In two dramatic conference championship games, the stage has been set for Super Bowl LIII. The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams will be facing off on Sunday for the second time in 17 years where in the first meeting the Patriots dynasty was born at the Superdome in New Orleans under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick against the “Greatest Show On Turf” then St. Louis Rams led by Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk. Both of these teams won on the road just two weeks ago in overtime which left fans on the edge of their seats until the end.
There are several key points to every game. In the playoffs those keys become more and more important to meet. Now we’re at the end, where both teams have to pull out all the stops in order to be successful in winning the ultimate goal, the Lombardi trophy. The New England Patriots have had a crazy season. Finishing 11-5 and then just edging out the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship in Arrowhead. Where the Rams finished 13-3 and won against the Saints on the road off of a controversial no-call that would be debated worldwide. In the end NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell shut the idea of replaying the NFC Championship down and effectively made the debate senseless to be argued.
Let’s start with the New England Patriots, the five time Super Bowl champions have had two consistencies in their electric dynasty. QB Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, 17 years ago they won their first Super Bowl against the Rams, but a good amount has changed. Tom Brady is now a veteran at 41 years old and has made four out of the last Super Bowls winning two and soon to play number five. They won against the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31 in a game that kept all fans energetic and excited until that final drive in overtime where Tom Brady did his magic and led the offense down the field setting up HB Rex Burkhead for the game winning touchdown. It’s hard to see any game to match to that excitement, but the Super Bowl sure does have the potential to do so.
A clear objective for the New England Patriots this game is get the running game going and fast. Especially with rookie Sony Michel as they are undefeated (6-0) when he eclipses 100 yards. In his preformance in Kansas City, Michel rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. So obviously having their first round RB involved is extremely important, but they can’t get predictable playing Wade Phillips. Enter James White and Rex Burkhead, who combined put together 611 yards and five touchdowns this season. Burkhead especially came alive in the AFC Championship where he rushed for 41 yards and two touchdowns including the game winner. Where James White really specializes in the recieving game with the check-downs and dump-offs catching 87 passes for 751 yards and seven scores over the course of this past year. Getting the HBs involved will be key to the Patriots success and not forcing Brady to throw nearly 50 times like last season.
In the passing game the gameplan is fairly simple, get the ball to Julian Edelman. The 32 year-old WR had an epic outing two weeks ago where he caught seven passes for 76 yards, three of those on 3rd and long plays that seemed almost impossible to convert. Unfortunately for the Patriots it seems like he’s always good for one or two drops per game including a caused interception just after giving the entire region of New England a heart attack when he almost touched a punt that would have given the Chiefs the ball right back. Edelman has been extremely consistent all season long being a top option for Tom Brady when all else fails. That doesn’t mean to count out the others though. TE Rob Gronkowski may have had an off year, but the AFC Championship was kind to plenty of players, Gronkowski included. He finished with six receptions for 79 yards including a pair of key third down conversions late in the game. Hopefully for New England this will set up for one final “vintage Gronk” performance that the Patriots haven’t had this season. Names like Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett shouldn’t be ignored and Cordarrelle Patterson is always a good secret weapon who can be used in just about all factors in the game.
Defensively this Patriots unit is extremely underrated. The secondary has really benefited from the rise of CB J.C. Jackson and CB Stephon Gilmore playing up to the potential that the New England Patriots had hoped he would rise to when signing him to that major contract. The biggest concern for them is the rushing defense. Although holding strong in the post-season allowing less than 100 yards combined in both games, they haven’t met a RB pair as deadly as Todd Gurley and known Patriots foe CJ Anderson. They will need a big game from their linebacker core and run stuffing defense, as well as putting pressure on Jared Goff like they did to likely MVP Patrick Mahomes.
As for their opponents, the Los Angeles Rams have been an absolute juggernaut all season long. Blowing past most who would dare to stand in their way. They finished the season 13-3 as the second seed, a loss to the Saints week nine would cost them home-field advantage. In the long run it didn’t affect their course at all as they still managed to clinch their first round bye. They proceeded to beat out the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round, then finishing their Super Bowl run by composing a comeback in the NFC Championship to win against the Saints in overtime. This team has all the potential in the world to remake the “Greatest Show On Turf” of the late 1990s and early 2000s. How should they go about attacking the New England Patriots, who have proven to come out on top more often than not in these high stakes games?
Offensively they have all the pieces they need to keep this Patriots defense on their toes. WRs Robert Woods and former Patriot Brandin Cooks can do all things required to give QB Jared Goff the time he needs to compose a touchdown drive. In the NFC Championship Cooks was the main weapon of choice amassing 107 yards on seven catches. Though Woods and even Josh Reynolds could become a weapon at any given point in the game and can not be slept on. It is a huge loss that they aren’t playing with Cooper Kupp, who was lighting up the stat sheet with 40 catches 566 yards and eight touchdowns before tearing his ACL eight games into the season. They still have no shortage of recievers and expect all of them to be in heavy use on Sunday.
Say that the passing game gets stifled, they will need to have their rushing game on point if they need a kick-starter. Todd Gurley is one of the best RBs in the league when healthy and has put up multiple MVP caliber seasons in his young career, but he’s been banged up this season. He has amassed 1251 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in the games he’s played aswell as being a viable option in the passing game with 59 catches and 580 yards with four scores through the air. In the post-season though, he hasn’t been relied on as much. With the resurgence of CJ Anderson, Gurley has been splitting carries with the former Bronco. In the playoffs, Anderson has piled up 167 yards for two scores on 39 carries. While Todd Gurley has only come up with 125 yards with two scores on just 20 carries. The health concern may be a factor, but regardless if this Rams team wants to keep up they’ll need to attack the Patriots weaknesses and the run game has been a considerable weakness in the regular season. No matter who the starting RB is they’ll need to set the tone early and often.
Defensively the plan of attack is simple, put pressure on Tom Brady. It will be difficult as the Patriots interior offensive line has only allowed three sacks all season long, two coming in week one against the Texans. They have been really good about protecting their QB this season compared to years past. They haven’t faced a pass rush unit quite as deadly as the Rams though. Aaron Donald is likely headed for another defensive player of the year award and the addition of DT Ndamukong Suh has only bolstered this defensive line. This game will be won on the back of this pass rush unit. It’s been proven in the three Super Bowl’s the New England Patriots have lost under Brady, that in order to beat them you have to bring pressure. The Rams have been capable of doing such all season long posting 41 total sacks, half of them coming from Aaron Donald.
The pass defense will have their abilities tested greatly as well. This Patriots unit has been one of the best, if not the best, throughout this entire post-season through the likes of Julian Edelman and James White. They will need to be on their toes all game long if they want to put a stop to the air attack that they’re capable of. Tom Brady has been known to get the ball out just as quick as anybody in the league, before the pressure even gets there. The secondary will really need to lock up to allow the likes of Donald and Suh to get there. If they are to key in on somebody though, it’s Edelman. He is such a crucial piece to the Patriots offense, without him, they likely don’t even make the Super Bowl. His ability to convert the tough third and long catches and tough receptions in traffic is what’s made him so highly respected across the league. The Rams definitely have the players to keep them in check. The likes of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters have shown just what they’re capable of all season proving their worth.
This game has the potential to be one of the most interesting Super Bowl’s of recent memory, even if the Patriots have been too much of a repeated offender in some eyes of the NFL fans. Regardless this will still reel in the attention of most. The main topic of discussion here is “The Experienced VS The Youthful”, where Brady and Belichick are playing in their ninth Super Bowl together and for most of this Los Angeles Rams team, it’s their very first time to the championship. Head coach Sean McVay has done an absolutely spectacular job with this team and bringing Goff and the likes of others to their true potential. This should pan out to be a championship for the ages.
As all of these championship games go, there can only be one winner. Both of these teams could easily take the Lombardi trophy home and schedule a parade celebrating all that they’ve accomplished. So who’s the most likely to become Super Bowl LIII Champions? At this point, it’s extremely difficult to pick against the New England Patriots. They’ve been in this position four out of the last five years, making this their third trip in a row! It’s hard to bet against this team and they are just too experienced in this department where the Rams are still extremely young. I see the Patriots taking this one 30-27 with the ageless wonder QB Tom Brady taking home another Super Bowl ring adding to his extremely long resume of career accomplishments.
Photo Source : CBS.com
For Advertising and Sponsorship opportunities with The Game Changer Sports Network, please contact Jake.Jollymore@gmail.com
Looking for more sports coverage? Watch “Live From The Hammock” with Miles Hill on Facebook!