Super Bowl LIII preview:

After 256 regular season games and three weeks of thrilling playoff action, we are just about one week away from the big game. We have seen young superstars emerge, some teams ascending from the ashes while others fell off badly, historic offensive numbers being put up and two electrifying Conference Championship games ending in controversial manner. However, after all the drama we have seen over these last five months, we end up with the Super Bowl favorites from the preseason squaring off on February the 3rd. On one side we have the Patriots, who have dominated the league, making it to the final game in half of the last 18 seasons, and on the other is a team in the Rams that went 4-12 just two years ago and hasn’t made it there since 2001. That was when these two squads faced off against each other, featuring the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ under MVP Kurt Warner as two-touchdown favorites against the defensive-minded Pats with some first-year starter at quarterback named Tom Brady. With New England winning the game on a last-second field goal, this launched one of the (if not the) greatest dynasties in American Sports history, led by what is widely considered the best quarterback-head coach combination ever, while the Rams would go on to win just two playoff games until this season. Here we are 17 years later – the most dominant team in the NFL over that stretch facing off against a young bunch in the L.A. Rams that many look at as the most talented squad. Jared Goff as the youngest quarterback ever to start a Super Bowl versus the oldest one in Tom Brady. The youngest head coacher ever to start a Super Bowl in wonderkid Sean McVay against the old master in Bill Belichick. The Rams versus the Patriots Part II.


 

The road here:

 

Both these teams have reached the big game as number two seeds in the AFC and NFC. However their road to that spot and how they ultimately earned a trip to Atlanta are quite different.

 

rex burkhead ot touchdown

 

The Patriots started their season with a win over a talented Texans squad, but they went on to lose by double-digits at Jacksonville and Detroit. While they had some dominant showings over the next six weeks and beat some of the top teams in the Chiefs and Bears, an embarrassing 34-10 loss at Tennessee fueled some chatter about the end of this dynasty. New England got back on track with consecutive 14-point wins over the Jets and Vikings, but a last-second loss at Miami and the fact they could only score 10 points at Pittsburgh only fueled those talks, especially with Tom Brady making unfamiliar mistakes. They were on track to play in the Wild Card Round for the first time since 2009, but with some help from the Texans losing in week 16 and the Patriots ending the season with lay-ups against the Bills and Jets, the Patriots once again earned a first-round bye. When they did come out for their postseason debut they just annihilated the Chargers in the Divisional Round, even though 16-points don’t nearly sound as bad as it actually was. That led to a rematch against the Chiefs, but now in Kansas City. The Pats D was dominant early on, keeping the explosive KC offense and leading MVP-candidate Patrick Mahomes scoreless in the first half, before Brady and the rushing attack sealed the deal for them in overtime, putting them in the big game for the fourth time in five years. However, the game should have already been over, as Brady through an interception down by four points, which was negated by Dee Ford lining up in the neutral zone.

 

greg zuerlein 57-yard field goal

 

The Rams on the other hand started 2018 off as hot as any team in the league. They won their first eight games of the season, while outscoring the opposition by an average of 13.6 points per week. Los Angeles could not quite overcome the 18-point hole they dug themselves into when they travelled to New Orleans, as the Saints handed them their first loss of the year. They won shootouts over the next two weeks against the Seahawks and that all-time offensive explosion against the Chiefs, before handling Detroit. However, after two straight losses against the Bears and Eagles people started doubting this team when it matters most, as Jared Goff threw a combined five interceptions and no touchdowns during that two-game stretch. Yet they bounced back over the final two weeks with the addition of C.J. Anderson allowing them to rest a banged up Todd Gurley, as the veteran went for 300 yards combined in weeks 16 and 17. That secured the Rams a first-round bye and they maintained that dominant ground attack, running all over the Cowboys with total 273 yards. When they travelled back to the Super Dome, they once again got down early, but a faked punt inside their own territory jump-started a comeback. When the Saints were at the opposing 13-yard line with less than two minutes on the clock, a clear pass interference call was not made, as Nickell Robey-Coleman hit Tommylee Lewis upside his head while the ball was in the air. This prevailed the Rams to force overtime and ultimately had Greg Zuerlein kick a 57-yard field goal in overtime off a Drew Brees interception, which put them into the Super Bowl.

So as you can tell there are some asterisks connected to both teams’ wins in the Conference Championship Round. However, they did what they could and I will not sit here and tell you that they don’t deserve to play for a Lombari trophy or anything like that. These squads made the plays when they needed to and didn’t panic when their seasons hang in the balance. With that being said, let’s preview the matchups of offense versus defense for either team.


 

Patriots offense vs. Rams defense:

 

tom brady

 

As teams have gone to a more wide open approach on offense and adopted all these college plays, New England has gone back in time to where people lined up in 21 personnel in ran it down the throat of opposing defenses. Center David Andrews has the agility to reach nose-tackles and shed 1-techniques in their zone run game and Shaq Mason just squashes interior D-linemen on those combo-blocks, which makes it very easy for his teammates to control blocks. Both of them and left guard Joe Thuney are also agile enough to shield off linebackers. James Develin buries second level defenders constantly and barely ever misses a block, which will be a problem against the Rams small linebackers. Unlike most teams that have minimal packages out of those personnel sets, the Patriots fullback doesn’t always indicate where the run is going towards. They let him block the backside linebacker or trap defensive tackles to go with those basic ISO schemes. Tight-end Rob Gronkowski has been a huge factor these last two weeks not necessarily as a pass-catcher, even though he had some big-time grabs on third downs versus Kansas City, but more so as a run-blocker. New England has put him in motion and then run those off-tackle type plays right behind time and time again in the AFC Championship game, because of the movement he creates at the point of attack. Josh McDaniels also likes to bring Cordarelle Patterson and others in motion to fake the jet sweep one way and then flip it to the back the other, once he has established them as a threat on the edges.

Ndamokung Suh has been a mad man recently in the middle of that Rams defense. I said it last week when I mentioned him as an X-factor, that he somewhat took the regular season off, but has turned into a different beast in the playoffs. Earlier in the year the Rams fielded one of worst rush defenses in the league, in large part due to how far upfield their defensive line got. When you have guys like Suh and Aaron Donald you want them to wreak havoc in the back-field, but at some point that opens up running lanes and when you face teams that can really get it done with their power run attack, this can create major problems for your linebackers. Towards the end of the year and now the postseason they have become more disciplined with their gap integrity and slowed down some of the top running teams. Suh and Michael Brockers can really slow things on the play-side, allowing Donald to be himself and go backdoor against those plays with quickness. The Rams completely bottled up Ezekiel Elliott for 47 yards on 20 attempts in the Divisional Round versus the Cowboys and then held the Saints dynamic duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram to 46 yards on the ground on 16 rushes.

 

However, not only can the Patriots can screw those responsibilities up when they motion Gronk across the O-line like they did against KC, that rushing attack brings another danger with it, because New England has some of the best run fakes to set up play-action. Unlike a lot of teams that simply let their quarterback and running back fake the handoff and have the offensive line take one step up, those guys really focuses on selling the run with their O-line. That front is aggressive with their first few steps and heavily include pulling guards in their protection concepts to throw defenses off. I will get more into what the Rams might want to do at the backfield in the next paragraph, but no matter which coverage they play, there will be some defenders in zone that at least need to hesitate if not step up once they see those kind of looks. The Pats’ rushing attack is too strong for them not to ask their defensive backs to support the run, especially when there are only one of two actual receivers on the field because they line up in heavy personnel. New England might not have an established burner on the perimeter, but you better believe they will push the ball downfield to maybe a Phillip Dorsett, or at the very least use that space over the middle when linebackers are forced to step up.

I know the Rams pass defense has not lived up to what people expected when they heard about the additions of Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters and I even questioned some of the things they did coverage-wise, but I think at this point their secondary might be underrated. Wade Phillips simplified some of the things they did and with Aquib Talib back in the lineup, everybody else has played their role better. There are some points that they absolutely have to accomplish in that unit to have success against Brady & company. In crucial situations, especially third-and-medium, disrupting the timing of the Pats’ passing game is a must, of they will pick you apart. To counter that Josh McDaniels draws up all those versions of rub-concepts, which punished the Chiefs when they did decide to man up. You have to kind of pick your poison with down-and-distances and how you think you can answer their alignments. I already mentioned that I like how Wade simplified what the Rams do on the back-en, but in this specific matchup he might have to be a little more creative with how they pass on assignments and drop into their spots. You might want to assign sides when you face receiver stacks instead of men, to avoid being run off and show man-coverage on the opposite side to fool Brady a little bit. The defenders can be aggressive in those medium-yardage situations, because you know the ball will come out quickly and you can undercut some routes early on. I’m definitely not saying you can’t play zone against the Patriots, as long as you have a beat on what they are trying to do situationally, but we have seen what Brady has done against those soft zone coverages in these playoffs and his skill players are less dynamic than they have ever been to win one-on-ones.

 

The matchup to watch in the passing game when New England possesses the ball will be the Patriots running backs against the Rams linebackers and possibly safeties. Alvin Kamara caught 11 passes for almost a hundred yards in the NFC Championship game against Los Angeles. The Saints spread the Rams out a lot, which left Mark Barron one-on-one with the dynamic dual-threat running back for the most part. Barron is a converted safety, but he could still not stay with Kamara coming out of the backfield or in the slot and neither could Corey Littleton, when he was tasked with the dual-threat back. Not only is it the screen game – nobody throws the ball underneath to his backs more than Tom Brady. James White already broke a Super Bowl record for all players with 14 catches for 110 yards, he even topped that mark by one to tie Darren Sproles’ all-time mark of 15 in any playoff game when the Patriots destroyed the Chargers in the Divisional Round. That game showed once again that Brady is selfless as he simply got it to White on simple flat routes constantly to take advantage of the soft zone coverages. I talked Rex Burkhead as an X-factor last work because of the obvious run-pass splits between White and Sony Michel – and the third guy didn’t disappoint. He gives them more balance and can also be a mismatch in the passing game. The Rams need to have a plan to take away some of those easy completions and force Brady to go outside the numbers.

Outside of that I like some of the personnel matchups Los Angeles can present in this game. Up front they like to line Suh and Donald up on the same side a lot of times, with Suh on the edge, making it borderline impossible to double them both in true shotgun passing situations. Donald took advantage of a banged up Andrus Peat and beat him with a quick-swim off the line a couple of times. Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason are pretty agile, but they have yet to face anybody like the Rams’ number 99. He does some unique stuff nobody else in the NFL even thinks of, such as spinning off inside a pulling guard, I’m not saying he will be successful doing that against the Pats, but there will definitely be an adjustment period for that interior offensive line. And if they did draw something up to use their backs and tight-ends or slide the protection that way, Dante Fowler could make an impact, because he has emerged as a true threat off the edge for L.A. As far as their cover-guys go, the only defensive back on the Rams’ roster beyond six feet is Aquib Talib. Lamarcus Joyner typically is the guy the want to drop down into the slot when they man up, but at 5’8” I don’t see how they match him up against a huge guy in Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots primarily used the tight-end as an in-line blocker against the Chiefs until they needed him to make a play late and realized that Eric Berry would travel outside with him, coming off a torn Achilles. I’m curious to see if Wade Phillips decides to treat Gronk like a wide receiver when he plays detached from the line and tells Talib to shadow him in those passing situations. While that leaves opportunities for some other guys from the Patriots, I would be willing to take that risk because I think Talib is still a good matchup for them here, especially with Gronk losing a gear.

 

If not for a batted ball on the first play of overtime by Michael Brockers, the Saints might have gone down the field right away on them and that was something I think the Patriots might be able to take advantage of. New Orleans was in a three-by-one set and brought the wideout in a short motion and let him run a drive route to go with a couple of verticals. Marcus Peters and Nickell Robey-Coleman communicated a switch of responsibilities expecting something breaking inside, but Robey-Coleman didn’t chase after the crosser and left him wide open. It’s not only that play though – I though the nickelback was very lucky in that game. Not only did he commit that infamous no-call pass interference, he was also was leaning after Michael Thomas on the goal-line and basically gave up a touchdown if not for a terribly underthrown ball by Drew Brees. Plus another receiver made him look better on a flat-out drop. I definitely don’t see him have the upper hand against Julian Edelman in the slot, because the second-leading receiver in playoff history might not threaten him deep, but he still a lot of short-area quickness to create separation out of his break and the ball comes out of Brady’s hand as soon as number 11 snaps his head back towards him. I believe the Rams will need to use an additional defender to drop underneath him to take pressure of whoever is covering him by limiting that guy’s responsibility to just one side laterally.

With the way the Patriots game-plan and always have a trick up their sleeves, it is hard to really to really prepare for some looks and limit the possibilities they have from those, but one of the tendencies from the Patriots offense you might be able to pick up on is when they motion their tailback from I-formation into the slot or out wide. That leaves Develin as the lone guy in the backfield and while I can guarantee you that they will run him in short-yardage and goal-line situations if they like the look they get, for the most part they don’t want to have him carry the ball on base downs, but rather they use your stacked box against you with shallow crossers and other quickly developing routes. I would take my chances with Talib one-on-one with Gronk and focus on Edelman when it comes to third downs. The Chiefs were catastrophic against Brady’s favorite target on the overtime drive, allowing consecutive conversions to him on third-and-10+, including a miscommunication on one of those switches from a receiver stack, in addition to another two in the first half. I’m also a fan of using one of your DBs to cover the Patriots back in obvious passing situations if they don’t bring any blitzes. This offense is too versatile to limit everything they do, but the Rams will have to start somewhere and just take away a couple of areas, while not being afraid to be aggressive with their defensive play-calling.

 

I’m curious to see how aggressive New England is on early downs, because while they have primarily become a run-based offense, they also like to come out with more open sets and pick at you with quick underneath passes inside the numbers, flat and swing routes to their backs with the receivers to that side clearing out space or with pass-catchers in tight splits breaking towards the sideline. Even when they give opponents obvious run looks, they can still work in some of their staples in the passing game and eat up your base sets as you focus on the run. Not only the way they draw up different drives and possibly go no-huddle to tire out a defensive front that lacks some depth could catch L.A. off guard, New England also surprises a lot of their opponents with the play-calling they choose in specific situations. They converted three third downs running the ball from shotgun on their initial two drives of the AFC Championship game, with two of them having four yards to go, because unlike most teams that look at those spots as pure passing downs, they say “you don’t have the personnel or alignment out there to stop us and we have any guys to block everybody in the box”. In addition to that they have one of the most versatile screen games in the NFL. They don’t just swing out to their playmakers in space, because that’s not the strength of their offense, but they fake bubble screens, show multiple handoffs and sometimes actually fake the screen to one back and then get it to the other. The difference to most teams when it comes to that aspect is that they often leave their offensive tackles in protection on the play-side instead of letting the rusher get through and lobbing it over that guy’s head.


 

Rams offense vs. Patriots defense:

 

todd gurley & jared goff

 

Unlike a lot of teams that revolve their defense around the Seattle-type cover-three, man-bail based scheme or play a lot of two-high safety looks that force opponents to go underneath, New England fields one of the most hybrid defensive units in the league. They can change their base front, coverage principles and tendencies on a weekly basis, which is truly unique. Therefore giving them two weeks to prepare can end up in a nightmare. Just ask the Chargers, who were basically done when they went into halftime down 35-7 and to a lesser degree the Chiefs last week, as they couldn’t put up a single point in the first half of that game. So a lot of teams are forced to change plans for the second period against a coach that is known for his brilliance at adjusting the gameplan. When you don’t come up with creative looks and attune your play-calls throughout games, you have a significant disadvantage. There is nothing easier for Bill Belichick and his defensive staff to prepare for than repetitive passing concepts and formations that give away tendencies.

What makes the Rams offense special however is the way they mask plays. Unlike the Chiefs a week ago, Sean McVay doesn’t use a multitude of formations and tries to keep you off balance with motions and different gimmicks. Los Angeles’ offense is built around being able to run a variety of plays from similar looks. Some of their staples revolve around running those jet sweeps one way and handing it one time and then going inside zone the opposite direction. The Rams use their receiver more in the run game than any other team in the league, running jet and fly sweep, reverses and just different flips to them. It goes so far that they make you think a receiver is just a dummy on some fly motion to freeze defenders on the backside and then they hand it to Robert Woods at H-back going the way the originally faked it towards on some type of trap play. Not only are those guys being used as ball-carriers however, they also line up their tight-ends and receivers in tight splits to shield the backside. The engine that makes that Rams ground attack go however is the offensive line. While they are based on different versions of inside and outside zone, they can run different trap and wham schemes as well to take advantage of the flow of the opposing defense. Those five men up front are very patient with their double-teams and basically let the linebackers run into their hands. They also really like the zone split where they kick out the backside edge defender, setting up cutback opportunities for their backs. Even if the linebacker on that side stays balanced, there could be a lane for a guy like Todd Gurley to run away from anybody. All those things led them to 4.9 yards a carry during the regular season

 

For large stretches of the 2018 season the Pats ran a bear-front, which basically puts five or six defenders at the line of scrimmage, and shut down opposing rushing attacks. Last weekend on the other hand they went the exact opposite, moving Trey Flowers inside together with one true defensive tackle and using four linebackers to go with an extra defensive back to counter all the Chiefs’ spread formations. Andy Reid never made any adjustments in terms of using that lack of size against them by running it down their throat. New England has a multitude of big bodies in Lawrence Guy, Malcolm Butler and others to go with some bigger D-ends. So they have the size to make it complicated for the Rams to run on the them, while also having the discipline to contain the edges against a home-run threat in Gurley or take away cutback lanes. Last year when Sean McVay first went up against a defensive expert in the Mike Zimmer, the Vikings made a very crafty adjustments with their defensive ends to take away bootleg opportunities for Goff by telling them to stay home and erase easy dumpoffs to receivers coming across the formation or tight-ends peeling off late. I could see some of that be repeated and then I think when Kyle Van Noy is lined up on the backside of run plays as a WILL linebacker, he shows discipline to defend the lanes that open up on the play-side.

Nevertheless, I can’t see how the Patriots will shut down Gurley and C.J. Anderson if they stay that conservative on the backside, because that will create too much space on the inside, no matter how big New-England front is. So as long as they get the defense to flow with the run a little bit, that opens the play-action back up. The Rams are built around the ground attack opening up easy opportunities with bootlegs the other way, which creates wide open open targets because of how that freezes the entire defense. Off the zone game, they have types of waggle and flood-like concepts with crossers on different levels, giving Jared Goff easy reads from high to low. Even if the Patriots decide to be conservative with their backside D-end and linebackers, what can you really expect from them to when you have Brandin Cooks come underneath the formation and run into the flats at full speed? So if McVay sees them do something like that, he might want Cooks to do some of the stuff they usually use Gerald Everett or Brandin Cooks for. He can also keep one of those guys in a tight split in protection to secure the edges when booting that way. On several occasions that is coupled with clear-out routes and a deep crosser towards the vacated area or having the play develop for so long that they get a linebacker to match up against a speedy receiver, giving them a tremendous matchup, especially when you see the size of their backers. While I could see the Patriots big guys on the edges overpower tight-ends and especially much smaller receivers, Goff may not be the most athletic quarterback in the league, but last week when the Saints defensive ends hit him right away on those bootlegs, he still got the ball out to his tight-ends on two plays on the final drive in overtime.

 

I want to refer back to that 2017 game against the Vikings because the seven points the Rams scored in that matchup and the six points against a similar schematic Bears defense were by far the least during their two-year run under their current head coach. McVay never really adjusted to the cover-three scheme that included their top corner staying in man, even though the principles were very simple and plays were there to be drawn up. I could see Belichick and Brian Flowers counter in a very similar way on base downs. Moreover, they have put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks with the coverages demanding perfect throws, they also gotten after those guys. While the Patriots don’t have any elite pass rushers, even though I’ve said these last two years that Trey Flowers doesn’t nearly get the credit he deserves, what they do is they collapse the pocket from all angles and move quarterbacks off the spots. A lot of times defenses flush quarterbacks one way or force him to step up and create some space to get the throw off, but when guys stay disciplined in their rush lanes and they get interior pressure the only thing left is to back up and when they retreat, their throws become very inaccurate. New England disguise their blitzes at the linebacker level better than pretty much any team in the NFL. They move their backers up to the line and drop them out before rushing at a different angle, they bring them on green-dog blitzes and all kinds of stuff. While Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts do have responsibilities in coverage, they want to rush their linebackers for the most part, especially Dont’a Hightower, who basically turns into an edge rusher on a whole lot of their passing down.

The difference between that game last year and this team right now is that as creative as McVay was as a play-caller in 2017, he has become much better at going away from his bread and butter. I don’t really put a whole lot of blame on the coach when they layed an egg in Chicago, because that was more on Goff’s unwillingness to go underneath with the ball and throwing four interception on forced passes. Whenever a defense runs single-high coverages against them, there is space to be used on inside-breaking routes in-between the middle safety and the linebackers, especially when the linebackers get sucked up by play-action, and by running slot receivers down the seams that leaves the wideout with a ton of space on deep comeback and curl routes. McVay is not a rookie himself anymore. He is a gifted tactician and I think he has gotten better at going off his initial plan and making in-game adjustments, unlike Andy Reid or Ken Whisenhunt, who saw their offense get suffocated in the first halfs respectively. I have talked at length about the Rams zone run game and bootleg play-action off it, but the final element to it are the throwback screens to the backs. New England gave up a 30+ yard touchdown on one of those to Kansas City off a zone-split type look, where Mahomes drew the attention of the entire defense his way. That is just one of the many layers to his balanced Rams attack.

 

The Patriots have become a man-centric defensive team that trusts their secondary to shut down the opposing passing attack and uses their front to shrink the pocket for the quarterback. What makes them special compared to a lot of other teams that just want to leave their guys on islands is what they do with their extra defensive backs. New England does throw in some true cover-zero in spots to keep quarterbacks off balance, but for the most part they run different types of cover-one. They use that single-high safety to shade towards the biggest vertical threat of the opposing team and then they often have another DB in some robber or underneath role to take away staples of that coach’s passing game, meaning dropping him into areas they know that team wants to attack. Not only does that put pressure on the quarterback to go a different way because the go-to target is taken away, with the deep help over a guy like Tyreek Hill last week for example, you can not even take a shot to the one guy you think can win purely based on speed. Stephon Gilmore might be the best true man-corner in the league and he has been dominating most of his matchups, whether that is against number two receivers, to allow themselves to roll the coverage towards the primary guy, or – at a much higher rate than usually – also taking away the opponents top guy. Versus the Chiefs he was matched up with Sammy Watkins and did an excellent job outside of one deep shot that came off Patrick Mahomes buying time and the receiver turning his route upfield. J.C. Jackson has had an excellent season himself as a rookie, but had a rough week last Sunday night. However the Patriots asked him to cover Kelce one-on-one in some spots, leading to a touchdown surrendered and a pass interference call in the end-zone. Take that away (because the Rams offense doesn’t feature the best pass-catching tight-end) and add a veteran in Jason McCourty plus to a lesser degree Jonathan Jones and you have three guys you can match up with the opposing guys.

New England is not afraid to leave their safeties one-on-one with slot receivers in man-coverage, even if they motion across the field and keep on running after the snap, which might create opportunities for those guys to either simply outrun their defender to the edge or draw up screen passes to them by nailing that DB on the move. In addition to that, the Rams use a lot of receiver stacks or bunches and different concepts out of those, such as a fade to open up space and a whip route to punish switches simply due to the leverage of the inside defender or to take advantage of the space underneath. Something I mentioned a couple of weeks ago when I went back to watch the Steelers film on the Pats was how they did something similar of a rub-concept look. New England’s defensive backs are incredibly triggered by certain keys and in that game Pittsburgh used JuJu Smith-Schuster on one of those return (or whip) routes, which made it borderline impossible for the defender to stay with him since he is shooting for that open receiver if they did try to run the initial defender off. That tendency won’t change, especially after Belichick just threw his tablet to the ground when he re-watched a pick-play open up Sammy Watkins for a big gain last week. Another thing the Rams can if the Patriots kept their free safety in the middle of the field by having Brandin Cooks in a tighter split is to run him on a simple fade route from that type of look, which gives the speedster more space to operate when you let the second receiver come behind him towards the middle of the field. I would like them to attack the Patriots that way instead of their typical spacing concepts from bunch sets, as the rhythm might be thrown off by the aggressiveness of the Patriots DBs at the line.


 

Conclusion and Prediction:

 

I really can’t wait for this game and in particular that matchup of Kid Genius Sean McVay and the long-time mastermind in Bill Belichick. It will be a chess-match of teams trying to keep each other off balance and possibly steal a possession. Therefore once again special teams could make the difference here. There is no more lethal weapon at punter than the Rams’ Johnny Hekker, who even BB has marveled at, because he can pin opponents back inside the five as well as throw a curl route with perfect timing and placement. The Patriots on the other hand continuously have some of the best coverage units, one of the most consistent return-men in Julian Edelman and an excellent duo of kicking specialists.

 

Patriots New England Patriots 27 : 23 Los Angeles Rams Rams

 

Taking all these things into account, I had to go with the experience of a quarterback and coach that have been to the big game on nine different occasions. I know the Rams have a couple of veterans with Super Bowl experience who should make a big impact, such as Aquib Talib, Brandin Cooks and C.J. Anderson, the type of interior pass rush that can make Brady uncomfortable and they are one of the few teams without a big deficit in the coaching department, but from what I’ve seen from their rushing and third-down offense combined with the way they have held opposing teams from scoring in the first halves of these last two games, I can’t bet against them right now.

 



 

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