Nearly two decades in, the New England Patriots are trying to extend their dynasty in Super Bowl LIII against the team that helped catapult Tom Brady and Bill Belichick into one of the most successful runs in sports history.
The St. Louis Rams are no more, but the Los Angeles Rams will be the latest team to try to put a dent in the Patriots when they tangle Sunday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Everyone has an opinion on how things will play out, including NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian. After making their against-the-spread picks all season long, they’re back for one more game.
Before we get to their picks, here’s how they fared in the conference championships.
Mike Cole: 1-1 (131-126-5 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 1-1 (135-122-5)
Andre Khatchaturian: 1-1 (136-121-5)
Now, here are their Super Bowl picks with lines courtesy of OddsShark.com.
SUNDAY, FEB. 3
(-2.5) New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Rams, 6:30 p.m. ET
Mike: Patriots 30-24 (under)
I have the Patriots covering the number and winning by only a touchdown, but I think there’s a chance this game won’t even be that close. In fact, in that predicted score, I think it’s actually a late touchdown that bridges the gap some for the Rams and makes the final score look closer than it was. Maybe Sean McVay is the future, and maybe he is as advertised, and maybe he finds a way to solve the Belichick riddle. But it’s just so hard to pick against the Patriots with extra rest and preparation, especially with how well they’re playing. New England can just do too much, especially on offense, where I think the Patriots will have success running some heavier personnel packages, but they also have the ability to spread things out and take advantage of the LA secondary. Not only that, but if there’s any coaching staff/offensive line combo that can slow down Aaron Donald, it’s the Patriots’ tandem. And all of that doesn’t even touch on how well the Patriots’ defense is playing right now. They’re peaking at the perfect time, so the Rams will have to wait at least another year before staking their claim as the NFL’s next big thing.
Ricky: Rams 30-26 (under)
Underdogs are 13-4 ATS in the last 17 Super Bowls, even winning six of the last seven outright. But that’s not why I’m picking the Rams. Instead, my pick is centered on McVay’s offensive ingenuity and the fact that the Rams having the defensive personnel to throw Tom Brady off his game. McVay is a master at manipulating defenders, both before and after the snap, and I expect the Rams’ wunderkind to have a few tricks up his sleeve Sunday. Meanwhile, the Rams’ defense, while not great statistically this season, boasts a ferocious pass rush led by the best football player in the world, Donald, and a secondary that’s far more daunting since Aqib Talib’s return to the lineup. If the Rams can pressure Brady while rushing only four and dropping seven into coverage — much like the Giants and Broncos teams that gave the Patriots postseason fits in previous years — then it’ll be a long day for the Patriots quarterback. He’ll still make plays, obviously, because he’s Tom freakin’ Brady, but consistently having to throw the football quickly into tight windows will lead to a couple of momentum-swinging turnovers. The biggest hurdle for Los Angeles will be slowing New England’s rushing attack — spearheaded by rookie running back Sony Michel and brilliant offensive line play of late — but I’m trusting the Rams’ defensive front to step up on the grandest of stages.
Andre: Patriots 30-20 (under)
The Patriots’ ability to eat the clock, their potent offensive line and strong situational defense will be the difference in the game. There’s no reason why Michel shouldn’t continue to thrive running the ball. The Rams allowed more than five yards per carry on the ground during the regular season. Although they’ve been better in the postseason, the Patriots’ ability to create long drives might cause the Rams defense to fatigue towards the end of the game. The Patriots ran the second-most offensive plays during the regular season and already have run 172 plays in the postseason — 28 more than the Rams, who have ran the second-most plays. They absolutely dominated time of possession against the Chargers (38:20-21:40) and the Chiefs (43:59-20:53). Amazingly, 90 of those 172 plays have been pass attempts and Brady hasn’t been sacked against strong pass rushes like the Chargers and Chiefs. This has been a trend all season long. Brady was only sacked 21 times during the regular season. It’s also important to note that the Patriots defense is on another level right now. Philip Rivers and Patrick Mahomes only completed 50 percent of their passes against the Pats. It’s fair to say that both of those quarterbacks are better than Jared Goff. The Patriots will stick to their gameplan of eating the clock and wear out the Rams’ defense. In turn, the Rams will not be able to generate pressure against Brady and his potent offensive line. When Brady isn’t pressured, he plays his best football and the Patriots will win their sixth Super Bowl.
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images