Five Super Predictions for Tom Brady’s Ninth Super Bowl
One of the most annoying things about Super Bowls is the hackneyed articles published utilizing the word “super.” Writers who drop a bucket into this particular well always seem to bring back water, even if there is a swarm of mosquitos floating above it and the water looks septic, they still draw out the water nonetheless. Some churn out articles with predictions based off of that year’s iteration of the Super Bowl (so this year, 53 predictions), while others merely announce their predictions as “super” because they are writing about the Super Bowl. I am no better than any of these writers and probably worse than most. Therefore, the only way to separate one article from another is to be as honest as possible. Here are Five Super (and probably wrong) Predictions for Super Bowl LIII.
No. 5 Super (and Probably Wrong) Prediction for Super Bowl LIII: Patriots First Play From Scrimmage Will Be a Screen or Draw
As I gaze into my crystal ball (and realize it is merely a highball glass filled with Jameson), I see a pattern in the way the Patriots like to come out in Super Bowls. The Patriots LOVE to run the dreaded fake-middle-run-fake-end-around-screen as one of their first plays from scrimmage. You can understand the logic behind the play call; defensive players are jacked up with their adrenalin pumping in a way they never thought possible. Everyone is thinking, “I’m going to be the guy to set the tone!” So the Patriots, playing off of this mentality, try to set a trap and call a screen. It is a genius ploy. However, the part where they fail is they call the longest developing screen in the history of football. Here is the traveshamockery (skip to 13:15 of the video *GRAPHIC WARNING–2007 SUPER BOWL EMBEDDED*):
(I hate myself for linking to “The Super Bowl That Shall Not Be Named”)
If the Patriots are going to win Super Bowl LIII against the Rams, it will be because they use the Ram’s aggressiveness to their advantage. The Patriots have a long and successful history of neutralizing Ndamukong Suh. However, when they have to combat not just Suh, but also Destroyer of Worlds Aaron Donald, how will they find success? They will find success by baiting the duo into rushing upfield. There is no better way to do that than with screens and draws. If the first play from scrimmage is not a screen, I expect the Patriots to go power draw for the same reason, and with the same amount of success as they found against the Chargers in the Divisional Round.
No. 4 Super (and Probably Wrong) Prediction for Super Bowl LIII: Cordarrelle Patterson Will Have a 25-Yard+ Play from Scrimmage
Josh McDaniels loves shiny, fast, versatile toys. Cordarrelle Patterson is the type of toy that offensive coordinators dream about: top-notch speed, elusive in the open field, and willing to do whatever is asked (the drawback is Patterson’s below-average route running and hands). Patterson has scored touchdowns this season as a kick returner, wide receiver, and running back. That is a credit to Josh McDaniels’ ability as a play-caller; he gets Patterson in the best position to make plays for the team. Because the Patriots are as healthy as they have been all year, there has been no need lately for Patterson to line up as a running back. However, it was noticeable that McDaniels had Patterson in at wide receiver in overtime against the Chiefs, and that Tom Brady went to him a couple of times in the game’s most pivotal moments.
Both McDaniels and Brady trust Patterson to be in the right position. This is no little thing in the Patriots’ offense that is predicated on timing and dependability. Patterson is almost always where the OC and QB want him to be. Even when Brady does not go to Patterson, there are still chunk plays to be had.
Whether it is on an end-around, a flat pattern, or a bomb, Cordarrelle Patterson’s speed is going to come into play during Super Bowl LIII. The only question is, will the Rams defense be able to stop it? (I reserve the right to accept half-credit if he scores on a kick return, but I doubt Greg Zuerlein will launch a single returnable kick).
No. 3 Super (and Probably Wrong) Prediction for Super Bowl LIII: Todd Gurley Will Have Fewer Than 100 Yards From Scrimmage 5.0 Yards Per Touch
Todd Gurley gained more than 100+ yards from scrimmage in 10 of 16 games he played this season. He scored in every game except for two. In two of the Rams’ three losses this season, he averaged fewer than 5.0 yards per touch (4.16 per touch in Week 9, 4.14 in Week 14 and 5.64 in Week 15). The one game where he did go over 5-yards per touch was in the 23-20 loss to the Eagles in Week 15. That game stands out because the Eagles forced Jared Goff into constantly checking down. Gurley was targeted 13 times in Week 16, coming away with 10 receptions for 76 yards and rushed 12 times for 48 yards and two touchdowns. He was targeted more than any other receiver for the Rams and had three more catches than anybody else. If the Rams want to throw the ball to Gurley 10+ times in the Super Bowl, the Patriots will gladly let them do so.
The most important question going into SBLIII for the Rams is the health of Todd Gurley; he only touched the ball five times for 13 yards against the New Orleans Saints (four rushes for 10 yards, one catch for three yards and a tipped ball that led to an interception). If the Patriots can limit Gurley’s effectiveness and force the Rams into abandoning the run or abandoning Gurley in favor of C.J. Anderson, the Patriots are going to win the game. The mantra with Bill Belichick-run defenses is “Belichick takes away what the other team does best.” For the Rams, that is the play-action, and the play-action is predicated on Gurley drawing the attention of the defense. The Patriots will try to take away Gurley on the ground, and when they do, the game will start to flow in the Patriots’ direction.
No. 2 Super (and Probably Wrong) Prediction for Super Bowl LIII: Duron Harmon Will Play the Closer
Football does not have closers. Nowhere on a football roster will you find that position listed. There are no saves. Yet, the Patriots employ Duron Harmon, who, for all intents and purposes, is the football equivalent of a closer (h/t Doug Kyed). Harmon has 18 career interceptions, including playoffs. Of those 18 interceptions, 12 of them have come in the fourth quarter. For those of you who are not math majors, 67% of Duron Harmon’s interceptions have come in the 4th quarter. Exactly half of those 12 fourth quarter interceptions have come after the two-minute warning.
But Duron “The Closer” Harmon’s interception stats get even better. Up until the Patriots’ loss in last year’s Super Bowl, Harmon and the Patriots were a perfect 13-for-13 coming away with wins in games he corraled an interception. This year’s loss to the Steelers is the only regular season game where Harmon intercepted a pass and the Patriots did not win (if you needed any more proof that loss to Pittsburgh occurred in an alternate dimension). However, despite being the Mariano Rivera of football, Harmon was only on the field for two snaps last week. The Patriots seemingly repurposed last year’s Super Bowl defensive gameplan (taking out an expected starter and subbing in a seldom-used defensive back), but because it worked nobody complained.
Also, no cameras caught Harmon crying on the sideline. Therefore, no fanfare and no squabbles on sports talk radio about how Belichick is losing it as a defensive genius. Harmon was asked to do his job and he did it. Unfortunately for him, his job against the Chiefs required him to spend the vast majority of the game on the sideline. Against the Rams, do not expect this to be the case. Expect Harmon to resume his role of closer and come down with an interception late in the 4th quarter (*quick note; I would have been crying as well if I was in Malcolm Butler’s situation last year).
No. 1 Super (and Probably Wrong) Prediction for Super Bowl LIII: Julian Edelman or Rob Gronkowski Will Win MVP
This prediction is predicated on how the Rams decide to play the middle of the field and/or Rob Gronkowski. If Wade Phillips, who has been playing mostly zone defense as of late, elects to put Aqib Talib on Gronkowski, then Julian Edelman will be the MVP of Super Bowl LIII. If the Rams decide to put a safety on Gronk when he is split out wide or let him come off the line and attack the middle of the field, Gronkowski will decimate the Rams defensively and take home the MVP award.
There is also the matter of Nickell Robey-Coleman. He has had most of the slot defensive back duties for the Rams lately. If he gets matched up against Edelman, Edelman is going to torch him. Yes, he did say some things about Tom Brady being a different quarterback at 41 than he was at 24. No, it was not bulletin-board material. However, whether he opened his mouth or kept it shut this week does not matter. Edelman is quite possibly the most clutch playoff receiver ever. The Patriots are rolling in their last four games and it is because everybody has stepped up their game. In a season where there were doubters aplenty and it seemed like every talking head on ESPN was hoping and praying for the decline of Brady, it would be fitting that the Patriots win on the strength of one of Brady’s favorite targets.
Super Bowl Prediction: Patriots (38) — Rams (20)
(This prediction was updated 2/1/19, from the Original 35-20 prediction, Bovada has Patriots +18 at 3500)
Other Random Prediction
Patriots will score a touchdown in the 1st quarter for the first time ever in a Super Bowl with Brady
Chris Hogan will have a catch of 25+ yards
Phillip Dorsett will have 3+catches or another TD and cement his legacy as the new Playoff Danny Amendola
James Develin will convert a touch for a first down
More than half of Julian Edelman’s catches will be for First Downs
Brandin Cooks will be involved in a Rams turnover (either a fumble or Goff will force an INT)
John Simon or Adrian Clayborn will record a strip sack
Dont’a Hightower will be involved with a turnover (probably recovering said strip sack)
Suh will get penalized for a Personal Foul
Aqib Talib will be caught on camera slamming his helmet
Best Long-Shot Prop Bets: Cordarrelle Patterson MPV +8000, Phillip Dorsett MPV +250000
Playoff Prediction Tally (3-for-8 Total: 2-for-3 in Divisional Round, 1-for-5 in AFCCG)
- Adrian Clayborn will record a sack
Adrian Clayborn will add a Tackle for a Loss
- Phillip Dorsett will be this postseason’s version of Danny Amendola (Two TD catches)
Patriots will score off of a Chiefs’ punt The Chiefs will have no scoring drives fewer than five plays
- Dwayne Allen and/or James Develin will have a catch
A Patriot DB with a first name starting in “J” will have an INT(Jonathan Jones Dropped an INT) Chris Hogan will record a catch of 25+ yards (Five catches for 45 yards, long of 11)