These are my thoughts kind of unfiltered.
So the first thing that comes to my mind is the matchup between the Rams offensive line and Patriots front seven. The Rams o-line has been the best in the league and a huge reason for the Rams success this year. They finished the year with the third most rushing yards and the leagues most efficient rushing offense. The Rams feature back throughout the season was Todd Gurley but when he went down with an injury C.J. Anderson was signed and picked up right where he left off with three straight 100 yard games. His running style is perfect for an offensive line that can dominate the line of scrimmage like the Rams can. He doesn’t make many cuts and is able to run straight through open holes. Both Gurley and Anderson averaged over 6 yards per carry.
The reason this is the first matchup I’m bringing up is because this was a huge mismatch for the Patriots in the Super Bowl last year. The Eagles had 27 carries for 164 yards for an average of 6.1 yards per carry. The Eagles ability to run the ball so well opened up the rest of their offense and kept the Patriots defense off balance for the whole game. The Eagles also went 10-16 on third downs and all of these factors combined to give the Eagles a 34:04-25:56 lead in time of possession. The drive where the Eagles took their last lead was 7 minutes long and had 2 third down conversions and 1 fourth down conversion. The Rams offensive line will be looking to dominate the line of scrimmage in this game as well. They had similar time of possession numbers in their game against the Cowboys in the Divisional round. If they have similar number in this game they should get the win.
There is no exact blueprint on how to beat the Patriots. But keeping the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands is a great way to win a game. At the same time I can see the Patriots trying to use the same strategy against the Rams. The Rams rushing defense was ranked 28th in overall efficiency. The Rams defense has looked good so far in the playoffs playing against two teams with great offensive lines in the Cowboys and Saints. The Patriots offensive line will be another tough challenge for the Rams. The Rams defensive line has a lot of talent in the middle with defensive player of the year Aaron Donald right beside Ndamukong Suh. They will undoubtedly be the Patriots main concern going into this week. Former Patriots player Chris Long did an interview with Pardon My Take and told a story about the team’s preparation for playing the Rams in 2016. He said Aaron Donald was mentioned to the point of exhaustion throughout the week. Bill Belichick made it clear that Aaron Donald was their number one priority. In that game, Aaron Donald had no sacks. The Rams defense has gotten a lot better around in Aaron Donald in those two seasons since. It will be a lot harder to concentrate on Donald with Suh right there as well.
The Rams defense has been dominant so far this post season. They allowed less then 300 yards to the Saints and 308 to the Cowboys. Their defense was extremely important in their last game as well. Not only getting an interception to start the overtime period, but holding the Saints to two field goals on their first two drives. Those drives could have been touchdowns and would have changed the outlook of the game. In the weeks Aqib Talib has played they gave up over 300 passing yards only once. It was Derek Carr in week 1 throwing for 303 yards. I’m not sure the Patriots will be able to move the ball as well as they have so far in the playoffs. The Chiefs defense is not good and I’m counting the Chargers game as an anomaly after they lost 2 full days of preparation to travel. The one real weakness the Rams defense has had throughout the year has been their matchups against tight ends. This is a huge advantage for Rob Gronkowski. The patriots tight end has had a quiet season but we saw last week that he still has some explosiveness left in him. He also has the blocking skills of an offensive lineman making him a key component to their running game. This keeps the Patriots offense very unpredictable. Another thing to note about the Rams defense has to do with their defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Every year since his father’s death he has dedicated one game a year to his father. This Super Bowl is the game he has dedicated this year.
I think the obvious choice for this game is the Rams +2.5. They have so much talent in every position group and have no glaring weaknesses. They are also very well coached on both sides of the ball. The Patriots are very well coached as well but I don’t think their defense is good enough to stop the Rams offense. On the other side I can definitely see the Rams defense getting stops against the Patriots. I think the running game will play a huge part in this game as both teams try to establish the run early. I just see the Patriots struggling. Their early struggles in Super Bowls are well documented. If the Rams can get an early lead they may just try to play keep away. Patriots fans are projected to outnumber Rams fans by a wide margin which should make this an extended Patriots home game. The Rams only losses have come in road environments. Against the Eagles at home the Rams fans were vastly outnumbered in the Rams only home loss. I think getting the points in this game is important and if you can get 3 at a good price take it.
There’s no way the Patriots are just going to come out and blow the Rams out. I think the Rams are being a little bit disrespected because of the missed call in their last game. I understand the sentiment that if the refs had called the penalty on Nickell Robey-Coleman the Saints would have most likely won the game. However that does not mean the Rams are not a good team. One missed call by the refs may have helped the Rams get to the Super Bowl. But it is not the sole reason they are there. The Rams have dominated offensively and defensively all year. They should not be judged based on that one play. I’m hesitant to take the Rams moneyline only because they are still playing the Patriots. This game could easily come down to a last second field goal. But something in my mind tells me the Rams will win pretty convincingly. Also since I am a Patriots fan it is tough to bet against them. Still I will be taking the Rams and hoping for a 2 point Patriots victory.