The last football game of the 2018 NFL season pits the Los Angeles Rams against the New England Patriots in what should be another entertaining Super Bowl.
It's a rematch of the first Super Bowl that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady played in. That was 17 years ago, and the Patriots were the young upstart underdog going against the last vestige of the Greatest Show on Turf, a Rams juggernaut which ended far too soon.
Now the shoe is (sort of) on the other foot. This incarnation of the Rams features few players with Super Bowl experience, a young quarterback facing doubts about his ability to validate his greatness and a formidable foe that won a recent Super Bowl and has dominated its conference over a period of time.
Anyone writing off the Rams simply because the foe is the Patriots is fooling himself. Sure, the Patriots are making their fourth championship appearance in five years, but that has nothing to do with the Rams. Los Angeles earned its way here thanks to a dynamic offensive and the most deserving defensive candidate for MVP in the 21st century in Aaron Donald.
Donald and his ability to disrupt the Patriots offense up the gut is a major problem for New England. What has made him even more dangerous is that fellow DT Ndamukong Suh has stepped up in the playoffs. The most effective way to bother Brady is by bringing pressure in his face and not allowing him to step up and into throws. The Eagles did that well in their win over the Patriots last year.
The trick for the Rams is to have their own offense solve the New England defense. Todd Gurley needs to have an effective game on the ground. Fortunately for Los Angeles, he's one of the best RBs in the league and a versatile one, too. Gurley can win between the tackles or on edge and stretch runs. The jet sweeps and inside TE handoffs that coach Sean McVay sprinkles in help, too.
Yet I'm still picking the Patriots. Why?
Belichick's teams are always fantastic counterpunchers. They're exceptionally prepared to adapt to the opponent and its specific strengths. But in the playoffs, New England has gone into prime Mike Tyson mode. They're throwing haymakers early and effectively. The Patriots have scored in every quarter and seized early double-digit leads in both playoff wins.
They can do that against the Rams too. While that LA front is fearsome, their secondary and linebacking corps is vulnerable to the quickness and precision of the Patriots passing attack. New England's special teams will keep the Rams from thriving in the third phase of the game.
Patriots 33, Rams 28
What would a Super Bowl forecast be without predicting some of the game props?
Tom Brady over/under 300.5 yards passing: Over
MVP: Sony Michel
Will there be a 2-pt conversion: Yes
Gladys Knight over/under 1:47 on the National Anthem: Under
Will Tony Romo successfully predict a TD play: Yes
Color of Gatorade in the coach's shower: Blue