Super Bowl 53 Patriots v Rams Youth v Experience
Its been exactly 18 years to the day since these two met in the Superdome in New Orleans and some things never seem to change – well as far as New England are concerned given that was the game that introduced the world to what with a win tonight will become one of the greatest dynasties in sporting history. That day the Patriots led by Bill Belichick and with a little known Tom Brady at QB shocked the world by beating the 14 point favourites in a close game. Fast forward to today and Tom Brady has a fist full of rings and will be playing in his 9th Super Bowl.
The Rams on the other hand never quite managed to recapture their title of the “Greatest Show on Turf” and this is their first Super Bowl since that Fateful night. They are led by the youngest Head Coach QB combination ever in Sean McVay & Jared Goff who between them are younger than Bill Belichick and have only a handful of postseason games under their belt. Still thanks to some shrewd drafting and a lot of free agency, they have built a formidable team and are only 2.5 point underdogs. New England Super Bowls tend to be close and this one should be no exception.
New England Season
The Patriots had a bit of a dodgy start – which led to the (near-perennial of late) pundits writing off of Tom Bady, however, after their 1-2 start, they went on a tear up winning 6 in a row including consecutive wins over eventual playoff teams Kansas City the Colts & the Bears. They then had a bit of a wobble losing 3 out of five including a crazy loss to Miami which ended with Miami scoring with a final drive which would have been more at home in a college playbook and then a 17-10 loss to bitter rivals Pittsburgh left them needing to win out to get a chance of a first-round bye. They managed that but that loss to Miami came back to haunt them as they missed out on home field advantage ending up 11-5.
The playoffs posed few problems though and they beat their AFC West opponents the Chargers with some ease and then went to Arrowhead and snatched an impressive OT win against the Chiefs; both of whom had better regular season records.
These wins moved Brady to 29-10 in the postseason and the game at the Chiefs was New Englands 8th consecutive AFC Championship appearance. They are in their 3rd Consecutive Super Bowl and their 4th in five years. If experience counts for anything they will walk it.
LA Rams Season
The Rams signalled their intentions for this season making a number of splashy moves including trading for Brandin Cooks & Ndamukong Suh as well as giving Arron Donald the big money contract he deserves. They will be right up against the salary cap for a while now but for once it has paid off.
Their schedule was maybe not the strongest but they racked up 13 wins including 4 against playoff-bound teams. This included winning the game of the year a 54-51 over the Chiefs. They were 8-0 before that narrow loss at the Saints and they won all of their games against AFC teams. The three losses were all against teams that made the postseason.
QB Jared Goff is only playing in his 4th postseason game as is coach Sean McVey.
Players to Watch
Obviously, most attention will be focussed on the QBs, however, this game will probably be decided in the trenches with the Rams near All-Star Defensive line looking to put pressure on Tom Brady – which is probably the only way they win this one. Arron Donald is almost unblockable one on one and Suh is equally destructive up the middle so this should be fun to watch. However, the Patriots Offensive Line is probably as good as any and somewhat underrated. Expect to see some double teaming of Donald and possibly the Tight Ends being utilised as additional linemen from time to time. Overall I would give the Rams the edge in the trenches.
The game might actually hinge on the run and here both sides have decent options with Todd Gurley (if fully fit) one of the most exciting while C.J. Anderson is capable of grinding out the tough yards. However, as they showed in the Playoffs New England are capable of running the ball too and they have depth here with likely starters Sony Michel & James White being supported by the very capable Rex Burkhead. In the running game, I would just about give New England the edge.
Given this one could be close the kicking game could end up decisive and the Rams will be hoping that star Kicker Greg Zuerlein is fit. He is still listed as questionable but that means nothing in the pre Super Bowl Mind Games, however without him they may struggle. New England should have no worries with the experienced Stephen Gostkowski who has hit 27 out of 32 on Field Goals this year.
So Who Wins
This should be close but despite The Rams have the better defense they are lacking a bit in experience and New England have the better QB and running game. If Greg Zuerlein is out they will also be weaker on special teams. New Englands previous 8 Super Bowls have all been one-score affairs and this one will probably follow the pattern and overall I am going with New England.
New England 31 LA Rams 24