by Andrew Pasquini – Sports 1140 KHTK
Super Bowl LIII falls on the 17th anniversary of Super Bowl XXXVI when the then-St.Louis Rams took on the New England Patriots. In 2002, it was the proven Rams, who had won a Super Bowl title a couple years prior, taking on the Patriots, who had no championships and second-year quarterback Tom Brady.
Fast forward to Super Bowl LIII and it’s now the proven Patriots, who are looking for the sixth Super Bowl title since 2002 against the now-Los Angeles Rams, who are in their fourth playoff appearance since 2002 and are led by third-year quarterback Jared Goff.
Super Bowl LIII: The Los Angeles Rams vs the New England Patiots (-2.5)
Radio: Sports 1140 KHTK (coverage starts at 11am)
Julian Edelman vs Nickell Robey-Coleman
With a secondary that features Aqib Talib, Lamarcus Joyner, and Marcus Peters, Robey-Coleman will be the player to watch for the Rams. Robey-Coleman has been a relative unknown in the Rams secondary up until the NFC Championship Game when he wasn’t called for the now infamous pass-interference that helped lead the Rams to a victory over the Saints.
The sixth-year cornerback out of USC only has one interception and four pass breakups on the season but he is expected to be covering Edelman majority of the game. Robey-Coleman played 358 snaps covering the slot receiver this season and Edelman has ran almost 67 percent of plays out of the slot.
Edelman is one of Tom Brady’s favorite receivers, targeting Edelman 108 times over the course of the regular season and a team-leading 23 in the postseason. Brady has the ability to zone in on one cornerback and pick him apart and if Robey-Coleman is having issues with Edelman, look for Edelman to have a big day.
Josh Reynolds vs the Patriots secondary
So far in the postseason, the Patriots have done an excellent job taking big-time targets out of the game. Against the Los Angeles Chargers in the divisional round, New England held Keenan Allen to just two receptions for 75 yards on six targets after averaging six receptions on more than eight targets per game over the season.
New England did the same to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game holding Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill to a combined four receptions for 65 yards on eight targets after averaging a combined twelve receptions for about 176 yards on just under 18 targets per game. The Chiefs stayed in the game because of Sammy Watkins, who was the Chiefs third-leading receiver during the season. Watkins had four receptions for 118 yards in the Chiefs loss to New England.
Reynolds may have to play the Watkins role for the Rams on Sunday. Bill Belichick will have his defense do their best to take Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods out of the game the best he can but that could give Reynolds some opportunities to get open. Reynolds stepped in nicely after Cooper Kupp tore his ACL earlier in the season catching 29 passes for 402 yards and five touchdowns.
The Patriots offensive line vs the Rams defensive line
Of the Rams 41 team sacks this season, 25 of them are from Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. Of their 71 tackles for loss, 29 are from Donald and Suh. The Rams defense has had an average year but their front four, specifically Donald and Suh have the ability to control the game from the trenches.
Suh alone is peaking at the right time thanks to the attention Donald has gotten during the postseason. Suh recorded 1.5 sacks against the Saints in the NFC Championship Game while Donald hasn’t recorded a sack in the postseason yet. Suh is doing exactly what Los Angeles hoped he did when they signed him to a one-year, $14 million deal in the off-season and that’s disrupting plays when Donald is getting the attention at the line.
The Patriots offensive line has been a huge part to New England’s offensive success this season because of their ability to keep Brady clean. The offensive line has only allowed Brady to be sacked 21 times this season, which was the third-fewest times in the league. The line has been so consistent, Brady was only sacked more than twice in a game once this season and wasn’t sacked once in six games.
Games are typically won and lost in the trenches and Super Bowl LIII should be no different.
Sean McVay vs Bill Belichick
The chess match between head coaches might be the matchup to watch in Atlanta. McVay’s offensive mind going up against Belichick’s defensive scheming.
McVay’s offense has been fairly predictable in terms of personnel grouping, running the 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) on 90 percent of their plays this season. Defenses typically like to match that up with a nickel formation, which puts five defensive backs on the field. That leaves the defense prone to be smaller and leaves the box more open for running room with Gurley and Anderson. McVay also isn’t afraid to use the deep passing game off of play-action after the running game has been established and with receivers like Cooks and Woods, the deep pass is always a threat.
Belichick will be tasked with stopping the Rams offense, a task that he is no doubt ready for. Belichick is a defensive mind and while his defense may not be the most talented, there will be a gameplan in place to slow down the Rams high-powered offense. The key with New England’s defense today will be their secondary. Belichick may use a dime formation against Los Angeles, with safety Patrick Chung playing at a hybrid linebacker position and allow the Rams running game to shine but use the six defensive backs to control the Los Angeles passing and play-action attack.
To see how these head coaches counter each other will be an intriguing thing to watch for the entirety of the game. The Patriots have the advantage in the head coach category but don’t sleep on McVay and his offensive creativity.
If we’ve learned anything about the Patriots and the Super Bowl, it’s bound to be a close game. All eight of the Super Bowl appearances in the Belichick/Brady era have been decided by eight points or less. Super Bowl LIII will be no different.
Prediction: Rams 27, Patriots 21