The NFL season comes to a head on Sunday, so I am going to take a look at the two teams’ seasons to tell you everything you need to know before the big game.
So, first of all, some general facts. The 53rd Super Bowl will be contested by the NFC Champions, the Los Angeles Rams, and the AFC Champions, the New England Patriots (boo). This is a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, in which the Patriots defeated the heavily favoured Rams in what was their first Super Bowl championship victory in franchise history (first of many). That game served as a coming out party for now-considered Greatest Of All Time, quarterback Tom Brady, who won Super Bowl MVP and up until that point was their back-up. This year, the Patriots are making their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance, having lost last year to the Philadelphia Eagles and won the year before. The Rams, however, who only recently moved back to Los Angeles, are competing in their first Super Bowl since XXXVI, and are looking for revenge.
New England Patriots
The Patriots entered the 2018 NFL season as two-time defending AFC champions. They started out the season slow, going 1-2 in the first three games of the season, losing to Jacksonville and Detroit in the franchise’s first back-to-back double-digit losses since 2002. However, they turned their fortunes around and won 6 straight games before losing to the Tennessee Titans in Week 10. After their Week 11 bye, they won 4 more games and lost 2, ending the season with a record of 11 wins and 5 losses, undefeated at home. This record, despite being their worst since 2009, was good enough to place them second in the AFC after the regular season and afforded them their 10th straight AFC East division title, becoming only the second American major league sports team in history to win 10 straight division titles. The playoffs were a little bit easier for them however, as they waltzed to a 41-28 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, leading them to the AFC Championship game against the 1st seed Kansas City Chiefs. The game went to overtime, the first AFC Championship game to do so since 1986, and Rex Burkhead scored a 2-yard rushing touchdown to take the Pats to their third straight Super Bowl, becoming only the third team to do so (after the Bills in the early 90s and the Dolphins of the early 70s).
Los Angeles Rams
Before the Rams even played a game this season, they hit headlines as they brought in a huge free agent: defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Already a team with a good defense, the Rams lineup improved immensely with Suh, and it showed right from the start with the team going 8-0 before taking a high-scoring loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 9. They won twice more before their bye in Week 12, then closed out the season with 3 wins and 2 losses to earn a record of 13 wins and 3 losses, the best record not only in the NFC but the entire NFL (joint with the Saints, coincidentally). The Rams won a very convincing game against the Dallas Cowboys (boo) in the first round of the playoffs. It was their first playoff win as a franchise since 2004, and their first in Los Angeles since 1978, and they progressed to the NFC Championship game, lining up once again against the Saints. This game was much closer, also going to OT, albeit with some controversy. The Saints were dealt with one of the worst no-calls in NFL history, as blatant pass interference was passed over, allowing the Rams to take the victory and go to the Super Bowl for the first time in 17 years.
The Super Bowl
So, the big game is here. Los Angeles v Boston, another chapter in their storied rivalry (see Lakers v Celtics (NBA), Red Sox v Dodgers (MLB)). 43-year old Tom Brady v 24-year old Jared Goff. The villainous dynasty of the Patriots against the stacked defense of the heroic returning Rams. So who’s winning?
I want to say the Rams. The Patriots are the Darth Vader of the NFL, purely because they win-like, all the time. They’re the Manchester United, or the Golden State Warriors. And, of course, the Rams had the best regular season record and did dominate them Cowboys in the first round of the playoffs-they’re on form, no doubt about it.
But unfortunately, we don’t always get what we want. There is a reason that the Patriots are hated, and it’s because they just. Keep. Winning. Sure, the Rams had a better regular season record, but the Pats and Tom Brady switch into another gear in the Playoffs. And sure, the Rams defense is one of the best in the league, but, y’know, they haven’t had to deal with the Pats offense. Brady, Edelman, Gronk-good luck L.A. We are all rooting for you, but the Pats are my prediction. Sorry about that.
Maybe next year?