Super Bowl LIII Numbers, Matchups to Watch and Fantasy Takes
The Patriots come into Super Bowl LIII having won seven of their last eight playoff games, the only loss during that span coming when New England lost to Philadelphia in last year’s title game. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have now won 29 of 39 postseason games together. Brady has thrown 73 TD passes with 33 interceptions in those games with a passer rating of 90.9.
The Rams have won their past two playoff games under Sean McVay after losing in the Wild Card Game last season. When they beat Dallas in the Divisional Round, it was the franchise’s first postseason victory since January 8, 2005. The Rams’ last appearance in the title game was in Super Bowl XXXVI, when they lost to New England, 20-17. The Rams are 1-2 overall in Super Bowls, and lost to Pittsburgh in SB XIV the only time they previously represented Los Angeles in the title game.
The Rams have not beaten New England since 2001, and have lost the last five meetings against the Patriots (including postseason), the most recent matchup being in 2016. New England has averaged 39 points per game this postseason, most among NFL teams, while the Rams have been second with 28 per game. New England has averaged 346 passing yards per game, best among all NFL teams in the playoffs, while the Rams have averaged 244 yards per game, which ranks fifth. The Rams have led all teams in postseason rushing, with 175 yards per game, while New England has been second with 165 per game.
During the regular season, the Rams were second in points per game, and the Patriots were fourth. The Rams were fifth in passing and the Pats were eighth, and the Rams were third in rushing and the Patriots were fifth. The Rams were plus-11 in takeaways and the Patriots were plus-10, and they ranked fourth and fifth, respectively.
New England has allowed 282 passing yards per game defensively in the playoffs, which ranks 11th of 12 teams. The Rams have allowed 250, which is seventh. New England ranked 11th vs. the pass during the regular season, while Los Angeles was 19th. The Patriots have six postseason sacks, while the Rams have three. Both teams have one postseason interception. Both teams have played the run very well, with New England allowing 30 rushing yards per game and the Rams having allowed just 49 per game after ranking 23rd against the rush during the regular season. The Patriots ranked 11th vs. the run during the regular season.
The Patriots are currently tied with the Steelers for the most postseason victories by a franchise (36). At age 33, McVay can become the youngest coach ever to win a Super Bowl. Mike Tomlin currently holds the mark at age 36. Jared Goff can become the first quarterback selected No. 1 overall to lead his team to a Super Bowl title in his first three seasons.
In two postseason games this year, Goff has thrown for 483 yards with one TD and one interception. He has two TD passes in three career playoff games with a rating of 78.9. in six of his past seven games, including the postseason, Goff has thrown more than one TD pass just once. He also has just one 300-yard game, although he did throw for 297 in the NFC Championship Game. He also has just two interceptions in his past five outings, but he has fumbled 10 times dating back to Week 11, losing three. He has been sacked once during the playoffs.
The Patriots certainly realize that the Rams utilize a strong running game to set up play-action passing for Goff, and may continue to look to shut down the run as they have done effectively so far this postseason. Doing so will put extra pressure on Goff to carry the offense, and he may not be able to respond with a fully effective performance when you look at his recent overall play.
Patriots top cover CB Stephon Gilmore may shadow Robert Woods, Goff’s most dependable target. Goff may struggle to find him open on key downs. New England held Kansas City big-play man Tyreek Hill with double coverage in the AFC Championship Game and may do the same with Cooks. Schematically, if New England draws it up that way and forces Goff to face adverse passing downs, the Rams offense may not perform as smoothly as hoped. WR Josh Reynolds and TEs Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett would have to step forward more.
Todd Gurley has rushed for a TD in both of the Rams’ playoff games, and McVay has said he will play a “significant role” in Super Bowl LIII. But “significant role” is coachspeak, and we are unsure of what Gurley’s exact workload will be and how much time he will share with C.J. Anderson. New England’s LBs have been vulnerable in coverage during the postseason and opposing RBs have been productive catching passes vs, New England in the playoffs. Damien Williams caught five passes for 66 yards and two TDs in the AFC Championship Game, and Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson combined to catch six passes vs. New England in the Divisional Playoff. Gurley operating near his best levels as a receiving threat out of the backfield will be a big key in this game.
Brady, who threw for 505 yards in last year’s Super Bowl, has not been sacked yet this postseason, but as Davis Mattek indicates, the Rams do not generate pass pressure with a conventional approach. Brady’s ability to get rid of the ball quickly is legendary and essential in this matchup. The thought process among many analysts is that this will be a James White game with Brady tossing to him wit h flat and short passes, but the Rams LBs are effective in coverage vs. RBs, and it will be a matchup to watch. White has showed he is made for the big game, with eight TDs over the past three postseasons, the most of any player. Just because the Rams know he is coming doesn’t mean they will consistently contain White.
Sony Michel has become even more impressive in the postseason, and can join Arian Foster as the only other RB to register 100 rushing yards in each of his first three postseason games. The Rams have obviously tightened up their run defense in the postseason, and Michel will have to work hard to earn his yardage this week.
Rob Gronkowski will be a key blocker as New England tries to continue to establish the power running game. The Rams did allow an NFC-high 1,075 receiving yards to TEs during the regular season, though, so there is some promise for a few timely catches for Gronk. Julian Edelman has at least five catches in 12 straight playoff games, and he has faced the best and often succeeded. The Rams shut Michael Thomas down but Edelman can win matchups against anyone. Chris Hogan has 14 catches in his past three games and Brady may go to him early and in some important situations when the Rams are so focused on Edelman.
FANTASY AND DFS TAKES: Edelman is a top start in non-DFS playoff formats, as he can be considered matchup proof in the postseason. But you can consider deviating from him at $16,200 in the DraftKings Showdown game, where he is the most expensive player. Brady is $900 more expensive than Goff on DK and is the better play in any format. Cooks, at $12,300 and Woods, at $11.700 are viable pivots off Edelman and Cooks has the upside for tournaments. Gurley is pivotal for the Rams in this game and a strong DK play at $13,500, and I like White a lot at $10,800. Rex Burkhead could be a surprising chess piece for the Pats, who may use him when the Rams are expecting a lot of White and Michel. I think he is a nifty play in all Fantasy playoff formats and on DK at $7,200. Hogan is a viable punt type play at $5,700 and if you have very limited choices in other formats. Brady will be the popular Captain choice on DK, but DailyRoto is making a good case for the Rams WRs.
GAME PREDICTION: A good outing from Gurley can keep this game closer, but I am very concerned about Goff against Belichick and his defense when it matters. I don’t think he is ready to take on such a daunting task yet. Meanwhile, the Rams will know who they should stop defensively, but will get beaten by stalwarts like Edelman and guys like Hogan and Burkhead can step up to be Super Bowl heroes otherwise. The Patriots (-2.5) and I will take the under as the Rams offense disappoints a bit. Patriots 31, Rams 24.