Super Bowl LIII Preview

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These past two weeks, the streets of Atlanta have been packed with international media reporters brewing with anticipation, as the biggest stage in all of sports will be on display tomorrow. Whether it be the infamous commercials, the halftime show, or the football itself, the Super Bowl will have something for everyone. This year’s game features a familiar face in the New England Patriots and a young, up-and-coming Los Angeles Rams squad. The Patriots are led by 41-year-old quarterback Tom Brady and 66-year-old head coach Bill Belichick while the Rams are piloted by 24-year-old quarterback Jared Goff and 33-year-old head coach Sean McVay. The age gaps for these positions are some of the largest ever in playoff history and are reflective of each team’s identity. The Patriots have been the golden standard of success for almost the last two decades, and this year they become just the third team in NFL history to appear in three consecutive Super Bowls. Meanwhile, the Rams are on the other end of the spectrum. This is the first Super Bowl appearance for Goff and McVay, and they are looking to make a name for themselves moving forward, similar to what the Patriots have done in the Brady Era. This game promises to have elite coaching and high flying offenses and can truly go either way.

Why the Patriots will win

The Patriots are arguably both the most hated and most successful dynasty in all of sports and this Sunday, they find themselves in an all too similar place: the Super Bowl. This will be their third straight Super Bowl appearance and ninth championship bout since 2002, which is more than any other team since the inception of the NFL. They are a 2.5 point favorite over the Rams, and with the winning formula the Patriots have displayed over the last two weeks, they may very well be lifting the Lombardi Trophy back to Foxborough on Monday.

With short passes to Julian Edelman and James White, Sony Michel pounding the ball up the middle, and Tom Brady dominating time of possession, the Patriots won their last two games against the Chiefs and Chargers, who both had better records than them this season. This formula ensures that the Rams high-power offense will have to wait on the sidelines and watch the slow, orchestrated dissection of their defense led by Tom Brady. The time of possession was 38 to 22 and 44 to 21 in the Patriots’ favor in the divisional round and AFC championship games respectively. This extensive playtime for the Rams’ defense will likely slow down their pass rush and prevent Aaron Donald and Suh from reaching Brady before the Patriot receivers get open. It is almost a certainty that the Patriots will succeed in the later quarters against a fatigued defense.

This year, more than ever before, Tom Brady has been throwing the ball quicker and quicker to protect his body from taking unnecessary hits, as he is 41 years old. The ball from snap to release is often less than two seconds long and a clip of Chargers’ Joey Bosa has gone viral where he asks Brady to hold onto the ball a little longer so he can have a chance to get a sack or knockdown. In addition, the Patriots have an experiential edge in the two most important positions of football: the head coach and quarterback. It is always easier to resonate to a person that has been there and done that.

Why the Rams will win

Disrupting Tom Brady will most definitely be a large part of Rams’ Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillip’s game plan during the Super Bowl. The Rams’ defensive line, consisting of MVP candidate Aaron Donald, superstar nose tackle Ndamukong Suh, and star defensive linemen Michael Brockers and Dante Fowler Jr. (acquired in a trade with Jacksonville), seems poised to apply pressure to Brady, while also thwarting the Rams’ run attack led by Sony Michel. Per Pro Football Focus, all of Tom Brady’s Super Bowl losses have come in games where he has been pressured intensely by the opposing defense. However, the Rams are going to have to fight off an extremely successful Patriot offensive line, which has allowed the fewest quarterback hurries (48) in the NFL this season. In order to beat the Pats, Aaron Donald will have to get to Brady, which can only be done with ample coverage by the Rams’ secondary. Unlike other LA Rams football teams, this season, the Rams’ secondary is extremely talented and poised. If the Rams’ secondary, led by Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, can maintain strong man coverage on the Patriots’ speedy and athletic wide receivers, pass rushers like Donald and Fowler Jr. will be able to disrupt Brady and lead the Rams to a Super Bowl Victory.

Averaging almost five yards per carry on the season, Rams running back Todd Gurley has emerged as a perennial MVP candidate and has maintained his role as the most prolific player on the Rams’ offense. Gurley has also been largely utilized by head coach Sean McVay in the passing game, as he has caught over 250 passes on the season. In the Super Bowl, Gurley will most likely be used in long yardage situations, where his rushing abilities will force the Patriots out of conservative pass coverage schemes. Sean McVay silenced speculation that Gurley was injured due to the fact that he received just 5 total touches in the NFC Championship Game at a press conference on Friday. “He’s feeling good,” McVay said. “A hundred percent.” While the full health of Gurley certainly helps the Rams, their late season pick up of former Pro Bowl running back CJ Anderson gives them a two-headed monster in the backfield. Anderson has played a large role in short-yardage situations since his addition to the roster. He stands at only 5’8’’, but weighs about 225 lbs, making him extremely effective in both the Red Zone and 4th down situations. Look for McVay to use a combination of Gurley and Anderson during the Super Bowl, and forcing Belichick’s defense to adapt to the strengths of both backs.

Sports Staff Predictions

Senior Kunchaka Fonseka

Patriots 37-31 : In a high scoring game, I predict that both offenses will have success and trade scores early. Ultimately, one long drive too many led by Tom Brady will overwhelm the Rams and separate the two at the end. Expect a few trick plays as well. Possibly a flea flicker or even a deep pass by Edelman.

Senior Hritamber Chakraborty

Patriots 31-28 : Experience is huge in games as life-changing and big as the Super Bowl and this will give the Patriots a large advantage. These games often come down to one decision, one throw, one tackle, and one drive. I envision the Patriots finding success early and being comfortable from the first snap while the Rams will take a possession or two to settle in.

Junior Zachary Fisher

Rams 31-28 : Although the Patriots have arguably the best duo in Super Bowl history in Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, their surrounding core simply doesn’t compare to that of the Rams. Between the veteran leadership of cornerback Aqib Talib and unmatched pass rushing ability of Aaron Donald, the Rams’ defense is superior to the Patriots’. On the offensive side, the lateral threat Brandin Cooks poses on the outside, combined with the elite route running of Robert Woods out of the slot and the power of both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson, Sean McVay has too many weapons at his disposal to be stopped. While no one can argue that Tom Brady has been nothing short of spectacular in all of his prior super bowl appearances, 5 yard throws to James White and Julian Edelman every play won’t be enough against this determined Rams team.

Junior Noah Pearlstein

Patriots 24-17 : The New England Patriots are the definition of consistency. Owner Robert Kraft, along with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, has manifested a winning culture that is unmatched around the entire NFL. I expect Belichick to form an effective game plan (superior to that of McVay), and Tom Brady to control the football, leading the two to their sixth Lombardi trophies.

Something important to note: LA Rams game vs. Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions in Week 13. Belichick will definitely talk to his former assistant and gain information on how to effectively deter QB Jared Goff, who threw only threw 1 TD, with 1 INT and a mere 52% completion rate against the Lions.