Super Bowl LIII: Final Prediction, Projected Stats & MVP

Welcome to my 5th post in my series Super Bowl LIII Preview articles.  Now that I’ve looked back at previous stat nuggets that could be significant to the game and established the keys to victory for each team, it’s time to unveil my official Super Bowl LIII prediction.  Who will win Super Bowl LIII?  Will it be a nail-biter?  A blowout?  Something in between?  What players will have the biggest impact on the game?   Keep reading to find out what I think.  You can also check out my entire Super Bowl LIII preview schedule below.  I will be posting preview articles throughout the week as festivities in Atlanta take place.

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Super Bowl LIII: Official Boston Sports Mania Preview Schedule

January 28: Super Bowl LIII: How They Got Here

January 29: The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

January 30: The Case for the Rams: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

February 1: Super Bowl LIII Fast Facts and Their Significance

February 1: Super Bowl LIII: Final Prediction, Projected Stats & MVP

February 2: Super Bowl LIII Video Preview

February 3: The Final Countdown: Final Injury Report, Outlook Before the Game (Including iMovie Trailer)

February 3: Enjoy the game and stay tuned for my recap after the game!

The Final Pick

Typically, I just predict the score. But it’s the Super Bowl, so I went a little deeper.  I simulated the entire game based on my basic score prediction.  Below are the final score, scoring summary and stat predictions I came up with.

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Though I don’t see QB Tom Brady matching his Super Bowl LII stats, he will outplay QB Jared Goff, tossing 2 TD and no interceptions while Goff throws more picks than TDs.  But it’s not the stats that matter for the Pats – it’s winning the game.  Expect a close, back and forth match-up, as RB Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson dominate against a weak Pats run defense.  But QB Tom Brady will find open men and put up a quality victory in his 9th (yes, that’s a record) Super Bowl.

Projected Stats and Scoring/Turnover Summary

Note: I showed a projected scoring summary for the purpose of highlighting who makes an impact, not to predict the order of events in the game.

Team   1  2  3  4   TOTAL

NE        3 10 10 3  26                                                                                                                            LAR     3  7    7  7   24

1st Quarter

  • Greg Zuerlein 52-yard FG made (3-0 LAR)
  • Stephen Gostkowski 28-yard FG made (3-3 TIE)

2nd Quarter

  • Todd Gurley for 2-yard rush TD.  Greg Zuerlein PAT made (10-3 LAR)
  • Tom Brady to Cordarrelle Patterson for 9 yard TD.  Stephen Gostkowski PAT made (10-10 TIE)
  • Stephen Gostkowski 37-yard FG made (13-10 NE)
  • Jared Goff intercepted by Devin McCourty (13-10 NE)

3rd Quarter

  • Stephen Gostkowski 51-yard FG made (16-10 NE)
  • Jared Goff to Robert Woods for 9 yard TD.  Greg Zuerlein PAT made (17-16 LAR)
  • Tom Brady to Julian Edelman for 8 yard TD.  Stephen Gostkowski PAT made (23-17 NE)
  • Jared Goff intercepted by Patrick Chung (23-17 NE)
  • Stephen Gostkowski 54-yard FG missed (23-17 NE)

4th Quarter

  • Greg Zuerlein 54-yard FG blocked by Albert McClellan (23-17 NE)
  • C.J. Anderson for 4-yard rush TD.  Greg Zuerlein PAT made (24-23 LAR)
  • Stephen Gostkowski 36-yard FG made (26-24 NE)

Stat Projections

NE

Passing

  • Tom Brady: 33/49, 284 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack (My projected Super Bowl MVP)

Rushing

  • Sony Michel: 17 rush, 64 yards
  • James White: 10 rush, 47 yards
  • Rex Burkhead: 4 rush, 9 yards

Receiving

  • Julian Edelman: 9 receptions, 96 yards, 1 TD
  • Rob Gronkowski: 8 receptions, 56 yards
  • Phillip Dorsett: 5 receptions, 53 yards
  • Chris Hogan: 3 receptions, 31 yards
  • Cordarrelle Patterson: 3 receptions, 21 yards, 1 TD (Will be Unsung Hero)
  • James White: 4 receptions, 21 yards
  • Rex Burkhead: 1 reception, 6 yards

Defense (Best players ONLY)

  • Adrian Clayborn: 2.5 tackles, 1 sack
  • Devin McCourty: 6.5 tackles, 1 INT
  • Kyle Van Noy: 8.0 tackles
  • Patrick Chung: 4.0 tackles, 1 INT

LAR

Passing

  • Jared Goff: 23/40, 234 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 1 sack

Rushing

  • Todd Gurley: 22 rushes, 100 yards, 1 TD
  • C.J. Anderson: 17 rushes, 57 yards, 1 TD

Receiving

  • Brandin Cooks: 6 receptions, 86 yards
  • Robert Woods: 7 receptions, 74 yards, 1 TD
  • Josh Reynolds: 3 receptions, 31 yards
  • Gerald Everett: 3 receptions, 19 yards
  • Todd Gurley: 3 receptions, 18 yards
  • Tyler Higbee: 1 reception, 6 yards

Defense (Best players ONLY)

  • Aaron Donald: 4.5 tackles, 1 sack
  • Bryce Hager: 8.0 tackles
  • Marcus Peters: 8.0 tackles

That’s all for my Super Bowl LIII prediction.  Stay tuned for a video preview to sum up my takes on the game tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

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Patriots Training Camp with Bob Socci

Today, I had the opportunity to spend a day at Patriots training camp as a member of the press, shadowing Patriots radio play-by-play announcer and Patriots.com Beat Reporter Bob Socci.  I first met Bob at the NFL Kickoff event with the Patriots broadcast team, held at Mr. Sid last year.  (Note: I will be going back to a similar event on September 6th).

Bob learned about the work I had done as a sports blogger and offered to help me by inviting me to Patriots training Camp with him.

Before Practice Began:  “Pre-Game” Videos and Fan Experience

I arrived a little bit early so I could do a live stand-up in front of Gillette Stadium and also conduct some interviews with fans.

First, I interviewed a long-time Pats fan named Jan.  She meets a friend at Gillette every year who gives her the insight on the players at Patriots training camp.

After that, I interviewed Arjun, a 6th grader from Philadelphia who likes the Patriots so much that his parents decided to make the trip north this year.  He was very excited to see the team live for the first time.

Many young fans like Arjun also had the opportunity to take advantage of Fan Experience activities held around the practice fields.  My Dad further explored some of the activities while I was with Bob and the rest of the media.

They had football activities where they tracked your performance and created a Player Profile.  Jimmy from the Patriots staff was really nice and created my card with Pat Patriot’s stats.

Training Camp Profile Card

There were also a number of booths with give-aways for participating in small games like mini-golf skee ball and photo opportunities like the one with my dad.

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Becoming Official Pats Media Member for the Day

Bob Socci met me soon after my interviews in front of the stadium.  I said goodbye to my dad and Bob took me to go get my press pass.

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We walked to the other side of the stadium and went through media security there.  After I gave them my name and affiliation, they handed me my press pass.

My press pass from training camp

All media members received a detailed Patriots preseason roster and media guidelines from the media security table to help us learn about who we were covering and what coverage was permitted and when.

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On my way to the media tent, Bob explained a few things to me about the training camp roster:

  1. Since there are many players on the roster and the roster is not finalized, there may be pairs of players who share a number
  2. Rookies wear numbers based on when they were drafted during training camp and their camp numbers do not usually correspond with their position.  The team’s first draft pick, T Isaiah Wynn wears #50, their second pick, RB Sony Michel wears #51, their third pick, CB Duke Dawson wears #52, and so on.  For the regular season they receive new numbers.
  3. During training camp, quarterbacks wear red while the rest of the offense wears white and the defense wears blue.  On the roster, offensive players who share a number with defensive players (and vice versa) have (o) for offense or (d) for defense next to their name.

Bob also mentioned that during camp, there would only be a 10-20 minute session for media to take photos and videos, and that no tweeting was allowed during camp for media members.  We were allowed to take notes during the no photo/video portions of practice.

Bob told me that after practice the media guidelines would be more flexible.  The only major rules were to stay within certain interviewing boundaries and not take any photos or video of players with their families without permission.

Before practice began, Bob introduced me to the vice president of media relations at training camp, Stacey James, as well as fellow media member Jim McBride.  I also had time to catch up with ESPN Patriots beat reporter Mike Reiss, who I had met earlier in the week at Sports Broadcasting Camp.   I also met a friend of Bob’s, Steve Yood, along with his sons Alex and Josh.

Watching Practice from the Media Tent

Practice started about 5 minutes after we arrived at the media tent.  During practice, I also met Marc Cappello of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Josh Brogadir of WCVB, and Steve Atkinson of Boston Sports Extra.  They were surprised to see someone my age in the media tent.  Some of them told me what they did at my age and how they wished they had started earlier.

The Patriots practice began with some warm-ups.  The team stretched, jogged a little bit, and threw the ball around.  Afterwards they began a walk-through of some plays they would use later in 11 on 11 drills.

Positional drills began after the walk-through portion practice.  This was the portion of practice when the media photo and video session took place.  Offensive lineman competed 1 on 1 against defensive lineman, wide receivers caught balls from a receiving coach, and quarterbacks stayed together as well to take practice throws.  During this time, PK Stephen Gostkowski practiced field goals.  Here is some of my video coverage.

After the photo and video session ended, positional drills continued.  The QBs began throwing to the receivers directly.  Soon after that, they had the Pats secondary go 1 on 1 against receivers catching passes from QBs Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and Danny Etling.  The Pats ran a few more offense vs. defense practice plays before starting the 11 on 11 drills.

The Patriots alternated personnel during the 11 on 11 drills with quarterbacks Brady and Hoyer getting most of the reps at QB .  Before practice ended, the Pats held a few more running drills on the hills around the field.  Then, for most of the team, practice ended.  A few guys, including Danny Etling, put in a little extra work after the full team practice.

Some of my Observations from Day 4 of Patriots Training Camp

Keep an eye out for Phillip Dorsett and Jacob Hollister

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WR Phillip Dorsett (#13) after catching a ball from the coach during positional drills

I kept a tally of Brady’s ball distribution during a couple of his drills, and his most frequent target during those drills was Dorsett.  Dorsett had an especially strong catch on a deep pass from Brady during the offensive walk-through.  Hollister had a nice jumping catch in the end zone that Brian Hoyer threw to him during 11 on 11 drills.

Patriots RBs could be a big part of the offense again this season

Brady wasn’t just throwing to receivers and tight ends today.  Brady, Hoyer, and Etling all participated in a drill where they threw short passes to RBs including James White and Pats 2018 2nd draft pick from the first round, Sony Michel.  Michel caught a short pass at the 30 yard line and took it to the house during 11 on 11 drills.

After practice, I was happy to see Meredith Gorman who I worked with last summer at the Boston Herald.  Meredith, now with Patriots.com, conducted a 1 on 1 interview with Michel.

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Meredith Gorman, who now works for patriots.com, interviewing rookie RB Sony Michel after practice

Great to see Julian Edelman back on the field

I enjoyed seeing Tom Brady connecting with WR Julian Edelman for the first time since Super Bowl LI.  Even though he is suspended for the first four games, Edelman missed the entire season last year and now he is back and seems ready to play and make more amazing catches like the one that most remember as “the catch” from the Pats 5th Super Bowl win.   Edelman looked like his old self out there making some good plays along with Pats newcomer WR Jordan Matthews.  Other pass catchers I liked seeing were TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Chris Hogan.  Gronk had a catch deep up the seam even though he was tightly covered, which is one reason Pats fans love watching him.

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Super Bowl LI “the catch” by Edelman

Brian Hoyer had some good end zone connections

I watched all 3 of the Pats quarterbacks perform today but the QB I was most impressed with was Brian Hoyer.  Hoyer made successful end zone connections on his first two passes, including a great throw to Jacob Hollister in the corner of the end zone.

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QBs Hoyer (2) and Etling (58) during practice
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Brian Hoyer after practice

 

Don’t Discount New England secondary

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Stephon Gilmore being interviewed after practice

Even though one of last year’s starting CB and Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler signed with the Titans in the offseason, I still believe that Pats will have a good secondary.  For example, today I saw CB Stephon Gilmore break up several pass plays in 1 on 1 coverage against Julian Edelman, nearly intercepting one pass thrown by Tom Brady.  Rookie and Pats 2018 #3 draft pick CB Duke Dawson also came close to picking off Brady while covering Phillip Dorsett.

Trey Flowers was back at practice with bandage on forehead

Flowers returned to practice after leaving yesterday with an ice pack on his head.  In other injury news, Jordan Matthews left today’s practice with an unknown injury, and CB Keion Crossen (back) and RB Mike Gillislee (unknown) did not practice.  Bob Socci told me that WR Kenny Britt, CB Cyrus Jones, CB Jonathan Jones, and WR Matthew Slater were on the PUP list.  However, I did notice Britt participating in warm-ups.  According to the official training camp roster, WRs Darren Andrews and Cody Hollister are on the Reserve/NFI list.

After Practice: Media Session and Tour

After practice ended, Bob and I headed to the designated player interview zone.  I watched some of the interviews.  Bob Socci conducted a stand-up recap with Megan O’Brien as they discussed their own observations from the day.  Some of the topics he mentioned in the interview were things we talked about in the media tent together during the practice:

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Bob Socci and Megan O’Brien Day 4 Recap

James White, Sony Michel, RB Rex Burkhead, T Trent Brown, DE Derek Rivers, and QB Brian Hoyer were among those interviewed.  Although he didn’t stop for interviews, I did see Gronk walk by, as well as a few other players like Phillip Dorsett and Dont’a Hightower.  I also saw the McCourty twins with all their family on the field.  I think it is really cool that after many years on different teams they will now play on the same team and they seem to be enjoying camp together.

Nobody was interviewed at the podium today like Tom Brady was yesterday.  This area is primarily used for interviews with star players like Brady and Rob Gronkowski.

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The empty podium at practice today

In between and after the media interviews, I met some media members including Levan Reid of WBZ, Joe Gallant of WNRI (a radio station in Providence), and Megan O’Brien of Patriots.com.   I also said hello to patriots.com’s Meredith Gorman and the Boston Herald’s Meghan Ottolini.

After the post practice interviews were over, Bob took me inside Gillette Stadium so I could see the media area.  He showed me the TV studio where Patriots All Access is aired.  The studio was filled with football helmets on the shelves and Patriots logos all around.  Bob mentioned he hosts a show with Scott Zolak in the studio next door.  We also walked by the game day media workroom, the writing rooms for various newspapers and blogs, and the weekday press conference room which was the biggest room of them all.

In total, I spent about 4 hours with Bob today and feel like I learned so much about covering the Patriots.  In addition, I saw so much from the media’s point of view.  It was truly incredible and surreal at times.

I’d like to thank Bob Socci and Stacey James for making this experience possible for me.  I’d also like to thank all the media members who spent the time to talk to me and give me tips on sports reporting.

Broncos Thrill Pats In OT, Pats Unbeaten No More

It was 3rd and 1.  The Broncos were on their first drive in overtime.  The Pats had won the toss and tragically gone 3 and out.  Then Osweiler handed it to C.J. Anderson.  He swerved to the left and just kept going and going.  He had just scored the game winning touchdown.

C.J. Anderson as he heads to the end zone for the game winning TD in OT

The Broncos were the first to beat the once undefeated Patriots this season, with a 30-24 overtime win.  It was a very exciting, back and forth game, but it ended with the Broncos putting an end to the regular season portion of the Revenge Tour.  If they win a super bowl, then they still get vengeance on Roger Goodell.

The Broncos went 3 and out on their first drive.  A horrible punt got the Patriots started in Broncos territory.  This was turning into a field position game.  The Pats marched down the field, and Gronk scored a touchdown.  Gronk had already had a nice pass earlier in the drive, lasting 2:07, with 4 plays for a whopping 47 yards!!!!  They started at the opposing 47 and easily scored a TD.

The great defense continued.  The Broncos went 3 and out again, and even the Pats did it after starting around the 50.  Still a field position game.  On the next drive, the Broncos were on 4th down & inches, and Brock Osweiler ran a QB sneak for the first down. They didn’t challenge the spot, even though it was clearly 4th & 2.  On the next set of downs, Osweiler got sacked, knocking Denver out of field goal range.  When Brady got the ball back, they sacked him in return.

A good punt keeps Denver starting at their own 10.  The Pats were thinking safety, but as Osweiler progressed down the field, they had other plans.  Sheard knocked the ball from Osweiler, and Chandler Jones caught it in the air for and interception.  The Pats marched down the field and Chandler was wide open as Brady threw to him for the touchdown.  14-0 Pats.  It was now the 2nd quarter.

A couple of drives later, the Broncos progressed down the field, and Ronnie Hillman went beast mode and got a 19 yard TD, making it 14-7.  Th next couple minutes before the half were slow, as the Pats failed to score before getting the ball back in the 2nd half.  In the first drive after halftime, Gronk caught a 22 yard pass, but it wasn’t enough as the Pats punted it away.

The Broncos were near safety territory again on the next drive, but quickly marched down the field to escape.  But they didn’t get far away enough.  They were in field goal range, but Brandon McManus had to attempt a 47 yarder.  It was way off.  The field goal was no good, and it was still 14-7 Pats.  The remainder of the third quarter was a snooze-a-thon.  But things got exciting in the 4th quarter.  The Pats went into it with the ball.  They had just started a drive before the end of the 3rd.  On the first play of the quarter, they threw to Bolden.  He had no problem catching it, but the real thriller was what happened next.  He took off, and soon the defenders were nowhere to be found.  Brandon Bolden kept on running and running, until he got to the end zone.  He had just scored a 63 yard touchdown!!!!

It was now 21-7 Pats.  They had a two TD lead.  The Broncos went 3 and out, but on the punt, Chris Harper fumbled in the attempt to return the punt, and the Broncos recovered it.  That was his only noticeable play of the night.  He ended up with -2 fantasy points.  NEGATIVE TWO!!!  The Broncos got to start at around the opposing 40.  They marched down the field and Anderson scored a touchdown.  So technically, CHRIS HARPER is the reason the Pats lost.  Otherwise, we would’ve had a 24-17 win.  The Pats couldn’t do anything because of some stupid penalties.

Denver got the ball around the 50 and they marched down the field.  They slowed down in the red zone, and had to settle for a field goal.  It was now 21-17 Pats.  Our lead was not very secure.  On the next drive, we couldn’t do anything because Gronk was called for offensive pass interference!!!  It was a stupid call!!!  Just stupid!!!!  What were those refs doing?!!!  Are they just out to get us for “DEFLATE GATE”?!!!!  On our next drive, we threw a nice pass to Gronk, but it was followed by a heart-breaker. Brady threw to Gronk for an incomplete pass, but it was worse than that.  Gronk had tripped over someone, and fell on his right knee.  When the staff came over, to look at it, he was screeching in pain.  He was carted off the field, and they are fearing a torn right MCL.    On a late 4th quarter drive, DeMaryius Thomas caught a 36 yard pass, followed by an Emmanuel Sanders 39 yarder.  Osweiler through the much needed TD pass to Andre Caldwell, giving them a 24-21 lead.

The next drive was the last of the regulation playing time, and it was filled with some nice passes, but it wasn’t enough to score the game winning TD.  However, Stephen Gostkowski did attempt a 47 yard field goal, and it was good!!!  It was tied, 24 all.  This game was going to overtime.  Then, the next heart-breaker occurred.  The Pats won the toss, went 3 and out in a horrible drive.  They had no weapons, and Brady was too worried about his teammate to focus.  Then Anderson did his thing, and it was game over. However, the Pats can still earn home field advantage.  Denver plays Cincy in Week 16, so one of those teams will lose again.  If we can go 4-1 on the following schedule:

vs PHI

@HOU

vs TEN

@NYJ

@MIA

Then they can still do it.  For now, we’re on to Philadelphia.

 

Pats Rout Cowboys, Remain Undefeated

The Patriots won one of the three toughest games this season.  But they didn’t just win.  They routed the Cowboys, beating them up, 30 to 6.  Early on, the Pats offense looked horrible, and Dallas was in position to win if they kept it up.  Tom Brady got sacked by players who never got let off their four game suspensions, Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain.  But Dont’ A Hightower fought fire with fire.  He brought down Weeden in the next drive.  But Hardy, and another guy got Brady for two more sacks.  Tom Brady had been sacked three times and it was only the first quarter.  Then, more bad news came when Hightower went down with a rib injury.

Stephen Gostkowski made up for the mess with a 49 yard field goal.  However, Dan Bailey, the Cowboys kicker, beat that to tie it when he kicked a 51 yarder.  It was a very quiet game, nobody was scoring.  It was slow going.  The first quarter still hadn’t even ended.  Tom Brady got the momentum going in a second quarter drive, with some long plays followed by a 1 yard touchdown run.  Brady hadn’t even rushed it in any circumstance since December of 2012.  Gostkowski kicked on last 57 yard field goal to beat Bailey before halftime.  Before it was a 21 yard pass to Edelman.  13-3 Patriots at halftime.

Gronk had been quiet the whole first half, but he caught a 33 yard pass to begin the second half.  He followed with another long one.  The Pats were marching down the field, and they eventually made it to 1st and goal, when Dion Lewis squeezed threw the tough Cowboys defense for a clutch TD.  The rest of the 3rd was more slow going nothing-ness. Dan Bailey cheered at least Cowboys fans up when he kicked a field goal.  It was 20-6.  The Pats were dominating and there was still a quarter remaining.

The amazing happened when the Pats got the ball to begin the 4th.  Julian Edelman went 59 yards with a pass for an amazing touchdown.  Edelman has become such a great player.  Good thing we got rid of Wes Welker and not him.  The Cowboys were in a good position to score three drives later, but Jason Witten fumbled and Pats linebacker Jonathan Freeny recovered it!!!  The Pats went 3 and out, and went for it on fourth down, failing to make it.  Dallas was slowly moving down the field on the next drive, and it looked like it would be long, but they would eventually score.  I was wrong.  Logan Ryan suddenly intercepted Brandon Weeden!!!  He’s in a bigger role with Tarrel Brown limited and Bradley Fletcher injured and  gone.  The Pats kicked a last-minute field goal to lock in the 30-6 win.  The Pats are 4-0, but must surpass also undefeated Denver and Cincinnati to snag the home field advantage.