After 17 weeks of the regular season and three rounds of the NFL playoffs, the Patriots and the Rams are the last two teams standing. New England, led by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, are Super Bowl regulars, back here for the fourth time in five years. The Sean McVay-led Rams haven’t played in the Super Bowl since 2002, when the team was beat by ... the Patriots.
The game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Who will bring home the Lombardi Trophy? The MMQB staff makes their predictions.
Patriots 35, Rams 31 | MVP: Tom Brady
For all of the jokes about Sean McVay mania on this year’s coaching market, this guy is the real deal, and the Rams are going to be around for a while. But this Patriot team, through its toughness, physicality, resourcefulness and ability to maximize potential reminds me of the 2001 team. That team wasn’t losing when it got to this stage, and this one won’t either, outlasting a game Los Angeles team in a shootout with Brady playing the hero again.
Patriots 27, Rams 21 | MVP: Tom Brady
Logistically, the Patriots have a bit of an advantage this week, practicing less than 10 minutes from their hotel, while the Rams have to trek out to 45 minutes or so from Buckhead to Flowery Branch each day. But I’m picking the Patriots because of their experience, not bus rides. I don’t see it becoming the same kind of shootout we saw at Arrowhead in the AFC Championship Game, or many times this season at the LA Coliseum. Whichever way this game goes, I could see both teams being right back in this game next season.
Rams 21, Patriots 17 | MVP: Aaron Donald
I think the Patriots have some tremendously smart defensive minds, both on the sideline and on the field, and they'll have an answer for the tricky misdirection native to the Rams run game. The Patriots will opt make Jared Goff beat them, and he won't; Aaron Donald will. Interior pressure from Donald and Ndamukong Suh is going to be a big problem for Tom Brady, whose receiving options are limited by a lack of a dominant X wideout and an age-diminished Rob Gronkowski. That hasn't been a major problem for Brady thus far, but he hasn't yet faced a defensive line with this kind of talent, especially since the emergence of Dante Fowler Jr. as a strong edge presence.
Patriots 35, Rams 28 | MVP: Tom Brady
It’s difficult for me to envision the Patriots losing to upstarts in the Super Bowl in consecutive seasons. What Bill Belichick was able to do to the Chiefs offense two weeks ago to start the game was masterful. How Brady exterminated the defense, without getting touched, to close the game was incredible. These Patriots are clearly the better team, and they clearly are playing their best football of the year. Give me New England in what I hope is as close a game as my score projection predicts.
Patriots 35, Rams 17 | MVP: Tom Brady
After being spoiled with two white-knuckle conference championship games, the reality of our sport comes rushing back to us: The Patriots have been running largely the same offense with the same quarterback for roughly two decades. It's difficult to prepare for a team that can call back on institutional knowledge nearly as old as the opposing starting quarterback. Sean McVay has promised us a solid performance from Todd Gurley, but without something otherworldly, it feels like the Rams will have a hard time sorting out the multi-faceted attacks on both sides of the ball.
Brady will win MVP largely on account of the flaws in the voting process. He'll put up the most touchdowns among the Patriots, though the real game ball should go to Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White and New England's cadre of backs.
Patriots 35, Rams 28 | MVP: Tom Brady
At this point, why would you expect anything else? You don’t need to be Romostradamus to see this one coming. Brady will throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, James White will catch 17 passes and Julian Edelman will make a catch that defies the laws of physics.
On the other side, Bill Belichick has somehow cobbled together a formidable defense with Kyle Van Noy, Trey Flowers, and Lawrence Guy. Write it down now: Van Noy will strip-sack Jared Goff on a crucial second-half drive. It’ll be tough for Goff to win this one on his own, if Todd Gurley doesn’t return to form.
Sean McVay and the Rams will have their turn. But the Patriots are rolling right now, following the same formula we’ve seen umpteen times before.
Patriots 30, Rams 24 | MVP: Tom Brady
The Rams are the better team but the Patriots match up to them extremely well. Look for Belichick to disrupt Los Angeles’s timing by jamming receivers when they align tight inside. Take away the timing and Jared Goff becomes a different quarterback. On the other side, L.A.’s run defense will have trouble with New England’s two-back power running game, and there’s no reason to think Tom Brady can’t be his usual self through the air.
Patriots 42, Rams 35 | MVP: Tom Brady
The Rams won't be able to prevent the Patriots dynasty from adding another Lombardi trophy to the hardware closet. The New England offense has scored 78 points in the postseason, and they've scored 30-plus point in the previous two Super Bowls. The Rams had second-highest scoring offense this season, so I think this will be a high-scoring matchup that will be won by the more experienced coach and quarterback duo. Brady and Belichick will win their sixth Super Bowl ring.
Patriots 34, Rams 17 | MVP: Tom Brady
I said it before the start of the season, and I haven’t changed my opinion: The Patriots are going to win one more Super Bowl before the Brady-Belichick reign is over. They may play the underdog role now, but I haven’t vacillated from that stance all year. Edelman is back, the running game is rolling and, yes, Brady and Belichick are still there. That’s all I need to know.
Rams 30, Patriots 27 | MVP: Jared Goff
The Rams have more weapons and more overall talent, and so I was tempted to pick them by double digits, only to realize I would probably feel like an imbecile Sunday. The Patriots have Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, every Patriots Super Bowl is close, and it would feel wrong for this one to be a blowout in either direction. The guess here is that Sean McVay finds a way for his team to make one more play when it needs it.
Rams 27, Patriots 20 | MVP: Jared Goff
I know, I know: Brady and Belichick, Belichick and Brady, two weeks to prepare, yada yada. I respect them, but I like the Rams on Sunday. There is something to the Rams now that wasn't there in December: a flow to their offense, a toughness to their defense, an overall grit (and a lot of luck).
I think the Rams will score early with passing and protect the lead late with running. I think the Rams defense will allow Brady a healthy amount of yardage but not a lot of points. And I think, as last year, the Patriots will have the ball with a chance to tie and a turnover will cost them the game. A heartbreaking loss for Brady/Belichick and crew, but a loss nonetheless.
Rams 33, Patriots 31 | MVP: Aaron Donald
Honestly? I’ve read a million words of analysis on this Super Bowl—including from a theoretical physicist!—and I don’t have any idea what will happen on Sunday. Will the Rams’ running game open up the play-action for Goff? Will Phillip Dorsett or Chris Hogan become the unexpected hero? Will L.A. get pressure on Brady? Will Belichick mysteriously bench one of his starters? I do think it will be close—the Super Bowls have mostly been thrilling in recent years, as the margins between teams narrow and inefficiencies to exploit become fewer and fewer. Let’s say this—tight game, decided on a late turnover (or controversial officiating call!) and a long Greg Zuerlein field goal. I could be wrong.
Patriots 27, Rams 14 | MVP: Tom Brady
Four years ago the Seahawks practically handed the Lombardi Trophy to the Patriots. Two years ago they went down 28–3 before mounting the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all time and beating the Falcons. Last year Belichick inexplicably benched Malcolm Butler before losing to the Eagles. All of this is to say—who really knows what will happen this time around?
The Rams have looked loose all week leading up to Sunday, but I think their inexperience on the biggest stage will get the best of them. The Patriots will lead from start to finish in a classic Brady performance.
Patriots 32, Rams 26 | MVP: Sony Michel
I think the Patriots are going to win a close game, following the script of their last two playoff wins. They’ll find success moving the ball both in the running game and with Brady making quick passes before the Rams’ stacked defensive line can get to him. Brady is the obvious favorite for MVP, but boring predictions are no fun (says the guy taking the Patriots). If Michel can be in the neighborhood of 120 yards and get in the end zone at least a couple times—he did both against both the Chargers and Chiefs—he could wrestle away MVP honors and join Deion Branch as the only non-Brady MVPs in the Patriots’ six Super Bowl wins.
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