It’s that time of year again where all eyes turn to the biggest sporting event in American sports, the Super Bowl. This year, Super Bowl LIII will feature the 13-3 National Football Conference champion Los Angeles Rams, and the 11-5 American Football Conference champion New England Patriots at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sunday, Feb. 3.
In 2002, the Patriots and then St. Louis Rams met in Super Bowl XXXVI with New England edging out the Rams 20-17 on a last second field goal by Adam Vinatieri. This was Tom Brady’s first Super Bowl appearance and victory. On Sunday, he will be playing in his ninth Super Bowl and trying to break the tie with former NFL great Charles Haley as the only player to ever win six Super Bowls.
The Patriots are playing in their third consecutive Super Bowl while the Rams haven’t appeared in the big game since that Super XXXVI loss. Brady and New England head Coach Bill Belichick are 5-3 as a quarterback-head coach tandem.
On the other side of the field is the Rams’ 24-year-old quarterback Jared Goff and the youngest head coach to ever make it to a Super Bowl, 33-year-old Sean McVay. Goff and McVay are being hailed by some as the new version of Brady and Belichick so the head-to-head matchup in the Super Bowl is fitting. Interesting fact about McVay: He’s so young that he played against Patriots’ wide receiver Julian Edelman in college.
The Collegiate will be watching the game and here is how our sports writers see the game playing out.
Mike Staley – Managing/Sports Editor
This is a Super Bowl matchup of old school versus new school. This is the Patriots’ 11th appearance in franchise history, where as the Rams are making just their fourth appearance only having won one. The Rams will try to come out quick with a balanced attack on offense. The Rams will need to get Todd Gurley going early for him to gain some confidence. He’s coming off of one of his worst performances of the year in the NFC championship game where he only had four carries for 10 yards. Fortunately for the Rams, C.J. Anderson has been a nice find for them to have a one-two punch in the backfield. Jared Goff will need to have a big offensive performance and minimize his mistakes. His go-to target will be someone the Patriots are familiar with. Brandin Cooks, who played for the Patriots last year, will have to help Goff in the downfield department. But as the Patriots well know, he’s more than capable of having a huge game. For the Patriots, not much can be said that isn’t already known. If they’re going to be successful, it will be the usual suspects of Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Bill Belichick coming up with a defensive scheme to take away the Rams’ best two weapons (Gurley and Cooks). Brady has shown many times this season that if the defense can get to him and make him hear footsteps, his performance suffers and he throws non-characteristic passes. The Rams have Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh leading arguably the best defensive line in the NFL. If anyone can get to Brady and make him uncomfortable, it’s them. This game will be high scoring, but like the other eight Super Bowls Brady and Belichick have been in, it will be close. I think the Patriots find a way to win on a vintage last minute drive and get their sixth Lombardi trophy, tying them with the Pittsburgh Steelers for most all time. New England 34, Los Angeles 31.
Matthew Scheidel – Staff Writer
This is the second Super Bowl in a row that features a rematch of a previous Super Bowl. The last time these two teams met in the big game was in Super Bowl XXXVI, where the young and unproven Tom Brady defeated ex-shelf stocker Kurt Warner and the greatest show on turf thanks to a last second field goal by Adam Vinatieri, thus beginning the Patriots’ dynasty. Sean McVay’s Rams have been favorites to go all the way since the beginning of the season, while Bill Belichick’s Pats have looked to be on the decline at times this season, even losing to the Detroit Lions 26-10 in Week 3. Yet, here we are seeing the Patriots in yet another Super Bowl. The key to this game is going to be who can set the tone early by getting the ground game going. Rams running back Todd Gurley has had a relatively quiet postseason, thanks in part to the resurgence of veteran C.J. Anderson. The Patriots’ secondary is playing out of this world right now, so gaining some traction on the ground is especially going to be key for Los Angeles. For New England, rookie running back Sony Michel has emerged as an every down back for them this postseason, with a combined 242 rushing yards and five touchdowns. However, they still have reliable pass-catching specialist James White and goal-line back Rex Burkhead to compliment the offense. New England’s defense has also been up to the task this postseason, with the exception of a rough second half in the AFC Championship game in Kansas City. The Rams’ offense also hasn’t looked as strong since the beginning of December. With all that being said, I have to give the edge the Pats. The Brady and Belichick dynasty will get their sixth ring as they will take down the Rams, 34-24.
Aaron Stoner – Staff Writer
Super Bowl LIII features the Michigan man himself, Tom Brady gunning for his sixth Super Bowl victory, which would give him the most rings of any player in NFL history. Despite being 41 years of age and having now played in 19 consecutive seasons, Brady’s play, likened to a fine bottle of pinot noir, has aged remarkably. This season has arguably been one of Brady’s strongest to date, throwing for almost 4,400 yards, as well as tossing 29 touchdowns to only 11 interceptions. One could say with almost certainty that Brady seems poised to lead his Patriot minutemen to another Super Bowl win. But not so fast. At only 33 years of age, and having been the head coach of a supremely focused, hungry Rams squad for just two seasons, Sean McVay will draw up a game plan for the ages and prove to his few remaining skeptics why he is one of the brightest, most gifted minds in the National Football League. I believe McVay will outscheme, outwit, and outsmart the crotchety, “Gandalf-ian” wizard across the field in head coach Bill Belichick. Belichick is a coach who has earned a reputation, despite having the personality of that of a dish towel, as someone who has razor sharp instincts, not to mention over 40 years of coaching experience to fall back on. McVay will rely upon his wildly talented running backs Todd Gurley, as well as journeyman C.J. Anderson to get into open space with cheeky checkdowns and a creative screen attack to get ahead early. But it will be McVay’s third-year quarterback from the golden coast, Jared Goff, whose play this year has looked like that of a seasoned veteran, outgaining Brady in both yards and touchdowns, (4,688 / 32 respectively) that will prove to be the difference. Goff’s steady play between the lines, while throwing with surgical precision, consistently finding his speedy wideouts in Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks will be too much for a Patriots secondary that allows nearly 300 passing yards a game. A high scoring affair and easily one of the most entertaining games to date, I see McVay and the Rams winning their first Super Bowl in almost 20 years, despite assuredly some late game Brady heroics, with a score of 38-34. GO RAMS!! #wenotme