Steven Senne/Associated Press
Despite New England’s dominance this century, the Patriots’ four Super Bowl victories have come by just 19 total points, and they’ve lost three Super Bowls despite being favored. So while all three of our panelists agreed the Pats would cover a 2.5-point spread Sunday, there was some trepidation.
“It’s quite possible I’m going to regret this. I made a similar pick a year ago, taking the Patriots to win a close Super Bowl in a game featuring evenly matched teams. We all know how that turned out. And given my against-the-spread (ATS) record in the postseason (2-7-1), you should absolutely bet the kids’ college fund on the Rams. I’m kidding. Please don’t do that.”
But Bleacher Report’s regular-season pick king was willing to lay the points with New England, and he listed three reasons for that:
“The first is New England’s bend-but-don’t-break defense. While the Rams and Patriots allowed almost an identical amount of yards per game, the Patriots were seventh in scoring defense (20.3 PPG). The Rams were 20th (24.0 PPG). I trust New England more to tighten up in the red zone.
The second is L.A.’s struggles against the run at times in the regular season. The Rams allowed a league-high 5.1 yards per carry in 2018—that’s bad heading into a matchup with a Patriots squad that’s been cramming Sony Michel down opponents’ throats in the postseason.
The third is Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and New England’s experience on this stage. This is all new to most of the Rams. For the Pats, it’s just another (yawn) Super Bowl trip. New England’s much better equipped to handle the mayhem of Super Bowl week, and you really can bet the kids’ college fund that Darth Hoodie will have something up his sleeve for the Rams.
Again, just leave the college fund alone. It’s a figure of speech. I know that plenty of folks get a bit queasy at the idea that the Patriots will hoist yet another Lombardi Trophy. Well, buy some Pepto Bismol. It’s gonna happen.”
Speaking of experience, Belichick is twice Sean McVay’s age. He can become the oldest Super Bowl-winning head coach in NFL history, while the 33-year-old McVay would have to become the youngest. That wisdom advantage is a big reason Sobleski is taking the Pats.
“The Patriots’ roster flexibility allows chameleon-like adaptive qualities to attack an opponent’s weaknesses while taking away its strengths. Belichick and his standout staff put together a pair of near-flawless game plans during another run through the AFC’s best competition. The Los Angeles Chargers couldn’t handle a shifting, stunting defensive front. The Kansas Chiefs, on the other hand, didn’t hold up against an old-school ground-and-pound approach. The Rams are a different challenge, but Belichick and Co. have two weeks to prepare.
Usually, that proves to be fatal for the New England’s opponents. Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles outcoached the Patriots in the Super Bowl. It won’t happen again.”
Meanwhile, Gagnon had no second thoughts on his New England pick. He thinks the time has come for the Patriots to finally produce a laugher on the Super Bowl stage.
“In a perfect world, you grabbed the Pats when they were laying only a point, because they do tend to let opponents hang around in the Super Bowl. But I’m still confident oddsmakers initially misfired with this line. The betting public has pushed it quite a bit, but the Patriots should really be favored by a touchdown or more.
The Rams aren’t ready. They’re too young and too inexperienced, and they’re lucky to be here after an uninspiring performance against the New Orleans Saints that might have only gone their way because of a now-infamous missed call.
Meanwhile, the Patriots have been possessed throughout the playoffs. Brady looks inspired, Rob Gronkowski has woken up and that newfound power running game could be a disaster for a Rams defense that is vulnerable on the ground.
This is simply a bad matchup for Los Angeles, which might not be able to control the game with Aaron Donald against Dante Scarnecchia’s en fuego offensive line and a wise quarterback whose comically quick release now has to be measured in picoseconds.
We’re due for a one-sided Super Bowl (14 of the last 15 have been relatively close), and this looks like the game for it to happen.”
Again, though, in case it wasn’t clear: Don’t touch that college fund. The Los Angeles offense is stacked, Donald is the best defensive player in the game and—for what it’s worth—our analysts were a mere 64-64-5 when they unanimously agreed on their picks this year.
Davenport: Patriots 27, Rams 23
Gagnon: Patriots 37, Rams 24
Sobleski: Patriots 28, Rams 21
Consensus: New England (-2.5)