Rams, Patriots to Face Off for Super Bowl LIII

This Sunday, America will once again partake in its yearly tradition of close to four hours of advertisement saturation, a somewhat amusing musical performance, and of course, the live spectacle of letting grown men run around smashing into each other over an oblong ball. It’s been a pretty tumultuous and crazy season in the NFL, with narratives being both shattered and reaffirmed as some teams played far better or worse than expected and others continued along the same success or failure as before. After all the events of the regular season and the playoffs, we’re left with the most important one on the schedule for the championship: the Super Bowl. There are just two teams left that can win this year’s title, so let’s take a look at them now.

The representative from the AFC is no stranger to the spotlight: the New England Patriots. Even those less acquainted with the goings-on of the NFL know that the Patriots have been here plenty of times in recent years. Since Bill Belichick took over as head coach in 2000, the Patriots have been to the playoffs 15 times, been to the Super Bowl 8 times (winning 5 of those) and losing in the AFC Championship an additional 4 times. Belichick and New England’s star quarterback are very familiar with the NFL’s biggest stages. They have looked weaker this season, but any regular viewer of the NFL will tell you never to rule out New England. This is no more apparent than in their making the Super Bowl in a season many believed they would be on the decline. The Patriots are, as always, a serious threat to their competition that should never be underestimated.

Who exactly is this competition? The Los Angeles Rams, who haven’t been on this stage in quite a while. The Rams have been one of the league’s hottest teams over the past two seasons after the hiring of coach Sean McVay. Quarterback Jared Goff has blossomed into one of the league’s best young quarterbacks under McVay, stepping into an offense also featuring elite running back Todd Gurley and receivers Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. Their defense is also very strong with a lot of big names; Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and Michael Brockers are just a few big veterans on this unit. Even players like Aqib Talib and Lamarcus Joyner who haven’t always played shone statistically can come up big and make plays. This Rams squad is the culmination of a very long rebuilding period combined with some very savvy trades, draft picks, and free agent signings that have at last brought success to a franchise that has struggled mightily and relocated from St. Louis just two seasons ago.

So here we have two teams, one familiar with and the other unaccustomed to the limelight in the past two decades. What’s interesting, however, is that the Rams’ last Super Bowl appearance was against the Patriots in 2002 in an outcome that was defining for both teams. For the Patriots, it was their first Super Bowl win in the Belichick-Brady era that would set off many years of success still counting to this day; for the Rams, it was the beginning of the end of their success with an astonishing offensive core they had assembled and years of subpar seasons. What’s incredible is that after nearly 17 years, both teams find themselves in similar positions. The Patriots still have Brady and Belichick at the center of their team after all these years despite a rotating cast of characters around them. The Rams, instead of the power trio of Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, and Torry Holt, have Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and Brandin Cooks to lead the way on offense. The Patriots once again seek to prove the doubters wrong in a game many feel the Rams will win, just as in Super Bowl XXXVI.

In my view, this game could come down simply to who has the ball last. Both teams these playoffs have shown they can be extremely dominant on offense and defense, so it’s anyone’s guess how things will pan out in the game. I expect a close, exciting matchup from these two teams. For the winner, I have to predict the Patriots. Brady has shown time and time again he’s up for the task even when the odds seem stacked against him, and far be it from me to bet against him. With that said, all the talk in the world won’t matter once the game starts, so Sunday night, sit back and enjoy a night of food, friends, and football no matter what the outcome… unless the Patriots win.