Super Bowl LIII is as close as February 3. The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams are already a week into their game preparations, but things are going to ramp up in the coming days. It's shaping up to be a tremendous matchup between two of the most balanced teams in the NFL.
This is far from the first time the Patriots and Rams have faced off. Notably, the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady dynasty in New England kicked off with an upset win over the Rams back in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Here we're going to take both a look ahead at the matchup and a look back at those in the past. We'll examine the history of the Rams and Patriots and make our pick for Super Bowl LIII.
Total Games Played: 13
Series Record: New England leads 8-5
Series Home Split: 6-6-1
Patriots Home Record: 3-3
Rams Home Record: 2-4
Neutral Site Record (Super Bowl XXXVI): Patriots 1-0
Super Bowl LIII
Who: New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Rams
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
When: Sunday, February 3 at 6:30 p.m. ET
TV and Live Stream: CBS and CBS All Access
Line and Over/Under (from OddsShark): NE -2.5, 56.5
There are a lot of individual matchups to digest in the game, and that's why this one could go either way. The Patriots are favored, but the Rams have both the talent and the coaching know-how to get the job done.
L.A. head coach Sean McVay is an offensive innovator. He knows how to get his players open in the passing game and how to create room in the running game. When it comes to weapons, he has plenty to work with. Losing Cooper Kupp for the season hurt, but he still has players like Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson to lean on.
Defensively, Los Angeles has a seasoned play-caller in Wade Phillips. While his defense had its issues in the regular season—it ranked 19th with an average of 358.6 yards per game allowed—it has been better in the postseason. In two playoff games, L.A. has allowed 299 yards and 22.5 points per contest.
There are two big reasons, however, that we are leaning toward the Patriots in this one.
The first is New England's rushing attack. The Patriots have leaned heavily on the ground game, especially in the playoffs. New England has amassed 331 yards on the ground in its two postseason contests.
With Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White in the backfield, the Pats have plenty of weapons with which to attack the Rams up front. This is important because while the Rams defense has been better in the playoffs, it's susceptible to the run.
Los Angeles allowed an average of 122.3 yards per game on the ground in the regular season. As Doug Farrar of USA Today recently pointed out, Phillips has improved the run defense largely by stacking the box.
This could create a problem for the Rams defense because Tom Brady knows exactly how to make a defense pay for selling out against the run. It will also be harder for guys like Aaron Donald and Dante Fowler Jr. to get to Brady if they are concentrating on containing Michel and Co.
If Los Angeles doesn't focus on stopping the run, though, New England will have a chance to grind out the game and to keep L.A.'s potent offense off the field. This creates a catch-22 for the Rams defense that could have it off balance all game long.
The other reason why we're giving New England an edge here is its ability to play man coverage on defense. While a lot of teams rely heavily on the zone, the Patriots do not.
"I know for us, we watch the quarterbacks," safety Devin McCourty said, per Doug Kyed of NESN.com. "The quarterbacks are too good. They read the zone. Guys know how to get open in zone and do different things."
Playing zone is going to put a lot of pressure on the front seven to slow Gurley and Anderson in the running game. However, it's also going to put a lot of pressure on Rams quarterback Jared Goff. He will have to process the field and determine where the open receiver is on the fly. New England simply won't let him predetermine open spots in the zone.
Both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears flustered Goff with man defense late in the season. This could give New England's pass rush the split second it needs to hit home.
While the Rams are also capable of playing man defense in the secondary, they aren't quite as effective at it. Marcus Peters, in particular, has struggled in man quite a bit this season. The Patriots are better equipped to win the man-defense matchup, and they will be able to throw looks at Goff that the young quarterback has likely never seen before.
It would be a shock for Los Angeles to show Brady something he's never before seen.
This should lead to New England winning the turnover battle—the Patriots defense had 14 forced fumbles and 18 interceptions in the regular season—and that is going to make all the difference in a close contest.
Prediction: Patriots 33, Rams 27