It’s here ladies and gentleman, Super Bowl Sunday is here. The Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots will have 60 minutes (barring overtime) to duke it out and decide who the world champion will be.
With two superstar coaching staffs, this game will be a battle of matchups all across the board. Let’s jump right into the matchups to watch:
DT Aaron Donald vs QB Tom Brady
Aaron Donald is the unstoppable force that has now won back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards, which came as a surprise to literally nobody. Donald is the best player on the field at all times, so he’ll need to up his game to the highest level today. Unfortunately for AD, the Patriots and Tom Brady like to play within a quick passing offense that generally doesn’t allow defensive lineman a lot of time to get to the QB, but at some point they’ll need to drop back more traditionally and wait for longer routes to develop. That’s when Aaron Donald (and his boys on the defensive line) need to absolutely wreak havoc.
ILB’s Cory Littleton/Mark Barron vs RB James White
Cory Littleton and Mark Barron are the two players who’ll draw the dangerous weapon coming out of the backfield, whether that’s James White or even FB James Develin. White is one of the best route running/receiving backs in football, so they’ll have their work cut out for them. Luckily for Littleton and Barron, White is a different kind of receiving back than Alvin Kamara who gave them trouble in the NFC Championship game. Both the inside linebackers have also played at an improved level since the playoffs started.
CB Nickell Robey-Coleman vs WR Julian Edelman
Nickell Robey-Coleman is one of the Rams’ most dependent defenders, so it’s a good thing he’ll cover the Patriots’ most dangerous weapon in Julian Edelman. Much has been talked about NRC in the past two weeks, but none of it was centered around how good of a player he is. Edelman is one of the most productive receivers in NFL playoff history as his crisp routes, toughness, and hands are unmatched. NRC is going to need to play a hell of a game with some potential help coming from other defenders to ensure they can get off the field on third downs and not allow the Patriots to extend drives.
WR Josh Reynolds vs CB Jason McCourty
The Patriots used Jason McCourty on the slot receiver against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game, so I’d expect the same this time around. Luckily for Josh Reynolds, he’ll have a chance to make a massive impact in this game. The Patriots played a ton of aggressive man coverage last week, so Reynolds needs to be physical in his own right. Not only Reynolds, but if any of the Rams’ weapons can gain some separation on their opposition, the play could amount to a large gain just because of how the Patriots play defensively.
TE Gerald Everett vs CB J.C. Jackson/SS Patrick Chung
Again, another one of the weapons for the Rams that I see as key today is underutilized TE Gerald Everett. That’s not to say that WR’s Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods aren’t important today (they absolutely are), but it does mean the Patriots will do what they can to avoid having the Rams’ best weapons beat them, putting the onus on others. In the AFC Championship game, the Patriots actually used their second cornerback in J.C. Jackson on TE Travis Kelce, so I’d also expect to see some of that today. Everett will also likely see some snaps against SS Patrick Chung. Everett’s explosiveness and elite yards-after-catch ability need to be put on display tonight.
Rams’ OL/QB Jared Goff vs Patriots’ DL
Yes, the Rams’ offensive line is filled with studs who all season long have played at an elite level (sans maybe one or two games). Their propensity to develop clean pockets for QB Jared Goff and massive running lanes for RB’s Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson cannot be overstated. They’re as important as anyone on the field tonight. The Patriots’ defensive line doesn’t have any real elite talents, but DE Trey Flowers is certainly one to watch for. Flowers can kick all over the DL and will play inside at times, so communication will be key in pointing out where he is.