Just like that, it all comes down to this Sunday. From the time confetti fell down on the Eagles last February, discussion had already started about who would be playing in Super Bowl 53. Now, it’s less than 48 hours away and two teams that were popular contenders preseason are fighting for the title. The Patriots as always, were rightfully a popular pick. After years of struggling to make the playoffs, the Rams emerged last year with then new head coach Sean McVay, and their former top pick Jared Goff. Smartly, the Rams used this window with the young quarterback to go “all in” and try to win instantly.
While the teams were constructed differently, I’m suspecting this to be a closely contested game with offensive fireworks to thrill viewers all over the world. Here is my x-factor for each team followed by my game prediction.
Patriots x-factor: The starting offensive interior linemen: In this case, it’s more than one person for the Patriots. Specifically, it’s three of them. They are the two guards Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason and center David Andrews. These three players will not only be tasked with protecting Tom Brady, but they’ll have to limit Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh in the process. Donald is arguably the most dominant player in the entire sport, but with the quick developing plays you in a sense can “take him out” of a game.
Per Pro Football Focus, the Patriots trio should be able to negate this strength of the Rams. While the Donald/Suh tandem was destructive rushing quarterbacks, the Patriots line was among the league’s best at limiting interior pass rushers. This “battle in the trenches” will be a fascinating one to watch come Sunday.
Rams x-factor: Cory Littleton, Linebacker: The Patriots like quick developing pass plays, and in many cases, that leads to running backs as the primary target. James White is the Patriots passing down specialist, and has constantly shown he’s not afraid of the big moments. Littleton this season was one of the premier coverage linebackers in football per Pro Football Focus. Assuming the Patriots are passing early and often, Littleton limiting White’s impact would be a huge boost.
Prediction: While the Rams have some key ingredients we’ve seen in beating the Patriots, the Patriots match up well against the Rams’ strengths per Pro Football Focus. Along with defending interior pressure well, the Patriots can bring pressure at a high level. Now is the time to mention that Jared Goff has a drastic efficiency drop off when facing pressure as opposed to a clean pocket. On top of that, the Patriots secondary performs well against three receiver sets (which is the base offense for the Rams). My prediction is Patriots 28 Rams (+2.5) 24