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Super Bowl LIII preview: The Patriots do not care if you are tired of them

What? Did you really think you’d get Andy Reid and the Chiefs?
Published Jan. 21, 2019
Updated Jan. 22, 2019

Super Bowl LII was relentless.

A year ago, the Eagles and Patriots combined for 1,151 yards, 54 first downs and 74 points. They punted once.

They did more than rewrite the record books that night. They caused roughly 2.5 million heart attacks.

Super Bowl LII marked an evolutionary leap for the NFL, and the game hasn’t slowed down since.

In 2018, teams scored more points than ever, averaging 23 per game. It’s appropriate then that the Patriots and Rams — teams that feature high-octane offenses and flawed but good enough defenses — will clash in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3.

The Rams will be playing in their fourth Super Bowl, the Patriots will be playing in their third straight Super Bowl and the Rams and Patriots will be playing in their second Super Bowl together. Just don’t count on a 20-17 score this time around.

What you can count on over the next couple of weeks is a bunch of “youth vs. experience” thinkpieces. The age gaps between the starting quarterbacks (Los Angeles' Jared Goff is 24; New England’s Tom Brady is 41) and the head coaches (Sean McVay is 32; Bill Belichick is 66) are the largest in Super Bowl history. When Brady and Belichick started going to the Super Bowl (this will be their ninth appearance in 18 seasons), Goff and McVay were still going to Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Who will prevail? Let’s dive into the numbers to see how the Rams and Patriots match up.

(Statistics below are from the regular season.)

“Efficiency.” Blech. Sounds like something your boss talks about. What does it even mean anyway?

In the office, it means “do more with less.” In football, though, it means “value over volume.”

The traditional way to rank teams is to tally yards gained and yards allowed. But not all yards are the same. A 6-yard pass on third and 5 in a close game is more valuable than a 6-yard pass on third and 10 in a blowout.

So how do we determine value? Fortunately, Football Outsiders already has done the work for us. To better measure team performance, the website developed a statistic they call Defense-adjusted Value Over Average or DVOA. DVOA takes every play and compares a team’s success on that play with the league average.

DVOA is adjusted for situation and opponent and is expressed as a percentage, where a positive percentage indicates an above-average performance and a negative percentage indicates a below-average performance. So if a team has a DVOA of 10 percent, that means it played 10 percent above the league average. (When separating DVOA by offense and defense, the best offenses have a positive rating and the best defenses have a negative rating.)

Here are the game-by-game DVOA ratings for the Patriots and Rams:

Patriots 35, Rams 31

Statistics in this report are from Football Outsiders, Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Reference. Photographs are from the Associated Press. Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

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