matchup is one showered in a history some may have forgotten. The Rams and the Patriots step onto the field this Sunday mirror images of the teams that faced off all the way back in 2002. It was then that the upstart young Patriots shocked the world and defeated the Greatest Show on Turf on a last second field goal that ignited New Englands decade-plus reign of dominance. The world was introduced to Tom Brady for the very first time on the national stage, and Bill Belichick began his ascension into the annals of the NFL mythos.
Now, almost two decades later, we see an established, veteran Patriots team favored over an upstart Rams team that many don’t give a shot to win. As the saying goes, history has a way of repeating itself, and I believe we will see the Rams turn the tables on New England this Sunday (I’ll explain why below).
But first, let’s see how us so-called experts have fared so far, as well as how you readers have done voting in our Twitter polls:
[Also See: FanDuel and DraftKings Plays, Super Bowl LIII]
Super Bowl LIII: Rams vs. Patriots
Simple question: Who’s winning #SBLIII ? Log your vote and we’ll include the results in our staff predictions article.
— 5th Down Fantasy (@5thDownFantasy) January 30, 2019
I feel a certain sort of way about Tom Brady these days. It’s entirely possible that he’s just going to keep on playing football until the world actually ends. This might even be probable. The Patriots and Rams isn’t exactly what everyone wanted to see in the Super Bowl this year, but it’s still a great matchup. Surprisingly, I believe it’s much better for the Patriots than the Rams.
In order for the Patriots to win this, they need to continue successfully running the ball. Their offensive line and fullback tandem have given them a major Time of Possession advantage in recent weeks. That needs to continue. Keeping Brady clean is another prerogative, but considering his time of release against the Chiefs, I don’t think that will be a huge problem. On the other side of the ball, the Patriots need to continue to disguise coverage and blitzes to confuse Jared Goff. Goff can most definitely be had in this manner, as witnesses in the Eagles and Bears games, respectively. If the Patriots can contain Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson and force Goff to try to win it on his own, the Rams will be in for a long night and longer offseason. Prediction: Patriots 31, Rams 28. — Nate Davis
Say what you want about the finish of the NFC title game, but you cant take away the fact that Sean McVay and his team kept their foot on the gas in OT when New Orleans faltered. They walked into a building where the Saints were undefeated under their current regime, and they responded by handing them their first loss. This is a highly motivated, athletic and multi-talented football team on both sides of the ball and I believe they have what it takes to succeed the way Philadelphia did just one year ago.
The Patriots showed some weaknesses in the AFC title game against KC that I believe could be the keys to victory for LA. The most glaring weakness was Brady’s lack of care for the football. Had it not been for a Dee Ford neutral zone penalty the Chiefs would be in the Super Bowl right now. It’s flying under the radar nationally, but Brady hasn’t had a great postseason this year. I know better than to doubt him completely in a Super Bowl given his track record, but if he’s as careless as he was against KC then theres a good chance this Rams team could run up the score early.
However, like seemingly all Patriots Super Bowls I believe this game will come down to the final minutes. Once that time comes I believe the Rams defense and running game will win them their first Super Bowl since 2000. Give this secondary one turnover and I think this game will look eerily similar to the Falcons-Pats matchup in SB51. The only difference is that Sean McVay wont take his foot off the gas. Prediction: Rams 30, Patriots 27. — Derek McCauley
Two overtime games saw the Rams and the Patriots through to Super Bowl 53, leaving us with a repeat of Super Bowl XXXVI between one of the most innovative teams in the league and, of course, the team everyone loves to hate. We can talk about the players, and we will, but for me, this game will be won or lost because of the important choices the coaches do or do not make.
In the Championship round it was obvious that something wasn’t right with Todd Gurley — he touched the ball only five times. They need to get him involved early and often, and finding Cooks and Woods is vital to LA’s chances. We saw Jared Goff lead a game-winning drive in New Orleans, so the offensive line giving Goff time in the pocket will also be important. McVay’s play calling is aggressive and dynamic, the misdirection run pass options are used on 44% of passing plays and with two weeks to scheme against the Patriots defense. It will be interesting to see if the young gun can topple the master.
As for the Patriots, let’s not dwell on what types of schemes they will plan against the Rams because they change their strategy like the wind — guessing will just make me look silly. So, let’s focus on the legacy. I know, I know, if you are not a Patriots fan then you love to hate them. Well, I’m not a Patriots fan but you have to appreciate what they have done over the past 19 years. It’s truly remarkable and Bill Belichick has evolved this current group of players — not superstars — and got them doing their jobs consistently, year after year after year. Now, one game and one team stand between them and a chance to re-write the history books and I feel that with the chip on their shoulder they will have enough to see off this talented, up and coming Rams side. Prediction: Patriots 35, Rams 28. — Colin McDonnell
Tom Brady will be playing in his ninth Super Bowl on Sunday. He has played in more Super Bowls than any other team in the NFL. He and Belichick have put together the most dominant dynasty in my lifetime and now they find themselves in a very familiar spot. Jared Goff will be making his fourth postseason start and this will be 33-year-old Sean McVay’s fourth postseason game as a head coach. The contrast of old versus young is a storyline that we have heard repeatedly throughout these past two weeks leading up to the game.
I think all of these things will likely take a back seat on Sunday and the team that runs the ball most effectively and slows down the opposing team’s running game will ultimately win. They are the top two rushing offenses during this postseason and both were top five in the regular season. The Rams defense, though, was dead last in yards per attempt, giving up 5.1 on the year. I think the Patriots will win the time of possession by committing to the run. Brady will convert third downs throughout by finding Julian Edelman and James White frequently, ultimately giving the Patriots the win and Tom Brady his sixth ring. Prediction: Patriots 31, Rams 23. — Joshua Mutters
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’ve already picked against the Pats twice this postseason, and I refuse to bring any more shame upon myself and my family. After watching New England’s offense score at will against the Chargers and Chiefs, I’m not convinced that any amount of defensive talent can slow down this team. Somehow, some way, Edelman will always be open over the middle, or James White will be standing uncovered in the flat, or two DBs will collide leaving Chris Hogan wide open down the field. Speaking from personal experience, rooting against the Patriots is a frustrating pastime.
On the other side you have Jared Goff, a QB who struggles mightily against pressure, going up against a Patriots’ pass rush that chased Philip Rivers and Patrick Mahomes all over the field. Sure, the Rams have a plethora of elite offensive weapons and a brilliant coach in Sean McVay, but, at the end of the day, it will be Tom Brady hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the sixth time in his career. Prediction: Patriots 34, Rams 29. — Paul Patterson
For the Patriots, it’s the same dance, just a different partner. This time New England will welcome the Rams to, what seems to be, their annual Super Bowl appearance. Vegas has set a 2.5-point spread for this game, and it favors the Pats. As for the 56.5 over/under, this game should come down to whoever wins the time of possession. Keeping that in mind, I would look to take the under for this game.
If the Rams are going to try and win this match up, they are going to have to dominate the trenches on the defensive side of the ball. That ability will likely rest on Aaron Donald. Further, the Rams cannot afford to allow long drives, like the Patriots’ last foe: the Kansas City Chiefs. If they are to win, the Rams must keep Tom Brady and his running back duo on the sideline. That notion becomes questionable if Todd Gurley continues to be injured – and yes, there is no way that Sean McVay is sitting arguably the best NFL football player for C.J. Anderson’s success. Anderson cannot win this game alone for the Rams.
The Patriot’s recipe for success is a little more simple, yet similar. The offensive line must contain Donald, first. Donald will set the tempo for the Rams’ defense if you let him, so New England must make an effort to prevent that. On top of that, they must keep the Rams off of the field because (you guessed it) the time of possession will more than likely determine the winner of this contest. In addition, dominating the time of possession will likely force the Rams into a one-dimensional mindset on offense which, bodes well for opposing defensive coordinators. In the passing game, New England must keep Julian Edelman involved over the middle of the field. This is where the mediocre Ram’s linebacker core is susceptible. Edelman is the Patriots only reliable wide receiver and he must perform if they are to win.
In closing, if we have learned something from the year 2001 to now, it is that you should never bet against the Patriots. I expect New England to cover the spread and leave the field victorious. Prediction: Patriots 27, Rams 23. — Garrett Thomas