NFL Super Bowl 53 Pick

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NFL Super Bowl 53 Pick

All times Eastern

Sunday, February 2

6:30 pm Los Angeles Rams vs. New England Patriots (-2 1/2, 56 1/2) - Putting aside the controversies surrounding the championship games, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Super Bowl 53, especially if you happen to be a fan of the dynastic New England Patriots.

Bear in mind that the Patriots have reached the Super Bowl 11 times, nine of those under the tutelage of head coach Bill Belichick with Tom Brady at quarterback. The Pats are searching for their sixth Super Bowl victory, last having taken home the Lombardi Trophy two years ago, when they rallied from a deep deficit to overtake the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28, in overtime.

All of those Patriot numbers are NFL records, for which the Rams have no response. The last time the Rams played in a Super Bowl was 2002, when the team was based in St. Louis. Nicknamed "The Greatest Show on Turf" with quarterback Kurt Warner and a bevy of fleet receivers, the 14-point favorite Rams were upended by the upstart Patriots and then-unknown coach Beliechick and QB Brady.

While Brady and Belichick return 17 years hence, no Ram players from that 2001-02 squad will be lining up for Super Bowl 53. Instead, the Rams bring youthful exuberance to the game and the league's best record. LA went 13-3 during the regular season under second year head coach Sean McVay, at 33, the youngest head coach to ever attain a berth in the Super Bowl.

McVay is surrounded by an equally young cast of players, including the brightest stars of their offense, QB Jared Goff, in his third season, and running back Todd Gurley, at 24, playing in his fourth NFL season.

Having superior experience is usually a vital element in Super Bowl success, though the Patriots have had their share of setbacks. Including that 2002 victory over the Rams, the Pats are 5-3 in the NFL's big games during the Belichick/Brady era. A win here would tie the Patriots with the Steelers at six Super Bowl wins. Pittsburgh is 6-2 overall. The Patriots (5-5 overall) are tied with the Cowboys (5-3) and the San Francisco 49ers (5-1) for most franchise wins.

Statistically, he two teams are on nearly equal footing. LA scored 527 points, allowing 384, for a regular season differential of +143. The Patriots put up 436, allowed 325, resulting in a differential of +111. Those figures argue that the Rams have a slightly more efficient offense, whereas the Pats own a defensive edge.

In the playoffs, New England pummeled the Chargers, 41-28, and survived on the road with a 37-31 overtime win in Kansas City. The Rams humbled Dallas, 30-22 in the divisional round and, like the Patriots, won on the road in their championship match-up in New Orleans with the controversial, 26-23 overtime victory. Both teams were the #2 seed in their respective conferences. The Patriots own the edge in playoff margins, +16 to +11.

Concerning the controversial Rams' win over New Orleans, the league has already admitted that the referees blew the call, but the final score and the result stands. However, there may be a hangover effect that could put the Rams at a distinct disadvantage.

Since the last thing the league wants is an illegitimate champion - and it may be too late to avoid that conclusion in the minds of some fans - the calls in the game are going to be closely scrutinized and the refs know it. While they may not consciously be looking to penalize the Rams, they likely will not let any close calls go their way nor will Ram defenders be able to maul Patriot receivers and blockers.

This could be the most tainted Super Bowl of all time, if only for the bad judgement in prior games and the league's negligent behavior in the moments immediately following the supposedly missed pass interference late in the NFC championship. The play should have been reviewed, but now it's too late.

All of that will be detrimental to the Rams' chances, if they were even capable of defeating the Patriots in a straight up game. Not to say that the refs will be leaning New England's way, but it's unlikely anything flagrant will be overlooked.

Anybody expecting a close game is likely to be disappointed. The average margin of victory in the last ten Super Bowls is 9.8 points. During that span, the closest game was Super Bowl 47, when the Ravens slipped past the 49ers, 34-31. Ironically, the following year, 2014, produced the largest romp, when the Seattle Seahawks defeated the woefully overmatched Denver Broncos, 43-8, capturing Super Bowl 49.

In the end, Tom Brady will hoist another trophy and life will go on.

Coin Flip: Now England Patriots

PREDICTION: Patriots 34 Rams 24

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