Welcome to my 4th of several Super Bowl LIII Preview posts. Over the last two days, I went over keys to the game for each team. Today, I will be looking back at previous stat nuggets that could be significant to the game. What stats could be telling about the results of the game? What previous happenings will motivate or burden each team? Keep reading to find out what I think. You can also check out my entire Super Bowl LIII preview schedule below. I will be posting preview articles throughout the week as festivities in Atlanta take place.
Super Bowl LIII: Official Boston Sports Mania Preview Schedule
February 1: Super Bowl LIII: Final Prediction, Projected Stats & MVP
February 2: Super Bowl LIII Video Preview
February 3: The Final Countdown: Final Injury Report, Outlook Before the Game (Including iMovie Trailer)
February 3: Enjoy the game and stay tuned for my recap after the game!
1. Per NFL.com, Tom Brady is the least sacked QB to start 12+ games in 2018 (21, including playoffs)
You have to give some credit to the Patriots offensive line. Four of the five New England offensive lineman are above their positional average in pass block win rate, and the Pats lead the league in this stat. But you also have to give some credit to Brady himself for playing smart football. He judges the defense well and gets the ball out quickly if he needs to. This should help them maintain a rhythm throughout the game, something a sack could significantly interrupt. But it will also help them win the turnover battle, a key piece to victory. Teams who win the turnover battle tend to win about 4 of every 5 games.
2. The Rams offense is averaging 1.5 more points and 3 more yards per game than the 2001 “Greatest Show on Turf” offense.
From a Pats fan’s perspective, it’s scary to see that the Rams offense is not only matching but outdoing their “Greatest Show on Turf” era offensive numbers. Back then, the Rams were the experienced dynasty and the Pats were a team on the rise. Though the opposite is true now, if Brady outplayed an offense like this in 2001, I have confidence he can do it again 17 years later. You do have to consider that the Pats allowed just 334.5 YPG in 2001 compared to 353.9 YPG in 2018. But that’s not a huge difference. Everyone says that the 2001 Patriots had a pretty good defense, while this year’s defense is not great. But in reality, this year’s defense is around average, and they weren’t that much better in 2001 defensively.
3. QBs Tom Brady and Jared Goff are both Top 10 in interceptions thrown this season.
Something tells me this game will have a good number of turnovers. In addition to the above stat, both these teams have elite secondaries that are 3rd (Rams) and 4th (Patriots) respectively in interceptions. The question is, who will win the turnover battle? As I said, most NFL teams who win the turnover battle go on to win the game. In terms of who wins it, I think it all comes down to the WR-DB match-ups. Compared to New England, the Rams are fairly weak at tight end, and I could see the Pats secondary dominating those match-ups. The Rams have been terrible against tight ends this year, though TE Rob Gronkowski is his own animal. That itself will give the Pats an advantage. Plus, it’s unlikely the Rams are able to contain both Gronk and WR Julian Edelman. If they double up on Gronk, that will allow Edelman to shine.
4. Right now, RB Sony Michel is behind just Terrell Davis and Arian Foster in rush yards/playoff game. Though 2 games is a small sample, what does this say about Michel?
Though Davis is a three time All-Pro first team member, Foster never really established himself as a hall of fame caliber running back and ended up retiring after 8 seasons thanks to an injury-riddled career. But he did have a nice run as an elite RB from 2010-2014. Due to the small sample size, it’s hard to tell how much this means for Sony Michel right now in this game. It’s hard to guarantee a big game for him against a star-studded Rams d-line. But I do believe he has a future as an elite running back and a leader on the Pats, even if injuries or something else limits his career. He did put up an impressive rookie season in the games he played.
5. In 2 regular season games with the Rams, C.J. Anderson rushed for 299 yards. It took Todd Gurley until Week 4 to reach 300 yards on the season.
Anderson was in the right place at the right time. Anderson played the 49ers and Cardinals in the final two regular season games. Sure, Gurley played the Raiders and Cardinals in his first two games, but you also have to consider that Anderson came in late in the season. All the Rams had to do to be in good position for the playoffs was beat their weaker division rivals, but these games mattered more to the Rams than the first two. Gurley did do well against the Raiders, and despite just 42 rushing yards against Arizona, he scored 3 TD. Though it took him longer to approach 300 rushing yards, you could argue that Gurley was as good a running back in LA’s first two games, both easy wins, as Anderson was in the last two, also easy wins. The reason Anderson did so well was because he took advantage of a big opportunity. With Gurley at full health, expect Gurley to lead the backfield, with Anderson playing a significant supporting role. This will make things difficult for the Pats.
At least couple of these stats are a good sign for each team. But in the end, what matters is how these two teams match-up. Who will win Super Bowl LIII? Will it be a nail-biter? A blowout? Something in between? What players will have the biggest impact on the game? Find out what I think in my next article, when I share my score prediction and projected stats for the game.