[NOTE: Remember, you’ve got until 5 PM Sunday to submit your SB LIII prop bets. Be sure to get yours in!]
Three years in a row. Take a moment to let that sink in.
This will be the third consecutive Super Bowl featuring the New England Patriots as representatives from the American Football Conference, and the team’s ninth since 2001. The Patriots have appeared in nine of the last 18 Super Bowls. That’s exactly half over an 18-year span. That is unprecedented, and superbly admirable in the realm of sport.
But none of that matters once the Patriots and Rams take the field Sunday night and either Stephen Gostkowski or Greg Zuerlein kicks off. At that point, all that will matter is the next 60 minutes (or more) of game clock, the total time in February where men compete in professional football.
The Patriots are still here, and so are we. Let’s enjoy this.
This particularly rapid Patter: Most speculation about New England’s offensive attack has revolved around their forged identity as a run-first offense, particularly as Los Angeles’ run defense was ranked 32nd over the course of the 2018 season. In this idea, Sony Michel (and Rex Burkhead for spells) would control the tempo of the game, while Tom Brady and His Band of Pass-Catchers break the strings on the ground with well-timed precise passes. This may seem like a simple idea in one sentence (as are most ideas presented in one sentence), but it leaves out creative wrinkles that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels may choose to insert into the game plan, most notably those involving Cordarrelle Patterson. The former first-round wideout with top-tier speed has been used primarily as a wrinkle, especially on jet sweeps, but Patterson has also played significant snaps at running back in 2018; over Weeks 8 and 9, Patterson took the most touches and gained the most yards on the ground of any Patriot. Couple that with his breakaway speed that must be accounted for, and New England sports a player who, while in a limited role, can attack any area of an opposing defense at any spot on the field.
Coming in for Elandon:Β The Rams’ offense features game-changing weapons in both the passing and running game. Through the air, Jared Goff can heave passes to speedy Brandin Cooks and reliable Robert Woods, while on the ground, Los Angeles has had tremendous success placing the ball in the hands of both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson. A significant amount of attention has been placed on the possible matchups with New England’s secondary, but less focus has been drawn to the Rams’ running backs, unless discussing the defensive line. In all this, discussion has omitted the Patriots’ linebackers, one of whom is important to mention when considering how to stop an opponent’s run game. Despite his snap count decreasing from 53% in 2017 to 41% this season, Elandon Roberts has remained a strong run-stopping linebacker and has grown into a strong fit in that role on the roster. If the Patriots choose to aim to win by forcing Goff to make mistakes, they will have to stifle Gurley and Anderson, a task a player like Roberts itches to perform.
Crown Jules: I know that Julian Edelman is the Patriots’ #1 wide receiver, a Foxboro phenomenon, and a certain red-jacket recipient years from now, and there is ordinarily no way I would consider him as unspotlit enough for the Y Factors. But with him in focus as Brady’s top target, every other area of his play has been glossed over or ignored. Need someone to handle an end-around when the Rams are busy trying to stop the end-around to Patterson? Give it to #11. Need a guy to return a punt off the weaponized right leg of Johnny Hekker? That Edelman guy can still do it. Nine-plus years since his seventh-round selection as an athletic college quarterback whom Belichick initially wasn’t sure where to place on the field, Edelman has become a star in the National Football League, a key target in clutch moments. But it will be those moments when Edelman is on the field but isn’t expected to change the game that I look for him to do just that.
And so here we are: the last game of the year and the final Prediction for the season. The Super Bowl is upon us and the Warriors of Gillette have made a valiant effort to reach the NFL’s Promised Land. Our beloved Patriots have a chance to win their 6th Super Bowl and tie Pittsburgh for the most Lombardi Trophies by a franchise… or, they can lose their 6th Super Bowl and… well…
It has been a wild ride of a season for New England. The regular season had a mixture of fantastic wins and head-scratching losses. But from mid-December on, things started to click. They finished the season strong and played well in the Divisional Round followed by an instant classic against KC in the AFCCG.
Now they face the Rams of LA. And like the AFCCG, we have a matchup of the young rising QB versus the legend that is Tom Brady. We also have a matchup of the young rising coach against the coach of all coaches: Bill Belichick. Both teams have offenses that are clicking. Both teams have defenses with liabilities. And the same questions can be asked of both teams: which one will show up on the big stage, Jekyll or Hyde? Who will blink first? Who has the stronger desire, the stronger will, and the stronger team for this day? Can the Pats control the formidable LA defensive front line? Can they eliminate a top Rams weapon or two? Can they take advantage of LA’s low-ranked rushing defense? Will Goff be enticed into mistakes? Will the Gronk of old appear for maybe one last time? And as with any Super Bowl, who will be the unexpected hero?
Looking at Super Bowls from the past, we don’t know what type of game we’ll get. Historically, except for their first Super Bowl in the 80s versus Da Bearsss, the Pats play close, nail-biting, heart-stopping games, win or lose. The pundits and prognosticators predict yet another close game. We all would like the Pats to win in a blowout, as Nate and others here have predicted, but I think a Super Bowl blowout for them is an eight- to ten-point win.
And so, will LA become a team of destiny for this year? Or will the Patriots continue their dynasty of the 2000s? Starting at 6:30 pm ET on Sunday, we will find out.
THE PREDICTION: 5 cases, because BSJ wouldn’t have it any other way.