Super Bowl 53, scheduled for Sunday, February 3rd, 2019 at 6:30pm EST, will mark the first time ever that the #2 seeds from each conference will meet, as the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams prepare to square off for the Lombardi Trophy at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
Depending where you looked, this game opened anywhere from LAR -1 to a pick. The spread has moved quite a bit due to heavy early action coming in on the Patriots.
Assuming the line doesn’t move much more, it’ll be just the fourth time since 1983 that the spread of the Super Bowl is less than 3.
The total opened at 58, which would have been an all-time high for the Super Bowl, surpassing Super Bowl 51’s 57.5 projected total. It has since come down, though.
New England Patriots Outlook
Super Bowl 53 is being labeled old vs young, with the Patriots playing the role of the former.
Led by their 66-year-old head coach, Bill Belichick, and 41-year-old quarterback, Tom Brady, New England will be making their third straight Super Bowl appearance, and ninth during the Belichick-Brady era.
Brady alone has more Super Bowl experience than the entire Rams’ roster.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 23, 2019
The Patriots are 5-5 in their ten total Super Bowl appearances, but 5-3 under Belichick-Brady.
In order to tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for most Super Bowl championships, there are a few things the Patriots will have to focus on:
- Continue applying pressure on the opposing quarterback
- Continue shutting down the opposing ground game
- Continue to have success running the ball
- Continue converting on third downs and eating up large chunks of clock each drive
Sure, accomplishing these four feats are a pretty good recipe to win most football games. What I want to draw attention to, though, is the common use of “continue”.
The Patriots were able to sack Patrick Mahomes four times in the AFC Championship and had him under pressure the entire first half.
Thanks to utilizing more blitzes and stunts, New England has generated pressure on 47.2% of their pass-rushing snaps this postseason, per PFF.
The Patriots really have turned up their stunt usage this postseason – with great success. pic.twitter.com/xkHWyafaHS
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 21, 2019
The extra pressure has been huge in helping out their secondary, who gave up the 11th-most passing yards per game in the regular season.
Meanwhile, they’ve only allowed 60 rushing yards on 22 carries in the playoffs.
Looking to the offense, the Pats possessed the fifth-ranked rushing attack in the 2018 regular season, averaging 127.3 yards per game on the ground.
But in their two playoff games, they have rushed for 155 and 176 yards, respectively.
Sony Michel’s day was capped with 76 yards after contact, 3 missed tackles forced and five additional first-down carries for the Patriots in their win over KC.pic.twitter.com/ao1iCMadvW
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 23, 2019
Sony Michel is responsible for 242 of their 331 total rushing yards in the playoffs, toting the rock 53 times in the last two weeks.
But perhaps the most impressive stat here is how frequently Brady and the offense are converting on third downs. They were an unbelievable 13-of-19 against the Chiefs on Sunday and 7-of-14 in the Divisional Round against the Chargers.
They’ve been moving the chains on third down at an incredible 60.6% rate. For comparison, the best mark in the regular season was 48.6% (the Colts), while the Pats were 13th in the league at 40.8%.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 22, 2019
But all of this is much easier said than done, especially having to deal with arguably the most talented roster in the league.
Patriots vs Rams Statistical Comparison
|27.2 (4)||PPG||32.9 (2)|
|393.4 (5)||YPG||421.1 (2)|
|127.3 (5)||Rushing YPG||139.4 (3)|
|266.1 (8)||Passing YPG||282 (5)|
|20.3 (7)||PPG allowed||24 (20)|
|359.1 (21)||YPG allowed||358.6 (19)|
|112.7 (11)||Rushing YPG allowed||122.3 (23)|
|246.4 (22)||Passing YPG allowed||236 (14)|
|+10 (5)||Turnover differential||+11 (4)|
*Stats are from the 2018 NFL regular season
Los Angeles Rams Outlook
Taking on the part of “young” in this year’s Super Bowl is the 13-3 Los Angeles Rams.
57 YARDS FOR A TRIP TO THE SUPER BOWL ?
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 20, 2019
Led by 33-year-old head coach Sean McVay and 24-year-old QB Jared Goff, the Rams are making their fourth Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, but first since 2002 (Super Bowl 36), when they were upset by the New England Patriots.
The Patriots Dynasty began with an epic victory over the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. 17 years later, Tom Brady will face them again in Super Bowl LIII on CBS. pic.twitter.com/pGnHhqmGE4
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) January 23, 2019
The Rams’ record in those three Super Bowl appearances is just 1-2, claiming their only Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl 34 over the Tennessee Titans.
The only players on the LA roster with any Super Bowl experience are: CJ Anderson (two with Denver), Aqib Talib (one with Denver), Brandin Cooks (one with New England), and Sam Shields (one with Green Bay).
Last year, McVay, the youngest NFL head coach of all-time, turned a 4-12 Rams team into 11-5 NFC West division-winners.
In 2002, Sean McVay was playing QB in high school when Tom Brady faced the Rams in the Super Bowl ?
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 21, 2019
LA’s 2017 season ended earlier than many expected, losing to the Falcons in the Divisional Round, but McVay’s response in 2018 has been pretty admirable.
In order to complete this magical season by hoisting the franchise’s second Lombardi Trophy, there are a few things Los Angeles will need to do:
- Protect Jared Goff
- Get Todd Gurley back into the game plan
- Stop the run
- Slow James White the pass-catcher down
Goff’s development under McVay has been truly remarkable. After being labeled a bust by many pundits after his rookie season in 2016 (under Jeff Fisher), the former first-overall pick has now made the Pro Bowl in both years under McVay’s tutelage.
— NFL (@NFL) January 21, 2019
But he’s still not handling pressure that well. Per PFF, his passer rating goes from 114.1 when throwing from a clean pocket, all the way down to 58.2 when under pressure.
Goff likes to hold onto the ball a little longer, too, allowing those deeper crossing routes to materialize. The third-year pro had the sixth-longest average time to throw (2.72 seconds) during the regular season.
Ensuring their young pivot has the time he needs in the pocket will be vital for the Rams success on Super Sunday.
Having his two-time All-Pro running back at full speed will also be key for Goff and the offense.
Maybe the worst game of his career. @TG3II in near tears postgame. Accepted accountability.
Man will be ready on Super Bowl Sunday. pic.twitter.com/jnKq35MaJ0
— Ry (@JustRyCole) January 21, 2019
Todd Gurley led the NFL in touchdowns this season and racked up 1,831 yards from scrimmage in just 14 games.
In his first game back from injury, the Divisional Round against the Cowboys, he played second fiddle to CJ Anderson, but still totaled 115 rushing yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
In the NFC Championship on Sunday, however, Gurley only managed 10 yards on four carries.
Todd Gurley with 2 huge drops today
— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) January 20, 2019
What’s more concerning is that he has just 3 receptions for a grand total of 6 yards in the playoffs. This Rams offense was at its best when Gurley was threatening defenses as a pass-catcher, as well – 580 of his yards from scrimmage came as a receiver, as did four touchdowns.
Anderson has been a nice addition to the backfield, but this offense needs Gurley back to his electric self.
Defensively, the Rams may be finally realizing their potential.
The @RamsNFL defense forces the INTERCEPTION!
— NFL (@NFL) January 20, 2019
After allowing a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry in the regular season, LA has now held the Cowboys to 50 rushing yards on 22 carries and the Saints to 48 rushing yards on 21 carries in the playoffs – an average of 2.28 yards per carry.
They’ll need Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh to continue eating up blockers, allowing Cory Littleton to continue flying sideline-to-sideline to make plays against the run.
Wade Phillips will need to demand more from his defense in coverage, though, specifically Littleton and the rest of his linebackers who are responsible for running backs.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 23, 2019
He may not be as talented as Alvin Kamara, who caught 11 passes for 96 yards against LA on Sunday, but James White is more relied upon in the passing game than the Saints back. White has hauled in 19 balls, on 23 targets, for 126 yards this postseason.
The Rams will need to take away the easy underneath passes to White and ensure he is wrapped up immediately when he does see the ball.
The last time these two played was Week 13 of the 2016 NFL season.
New England won 26-10 as Jared Goff turned in a horrendous performance. A rookie at the time, Goff was just 14-of-32 for 161 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions.
But this was before the Sean McVay era in LA.
As mentioned earlier, these two also have some Super Bowl history, having met in Super Bowl 36. As heavy underdogs (14 points), the Pats upset the Rams 20-17 on a last second field goal by Adam Vinatieri.
This kicked off the Patriots current dynasty.
|Patriots Trends||Rams Trends|
|NE is 3-3 SU when favored in the Super Bowl||LAR is 0-2-1 ATS in the Super Bowl|
|NE is 1-5 ATS when favored in the Super Bowl||LAR is 1-0 ATS as an underdog this season|
|NE is 0-1 SU in Super Bowl rematches||LAR is 1-0 SU as an underdog this season|
|NE is 2-1 SU when a former Cowboy is broadcasting Super Bowl||LAR is 7-2 SU on the road this season|
|UNDER is 8-3 in NE’s last 11 games||UNDER is 7-2 when LAR is on the road this season|
|OVER is 3-0 in NE’s last three Super Bowls||UNDER is 2-1 in LAR’s three Super Bowls|