Super Bowl LIII predictions: Bold takes on the big game

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The league’s final showdown is nearly here as the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams prepare for Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.

As we eagerly await the big game, there’s no better way to pass the time than to offer up some last-minute thoughts on Super Bowl Sunday.

Who’s going to rush for the most yards? Who’ll come up with the biggest plays? Which player will win MVP? Which team will win? Let’s answer those questions with some bold predictions.

Jared Goff will outplay Tom Brady

Brady is the GOAT. He’s never really out of it, even when he’s having a poor outing. However, he should have thrown three picks two weekends ago. But Dee Ford saved him from that fate, and then Brady led an overtime touchdown drive with three clutch throws on third-and-long.

In this game, I fully expect to see Goff come alive. He and Sean McVay have great chemistry, and his receivers are all extremely capable of breaking a big one on any given play.

I’m all done doubting Goff. What he did in the second half and then in overtime two weekends ago — along with just how well he’s performed overall the past two years — tells me he’s ready for this big stage.

Sony Michel will outgain both Gurley and Anderson on the ground

It’s not necessarily bold to say Michel is going to have a big game. He’s been the catalyst for New England’s offense in both postseason games so far. But we are stepping out on a limb here saying he’ll outgain both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson.

However, given the fact that we’re predicting Brady will struggle a bit throwing the ball, it will be up to the offensive line and Michel to make plays on the ground. The past two games, he’s done that, racking up 242 yards and five touchdowns rushing the ball.

Kyle Van Noy will be a defensive star for New England

The Patriots have a long history of unheralded defensive stars showing up huge in big games. Undoubtedly, that’s going to happen once again, and we’re pegging Van Noy to have a monster game for the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.

The 27-year-old linebacker is a rock-solid player who has never been real flashy. He led the Pats with 92 combined tackles in 2018, adding 3.5 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble. But when his team needed him in the AFC Championship Game, he stepped up with two sacks and a forced fumble. Look for that surge to continue in the big game.

Brandin Cooks will go for over 150 yards

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and Cooks has a chance to savor this tasty dish in Super Bowl LIII. It was less than a year ago that New England shipped Cooks off to Los Angeles for a couple of draft picks. Now he’ll get the opportunity to prove to Bill Belichick that move was a big mistake.

When it’s time to go deep down the field, Goff tends to look for Cooks, who has blazing speed. He averaged 15.1 yards per catch during the regular season and has upped his game in the playoffs — thanks to plays like this — going for 172 yards on 11 catches (15.6 yards per catch). New England’s secondary is extremely talented and disciplined, but I expect Cooks to be the premier offensive weapon in this game and go over 150 yards through the air.

Rob Gronkowski will be held to under 50 yards

There’s a lot of buzz circulating that Super Bowl LIII will be Gronkowski’s final professional football game. He nearly retired after last season’s loss to Philly, and though he’s still a dangerous weapon for New England there’s no doubt he’s nowhere near his former dominant self.

Looking at his recent history, it’s not necessarily bold to say Gronk will be held to under 50 yards. However, he did rise up with a big showing against Kansas City, and Gronk always seems to show up big on the big stage. Look for Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips — the Rams’ biggest X-factor in this game — to come up with a plan to shut Gronkowski down.

Aaron Donald will rack up three sacks 

On the stat sheet, Donald has barely shown up during the Rams’ postseason run. He’s registered just four combined tackles in two games, and has yet to tally a single sack. Don’t for a second make the mistake of thinking those numbers mean Donald hasn’t been just as dominant as ever, however.

The truth is that Dallas and New Orleans both gave up the edge to ensure Donald couldn’t dominate inside. New England will attempt to pull off the same strategy. Unfortunately for Tom Brady and the Pats, it won’t work. Donald is about to have a monster game, which is a big reason why Brady will struggle.

Marcus Peters will win MVP

The Rams appeared to be losing the Peters trade with Kansas City most of the season. Always prone to making big mistakes due to his proclivity for taking the bait on double moves, Peters wasn’t racking up interceptions to make up for those mistakes, finishing with just three on the campaign — very low for him.

Even worse, he didn’t avoid the negative spotlight for stuff that had nothing to do with his play on the field.

However, Peters has really tightened things up recently and has been far from a liability the past couple of playoff games. It’s bold, but our Super Bowl LIII predictions center around Peters coming up with a key interception, taking down Brady and Co. while earning MVP honors.

Rams will win by double digits

My mind tells me that Bill Belichick and Brady will have enough magic to pull off yet another Super Bowl miracle. But my heart tells me it’s time for that star to fade, and for another young team to supplant the old guard.

Goff with have a big game. Los Angeles’ defense will come up with key turnovers, and in the end the Rams will take home the Lombardi Trophy with a double-digit victory.