The pass interference no-call that will live in infamy.
The epic AFC Championship game that came down to overtime.
All that drama led to this…the epic rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI between the AFC champion New England Patriots (the old faithful) and the NFC champion St. Louis Rams (the new hotness). While the Rams are coming in with the hot head coaching commodity (Sean McVay) and a defense that haunts everyone’s dreams, the Patriots come in with the most experience. No matter what, this game is going to define a legacy for both teams.
Prepare yourselves for an epic Super Bowl LIII.
ST. LOUIS RAMS
According to ESPN, the St. Louis Rams have a 52 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl. And it’s not hard to see why.
Against a New Orleans Saints team that was by far the best team in the NFC, the Rams’ defense kept their offense in check. Yes, the game might have gone into overtime, but a lot of that was due to the Saints not being able to create separation. Despite having one more drive, the Saints averaged a full yard less per play that the Rams (4.5 to the Rams’ 5.6).
The Rams’ dangerous front line defense, led by Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, also neutralized the Saints’ running game, holding them to 48 rushing yards on 21 attempts. The Rams’ pass defense wasn’t too shabby themselves, as they held Drew Brees to 249 passing yards and two touchdowns.
The offense, one of the best during the regular season, was in similar form. Jared Goff threw for 297 yards, of which Brandin Cooks was the primary recipient (seven receptions for 107 yards). A lot of the credit goes to the head coach, Sean McVay, who has gained a reputation as an offensive wunderkind at the young age of 33. It’s because of him that the Rams this season fielded the fifth-best offensive line in the last 10 years, which was crucial to keeping Goff upright and allowing running backs Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson to be as successful as they were this postseason.
For the Rams to succeed, however, they will have to figure out a way to out-scheme the master himself, Bill Belichick. From a match-up perspective, the Rams might have the upper hand, as their defensive front line is nothing like the paltry Chiefs, who couldn’t even get Tom Brady’s jersey dirty in the AFC championship game.
If the Rams can out-scheme the Patriots, this will definitely define the beginning of McVay’s legacy as a coach.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Yes, there are a lot of people out there who are hoping the Los Angeles Rams win on Sunday. But if there is anything we have learned as sports enthusiasts, it’s this: Never bet against the G.O.A.T.
The New England Patriots are in their league-record 11th Super Bowl, and their third straight (the first team to do this since the Buffalo Bills from 1990 to 1993). And for head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, this will be their ninth trip together, an unreal number that speaks for itself.
With that being said, this year should have been the year that the Patriots fell. They barely held onto the second seed in the AFC, Tom Brady wasn’t the same dominant force we are used to seeing, and while the Patriots won their division for the 10th straight year there were definitely chinks in their once invincible armor. Yet, just when the public was ready to write them off, the Patriots did what they do best: seek and destroy.
In the AFC divisional round, the Patriots made the Los Angeles Chargers look like a junior varsity squad, leading at halftime 35-7 before eventually winning 41-28. Brady had 343 passing yards, and the defense forced the Chargers into two turnovers. Then in the championship game, they literally owned the Kansas City Chiefs. They had double the first downs (36 to 18), almost double the yards (524 to 290), and it took a miracle fourth quarter run from the Chiefs to bring the game to overtime.
Yes, the Rams’ defense is scary good. But the Patriots offense is better. Keep this in mind: it wasn’t the Eagles’ defense that won the Super Bowl last year, it was their ability to throw different offensive schemes at the Patriots’ defense and keep them on their toes. So even if the Rams throw their best defense at Tom Brady, it might not be enough.
The Patriots are already among the best teams of all-time. If they win this year, Belichick and Brady will go down as the best duo of all-time. Period.
This game is going to come down to the final seconds; it’s almost as guaranteed as death and taxes.
Every Patriots Super Bowl in the 21st century has been decided by eight points or less, and this one promises to be no different. With that being said, the biggest match-up isn’t Tom Brady vs. Jared Goff, or even the Rams ‘defense vs. the Patriots’ offense…it’s Bill Belichick vs. Sean McVay. And truthfully, while McVay may be the new-school genius…I’m not betting against the old-school Belichick and experience.
PREDICTION: New England by 6.
Before joining The Ball Out, Chris Bullock was part of SB Nation’s Swish Appeal for nearly three years, covering everything women’s basketball. Chris has had the honor of doing live coverage of the WNBA Finals, the NCAA Tournament, and also was given his own column, “The Triple Double”. A self-described “foodaholic”, Chris lives in the San Diego area with his wife and two daughters, and also hosts his own podcast, “Conscious Cravings”, where he speaks about his experience as a mental health advocate.