Sunday, January 27, 2019

2018-19 NFL playoff predictions (Part 4 – Super Bowl)

Welcome to part four of my 2018-19 NFL playoff predictions. The final match-up is set for Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta:

New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Rams

This game is a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI, when the Patriots stunned the overwhelmingly favored then-St. Louis Rams, 20-17. The Rams previously won Super Bowl XXXIV over the Tennessee Titans in 2000, while the Patriots finally return to the Super Bowl for the third time in three years.

This is probably the least excited I’ve been for a Super Bowl in years.

How the Patriots reached the Super Bowl
After the Patriots suffered a heartbreaking loss last year in Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Patriots finished this year’s regular season with an 11-5 record, every loss occurring on the road. The Patriots demolished the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 in the Divisional round before resurrecting the Arrowhead Curse in a 37-31 overtime AFC Championship victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Patriots finally snapped their decade-long road playoff game losing streak.

How the Patriots can win the Super Bowl
The Patriots O-line never broke against the Chargers and the Chiefs. A repeat performance against the Rams and Tom Brady won’t even break a sweat. If the Patriots can punch through the Rams’ O-line and neutralize Jared Goff, Tom Brady will secure his sixth ring before the halftime show. No room for costly interceptions and turnovers, however; those mistakes nearly doomed the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots need a perfect performance through all sixty minutes to win Super Bowl LIII and give Tom Brady his sixth ring.

How the Rams reached the Super Bowl
The Rams finished second in the NFC with a 13-3 record, first defeating the Dallas Cowboys 30-22 before defeating the New Orleans Saints 26-23 in overtime after the Rams were bailed out by the referees late in the game. Had the referees called that pass interference penalty, we’d be looking at an exciting showdown between the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots, Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady, a clash of the titans. But no, instead we get “team that’s been here a million times before” vs. “team that only got here thanks to an abysmal non-call.”

How the Rams can win the Super Bowl
The Rams defense may hold the key to breaking through the Patriots O-line: Aaron Donald. As seen in Super Bowl LII, the only time Brady was sacked was the moment the Patriots were doomed to defeat. Neutralize Brady and the Patriots run the risk of losing back-to-back Super Bowls, not seen since the quadruple fail train that was the Buffalo Bills in the 1990s. The Rams have the best offense in the NFC, but it’s small comfort when the Patriots already toppled the best offense in the league, the Kansas City Chiefs. Jared Goff will need to deliver a perfect effort and receive help from the ground attack if the Rams are to overcome the Patriots and win Super Bowl LIII.

Final prediction
The Super Bowls over the past several years each have had a defining moment. We’ve had a power outage (XLVII), a safety twelve seconds in that kicked off a lopsided game (XLVIII), a stupefying decision to pass on the one yard line when you have Marshawn Lynch on your team (XLIX), an unstoppable juggernaut crumbling in the big game (50), an overtime battle after it was 28-3 (LI), and a cataclysmic strip sack turnover late in the fourth quarter to seal the game (LII).

Super Bowl LIII will have its own defining moment. Brady and Goff will fight to a 31-31 tie late in the fourth quarter. The Rams will seem poised to seal the game with a late drive.

Until Goff throws a pick six and the Patriots seal the win with a defensive touchdown.

Patriots win, 38-31

No comments: