Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, February 1, 2019 at 12:00 AM
OUR SUPER BOWL LIII PREVIEW - IT'S PATRIOTS VS. RAMS IN SUNDAY SHOWDOWN SOME 17 YEARS TO THE DAY FROM THEIR FIRST SUPE MATCHUP
You can set your watch to it … every 17 years on this very date the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams (formerly from St. Louis) square off in a Super Bowl showdown. Hey, if we're writing this in the year 2036 than we won't be kidding!
All we know now is when they close the curtain on this here-and-now 2018 NFL season with Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, Feb. 3rd, either the Patriots will be basking in the glow of a sixth championship in the last 18 years or the Rams will be the ones mentioned as the "next" dynasty team with a super-young head coach and a still-young team. History's calling … now who's gonna answer?
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SUPER BOWL SIDE & TOTAL -- Rams vs. Patriots (-2.5, 56.5) (6:30 ET, CBS)
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SUPER BOWL LIII PREVIEW
Sunday, February 3 - Mercedes-Benz Stadium, at Atlanta, GA
NEW ENGLAND (13-5) vs. LOS ANGELES RAMS (15-3) - 6:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Let's take a look at how this game's big "personalities" figure to write the final chapter to this NFL season:
There's the 2.5-point favored New England Patriots starring snarky QB Tom Brady and his "we're still here" annoying mantra and head coach Bill Belichick looking to mastermind a sixth Super Bowl title for the team that's loved by many … and hated by many, many more.
Then there's the Los Angeles Rams who've scored 30-or-more points on 13 different occasions this year while being guided by 33-year-old head coach Sean McVay and his giant playlist that usually includes a trick or "gadget play" somewhere along the way. Toss in lead-pipe cinch NFL Defensive Player of the Year DL Aaron Donald - a/k/a Mr. America from the look of those no-shirt selfies - and he's a guy that can wreck an enemy's game plan faster than you can say Maroon 5!
The fact of the matter is the larger-than-life "personalities" here figure to go a long, long way in determining who will be holding along the shiny Vince Lombardi Trophy right 'round 10 p.m. Eastern time but you better believe aforementioned Rams' HC McVay and D-lineman Donald have to be "stars" here plus the Rams need a 20-to-25 touch game from RB Todd Gurley - notably MIA in that 26-23 overtime win against New Orleans two weekends ago. Plus, the Rams need some step-to-the-front performances by QB Jared Goff (32 TDs in regular-season play and uber-gritty in that NFC Championship Game win in N'Orleans) and an LA secondary that must "take away" either WR Julian Edelman (74 regular-season grabs and a 16-catch post-season so far) and/or TE Rob Gronkowski (averaging 14.9 yards per grab in the playoffs).
Let's be clear … Brady's gonna "get his" in terms of completions, yards, etc. but if LA defensive coordinator Wade Phillips can silence either Edelman or Gronkowski, then Brady will have to be content to dump it down to versatile RB James White and hope he can break some tackles. Something tells us Phillips will concentrate his team's pass-rush efforts between the Patriots' guard-center-guard alignment a la what the New York Giants did to Brady back in the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowls.
Last year the famed "Philly Special" was the signature play of the Eagles' thrilling 41-33 Super Bowl 52 win against New England - the reverse pitch and then throw-back to the wide-open quarterback Nick Foles - and we won't be shocked here if the loosey-goosey McVay tries to catch the Pats' defense overplaying their hand with a couple of plays where either Goff is the receiver or maybe RB Gurley is the passer.
Hey, one successful trick play could well spell the difference when you consider that in Brady/Belichick's past eight Super Bowls the actual margin for victory has been 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 6 (in OT) and 8 points.
Spread Notes - New England is 11-7 ATS (against the spread) overall this year and that includes five-of-six pointspread covers when playing fellow playoff teams. The Patriots - who are an underwhelming 4-6 ATS away from Foxboro this season - are a composite 9-3 versus the vig in all post-season games while dating back to the AFC Divisional Round in 2014. On the flip side, the Los Angeles Rams are 9-7-2 against the odds this year and that includes a 3-5-1 ATS mark when squaring off with fellow playoff teams. Did you know the Rams ride a four-game spread winning streak into this bash and this franchise has not covered five games in a row for more than a decade?
Now, here's the team charts for both the 2018 Patriots and the Rams with all home teams in CAPS …
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
|1||HOUSTON||- 6||W 27-20|
|2||at Jacksonville||- 1.5||L 20-31|
|3||at Detroit||- 7||L 10-26|
|4||MIAMI||- 6.5||W 38-7|
|5||INDIANAPOLIS||- 11||W 38-24|
|6||KANSAS CITY||- 4||L 43-40|
|7||at Chicago||- 2||W 38-31|
|8||at Buffalo||- 14||W 25-6|
|9||GREEN BAY||- 5||W 31-17|
|10||at Tennessee||- 6.5||L 10-34|
|12||at NY Jets||- 12.5||W 27-13|
|13||MINNESOTA||- 6||W 24-10|
|14||at Miami||- 9||L 33-34|
|15||at Pittsburgh||- 2.5||L 10-17|
|16||BUFFALO||- 14||L 24-12|
|17||NY JETS||- 14||W 38-3|
|DIV||LA CHARGERS||- 3.5||W 41-28|
|AFC||at Kansas City||+ 3.5||W 37-31 (ot)|
DIV = Divisional Playoff Game
AFC = AFC Championship Game
LOS ANGELES RAMS
|1||at Oakland||- 6.5||W 33-13|
|2||ARIZONA||- 12||W 34-0|
|3||LA CHARGERS||- 7||W 35-23|
|4||MINNESOTA||- 7||T 38-31|
|5||at Seattle||- 7.5||L 33-31|
|6||at Denver||- 7||L 23-20|
|7||at San Francisco||- 9||W 39-10|
|8||GREEN BAY||- 7.5||L 29-27|
|9||at New Orleans||- 2||L 35-45|
|10||SEATTLE||- 9.5||L 36-31|
|11||KANSAS CITY||- 3||T 54-51|
|13||at Detroit||- 10||W 30-16|
|14||at Chicago||- 3||L 6-15|
|15||PHILADELPHIA||- 13.5||L 23-30|
|16||at Arizona||- 14||W 31-9|
|17||SAN FRANCISCO||- 10.5||W 48-32|
|DIV||DALLAS||- 7.5||W 30-22|
|NFC||at New Orleans||+ 3||W 26-23 (ot)|
DIV = Divisional Playoff Game
NFC = NFC Championship Game
NOTE: Get more Super Bowl LIII News/Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.