The Final Countdown: Final Injury Report, Outlook Before the Game

Welcome to my 7th and final post in my series of Super Bowl LIII Preview articles.  With just hours till game time, I will be giving you guys a final update on injuries among other things before the game begins.  In addition, I have included an iMovie trailer to get everyone excited. You can also check out my entire Super Bowl LIII preview schedule below.

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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 3: 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!

Part 1: iMovie Trailer: Back to their Roots

Part 2: Final Injury Report

Both teams are pretty much at full health, which will make for an exciting game.  RB Todd Gurley may not be 100% after an injury suffered late into the regular season, and DE Deatrich Wise Jr. of the Patriots was hurt in the weeks leading up to the game, but unless Wise is a healthy scratch, both Gurley and Wise are expected to play.  I’m hoping DE Adrian Clayborn isn’t an inactive instead of wise.  We need some good pass rushers in this game.

Part 3: Final Outlook

I’m pretty confident that the Patriots can win this.  But in addition to winning the turnover battle, scoring early, and stopping the run, they’ll need the special teams to step it up.  If the Patriots want to win, they need to play complimentary football: good offense, good defense, and good special teams.  Though a big game from Edelman or Gronk would be nice, I see WR Phillip Dorsett as an X-factor for us.  Some games, he has made next to no impact.  In other games, he has been an unsung hero.  I saw Dorsett at training camp, and he looked like one of the best receivers there.  Apparently, Bill Belichick had wanted to draft this guy in 2015 (he traded for him later on).  There’s got to be a reason for that.  I have confidence that Dorsett has the potential to make a big impact.  Plus, if he does well, he may be rewarded with a return to the Patriots (he is an upcoming free agent).

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If the Rams can outrun the Pats, they’ll be in good shape.  But they’ll also have to outplay QB Tom Brady, which will require not only Gurley and Anderson but also QB Jared Goff to be at his best.  If Goff has a big game, and the Rams defensive line (who I see as their X-factor) is at their best, pressuring Brady and stopping the run, the Rams have a chance.  But I still have more confidence in my home team.

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This will definitely be close, and it could be another classic, as most Patriots Super Bowls are.  But I think this is the year that the Pats finally get their sixth ring and tie the Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins ever.

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That’s about all I can say that I haven’t already said.  With just about six hours left, food has been purchased.  Parties have been planned.  Commercials have been made.  Now, it’s just time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the game with friends and family, commercials, halftime, and all.  Unlike other football games, anyone can enjoy the Super Bowl thanks to the funny ads and the halftime show added in to appeal to all audiences.  I hope everyone enjoys the game, and stay tuned for my recap when it all ends.  Go Pats!

 

 

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Super Bowl LIII Video Preview

Welcome to my 6th post in my series of Super Bowl LIII Preview articles.  My video preview of the game with a transcript is below.  How do these two teams match up?  Watch the video 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 3: 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!

Video Preview:

Transcript:

After taking the Rams down in the first Super Bowl of the Brady-Belichick era, the Patriots take them on again in Super Bowl LIII. Coming off an OT thriller over the Chiefs, the Pats should have plenty of motivation for this game after losing the Super Bowl last year. In addition, a win will give the Pats 6 Lombardi trophies and tie the Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins all time by an NFL team. The Rams made it here after an overtime victory of their own that was made possible because of a Rams pass interference no-call, but they’ll look to get revenge on the Pats for derailing the “Greatest Show on Turf” back in 2001. 17 years later, the Pats are the experienced dynasty, and the Rams are once again on the rise. But the Pats took down a high scoring Rams offense back in 2001 and with 2 weeks to prepare, Belichick should have a game plan to shut down the Rams again. Though the Patriots dynasty is headed “Back to their Roots”, there are several factors that make this game different.

The Patriots defense isn’t quite as good as it was back in 2001. So for the Pats to beat the Rams again, they’ll need to play like they did in the first half in KC and stop the Rams running game led by Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson. The Patriots defense has struggled to contain big name running backs in recent years, and if they fail to contain Gurley and Anderson, it may prevent them from winning. Winning the turnover battle will also help their case. Both QBs have had interception troubles this year, and both teams are Top 5 in interceptions. The question is, who will throw more? About 80% of the time, teams who win the turnover battle win the game. The Pats will also need to score early as they did against the Chiefs and Chargers. Though they did score their only Super Bowl first quarter points in the Brady-Belichick Era last year, they were outscored in the first quarter. Starting out strong with a TD will prevent that from happening again.

If the Rams want revenge, they will need to put pressure on QB Tom Brady. If they can apply the pressure up the middle, Brady could be limited and interception-prone. The battle in the trenches will be key as New England’s offensive line has been playing well but the Rams defensive line is probably the toughest they’ve faced all year.

QB Jared Goff will need to show that his lack of experience doesn’t matter and avoid interceptions. Gurley and Anderson cannot lead the offense alone, and Goff has not been throwing it as much since WR Cooper Kupp got hurt. Interceptions could significantly impact the game so it will be interesting to see if he forces some throws.

I expect Julian Edelman to have another stellar playoff performance with about 100 receiving yards and a TD. I also won’t be surprised to see Gronk play a big role in what could be his last game.

This will definitely be a close one like all of the Pats Super Bowls but in the end, I believe the Pats win 26-24 making it 3 Super Bowl wins in 5 years.

Stay tuned for a final update before the game including my iMovie Trailer.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 ‘Football Fast Facts’ That Could be Significant in Super Bowl LIII

Welcome to my 4th of several Super Bowl LIII Preview posts.  Over the last two days, I went over keys to the game for each team.  Today, I will be looking back at previous stat nuggets that could be significant to the game.  What stats could be telling about the results of the game?  What previous happenings will motivate or burden each team? 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!

1. Per NFL.com, Tom Brady is the least sacked QB to start 12+ games in 2018 (21, including playoffs)

You have to give some credit to the Patriots offensive line. Four of the five New England offensive lineman are above their positional average in pass block win rate, and the Pats lead the league in this stat. But you also have to give some credit to Brady himself for playing smart football. He judges the defense well and gets the ball out quickly if he needs to. This should help them maintain a rhythm throughout the game, something a sack could significantly interrupt. But it will also help them win the turnover battle, a key piece to victory. Teams who win the turnover battle tend to win about 4 of every 5 games.

2. The Rams offense is averaging 1.5 more points and 3 more yards per game than the 2001 “Greatest Show on Turf” offense.

From a Pats fan’s perspective, it’s scary to see that the Rams offense is not only matching but outdoing their “Greatest Show on Turf” era offensive numbers. Back then, the Rams were the experienced dynasty and the Pats were a team on the rise. Though the opposite is true now, if Brady outplayed an offense like this in 2001, I have confidence he can do it again 17 years later. You do have to consider that the Pats allowed just 334.5 YPG in 2001 compared to 353.9 YPG in 2018. But that’s not a huge difference. Everyone says that the 2001 Patriots had a pretty good defense, while this year’s defense is not great. But in reality, this year’s defense is around average, and they weren’t that much better in 2001 defensively.

3. QBs Tom Brady and Jared Goff are both Top 10 in interceptions thrown this season.

Something tells me this game will have a good number of turnovers.  In addition to the above stat, both these teams have elite secondaries that are 3rd (Rams) and 4th (Patriots) respectively in interceptions. The question is, who will win the turnover battle? As I said, most NFL teams who win the turnover battle go on to win the game. In terms of who wins it, I think it all comes down to the WR-DB match-ups. Compared to New England, the Rams are fairly weak at tight end, and I could see the Pats secondary dominating those match-ups. The Rams have been terrible against tight ends this year, though TE Rob Gronkowski is his own animal. That itself will give the Pats an advantage. Plus, it’s unlikely the Rams are able to contain both Gronk and WR Julian Edelman. If they double up on Gronk, that will allow Edelman to shine.

4. Right now, RB Sony Michel is behind just Terrell Davis and Arian Foster in rush yards/playoff game. Though 2 games is a small sample, what does this say about Michel?

Though Davis is a three time All-Pro first team member, Foster never really established himself as a hall of fame caliber running back and ended up retiring after 8 seasons thanks to an injury-riddled career. But he did have a nice run as an elite RB from 2010-2014. Due to the small sample size, it’s hard to tell how much this means for Sony Michel right now in this game. It’s hard to guarantee a big game for him against a star-studded Rams d-line. But I do believe he has a future as an elite running back and a leader on the Pats, even if injuries or something else limits his career. He did put up an impressive rookie season in the games he played.

5. In 2 regular season games with the Rams, C.J. Anderson rushed for 299 yards. It took Todd Gurley until Week 4 to reach 300 yards on the season.

Anderson was in the right place at the right time. Anderson played the 49ers and Cardinals in the final two regular season games. Sure, Gurley played the Raiders and Cardinals in his first two games, but you also have to consider that Anderson came in late in the season. All the Rams had to do to be in good position for the playoffs was beat their weaker division rivals, but these games mattered more to the Rams than the first two. Gurley did do well against the Raiders, and despite just 42 rushing yards against Arizona, he scored 3 TD. Though it took him longer to approach 300 rushing yards, you could argue that Gurley was as good a running back in LA’s first two games, both easy wins, as Anderson was in the last two, also easy wins. The reason Anderson did so well was because he took advantage of a big opportunity. With Gurley at full health, expect Gurley to lead the backfield, with Anderson playing a significant supporting role. This will make things difficult for the Pats.

At least couple of these stats are a good sign for each team. But in the end, what matters is how these two teams match-up. 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? Find out what I think in my next article, when I share my score prediction and projected stats for the game.

The Case For the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Welcome to my 2nd Super Bowl LIII Preview post. Now that I’ve set the stage and taken a first look at the match-up, I will be looking at keys to victory for each team, starting today with the Patriots and continuing tomorrow with the Rams.  What does New England need to do to win their third Super Bowl in 5 years? What could derail them along the way? 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 27 or 28: Super Bowl LIII: How They Got Here

January 28 or 29: The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

January 29 or 30: The Case for the Rams: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

January 30 or 31: Super Bowl LIII Fast Facts and Their Significance

January 31 or February 1: Super Bowl LIII: Final Prediction, Projected Stats & MVP

February 1 or 2: Super Bowl LIII Video Preview

February 2 or 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 Case for the Patriots

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The Patriots fell just short in a Super Bowl rematch against the Eagles last year. This year, they face the Rams in a rematch of the first Brady-Belichick Super Bowl. What can they do to prevent the Rams from cracking their code and derailing their hopes for a sixth ring?

Winning the turnover battle will definitely help their case.  QBs Tom Brady and Jared Goff have both had issues with interceptions this season, and both teams have some of the best secondaries in the league.

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The Pats will also have to stop the run. Todd Gurley is among the league’s best, and the Rams also signed C.J. Anderson to fill in while Gurley was hurt and support Gurley during LA’s playoff run. The Patriots defense has struggled to contain big name running backs in recent years, and if they fail to contain Gurley and Anderson, it may prevent them from winning.

Lastly, the Patriots will need to get out to a lead early on. The Pats don’t typically score much in the first quarters of their Super Bowls, with just 3 points throughout the 1st quarters of 9 Super Bowls during the Brady-Belichick Era. It didn’t hurt them much in their first four Super Bowl wins. But if it weren’t for their miraculous comeback from a 28-3 deficit in Super Bowl LI, they would’ve easily lost after failing to score in the 1st quarter. Last year, they had fallen behind by the end of the 1st quarter despite 3 points, and it came back to bite them, as they ended up losing to the Eagles 41-33. If the Pats can get out to a lead with a first quarter TD, something Brady has never done in a Super Bowl, they will be in much better shape.

If the Patriots take control of the turnover battle, stop Gurley and Anderson, and score a TD early, they should be in good shape to win the game. But what can the Rams do to prevent this from happening? Check back tomorrow for an article about LA’s keys to a victory.

Super Bowl LIII: How They Got Here

Welcome to my 1st of several Super Bowl LIII Preview articles.  The match-up is set, the teams are in Atlanta for Opening Night, and today I will be looking at how the Patriots and Rams got here and taking a first look at the match-up.  What can we expect from this year’s big 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 27 or 28: Super Bowl LIII: How They Got Here

January 28 or 29: The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

January 29 or 30: The Case for the Rams: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

January 30 or 31: Super Bowl LIII Fast Facts and Their Significance

January 31 or February 1: Super Bowl LIII: Final Prediction, Projected Stats & MVP

February 1 or 2: Super Bowl LIII Video Preview

February 2 or 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!

How They Got Here

Patriots

The Patriots were off to a rough start this season, going 1-2 in their first three games without WR Julian Edelman.  However, they brought in WR Josh Gordon to add back WR depth they’d lost in the off-season.  Gordon thrived in his first game with the Pats, and when Edelman returned, they made for a dynamic duo that led the offense to dominate.

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Though they started 7-2, they lost their third game in Tennessee before the bye as TE Rob Gronkowski sat out an extra game after an injury.  After the bye, they did win a couple games, playing the Jets and Vikings.  But after that their road struggles continued as they lost in Miami and in Pittsburgh.  After 14 games, the Pats were 9-5, and they were at risk of missing out on a first round bye.  They had the tiebreaker over the Texans, but the Texans were 10-4 at this point.  The Pats needed to win one more game than Houston.

It wasn’t a good sign when WR Josh Gordon was suspended indefinitely once again for marijuana, but the Pats took care of the Bills and Jets easily in New England.  They nearly shut out the Jets in Week 17!  They did grab hold of the first round bye, but the question was, were these blowouts against the league’s worst a fluke, or were the Pats legitimate Super Bowl contenders?

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The fans’ doubts were silenced when the Patriots dominated their Divisional Round match-up, hosting the Chargers.  They would head to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs in the AFC title game.  This was bound to be a close one, especially because the Patriots lost the last time they had played on the road.  They were off to a strong start, but they began to fall behind late in the game.

With two minutes to go, it was 28-24 Chiefs.  The Pats had the ball in what was still a one possession game.  They marched down the field and Burkhead scored the TD, but they scored a little too fast.  They left enough time for the Chiefs to add a field goal to tie it up  at 31-31 and force overtime.

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After that the Patriots won the toss, and though it was a nail biter with many close calls and 3rd downs, the Pats made their way down the field for the TD, winning the game 37-31!  This was Brady’s third OT victory in a postseason game, making him the first player to do so.  This was also the first time two playoff games had gone into overtime in one day.

You can read more about the AFC Championship at the link below:

Back to their Roots: Pats Dynasty Continues after OT Thriller

The Patriots are now headed to their 4th Super Bowl in 5 years, as Brady looks to ‘Blitz for Six’ and Gronk looks to potentially end his career with a bang.  The best part is, as intriguing as a Brady vs. Drew Brees match-up would be, they’re playing the Los Angeles Rams, taking the Brady-Belichick dynasty back to their roots.  Back in 2001, Brady led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory over the QB Kurt Warner-led St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams.  You could also compare that victory to this year’s AFC Championship when Brady and co. took down QB Patrick Mahomes II and an explosive Chiefs offense after coming in as 3 point underdogs.

Rams

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The last time the Rams won the NFC was back in 2001, when QB Kurt Warner led an offense known as ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’ to their second Super Bowl in three years.  They would face QB Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.  Though they had won in 1999, they could not get past Brady and Belichick, who won their first championship together and started a legendary dynasty.  17 years later, the Rams will seek revenge.

After Warner left St. Louis, things were ugly for the Rams for much of the 2000s.  But in 2015, they began rebuilding, drafting star RB Todd Gurley in 2015, trading up in 2016 to draft the QB of their future: Jared Goff, firing head coach Jeff Fisher, and hiring the young Sean McVay to replace Fisher.  To top off their rebuild, they moved back to Los Angeles as they seeked a culture change heading in to the second half of the 2010s.

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In 2017, Goff, Gurley, and McVay led the team back to the playoffs with help from a star-studded defense led by DT Aaron Donald.  However, as the #3 seed, they lost on Wild Card Weekend.  The 2017-18 off-season was a busy one for the Rams.  The Rams made it clear they wanted to win now, exchanging WR Sammy Watkins, TE Lance Kendricks, DE Robert Quinn, OLB Alec Ogletree, and CB Trumaine Johnson for WR Brandin Cooks, DT Ndamukong Suh, CB Marcus Peters, CB Aqib Talib, and CB Sam Shields.  Later in the season, they added RB C.J. Anderson and pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. as well.  They now had one of the best secondaries in the league, Gurley and Anderson made for a dominant RB duo, and WRs Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods broke out, giving Goff a WR trio for most of the season.  Kupp has since torn his ACL and ended his season, but the Rams dominated in all aspects for most of the season.

After starting 8-0, the Rams headed to New Orleans, where they lost their first game in a shootout.  The Rams lost WR Cooper Kupp the next game despite a win.  Without Kupp, they weren’t as dominant, going 4-2.  But they took care of business against the Cowboys, winning 30-22.  They would travel to New Orleans once again for the NFC Championship.

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They were trailing for most of the game as expected, but they came back to tie it up at 20.  The Saints were going for one last drive.  When QB Drew Brees threw it to WR Tommylee Lewis, he was hoping for a first down.  However, the pass was broken up on a hard hit by CB Nickell Robey-Coleman.  I am not alone in my belief that the play by Robey-Coleman was blatant pass interference.  But the refs didn’t call it.  The Saints made the field goal.  But the Rams had time to respond with a field goal of their own.

The game went to overtime, and New Orleans won the toss.  But after S John Johnson picked off QB Drew Brees, the Rams drove down the field, kicked another field goal, and won the game, 26-23.  Saints fans were heartbroken.  But the Rams were ecstatic – they had won the NFC for the first time in 17 years.  This was only their third Super Bowl appearance, the other two coming during the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ era.

Championship weekend and the weeks leading up to it were very exciting.  But moving on to the Super Bowl, the Rams will take on the Patriots in just 6 days.  Who will come out on top?  Keep reading to hear my initial take on the match-up.

First Look: Patriots vs. Rams

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This is definitely going to be close.  The Pats aren’t coming off a great season by Brady-Belichick standards.  They went 11-5 for the first time since 2009, and the first time since their run of seven straight AFC Championships (now eight) began.  But the Pats have dominated offensively in each of their last 4 games, and they have motivation going on as QB Tom Brady looks to win his sixth ring and TE Rob Gronkowski looks to potentially end his career with one more.  Until this year, Gronk had been spoiled year after year with records of 12-4 or higher.  Despite a rough regular season, the Pats will look to make up for it with another Super Bowl victory (which would be Gronk’s third).  To get past a difficult Rams defense, they’ll have to use a large variety of plays to try and fake them out.  If they are as strong offensively as they have been in the last 4 games, they should be capable of winning this.  But the Rams’ D might be the toughest New England has faced since their latest win streak.

Coming off a first round playoff exit and a busy off-season that got fans excited, the Rams went 13-3 and earned the #2 seed in the NFC behind only the New Orleans Saints (who they lost to).  After being ‘overthrown’ by Brady-Belichick dynasty in 2001, they will look to dethrone the Pats in their return to the Super Bowl.  In order to do so, not only will they need QB Jared Goff and the RB duo of Gurley and Anderson to step it up, they’ll need the entire offense around Goff and Gurley to thrive against a mediocre New England defense.

Who will win Super Bowl LIII?  What is the game plan for each team?  What Super Bowl and season-long stats will burden, encourage and/or influence each team?  Find out this week as I release more articles each day.

 

2018-19 NFL Playoff Predictions: Pats Win it All Thanks to Favorable Schedule

Welcome to my 2018-19 NFL Playoff Predictions.  Today, I will show you my playoff bracket alongside score predictions and analysis for each game.  Next week, I will update you with Divisional Round predictions unless all of this week’s games are predicted correctly.  Below is my official playoff bracket:
I have the Patriots winning it all, though I don’t see them as the most talented team here.  I think a favorable schedule, including home field advantage in the AFC Championship after Kansas City’s elimination will help them to a Super Bowl victory.  The Super Bowl itself will be an epic battle of two aging superstar QBs, Tom Brady and Drew Brees.  It will be close, but I have the Patriots coming out on top.  Check out my score predictions and in-depth analysis for all 11 games below.

Wild Card Weekend

Offensively, these two teams are pretty evenly matched.  The Colts have given the Texans a hard time in the past.  But on Wild Card Weekend, I expect Houston’s defense to step it up and secure the Texans a victory.  While Indy struggles to get into the red zone against a strong Texans D, Houston will score on an inexperienced Colts defense with ease as WR DeAndre Hopkins puts up another huge game.
This will be a high scoring game, and it could potentially end up being a complete shootout.  Both these defenses lack the experience to thrive in the playoffs.  This will allow QB Dak Prescott to find his receivers and lead the Cowboys to victory.  However, QB Russell Wilson and his versatile offense will make it close and come within one possession of the victory.
With TE Hunter Henry back, this Chargers offense will only get better from here.  I think they’ll be able to handle the rising Ravens D this time around.  You know what they say: it’s hard to beat the same team twice.  This time around, the Chargers D will figure out how to shut down QB Lamar Jackson, RB Gus Edwards, and a talented Ravens offense.  It won’t be easy, but I see the Chargers as the only road team to win on Wild Card Weekend.
This will be closer than most people expect. QB Nick Foles has unlocked the full potential of the Eagles offense, and it will not be easy for even a dominant Bears D to contain them.  But I see QB Mitch Trubisky and his receivers stepping it up and leading a late comeback effort.  They will take advantage of the banged-up Eagles secondary and eventually secure the victory in overtime.

Divisional Round

This will not be an exciting one to watch.  The banged-up Houston offense will struggle to put up points, even against a mediocre New England D.  Don’t expect Brady the Pats to score much either against Houston’s strong defense.  But I see the Pats getting by, as Brady and his receivers take advantage of Houston’s defensive weakness: their secondary.  On the other hand, the Patriots’ well-rounded defense will stand strong.
No matter who wins in this divisional rubber match, it will be a complete shootout.  The Chiefs have next to no defense, which will not serve them well against any playoff team.  But will QB Patrick Mahomes II and company put up enough points to get by anyway?  In the playoffs?  I don’t think so.  Mahomes will put up a multi-TD effort.  But the Chargers’ revamped offense will dominate a weak Kansas City defense and outplay Mahomes and his squad.  Even with Mahomes replacing QB Alex Smith, the Chiefs will choke in the playoffs, again, as the Chargers move on to face New England in the AFC Championship.
This will be another close one.  But I don’t see this being as high-Scoring as Chicago’s Wild Card Weekend match-up with the Eagles.  The Rams have one of the most star-studded defenses in the league.  They will severely limit the abilities of a young Bears offense.  But Chicago’s D is up there with LA’s.  QB Jared Goff has had a good season in general, but he has put up a few duds here and there.  After putting up a dud the last time these two teams played, I could see him doing it again.  RB Todd Gurley is not at full health and WR Cooper Kupp is done for the year.  Goff will find himself short of weapons and will fall short in OT, going one and done for the second year in a row.
Dallas will be able to get by in the first round, but wait till they see an elite contender.  The Saints should be able to top the Cowboys with ease, even after their defeat in Dallas.  This game will take place in New Orleans, and it will be easier on the Saints now that they have an idea of what they’re up against.   Brees and his receivers will put up a decent game, but it’s the Saints defense that I could see stepping it up here against Prescott and his young offense.

Conference Championships

AFC Championship
In order for TB12 and the Patriots to take down this dominant Chargers offense, they’ll need to get their own act together offensively.  But at Gillette Stadium, I have confidence in them.  As long as the Chargers or somebody else dethrones the Chiefs before New England has to play them, the Pats will get the opportunity to play the AFC Championship at home, where they are undefeated on the season.  Against a decent Chargers D, Brady will have to use a variety of receivers, and the Pats will have to run the ball occasionally.  But I have confidence that they are capable, especially on home turf, though this will not be easy.  If this was played anywhere but Gillette, the Patriots would likely fall short to LA’s overpowered offense.
NFC Championship
Against a tough Bears D, you cannot expect a huge game out of Brees and company.  But the Saints have made defensive improvements of their own throughout the season, and I could see them holding the Bears to just 1 TD of their own.  The Saints will get by in the end, making the Super Bowl for the first time since 2009.
Fun fact: In 2009, the Saints went 13-3, losing to the same opponents as they did this year.  They went on to win the Super Bowl that year.

Super Bowl LIII

In a battle of two star QBs in Brady and Brees, I have the Pats winning it all. But it won’t be Brady who drives the victory.  The Saints have succeeded in stopping the run for most of the season, but the at times dominant Pats RB trio might overwhelm them.  Meanwhile, Brees will have a strong game here, but I think the Pats’ star-studded secondary will stand strong, holding Brees and his receivers to just 2 TDs.  These two things along with a vintage game by TE Rob Gronkowski will lead New England to a 6th Super Bowl victory.  I think RBs James White and Sony Michel will shine in this game, and I see the future of this team depending on their success.
That’s all for today’s predictions.  Stay tuned for more NFL Playoffs coverage and updates soon.