The Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots are headed to Atlanta to compete for the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LIII. So, who’s got the edge?
We’re breaking down every positional group here to come up with an objective measuring stick as we evaluate both teams leading up to the big game.
Jared Goff has come a long way. His performance in the second half and overtime on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints was tremendous. But with the game on the line, Tom Brady is still the best in the business.
Running backs: Rams
Sony Michel is incredible. James White is a pass-catching demon. Rex Burkhead is a valuable third back with goal-line prowess.
The Rams, however, have an incredible two-headed monster in Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson — the latter of whom has been the workhorse for the offense during the playoffs so far. If Gurley gets back to form, the Rams could roll.
Wide receivers: Rams
This is a no-brainer. Julian Edelman is a postseason monster, but when it comes to the entire receiving corps the Rams have a huge edge.
The combination of Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds is among the best the league has to offer. Cooks, in particular, was dominant in the NFC Championship Game going against one of the best secondaries in the NFL.
Tight ends: Patriots
This was much tougher than you might think. Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett aren’t known nationally, but they can certainly make big plays. Rob Gronkowski isn’t as dynamic as he used to be, but he still is a heck of a player. In the run game, he’s been downright dominant of late, and he had some key receptions in the AFC Championship Game as well.
Offensive line: Rams
This one was really close as well. The Patriots are dominating up front right now. The offensive line is blowing out opposing defensive lines in the run game and keeping Tom Brady clean on passing downs. But when you look at the job the Rams have done up front all year long, it’s clear they have one of the best — if not the best — offensive lines in football today.
Defensive line: Rams
This isn’t close. The Rams feature so much talent on the defensive line. Aaron Donald puts them over the top all by himself. Then you add Ndamukong Suh and Dante Fowler Jr. — he forced the critical Drew Brees interception in overtime Sunday — not to mention Michael Brockers, and it’s clear the Rams are well ahead of the Patriots on this front.
The Rams linebackers have been doing an incredible job the past couple of games when it comes to playing with discipline and maintaining gaps. That’s a big reason why the Dallas Cowboys and Saints managed a combined 98 yards rushing.
However, when we look at the way Kyle Van Noy is playing, along with the experience and talent Dont’a Hightower brings, it’s clear the Patriots have a slight edge at this position.
Another close call. The Patriots are exceptionally disciplined and have some serious talent (Devin McCourty and Stephon Gilmore are outstanding). However, they also have a guy in J.C. Jackson who was a huge liability on Sunday, and they just don’t have as much all-around talent as the Rams — Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson III are all tremendous.
Special teams: Rams
Greg the Leg Zuerlein and Johnny Hekker are two of the best in the business. On top of their prowess kicking and punting, Hekker’s ability to convert fake punts puts the Rams over the top when looking at special-teams play in Super Bowl LIII.
Sean McVay is incredible. He’s the NFL’s wunderkind and deserves all the praise he gets.
But seriously, this isn’t remotely close. Bill Belichick isn’t just the best coach in the league today, he’s the GOAT. The Patriots easily win this one.
Final prediction: Patriots will win
Sure, the Rams win the tally here, with six out of 10 groups going in their favor. But the Patriots have the edge where it matters most — at quarterback and coaching. As amazing as Sean McVay is, and as much as Jared Goff has grown, we’re not betting against the greatest quarterback/coaching duo the league has ever seen.