Written by Sam DeCoste
This is it. The time has come. Super Bowl LIII is on the horizon.
Franchise Quarterback is proud to present the final Predix of the 2018 season, breaking down the biggest game in the land. Despite what you may hear from the players and coaches, this is not just like any other game. A championship is up for grabs in Atlanta this Sunday. It doesn't get any bigger than the Super Bowl.
Before I begin to break down the Rams and Patriots going into the Super Bowl, I want to take a moment to thank you. Thank you for reading Franchise Quarterback all season long. From Ben's power rankings, new installments of the podcast, and my weekly Predix, the 2018 season has been a blast. But we're not done yet. Be sure to stay tuned during the offseason for our free agency breakdowns, and our highly anticipated 2019 NFL Mock Draft!
But without any further delay, there's a game to discuss. Enjoy the Predix, and enjoy the Super Bowl!
Here are my records from the 2018 season:
Regular season record: 167-87-2
If you haven't already, be sure to check out bonus Super Bowl content uploaded in time for the highly anticipated showdown between the Rams and Patriots!
- 2018 NFL Awards
- 10 Greatest Super Bowls in NFL History
- 5 Greatest Super Bowl Upsets
- From St. Louis to Atlanta: The Return of the LA Rams
|The Road to Super Bowl LIII Bracket, powered by Franchise Quarterback|
Why the Patriots Will Win
The Patriots are usually a safe bet to win any game, never mind the Super Bowl. They are 5-3 in the Super Bowl since 2001, with their only losses coming to the New York Giants (2007, 2011) and the Philadelphia Eagles last year.
In their two playoff games against the Chargers and Chiefs, the Patriots scored a total of 78 points and racked 1,022 total yards. Doesn't sound new, huh? That's not surprising, considering the Patriots have been efficient on offense for years. But this postseason, the Patriots have learned how to win in a different way, by running the football.
Even with Tom Brady under center, Bill Belichick revamped the offensive scheme for the postseason to minimize the hits Brady has taken, and to keep opposing offenses off the field. To do this, New England started the run the ball more. A lot more. Sony Michel became the centerpiece of their offense, and in the postseason, he carried the ball 53 times, racked 242 rushing yards, and scored five touchdowns. For the Patriots to win their sixth Super Bowl, they need to make sure Michel gets the ball early, and that he can set the tone on the line of scrimmage right away. The Rams don't have many weaknesses, but their rush defense is one of them. They ranked 23rd in rushing defense during the regular season, and against a two-dimensional offense like that of the Patriots, it will be difficult for LA to contain Tom Brady and a red hot running game.
Another initiative of the ground and pound scheme was to protect Brady. Minimize the hits and sacks he takes. Obviously, Brady is not as effective when he faces pressure in the pocket. But when he can rely on the running game, that opens up play action, and creates loads of time for him in the pocket. You could argue that if the Patriots manage to shut down Aaron Donald, there won't be much else to do to protect Brady for four quarters. In fact, in their two playoff games, New England didn't allow a single sack. One of the many reasons the Patriots are here is because they've kept Brady upright, and that's where he's the most lethal.
But of course, a Patriots offense is incomplete without dependable pass catchers. Even in a year of constant distractions at the receiver position, the Pats have been able to spread the ball around just as well as ever. James White still poses a dynamic threat to any defense with his ability to get open quickly out of the backfield and run for yards after catch. Julian Edelman is as reliable as any receiver Brady has had in his career. Not to mention Gronk, who can take over a game in an instant.
On defense, the Patriots will have their work cut out for them. The Rams finished second in yards and points per game during the regular season. They are undoubtedly one of the elite offenses in the game, while the Patriots defense lacks speed, playmakers, and, honestly, talent. That being said, New England's defense is brilliantly coached. They bend, but don't break. The Rams will get the ball into the red zone, and they may do it every single possession. But New England excels when their back is against the wall, where they can force third downs, and opponents are forced to settle for field goals, and sometimes, they even turn the ball over.
Besides, while the Rams are multi-talented across the board, the team runs through Todd Gurley. But Gurley is clearly not his real self. He's run the ball just 20 times in the last two games, and had just five touches in the NFC Championship. How effective will he be? If the Patriots can neutralize Gurley, who is not at one hundred percent, New England has a decisive advantage at the line of scrimmage.
Unless Bill Belichick decides to bench one of his best players at the last minute just like last year's Super Bowl, New England won't beat themselves.
Why the Rams Will Win
Sean McVay knows that he needs to win the Super Bowl and win it quickly otherwise he'll be late for his curfew. Ha! Get it? Cause he's young, and all...
Anyways, the incredible rise and a Super Bowl berth for the LA Rams should be credited to one man and one man only - the youngest head coach to ever walk the Super Bowl sidelines, Sean McVay. He was hired by the Rams to reshape their perennially mediocre offense into a juggernaut, and he has done so. No NFC team averaged more yards or points per game in 2018 than the Rams.
Jared Goff, the former number one draft pick, enjoyed the best season of his career, throwing for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions with a 101.1 passer rating. You could argue he has been a product of the system, but McVay implemented Goff into a brilliant system full of playmakers. Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods combined for over 2,400 yards and 11 touchdowns during the regular season, while Todd Gurley followed up a phenomenal 2017 campaign by scoring 17 touchdowns this year and racking over 1,800 scrimmage yards. I mean, how can you not excel when your front office surrounds you with so much talent, and your head coach is one of the superlative innovators in the game today?
There is no shortage of weapons in McVay's arsenal, which makes it so difficult to Bill Belichick to shut down. While Belichick has a reputation for double teaming an opponent's best offensive player and making them a non-factor in the game, there are too many weapons on this Los Angeles squad to completely slow them down. Wanna stack the box? That's all good, Goff can exploit one-on-one matchups all over the field. Wanna rush four and drop seven back? That's fine too, that opens up running lanes for Gurley, who should be healthy after two weeks of rest. This offense is too good.
Meanwhile, their opponents, the New England Patriots, are beatable, and there's a clear formula to stop them: pressure Brady up the middle. Brady struggles the most when massive defensive lineman congest the pocket and force pressure right in front of him. It shrinks Brady's throwing space, not allowing him to see beyond the line of scrimmage, forcing him to tuck in his arm, and take sacks, or even turn the ball over. The Patriots offense is a well-oiled machine, and Brady is the main cog. But if Brady doesn't have a clean pocket, the operation fails. And who better to sabotage a clean pocket in the NFL than Aaron Donald? He led the league in sacks this season with 20.5, and is the most disruptive game-wrecker there is on an NFL defensive line.
If the Rams pressure Brady early, they shut down the Pats running game, because by then, the Pats will most likely be facing a sizable deficit and they will go to the air to narrow the margin. By taking the running game away, the Rams have a much better chance of winning the game, because it puts the pressure on a 41-year-old quarterback to carry a city on his back again. Sure, he's done it plenty of times before, but what weapons does he have this time? Edelman's game depends on creating separation, Chris Hogan tended to disappear this year, James White hardly ever catches passes beyond the line of scrimmage, and Gronk hasn't played like himself all year.
New England's dynasty has reigned supreme on the NFL for nearly two decades now. But the Rams are the new kids on the block, just like the Pats were back in 2001 when the Rams were heavy favorites. It's time for the Rams to assert their own era of dominance, and kickstart the next great NFL dynasty.
Who Will Win Super Bowl LIII?
NE v LA
Prediction: New England Patriots 31, Los Angeles Rams 36
Don't get me wrong, I could see this game going either way. There are compelling arguments to make for the Pats and the Rams to win, but the Rams will be crowned champions on Super Sunday, and here's why.
Plain and simple: there are too many weapons on LA for Bill Belichick to contain. If he tries to single out Gurley, then Goff can throw the ball on the outside to elite receivers like Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, or even hand the ball off to CJ Anderson as well. If the Pats try to take away Cooks or Woods, well, the receiver he doesn't double cover will have one-on-one matchups, and Gurley has some running room to slow the game down. Patriots defensive backs are going to spend most the game isolated, and they just aren't good enough to win one-on-one matchups with the stars on LA's offense.
Where the Pats have won the chess match in previous years is their ability to take control of the game. They had the ability to dictate the pace of the game. They could do that because Brady was at the top of his game, he was surrounded by weapons, and the New England defense was able to hold up their own end of the bargain as well. But this year, the Rams have the superior arsenal of players on offense to dictate the pace. They can go into no huddle and spread the ball out West Coast style, or they could slow it down and play smash mouth football with Gurley and Anderson.
Why do I feel more confident about the Rams' ability to control the game than New England? Because the Rams have the talent, and the versatility to control the pace. The Pats just don't have the playmakers on defense to contain LA's offense, and I believe they will be outscored in a shootout with an offense just as good as theirs. Besides, Aaron Donald is a game wrecker that New England hasn't seen in a Super Bowl arguably since Super Bowl XLIX, when the Pats couldn't find a way to block Michael Bennett. Belichick can triple team Donald all he wants, but him alongside a pass rush of Suh, Brockers, and Fowler, they will make enough plays to affect Brady's game.
LA has a championship squad ready to win now, and they simply have more talent than New England. If they win the battle at the line of scrimmage, and if the lights aren't too bright for 33 year old head coach Sean McVay, the Rams will be Super Bowl Champions.
MVP: Jared Goff
Selecting the quarterback for the game's MVP award seems mainstream. It's a safe pick most of the time. But Goff is the clear cut favorite to win it should the Rams get the win because if the Rams do win, it will be because of Goff.
For a pass catcher to win the award, they would have to post career numbers and have star individual performances. For Cooks or Woods, it would take probably 150 yards and a score or two. For Gurley, 150+ scrimmage yards, a score or two. For Donald, he'd need four or five sacks, and maybe even a forced fumble. But the only way the Rams win is if Goff shows up for the occasion.
The lights aren't too bright for Goff, and if he can exploit an average Pats secondary, the Rams are favorites, and Goff can bring home some special individual silverware as well.
What do you think about Sam's prediction? Did he get it all wrong, or might he be onto something? Only time will tell. I hope you enjoyed the Super Bowl Predix, and be sure to stay tuned for our special Franchise Quarterback Super Bowl Podcast, and stay with us during the offseason for more premium football content!