Posted on January 29, 2019, by Travis Pulver
At this point in the NFL season, most fans are just hoping for two things—that anyone other than the New England Patriots wins and for it to be a good game. Some would even be happy if just one of the two came true.
As the kick-off for Super Bowl LIII draws closer, it is safe to say that one of those things (and maybe both) will come true.
After proving that they were far from dead in their divisional win over the Chargers and AFC Championship win over the Chiefs, the New England Patriots are in a familiar position. They are the favored team heading into Super Bowl LIII—and it is not hard to understand why.
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Because their defense dominated a very good Chargers offense in the divisional round. Tom Brady practically scored at will in the first half against an excellent Chargers defense before letting his foot off the gas in the second half.
But the bigger test came in the AFC Championship. They had to figure out how to neutralize the most prolific offense in the NFL this season—and they did. They kept Patrick Mahomes off the field.
So, while the regular season wasn’t as pretty, the same old Patriots are back in the Super Bowl because they know how to beat whoever they play. However, to beat the Rams, they are going to be put to the test again. But the solution is not hard to figure out.
To beat the Rams, they have to figure out how to beat themselves.
The Rams are going to play a very similar game to the Patriots—establish the run, move the chains, throw when you need to, and keep the other team’s offense off the field.
The Rams will try to establish a running game with Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson. But New England did a good job stopping the run against the Chargers and Chiefs. However, that was in part because both teams had to abandon the run and play catch up.
But Tom Brady has an ace in the hole, James White. If the run game stalls, Brady will get it to open up a bit by passing out to White in the flats for gains of 6-8 yards a pop. Every so often he’ll mix in a downfield throw to Julian Edelman or Rob Gronkowski for a chunk of yards to keep the Rams defense honest.
However, Los Angeles is not going to abandon the run as quickly. But they will make it hard for the Patriots to get their own run game on track. Sony Michel has been running well. But the Rams front has allowed less than 100 total yards on the ground the last two weeks—and they were facing some of the best in the business (Ezekiel Elliot, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram!
The Rams pass defense is okay on its best days, so that just might work. But if Jared Goff can get his downfield passing game on track early enough, the Rams could put the Patriots in a hole. If they can, then they may be able to dictate what the Patriots do on offense.
This should be one of the best Super Bowls in recent history. Both teams have good but not great defenses that will be tasked with stopping a great offense. So, the team that wins is going to be the one that can make the clutch play down the stretch and capitalize on any mistakes the other team makes.
No one knows how to do that better than Tom Brady—especially on the Super Bowl stage. The Patriots are favored by 2.5 but look for them to win by three. As for the over/under, while defense is going to be the key to this game, these guys will cover the over.