It’s been nearly two weeks since the Super Bowl participants have been decided, and the matchup has been debated on social media, TV, radio, at workplaces and in bar stools. It’s time to throw my prediction out there for Super Bowl 53 between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams.
I’m 7-3 picking postseason games this year, and in this round it’s either a win or a loss. Should I go with the Los Angeles Rams, the more complete football team that finished 13-3? Would I want to risk betting against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in their third straight Super Bowl appearance?
The Las Vegas line opened with the Rams as one point favorites, but swiftly shifted in the Patriots favor. You can find them as 2.5 to 3.0 favorites on most betting platforms now. This is slightly less indicative of the game’s projected outcome and more a result of heavy betting. The Patriots as an underdog? For the second week in a row? That narrative was quickly erased with the adjusted Vegas line.
ESPN gives the Rams a slight edge with a 52.4% chance to bring the Super Bowl back to Los Angeles. From a personal eyeball test, I think most sports personalities and fans are favoring the Patriots, if for no other reason than their vast experience in the big game.
Super Bowl 53 kicks off at 6:30 PM in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta hosted the Super Bowl twice before in the Georgia Dome, with the most recent being Super Bowl 34 in 2000, where the Rams franchise, then of St. Louis, won it’s only Super Bowl title.
This feels like the closest Super Bowl matchup heading into it in recent years. Of course, we were treated to two brilliant games over the last two seasons (Eagles 41-33 underdog victory over the Patriots and the Patriots exhilarating 25 point comeback for a 34-28 win.) Brady and the Patriots have played in Super Bowls and each one, win or loss, has been decided by eight points or less.
Once upon a time, Tom Brady was the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl at 24 years old (a record later broken by 23-year-old Ben Roethlisberger). Jared Goff leads his Rams team at just 24 years old to his first Super Bowl. He carries a 2-1 playoff record in his young NFL career, but looks to make the ascension to elite with a Super Bowl win over Tom Brady.
After Jared Goff, you tend to think of Todd Gurley, but he was almost a non-factor in the Rams NFC Championship win, with just four carries, but he did have a rushing touchdown. C.J. Anderson has been more than enough for the Rams rushing attack, with 167 yards and 2 touchdowns in two playoff wins.
On the defensive side of the ball, Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and Dante Fowler will have to pressure Brady, who hasn’t been sacked yet in games against the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs. The Rams will have to create a different kind of pressure to disrupt Brady’s quick passing game. Belichick is good at neutralizing a team’s best defensive option, but luckily the Rams have multiple pass-rushers. Look for Brady to try and beat the blitz with quick throws, delayed handoffs, and play action.
In both wins over the Chargers and Chiefs, the Patriots built an early lead and held control of the game late in the fourth quarter. The Patriots defense becomes more exploitable in the second half it seems, as both teams were able to flip their offensive script, but a little too late in the game. The Rams need to stay in the game and ideally score first to increase their chances of winning.
Sean McVay will need to take a couple chances to outduel one of the greatest coaches in league history. This could include going for it on 4th down, or a couple trick plays with their speedy, talented offensive personnel.
Predicting the Game
The most exciting outcome of this game would be a back and forth scoring affair ending in the high 30’s or low 40’s. But based on the ways these teams play, a more likely scenario seems like one team building a lead and the other chipping away into it.
I predict the Patriots will go up early, but not nearly as much as in previous games. The Rams defense may bend but not break, allowing mostly field goals even if it means the Patriots score on every possession. New England gets the ball first and scores a field goal on the opening possession. After the first quarter, New England leads 9-0, scoring on all three drives, and the Rams have a first down or two but nothing sustained. Basically a repeat of the first half of the AFC Championship, but the defense is able to keep the game in check.
After their first defensive stop, Goff and Anderson (not Gurley) drive the ball downfield, into the redzone, and into the endzone on a long 6-7 minute drive. Despite being shut out in the first quarter, the score is now 9-7 and they’re back in the game. The Patriots respond with their first touchdown drive, punching it in on the ground. New England leads 16-7 with 3:21 remaining in the first half.
Needing at least another score before the half, Goff converts a couple big third downs and gets the Rams easily within Greg Zuerlin’s field goal range. With 1:41 left to go and a timeout in their pocket, Goff is able to take a couple shots at the endzone, but is unable to connect and is nearly picked off once. The Rams settle for a field goal and a 16-10 halftime deficit.
After Travis Scott brings out Drake to perform Sicko Mode and breaks the internet (oh and Maroon 5), the game resumes, and McVay devises a plan to score on the Rams first drive of the second half. It’s executed perfectly, as the Rams need just five plays to drive the length of the field to take a 17-16 lead. The third quarter is the most competitive of the game, with both teams scoring and getting big defensive stops. The back and forth affair has the Rams take a 27-23 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Rams can’t score early in the 4th, and Brady leads a vintage, eight minute, touchdown drive ending with a 5-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski. New England takes a 30-27 lead with 3:31 remaining. McVay gets the ball and immediately thinks touchdown, not wanting to risk overtime with Brady. On a drive that requires a 4th and 7 conversion to keep the game alive, Goff ultimately gets the Rams in field goal range. After two overtime Conference Championship games, the Super Bowl also needs an extra period to be decided.
Los Angeles wins the coin toss, and elects to receive first. After safe play calls on first and second down, a play action third down pass nets the Rams 50 yards. Easily in field goal range, Gurley and Anderson pound away at a tired New England defense. Despite being the spell to Anderson and not vice versa, Gurley has the ball in his hands as he rushes for a game-winning 14-yard touchdown run. The Rams beat the Patriots 36-30 in dramatic overtime fashion.
While it obviously won’t play out exactly this way, I honestly think whoever has the ball last will end up winning. I’m picking the Rams by more than field goal, specifically, 36-30 (Or I suppose 37-30 if the Rams last touchdown is scored in regulation.)
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