By Kurtis Kendall
With Super Bowl LIII set to kick off Sunday, February 3rd at 6:30 p.m. ET, the NFL’s championship game looks to be a battle of the old vs. the new with the New England Patriots set to face the Los Angeles Rams.
The Patriots come into the matchup making their third straight Super Bowl appearance and 11th overall. Quarterback Tom Brady alone has nine Super Bowl appearances, more than any other NFL franchise.
The Patriots have battled adversity all year, with many critics claiming this season was the downfall of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era. Though New England had their worst record since 2009, they dismantled the Los Angeles Chargers in the Divisional Playoffs before overcoming the Kansas City Chiefs on the road to book their ticket to the big game.
Last week’s game saw the Patriots defense shut out the No. 1 ranked Chiefs offense in the first half. A vintage Tom Brady performance down the stretch secured the victory for New England, as Brady lead touchdown scoring drives on the Patriots final two possessions.
New England finished the year as the fourth best offense averaging 28.6 points per game while having the 10th best defense this season, holding opponents to only 21.3 points per game. The Patriots are looking to avenge last year’s Super Bowl loss and capture what would be an NFL record 6th championship.
The Rams on the other hand are a young team featuring only a handful of players who have Super Bowl experience, including former Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Aqib Talib.
Los Angeles is led by second year head coach Sean McVay, who at just 33 years old is the youngest head coach to ever reach a Super Bowl.
Third year quarterback Jared Goff and fourth year running back Todd Gurley head the offense for a Rams team that ranked 2nd in the NFL this season in points per game.
The Rams started the season off with an 8-0 record and were a consensus top two team in NFC all year. Los Angeles defeated the other top team, the New Orleans Saints, on the road in the NFC Championship game, albeit with some controversy. A clear pass interference penalty was not called against the Rams near the end of regulation which allowed the Rams to get the ball back, leading to their eventual victory.
With such a huge game being determined by a “no-call,” penalties are likely to be heavily scrutinized during Super Bowl LIII. The good news for both teams is they both ranked in the top ten in terms of fewest penalties per game.
This will be the Rams fourth Super Bowl appearance and first since Super Bowl XXXVI when they were upset by an underdog Patriots team lead by a then 24-year-old Tom Brady. With that game being the start of the Patriots dynasty 17 years prior, it is a wonder if this year’s championship game may be a passing of the torch to the up and coming Rams lead by McVay and Goff. Of course, this game could also just signal the continued dominance of the New England Patriots and serve to even further cement Belichick’s and Brady’s legacy.