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It’s time for the biggest game on the planet – The Super Bowl. Super Bowl LIII will kick on Sunday, February 3 as the AFC Champion New England Patriots, making their third straight appearance in the Super Bowl, will take on the Los Angeles Rams, who are appearing in the championship game for the first time since 2002 when they lost to the Patriots.

This contest is an ironic one, to say the least. The 2002 matchup was the coming out party for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was in his first year as the starting quarterback for New England. He helped to defeat a heavily favored, veteran-laden Rams team, but this year the shoe is on the other foot. It is the Patriots with the veteran group that has a lot of playoff experience, while Los Angeles is the young bucks who many question if the stage is too big for them.

NFL: Sunday, February 3, 2019, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

Patriots Return to Super Bowl for Record Third Straight Year

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There are very few records that the New England Patriots franchise does not hold already – most Super Bowl victories, most Super Bowl appearances, most consecutive division titles, most trips to the conference championship, just to name a few. The team added one more this year, reaching the Super Bowl for the third consecutive year after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime, 37-31.

Coming off an 11-5 regular season, New England enjoyed a first-round bye before defeating the Los Angeles Chargers, 41-28. That sent them to a record eighth straight appearance in the conference title game, where they faced the Kansas City Chiefs. New England led this contest 17-7 heading into the fourth quarter, but a frantic final frame would see 38 points scored, with Kansas City twice coming from behind in the final minutes of the game to tie the score, forcing overtime. In overtime, Kansas City would never see the ball, as Tom Brady led a 13 play drive that resulted in a touchdown to send the Patriots onto the Super Bowl.

New England showed a lot of moxie in the playoffs, defeating the top two teams in the AFC as both Kansas City and Los Angeles were 12-4.

Tom Brady will be the focus of much of the talk surrounding the Super Bowl, but the New England Patriots would not be where they are at had it not been for the performance of rookie running back Sony Michel. Michel has rushed for 242 yards and five touchdowns in the playoffs. He is averaging 4.6 yards per carry and has an average of nearly 27 attempts per playoff game. Rex Burkhead adds three rushing touchdowns in the postseason.

Brady continues to impress even after the age of 40. He has completed 64 of 90 passes in the playoff run  for 691 yards and two touchdowns. James White has been his favorite target so far, making 19 catches for 146 yards, and Julian Edelman has 16 receptions for 247 yards.

With the exception of that fourth quarter performance by Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the New England defense has been solid. They have only allowed 625 total yards during the playoffs, including just 60 on the ground. Kyle Van Noy leads the team in tackles with 14 and is tied for the team lead in sacks with 2.0. Trey Flowers also has 2.0.

Controversial Call Helps Rams End Super Bowl Drought

It took a controversy old no call and a 57 yard field goal to help the Los Angeles Rams end their 17 years Super Bowl drought, as they would down the New Orleans saints in overtime, 26-23. The hopes for Los Angeles looked all but dashed when it appeared that Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman had all but assaulted Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. However, none of the officials sought that way, forcing New England to settle for a field goal with about 1:45 left in the contest.

That allowed Rams quarterback Jared Goff to move his team into Saints territory where Greg Zuerlein would kick a 48-yard field goal to tie the score. That sent the contest into overtime, where John Johnson III would intercept a tipped pass by Drew Brees. Zuerlein then nailed a 57-yard field goal to give Los Angeles the victory, sending them onto the Super Bowl.

It was the culmination of a fantastic season for the Los Angeles Rams, who finished tied for the top record in the NFC at 12-4. After having a first round bye, the Rams would defeat the Dallas Cowboys 30-22, before then dispatching the Saints in overtime.

With star running back Todd Gurley limited, it has been veteran C.J. Anderson who has starred in the ground game for Los Angeles. Anderson has 167 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 39 carries. Gurley has been limited to 20 carries in the postseason, but has gained 125 yards, a 6.3 yards per carry average, and two touchdowns.

Goff has been solid but not spectacular during the postseason. The Los Angeles quarterback has completed 40 of his 68 passes, a 58.8% completion percentage, for 483 yards and one touchdown. The numbers are mediocre in comparison to his 64.9% completion percentage during the regular season and his 32 touchdown passes in 16 games.

Not enough can be said of the Rams defense in the postseason, who has allowed 598 total yards of offense, including only 98 on the ground. Cory Littleton leads the team in tackles with 19 and Johnson has only one of two turnovers the Los Angeles defense has generated this postseason, but maybe the biggest in franchise history.

Trends:

New England:

  • 39-17 ATS in their last 56 games.
  • 2-5 ATS in their last seven Super Bowl appearances.
  • 9-3 ATS in their last 12 playoff games.

Los Angeles:

  • 4-0 ATS in their last four games.
  • 4-1-1 ATS  in their last six games following a victory.

The Winner Prediction

The Patriots opened as 1.5 point favorites but that has jumped 2.5 points within just a few days period of time. The Patriots seem to have everything going their way – superstar quarterback, veteran team, probably the best coach in NFL history. They would clearly seem to be the team to beat in this contest, especially considering they have vast experience in comparison to the Los Angeles Rams.

However, everything seemed to be going their way last season when they took on the Philadelphia Eagles. They were the defending Super Bowl champions at that point and were facing a second year quarterback. Yet, the New England defense was no match for the Eagles offense and that turned the tide in the game.

This is going to be another offensive showcase, as both teams can run the ball and have playmakers in every position. It’s going to be turnovers that are going to be the difference in this contest, and that is why we pick Los Angeles. Not that Goff is in any way better than Brady, but it is likely that they are going to be more restrictive in what they allow the young man to do. Look for a costly turnover for Brady near the end of the game that gives Los Angeles the victory. It’s time for the Rams to turn the tide on New England and get even for 2002.

The Pick: Los Angeles Rams +2.5 (-110)

The Total

Defense is what wins championships, but the offenses of these two teams have been the difference maker in every contest in the playoffs. New England is having no problem moving the ball, while Los Angeles has looked sharp against two of the better defenses in the NFL in New Orleans and Dallas.

Combined, these two teams averaged 51 points per game during the regular season and have actually been better in the playoffs, combining for 57 points per game. New England has gone over in seven of their last eight playoff games while Los Angeles has gone over in five of their last seven on grass. We see Los Angeles winning this game 35-31, so take the over.

The Pick: over 57.0 (-110)

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