The Super Bowl is finally here! The big game takes place in Atlanta, Georgia in Mercedes-Benz Stadium at 6:30 EST Sunday Night on CBS. The Rams come into this game after winning after an incredibly controversial no-call in New Orleans two weeks ago. I am extremely curious to see how they react to the atmosphere of this game and how the crowd will affect their play early. I assume that the Patriots will bring more fans because of location and popularity with the Rams being a recently relocated team on the west coast. The Rams struggled to get going in the atmosphere of New Orleans last week. I think they will deal with less noise here, and they should be more composed since they have experience in a similar situation, but it is still something to think about. The Patriots come into this game after an incredible overtime win in Kansas City that required 2 straight game-deciding drives for touchdowns. I think the Patriots come into this game full of confidence after their last 2 big wins against incredibly talented teams.
The biggest matchup in this game is kind of a question mark to me. There are a few things that I think will be incredibly important when deciding a winner of this game. The first thing that I am interested in is the Rams pass rush getting to Tom Brady. We all know that the Patriots have been really good at keeping Brady upright in the pocket in recent games, even against elite pass-rushing teams in the Chargers and the Chiefs. I think a lot of that has to do with the preparation and the schematic changes that the Patriots make on a weekly basis. Both of those teams best pass-rushers are typically coming from the outside. What the Patriots have done is used Gronkowski to chip block or even just drop into pass-protection to give them extra help on the line. Gronk is one of the best blocking tight ends in football, so this is an incredibly useful tactic. The difference in this game is that the Rams are more prone to getting pressure up the middle, with Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh on the interior. This will somewhat mitigate Gronk’s ability to disrupt the best players and will hurt Brady’s ability to step up in the pocket at times. If the Patriots can stop those two guys, then we may see Gronk run even more routes than he has recently. This would obviously benefit the Patriots because Gronk is way too big and strong for the Rams to mitigate in the secondary.
The second key matchup in this game is how well the Patriots defense can execute vs. this Rams offense. I believe that the Pats will defend the Rams similar to they defended the Chiefs in their second meeting. They will likely line up Stephon Gilmore against Robert Woods as much as they can and then bracket cover Brandin Cooks with a corner and a safety. If we want to simply look at how this worked last week, Woods is more likely to have a good game simply because over the course of 60+ plays, I expect the player in single coverage to get more open looks than the player being doubled. This is exactly how it played out last game for the Chiefs, and I see no reason for the Patriots to stray away from this strategy. The scary part for the Rams is that the Chiefs struggled to move the ball more than they were used to and they have more weapons than the Rams do. With those receivers being covered, the Chiefs still had Travis Kelce to throw to. The Rams don’t have that luxury. If this plan gets implemented by the Patriots, I expect the Rams to struggle to pass the ball to their top 2 targets more than they are used to. This means they either have to run the ball at a high level or they have to have guys like Gerald Everett and Josh Reynolds step up. The loss of Cooper Kupp will be really prevalent in this game because the Patriots would have been forced to leave him in a rather standard look all game.
I think that the Pats defense vs. Rams offense matchup is more reliable and predictable and I think it significantly favors the Patriots. They have done this to multiple teams with a good amount of success doing so. That being said, I like the Patriots in this game (-2.5) because I think they will have more ways to move the ball consistently. We have seen them use the rushing game well all season, so I think they may be able to break runs out wide if they cannot keep the pocket clean with Suh and Donald on the inside.