Super Bowl 53 Preview
It’s time. Super Bowl Sunday. Or should we change the name of it to Patriots Sunday (sorry, I’ll try to tone the bias down). But really, this is the ninth time in 18 years that Brady and the Patriots are in the Super Bowl, and all of these games have been nail biters. The largest margin for victory in any of these contests took place in 2016, which was just a 34-28 overtime victory for the Pats over the Falcons. I am expecting this one to be a tight game once again, won by the team that makes the fewest mistakes. Football is essentially a chess match on steroids, so every move you make matters, especially in a game of this magnitude. Before I get to my prediction, let’s take a look on how these two teams got here.
Los Angeles Rams:
Despite being a massive homer, I am a big believer that you must respect your opponent, and the Los Angeles Rams have plenty to respect. This is a team that followed a similar model of the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, by diving headfirst into free agency and signing several marquis players. With an offensive core of Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, play calling mastermind in head coach Sean McVay pacing them back in 2017, the Rams were able to add an elite deep threat receiver in Brandin Cooks this past offseason. On the other side of the ball, Aaron Donald is the game’s best game wrecker, putting up ridiculous numbers since he came into the league in 2014. But, this would not be a super bowl caliber defense with just Donald. LA picked up Ndamaka Suh to compliment Donald in the trenches, while also beefing up their secondary with established cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. The Rams came out to a hot start, with a 7-0 record, and people seemed to forget how impressive this team was towards the end of the season, when they dropped games to the Bears and the Eagles. This is still as very, very good team as we have seen this playoffs and honestly, all season. This will be a very tough test for New England.
New England Patriots:
Most of my blogs on here have been about the Patriots, so there is not much I can really say that I have not said already. However, I will reiterate that it was a roller coaster of a season for Patriot standards, but here they are again, back in the Super Bowl. Balance has been something I have preached this Pats team is better with than teams in years past. Sure, Brady threw for 505 yards in last year’s Super Bowl, but it was not enough to win the game, considering they rushed for 51 less yards than Philly and gave up 41 points. The rushing attack and defense have improved greatly this season, making New England a more complete team, even if they are not the flashiest. Sony Michel has enabled this team to run the ball efficiently, not requiring 41-year-old Brady and the passing game to carry as much of the load. Even so, when they have needed to, the New England passing attack has shown up, and in critical moments. During the regular season, the Patriots went 11-5, all five losses coming on the road to non-playoff teams. They also went 4-0 against playoff teams in the regular season, displaying their will to rise to the occasion. In an article I wrote before their first playoff game against the Los Angeles Chargers, peaking at the right time was a major point of emphasis for this New England team. They have done just that, and it has showed in the playoffs. They steam rolled the Chargers in the divisional round, followed up by a gutsy overtime win over MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. We will see if that momentum will carry into the grand finale, in this Super Bowl XXXVI (36) rematch.
Analysis of the game: It’s going to be a close game. As I stated before, the largest margin of victory in any Super Bowl involving the Pats is six points, so you can imagine that I have been surprised by how many people have predicted New England to roll by 10 or more points in this one. On paper, the Rams should stack up pretty well against the Patriots. The defensive line duo of Suh and Donald could give Tom Brady fits, as they have helped the Rams defense to generate the highest pressure rate from the interior (16.6%) this season. Brady, like any quarterback, hates being pressured. If the Rams can get to Brady and make him uncomfortable right from the get-go, they will have a chance to win. However, one key factor with this Rams team that makes me unable to pick them is the health concerns of running back Todd Gurley. Gurley was a force all season long, but only got the ball 4 times last game against the Saints, rushing for just 10 yards. How available will he be in tonight’s contest? Personally, I do not know, but that is not the only reason I cannot pick the Rams. Belichick’s Patriots are as prepared a team that exists in the NFL. He’s been doing this for far longer than young buck Sean McVay, so I anticipate that experience and knowledge paying dividends tonight. That, and Tom Brady, who is coming off one of the biggest wins of his career last week in KC. He’s as fired up as ever, and the team behind him is as well. This is as motivated a Patriots team I have seen in all my years of following them.
Score: 31-24 Pats. Let’s Go!