Who will win Super Bowl LIII: Patriots or Rams?
The Rams won’t blink
Rick Stroud, Bucs beat writer @NFLStroud: If you give any weight to this prediction, then you didn’t pay attention to my picks in the championship games. Having said that, I think the Rams are a more talented team. I know Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have four rings, but they also have lost three of these games. The Patriots are going to try to shorten the game by running the ball and using time of possession as they always do. But for one game, I think Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters can lock down the Patriots receivers and allow the Rams pass rush to eventually get home. I don’t sense the Rams are scared of the Patriots. I know Sean McVay will stay aggressive. So will Wade Phillips.
Put another ring on it
Thomas Bassinger, sports data reporter, @tometrics: Though the Patriots aren’t invincible, they are experienced, and that is why I lean toward them beating the Rams and Goff, who is in his third season and playing in his first Super Bowl. Quarterbacks with three or fewer seasons of experience have a .200 win percentage against Bill Belichick. Quarterbacks with more experience have fared slightly better; they have a .275 win percentage. In the playoffs, the difference is even more stark. Quarterbacks with three or fewer seasons of experience have won only two of 12 games. Quarterbacks with more experience have won eight of 28. The two inexperienced quarterbacks to beat the Patriots in the playoffs? Joe Flacco in 2009 and Mark Sanchez in 2010. Flacco and Sanchez, however, had something the Rams do not — a top-five defense.
Martin Fennelly, columnist @mjfennelly: They shouldn’t even be here, but now that they are, I like the Rams, Belichick and Brady mojo notwithstanding, this is the worst Patriots Super Bowl team. They always look unbeatable in the AFC, but this game might not even be close. The Rams are the more talented team, well balanced with youth and experience and well coached. Look for Donald and Suh knock down Brady early and late, just like the Giants did in their Bowl wins over New England. Look for Talib on Gronk. Was concerned about Goff until he handled the crowd and the hole in New Orleans. The Patriots have never won a Super Bowl by more than six points. They lose this one.
My ‘complements’ to the Rams
Ernest Hooper, columnist/assistant sports editor, @hoop4you: The Patriots stymied the Chiefs in the first half of the AFC Championship game by controlling the ball, but for the Rams to have a chance, they will have to invest in a similar complementary approach. Keep quarterback Tom Brady off the field and your defense stays fresh. If Los Angeles duplicates the Patriots offense in terms of time of possession, it’ll keep the game close and have a chance at the end. The keys will be timely west coast passing by Jared Goff and running by Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson. If the Rams utilize all their weapons, they’ll rise above the NFL’s latest dynasty.
Read this, and then bank on the opposite
John Romano, columnist @romano_tbtimes: I was wrong on both of the conference championship games so you might be better off asking your cat for a prediction. Who is going to win the Super Bowl? Well, I can definitely tell you who is not. That would be New Orleans and St. Louis. Have two cities ever been more bitter about a Super Bowl? New Orleans fans feel justifiably cheated by a referee’s call, and St. Louis fans feel justifiably robbed by an owner who moved his team to Los Angeles. As for the winner, I’ll go with the Patriots. I’m guessing the Rams will have trouble moving the ball against the Pats defense in the first half, and then a furious second half rally will fall short. But double check with the cat on that.
Head and heart aligned
Diana C. Nearhos, Lightning beat writer @dianacnearhos: I can safely pick with both head and heart on this one: Patriots. (Before you hate on me, keep in mind I grew up close enough to Gillette that the fly overs went past my house). Tom Brady is mad because “they” doubted him/them. I’m not sure who “they” are, because most of the reason he and the Pats get so much hate is because they win, not because no one thinks they can. But when Brady is mad, he is hard to beat. You saw what he said to Julian Edelman after the conference final, all about what “they” said.
It’ll be the Boston team
Marc Topkin, Rays beat writer @tbtimes_rays: Who’s playing again? Oh yeah, just like the World Series, Boston and L.A. As a casual football follower, it’s hard not to hate on the Patriots because they’re so good every dang year. And they seem pretty arrogant about it. Oh yeah, there’s the whole Belichick issue. And as a casual follower, it’s fun to want to see the upstart team with some fresh faces do well, and the Rams have been a good story, that one big blown call aside. But, alas, they will eventually play the game Sunday night, and all be wrong as the Patriots win again.