Patriots: Super Bowl LIII game match ups

The Patriots and Rams will face off in Super LIII tomorrow night. When I look at these two teams, I see two teams that match up pretty evenly. On paper, the Rams have the more talented roster but the Patriots have a decided advantage in terms of experience.

Here is how these two teams match up by positions.

Quarterback: The Patriots have the advantage at quarterback. Tom Brady is playing in his ninth Super Bowl and as he proved in the AFC Championship game, when he needs to step up and deliver, he still can.

Jared Goff has had a terrific season and has the right demeanor to go head to head with Brady but his lack of playoff experience is glaring ( three playoff games) despite playing well in these playoffs.

Goff has more talent around him but Brady is the better quarterback, especially in big games. The Patriots have the advantage at quarterback. Advantage: Patriots

Running Backs: I am giving the Rams the edge at running back because I believe Todd Gurley will play more than he did in the NFC Championship game and be more effective. Gurley and late season acquisition C.J Anderson form a potent one, two punch. Their diverse skill set makes the Rams running game go. It is obvious that Gurley is not one hundred percent healthy but I still think he will be a factor in this game.

The Patriots running game has also been good this season. Rookie Sony Michel gives the Patriots a legitimate number one running back that can carry the ball 20 plus times a game. Rex Burkhead and James White complement Michel well, especially in the passing game. The Patriots have become more balanced offensively and much of that is due in part to improved offensive line play and the emergence of Michel.

Despite an improved Patriots running game, I give the Rams the edge at running back because if he’s healthy, Todd Gurley will be the best back on either team. Advantage: Rams

Wide Receiver: Wide Receiver is a draw for me. As good as Brandin Cooks is, I think he and Julien Edelman cancel each other out. Both are going to be the number one option in their respective passing games and both should have big games.

As far as the rest of the receivers on both teams, Robert Woods could have a big game if the Rams use him in the three step passing game and quick five step passing game. Woods has also been effective on jet sweeps as well. He will make an impact in this game as could Josh Reynolds. It remains to be seen if Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett or Cordarelle Patterson can make enough of an impact to help complement Edelman, White and Rob Gronkowski.

Based on the current composition of both receiving corps, this is a draw when I match them up. Advantage: Draw

Tight End: The Patriots have a distinct advantage at tight end. I know Rob Gronkowski isn’t as good as he once was (Toby Keith reference) but as we saw in the AFC Championship game, he can still be a factor both as a blocker and receiver. Dwayne Allen gives the Patriots nothing in the passing game but he is still one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL.

Thanks in large part to the injury to Cooper Kupp, Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee have emerged as reliable options in the Rams passing game. The Rams are using more 12 personnel to get them on the field. Despite that, both are liabilities as blockers. Particularly Everett.

Gronkowski is still a top five tight end around the league and gives the Patriots the edge in this match up. Advantage: Patriots

Offensive Line: I went back and forth when I compared these two groups but in the end I give the Patriots offensive line the edge.

Both units are well coached but the Patriots have a distinct advantage with offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia over Rams offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. Scarnecchia has done a masterful job with this group. The best example of how good a coaching job he has done this season is left tackle Trent Brown. Brown has developed into one of the best left tackles in the game under Scarnecchia’s tutelage.

The Patriots as a unit only gave up 14 sacks during the regular season and none thus far in the playoffs. They have been exceptional.

The Rams offensive line has also played well this season and boast three terrific lineman in left tackle Andrew Whitworth, left guard Rodger Saffold and center John Sullivan. It is a veteran group that is athletic and fits the Rams run blocking schemes perfectly.

Despite that, I feel the Patriots are slightly better. They will have to prove it Sunday night against arguably the best defensive line in football. Advantage: Patriots

Defense

Defensive Line: The Rams hold a distinct advantage along the defensive line. Aaron Donald is regarded as the best defensive player in football. Donald had 20.5 sacks this season. Ndamukong Suh is not the player he once was but he has been very good in the playoffs. At 6-4 305, he is still a force to be reckoned with. He will impact the Patriots blocking schemes in this game, especially if he lines up as a three and five technique based on down and distance. Fellow defensive end Michael Brockers is tough to handle at 6-5 315. His length, especially against the run could be a problem for the Patriots.

Speaking of the Patriots, their defensive line isn’t as well regarded but Malcolm Brown, Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton and Adam Butler get the job done inside, especially against the run. Defensive ends Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn and Derek Rivers will have to be factors in this game both as pass rushers and run stoppers. They must set a firm edge and not allow the Rams to establish their outside zone running game.

The Rams defensive line is the best in football and that’s why they get the edge. Advantage: Rams

Linebackers: I think the linebackers are pretty evenly matched. Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy are do it all linebackers for the Patriots who can play all three downs. Middle linebacker Elandon Roberts is highly underrated. He is one of the top run defenders in the league.

The Rams linebacking corp is athletic. The addition of Dante Fowler not only gave the Rams a legitimate outside linebacker who can rush the passer but he set the edge against the run as well. Samson Ebukam and Corey Littleton are fast. They run well laterally and they can cover backs out of the backfield. They do struggle however with tight ends and slot receivers in the middle of the field. Both remind me of the Falcons Deion Jones and Devondre Campbell.

Just like other positions in this match up, the linebackers are pretty evenly matched. Both units are a big part of the defense and what the two defenses will do in this game.

Secondary: The Rams are better at cornerback while the Patriots are better at safety. I think these two units are also pretty evenly matched.

Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters are both number one corners who have the ability to shut down the opposing team’s best receivers. The Rams are suspect at safety however. Third year safety John Johnson has played well at times but he struggles over the top in coverage as does strong safety LaMarcus Joyner.

The Patriots are better at safety with Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon. All three are versatile and can do different things within the scheme. Corner Stephon Gilmore has been very good for the Patriots this but Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones and J.C Jackson have struggled at times. Advantage: Draw

Coaching: Obviously the Patriots have the edge in coaching. Bill Belichick is the greatest coach of all time. Sean McVay however will hold his own in this game.

When looking at these two teams, they are more evenly matched than you would think. The paper doesn’t tell the whole story. The Rams have more name cache but the Patriots have pretty good players and that’s why they are so evenly matched.

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