Rams to butt heads with Patriots

By David Mullen

Here we go again. The New England Patriots are back in the Super Bowl, this time in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, Feb. 3. It is 41-year-old quarterback Tom Brady teaming with 66-year-old coach Bill Belichick for, at least, one more time.

For the Los Angeles Rams, beneficiaries of the worst call in sports history two weeks ago against the New Orleans Saints, it is 24-year-old quarterback Jared Goff leading a team coached by 33-year-old Sean McVay. One would think that experience will win out over youth. More than 80 percent of the betting public has their money on the Patriots giving the Rams two and one-half points.

But don’t sell the Rams short just yet. 

Remember how Los Angeles shut down Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys’ renowned ground game in the divisional playoffs? Former Cowboys coach, now Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips can be a defensive master. They have a defensive line that features one of the NFL’s best players in Aaron Donald, and a reemerging Ndamukong Suh. Both players are capable of being game-changers, meaning the Patriots will be hard-pressed to double team either one.

Now the Patriots always seem to find a way to win. Brady is a football God, and their offensive line does not give up sacks. Letting Belichick plan for two weeks against a team is never a good thing for the opposition. The Patriots controlled the clock against the Kansas City Chiefs on the road in the AFC title game. They always play with such great discipline, and Brady has the innate ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage.

New England blocks as well as anyone. They have a powerful blocking back in James Develin, the multi-talented tight end Rob Gronkowski, excellent guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason, center David Andrews who can adjust quickly to play calls, and, seemingly out of nowhere, they added a speedy running back and pass catcher in the first round of the NFL Draft when they took Sony Michel.

But remember, the Patriots did lose five games in the regular season, and they were all to non-playoff teams. They are not without flaws, and faced a Kansas City team that did not look like it was ready for the spotlight. That said, a questionable neutral zone infraction by the Chiefs may have ultimately cost them the game, and New England had to go into overtime to win. 

The Rams are fast and agile. They had a tremendous season, and their only three losses this year were close games to playoff teams (the Saints, Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles). But in order to beat the Patriots, running back Todd Gurley (pictured above) needs to have the game of his life and the defense must create turnovers. I like the fact that the game is in a dome, so Los Angeles won’t have to deal with the outside elements, a situation that typically favors New England. 

It is funny that the sentiment in America is for the Patriots to lose, not necessarily for the Rams to win. One computer ranking has the Rams a slight favorite, 25.7 points to 25.1. The odds makers have listed the total score around 56 1/2 points. America likes an underdog, but they also get bitter when the same teams, such as the New England Patriots or New York Yankees, are always in the limelight.

This year, I think America gets its wish. Look for a 30-21 Rams victory, even if most of the U.S. currency will be placed on New England in betting parlors around the country.