Super Bowl LII speculation

Betting against the Patriots is a fool’s errand, so there’s no point trying to predict who will win. There are however a few areas that the Rams can attack the Patriots so I thought I’d guess at what might work for Sean McVay as he returns to Atlanta.

The Rams have been running a lot of fake jet sweeps all season to distract Defensive lines and outside Linebackers and the one are that of the Patriots Defence that could be considered a weakness is the lack of speed that their front 7 have, but they are very disciplined and rarely over pursue. The Patriots also bolster this weakness by playing DB’s as Linebackers, but if Jared Goff spots this he may be able to audible to a short pass play to a tight end or Todd Gurley out of the backfield (if Todd brings his catching hands this week!). Even if the Patriots do use Patrick Chung et al closer to the line of scrimmage it only takes one missed tackle or one great block from the always impressive Rams O-line to bust Brandon Cooks for a decent rushing gain. It wouldn’t be a huge shock if McVay dials up a few slight variations on the jet sweep they’ve been running during the rest of the season. They could try a Wide Reciever reverse or even a Reciever pass.

During the regular season the Patriots Defence allowed 4.9 yards per carry so the Rams might not try anything too exotic early on against them but the Patriots were very difficult to score against on the ground so there maybe some “trickeration” in the Red Zone. Time of possession for the Rams will be vital because if they can keep Tom Brady off the pitch there’s a very good chance they’ll outscore the Patriots, the Patriots returned 1 interception for a touchdown, 1 fumble for a score, 1 kick off for a TD and scored once from a blocked punt so they’re heavily reliant on Brady for their points.

For their part the Rams Special Teams are always worth keeping an eye on. John Fassell has been coaching for 20 years and like McVay is from a football dynasty (McVay’s Grandfather was the 49ers Director of Football operations from 1980 when Bill Walsh was winning more Super Bowls than you can shake a stick at), Fassell’s dad Jim was a football coach between 1974 and 2012 and the NFL coach of the year in 1997. Added to Fassell’s experience and creativity in coaching the Rams have a superhero Punter, Johnny Hekker was a high school Quarterback (he’s also 6 feet 5 inches tall so ideal height for an NFL Quarterback) and they often use him to fake punts but he’s the holder for field goal’s too so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fake field goal if they find themselves in a particularly sticky spot. Another Fassell speciality is the “fake” return that they used to run mainly on punt returns when they had Pharo Cooper and Tevon Austin. One of them would run toward the opposite side line that the punt was going to attract the gunners and if they fell for it then the guy who was actually returning the punt would have almost half a field to run into.

If the Rams do win the Super Bowl then it will be because their coaching staff have out thought their opposition and if that happens it should be a fascinating watch. 3 sacks from Aaron Donald wouldn’t go a miss either but during the playoffs the Patriots O-line has seemed reborn and Gronkowski’s new role as an extra Tackle has had a lot to do with it (but maybe that’s all a ruse and he’ll be 100+ receiving yards Gronk tonight)?

The briefest of Super Bowl meanderings 

Matt Ryan has never beaten the Patriots, but Matt Ryan has never been MVP before this season so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that this could be his year.

Steve Young recently said that Tom Brady will be licking his lips at the prospect of facing the Falcons defence in the Big Show, but I think if the Falcons can keep their Offence on the field this could be quite a close game (particularly compared to last year’s 24-10 thrashing the Broncos dished out to the Panthers).  How successful the Falcons are in keeping Brady on the sidelines will depend on how much they lean on their run game and how explosive Julio Jones is. Last time out against the Packers he light their depleted Defensive backfield up, but he has history against the Packers (in 2014 he caught 11 passes for 259 yards) but Logan Ryan will be playing for the Patriots and he has been one of the form Cornerbacks in the league this season. Safety (but former Cornerback) Devin McCourty will probably be spending a lot of time in the vicinity of Julio Jones too which could lead to the Falcons making a lot of shorter throws that could allow them to chew up the clock more easily. 

The Patriots have got some great players but their 3 key ingredients are the coaches, obviously Bill Belichick is an NFL legend (even if you don’t like him he’s won 6 Super Bowls as a coach) but Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia make the dream team of Head Coach and Coordinator’s. McDaniels has won 6 AFC titles and 4 Super Bowls and Patricia has won 2 Super Bowls in the 13 years he’s been associated with the Patriots.  The Patriots Offence is probably the most balanced in the league and if the Falcons try to take away Tom Brady’s receiving options then they will just run the ball with LaGarrette Blount or Dion Lewis but if the Falcons pack the box Brady will find Edelman, Amendola, Bennett or Hogan (if he’s fit).

The Falcons have their own Super Bowl winner in Head Coach Dan Quinn, he won it as the Seahawks Defensive Coordinator in 2014 (he also won 3 NFC titles) so he knows what it takes to be successful in the post-season.

I do think the Patriots will run out winners but it should be a more exciting game than last year. The key for the Falcons will be to try and be as balanced on Offence as the Patriots are, even if they have to chase the game abandoning the run will just play straight into Patricia’s hands and then they could be blown away. My main hope is that the officials leave the eccentricity and controversy to Lady GaGa in the halftime show, I wonder if she’ll be able to avoid politics for 20 odd minutes?