Super Bowl LIII preview

John Kelly, Sports Editor

New England Patriots vs Los Angeles Rams

When: Sunday, Feb. 3, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta

After undoubtedly the most controversial conference championship weekend in the history of the National Football League, the Super Bowl is set. The Los Angeles Rams will face a team who’s no stranger to the Super Bowl: the New England Patriots.

The Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl after picking up one of the worst roughing the passer calls of all time and defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship. Led by quarterback Tom Brady, (5-3 in Super Bowls) the Patriots have certainly lost some steam as Brady faces the end of his career; however, they are still one of the most successful postseason teams in all of sports. Although they have still been successful, this Patriots team is a little different from previous years. All of the team’s losses were to non-playoff teams: the Lions, Jaguars, Titans and Dolphins. This gave NFL analysts serious doubts about the consistency of this team heading into the postseason, but they have found new ways to win games: Sony Michel. Michel has been a workhorse this postseason, rushing for 242 yards and five touchdowns in his last two games. On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator and soon to be Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has done a phenomenal job with the Patriots defense. Although there isn’t any real superstars on the defensive side on the ball, they are a well-coached, hard-working unit that has the capability to stop the Rams offense.

The Rams come into the Super Bowl with the youngest head coach in the NFL and the most star-studded roster. Like the Patriots, there is a lot of controversy over whether the Rams should even be in this game, after a referee somehow missed a blatant shove by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman on Saints receiver TommyLee Lewis. The main headline of the Rams this postseason has been the two-headed monster at running back with Todd Gurley and late season pick up C.J. Anderson. Anderson has been an exceptional complement to Todd Gurley, giving the superstar running back a rest from taking too much of the workload. The main focus will be on the defense and how they can stop Brady, who is heading into his ninth Super Bowl. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who hasn’t been much of a factor this season, finally showed up last week blowing up the Saints backfield. Along with Suh, defensive lineman and 2018 sack leader Aaron Donald will try to disrupt Brady from making too many big plays.

Patriots keys to the game:

  • Keep Gurley and Anderson under 100 yards. The running game has been the heart of the Rams offense the last month. Putting too much pressure on a young quarterback like Jared Goff can force mistakes.
  • Stop the pass rush. The Patriots can’t win without Tom Brady, so protecting him from the big bodies of the Rams front seven is crucial.

Rams keys to the game:

    • Stop Sony Michel. Outside of Michel, the Patriots don’t have any other dynamic running backs. Making the crafty offense of the Patriots more one dimensional will help out DC Wade Phillips and the Rams defense.
    • Try to guard Gronk. Rob Gronkowski has been very inconsistent this season, but like last week showed he still has the ability to make big plays in big games.

OSports Prediction: Rams 34, Patriots 21