Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Super Bowl Sunday is officially here as the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams face off to decide the winner of the Lombardi Trophy.
Both teams enter Sunday with a bit of controversy. Fans questioned overtime rules after the Patriots dink and dunked their way to a touchdown prohibiting the Chiefs offense from possessing the ball. By now everyone, whether a football or futbol fan, has seen the blown pass interference call in the Saints and Rams game.
Four referees with Los Angeles ties, video evidence proving the refs botched the play and silence from the NFL deserves every bit of criticism. Even the defender, Nickell Robey Coleman admitted to the penalty.
The debacle led to current and former players calling for the NFL to enact Rule 17 Section two Article three. Saints' wideout Michael Thomas brought light to the rule, which gives the commissioner power to reverse a game’s result or reschedule a game completely or from the time of an “extraordinary act” that occurred in a game.
The NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell elected to stand by the referees and continue the season as scheduled.
All seems to be settled now with some Saints' fans still clenching their fists, but the volcanic anger has cooled enough to enjoy Super Bowl 53.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS VS. LOS ANGELES RAMS
Stars versus schemes should be the tagline for Super Bowl 53. The star-studded Rams team compiled of big names and contracts like Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald take on the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady led Patriots.
The stories of both teams differ as the Rams are young and fast and New England old and experienced. Los Angeles dominated the NFC finishing as the number two seed, and New England's age nearly caused the team to falter late in the regular season.
After short stints of struggle, the Rams and Patriots have been firing on all cylinders. New England is averaging 39 points per game in the postseason, up 12 points from the regular season, and 511 yards. The Patriots own the playoffs top offense. The key to their success has been the running game.
Led by rookie Sony Michel, the Patriots have run the ball 82 times and, most of any postseason team. New England has also scored eight touchdowns and has the most efficient rushing attack with 25 first downs.
When it comes to passing the ball, no one does it better than Tom Brady. The arm strength may be diminishing, but the ability to pick apart offenses still tops the league.
Brady is averaging 345.5 and a touchdown this postseason. The yards is what sets him apart as he throws daggers to the outside for barely 20 yards but does enough works to let New England's trio of running backs to finish the job. Brady's job is not to score but to smartly drive the Patriots down the field, cut time off the clock and hand it off to Michel at the goal line. A simple yet effective game plan that New England has mastered.
If the Rams want any chance of winning, Los Angeles has to take to away New England's rush attack. During the postseason, All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald and the Rams have stuffed the opposition and held them to 49 yards per game. Only the Patriots and Bears have done better. The difference is, the Rams have played two top tier rushing offenses while New England has played none.
Los Angeles dominated Ezekiel Elliot and Alvin Kamara by holding the two to 75 yards and under three yards per carry. The formula is set in place for the Rams to take away New England's driving force, but the Patriots can do the same.
Rams' running backs Todd Gurley and CJ Anderson have been unstoppable-more so the latter. Gurley has not been himself since his return from injury and was even benched against the Saints in the NFC Championships.
Where Gurley has lacked, Anderson has picked up the slack. Since joining Los Angeles in Decembers, Anderson has totaled 466 yards including four touchdowns.
While Gurley has not maintained the success of his early season run, the All-Pro has reached in the endzone three straight games. If Gurley plays how he did against the Cowboys in the Divisional Round, where he totaled 115 yards, Los Angeles' two-headed monster will power them to a Super Bowl victory.
Despite Los Angeles success on the ground, New England has the postseason' best rushing defense. The Patriots held the Chargers and Chiefs to an average of 30 yards per game. To some, the Chiefs are a more pass-heavy offense, but the stat sheet proves Kansas City ran the ball an average of 22 times over their final four games. In the three games before playing New England, Kansas City averaged 144 rushing yards. New England held them to exactly 30.
Los Angeles and New Englands' front sevens and rushing attacks have been both impenetrable and unstoppable. That leaves the passing game and coaching matchup up in the air.
During the regular season, the Jared Goff and Rams ranked second in total offense and fifth in passing. The same stands for the postseason. Los Angeles averaged 418 yards through the air, but Goff has totaled just one touchdown. Goff's stat line is strangely similar to his counterpart on Sunday.
Tom Brady, at the ripe age of 41, has put up MVP style numbers in the playoffs. Yes, like Goff, he has thrown for just one touchdown, but Brady has what Goff has not shown-poise. Brady is to the Super Bowl as peanut butter is to jelly. The two go hand in hand.
Looking at Goff and Brady's postseason stats, obviously one sticks out. Brady is the greatest of all time but take away the Super Bowl and total record. Brady has the superior completion percentage (63%), averages more yards (279) and higher quarterback rating (90.9). The sample size is larger for Brady, but over the last two years, Brady has still outplayed Goff in every way.
Goff has in fact been invisible. A completion percentage of just over 57 percent and a quarterback rating around 79, Goff is a different quarterback in the playoff-not for the better. A 2-0 record in the 2018 playoffs has masked Goff's struggles. If being honest, the Rams should not be here. Goff did not play well against Dallas nor did he shine against New Orleans.
New England's passing defense may not stand out on paper but remember the Patriots played future MVP Patrick Mahomes and former Pro Bowler Philip Rivers. The Rams, who rank below New England in passing defense, have played Dak Prescott and Drew Brees. It is worth noting Brees took a massive step back following the Saints week 13 loss to the Cowboys.
A game of evenly matched teams, both peaking at the right moments and riding high on some luck will make for a fun back and forth Super Bowl Sunday.
As the 2018 NFL season wraps up, the New England Patriots will once again raise the Lombardi Trophy in victory. The tandem of Brady and Belichick will out duel the younger versions of themselves in Goff and McVay.
The Rams possess the larger names and better talent but so did the Chargers and Chiefs, whom both fell at the feet of New England.
Offenses ranking in the top ten and defenses with the capability of taking away the oppositions best offensive weapons will have all eyes on them to complete an almost impossible task.
Stopping Julian Edelman, Pro Football Focus' number one rated receiver, and Rob Gronkowski could prove tough for Los Angeles. Let us not forget the NFL's best pass catcher and former Super Bowl MVP, James White out of the New England backfield.
Los Angeles counters with Robert Wood and former Patriot Brandin Cooks to form one of the best-receiving duos in all of football.
Defenses will have to be on their toes but this game comes down to the running game, and on the field, it belongs to New England. Mainly because of Todd Gurley's no show last week and Belichick's ability to scheme against any offense in the NFL.
History points in New England's favor, and Super Bowl 53 will be no different.
FINAL SCORE: Patriots 32, Rams 26
SUPER BOWL MVP: Sony Michel- 88 yards, 2 TD's, 6 receptions, 44 yards
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All stats included are credited to NFL.com and ESPN.com
*preview photo credited to CBS.com
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