New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Rams
In February 2002, the New England Patriots pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, a win that elevated Tom Brady to national prominence and launched the birth of a dynasty. On Sunday's anniversary of that milestone victory, the Patriots will play in their ninth Super Bowl in 18 seasons when they square off against the Los Angeles Rams -- the team they defeated to win their first Lombardi Trophy -- at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
New England, appearing in its third consecutive Super Bowl, has won five world championships behind the tandem of coach Bill Belichick and the 41-year-old Brady, who has been named Most Valuable Player of the game four times. "His career speaks for itself," Rams coach Sean McVay said of Brady. "I'm so much a fan of this game and what Tom's done is unbelievable." Much like New England, the Rams appeared poised for a lengthy run of success behind their own quarterback-coach combination in former No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff and McVay, who has guided the team to consecutive NFC West titles in his first two years after the franchise went 13 seasons without a winning record and is the youngest head coach in a Super Bowl. "They've got a great team," Brady said of his Super Bowl LIII opponent. "They do well in all phases just like all the teams we've played in this game. It's a very difficult game to win. I'm excited for it."
TV: 6:30 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Patriots -2.5 O/U: 56.5
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (13-5): Rookie running back Sony Michel has been instrumental in helping New England knock off a pair of 12-win teams en route to the Super Bowl, rushing for 129 yards and three touchdowns against the Los Angeles Chargers and 113 yards and two scores in an overtime win at Kansas City in the AFC title game (as the Patriots were +3.5 point underdog at intertops). The versatility of the Patriots' backfield has been on display as James White had 15 catches in the divisional round while Rex Burkhead contributed 41 yards rushing and a pair of scores in the conference title game. Wide receiver Julien Edelman was the top target with 16 receptions for 247 yards in both contests as Brady boosted his postseason total to 16 300-yard games by throwing for more than 340 yards in each victory. New England has six sacks in the postseason and has been stout defensively until giving up a combined 38 points in the final quarter.
ABOUT THE RAMS (15-3): Los Angeles also has been getting a lot of mileage from its ground game, but C.J. Anderson has done much of the heavy lifting even with Todd Gurley healthy after missing the final two games of the regular season. Gurley, who accounted for an NFL-best 21 touchdowns before he was injured, ran for 115 yards and a TD in the divisional round against Dallas but was limited to only four carries for 10 yards and a score in the overtime win over New Orleans while Anderson rushed for 167 yards with two TDs on a combined 39 carries. Gurley had 59 receptions in the regular season and was a huge weapon for Goff, who has been held to under 216 yards in five of the past seven games. The Rams have the league's most disruptive force in defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is the mainstay of a unit that bottled up Dallas' running game and held high-powered New Orleans to 290 total yards.
1. A win by New England will tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl titles with six.
2. Rams WRs Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks, who played with New England last season, have 12 and 11 catches, respectively, in this postseason.
3. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski has 12 TD catches in 12 postseason games, tied with John Stallworth for No. 2 all-time.
PREDICTION: Patriots 27, Rams 26