Super Bowl LIII: 4 Factors Will Determine Who Lifts the Vince Lombardi Trophy

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D.S. Williamson

January 31st, 2019

The Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots duke it out at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this Sunday in Super Bowl LIII. After analyzing the matchup every which way, it looks like the winner will come down to 4 Super Bowl LIII factors. Obviously there are tons of elements that are going to influence this game, but for betting purposes you have to eventually narrow your focus. Keep reading for the 4 factors that will determine who lifts the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 3 along with a final analysis and pick.

Super Bowl LIII New England Patriots vs Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Feb. 3rd – Mercedes-Benz Stadium – 6:30pm ET Odds: New England -2.5 (-120)

 Factor #1:  Can Rams get to Brady with Front 3?

No doubt, this is the most important question heading into Super Bowl Sunday. The Rams front 3 of Michael Brockers, Ndamukong Suh, and Aaron Donald make up the most fearsome 3 in any 3-4 in the NFL. Frankly, they're scarier than most defensive fronts that put an extra defender on the line.

As fearsome as they are, if they can’t disrupt the GOAT, the Rams have no shot of winning the Super Bowl. The Patriots should double-team Aaron Donald just like everyone does. That will leave Suh and Brockers in one-on-one matchups at least a few times during the game. When it happens, they must take advantage or Terrific Tom will burn them.

Factor #2: Who Establishes the Run First?

Both teams want to rush the football. New England has become a run first team during the playoffs. The Patriots utilized both Sony Michel, their Round 1 pick from Georgia, and utility RB Rex Burkhead in the AFC Championship.

The Rams also have a two-headed monster with former Denver RB C.J. Anderson and the best running back in the NFL, Todd Gurley. Whomever establishes the ground game first will have a big advantage.

On paper, the Rams have a definitive edge since Gurley was one of the highest performing backs in the NFL, but the Patriots have also produced the 5th best rushing attack in the league.

Factor #3: Will McVay or Belichick Win the Coaching Battle?

Sean McVay is hands off when it comes to the Rams defense but he's the opposite with the offense, since he does the majority of the play calling. He's been doing so since taking over as head coach, which makes the coaching battle in Super Bowl LIII ultra-interesting because while McVay calls plays on offense for the Rams, Bill Belichick calls plays on defense for the Patriots.

Belichick took over defensive play-calling duties after coordinator Matt Patricia left to become Detroit’s head coach during the offseason. Even when Patricia called defensive plays, Belichick had a say.

So, Super Bowl LIII really is a coaches battle between an offensive play-calling genius and a defensive play-calling mastermind.

Factor #4: Can Littleton affect Edelman the way he affected Thomas?

The Rams used Cory Littleton to disrupt Drew Brees’ and Michael Thomas’ timing. Thomas had dominated the Rams during the regular season. Wade Phillips kept Littleton in the middle of the field and had him either shadow Thomas or push Thomas off balance so that Brees couldn’t get comfortable.

Phillips should put together the same strategy against Julian Edelman. If it works again, the Rams will have taken away one of Brady’s top weapons. That could drastically impact the game.

Super Bowl LIII Final Analysis: Who Wins Each Factor?

It’s hard to determine the winner SU and ATS based on trends. Both teams show mostly positive trends although the Rams are 5-15-1 ATS in their last 21 after accumulating 350 yards or more in their previous game while the Patriots are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 Super Bowls.

Those trends aren’t strong enough to make a recommendation. Analyzing who wins each factor from above should be, though.

Factor #1 - New England’s always been good at protecting Tom Brady. They run things along their offensive line that separates them from other NFL teams, but on Sunday they face the most ridiculously capable front-3 in - maybe - the history of the NFL.

Aaron Donald had 20 ½ sacks this season. He’s a dominating force that makes every player around him better. More importantly, Josh McDaniel must account for Donald on every play, which will leave Brockers and Suh with opportunities to get to Brady. The Rams win Factor 1. It's easy to suggest that the Patriots can plan for Donald, but "planning for Aaron Donald" and "playing Aaron Donals" are two completely different things. Ask any offensive lineman in the league.

Factor #2 - Although the Patriots have been great at rushing the football in the playoffs, they face a defense suited to stopping Michel and Burkhead. Forget Rams defensive stats because they didn’t acquire Dante Fowler until right before the trade deadline. McDaniel must account for Fowler, which is why Littleton should have at least 10 tackles in this game.

The Rams also acquired CJ Anderson, who’s been fantastic. Anderson and Gurley are both big, quick backs. They can run through tackle as well as get the edge while Michel and Burkhead are both best in space. The Rams win Factor 2.

Factor #3 - Sean McVay is as creative as it gets. Often, that leads to the Rams pulling off some great plays. However, McVay’s so creative that he can sometimes call a play that works against the Rams. Bill Belichick almost never calls the wrong play. In the AFC Championship, Belichick held the best offense in the NFL to 0 points for an entire half. The Patriots win Factor 3.

Factor #4 - Putting Littleton on Michael Thomas in the NFC Championship worked to perfection. Using the same strategy on Julian Edelman probably won’t work on Sunday. Thomas is a giant. He made for a nice target for Littleton. Edelman’s much smaller, much quicker and runs more precise routes. Using Littleton to disrupt Edelman on crossing routes could backfire. The Patriots win Factor 4.

New England wins two factors and the L.A. Rams win two factors, but the ones that the Patriots win are more important. Let’s say the Rams must adjust, put strong safety John Johnson III on Edelman and put Littleton on Gronk. Can Cory cover Gronk? Probably not.

Also, if the Rams take Littleton out of the middle, Michel and Burkhead might find room to run. Wade Phillips has a lot to think about on Sunday.

Sean McVay has a lot to consider on Sunday as well. Belichick might be the only defensive play-caller in the NFL that forces offensive play-callers to adjust to what he does. Andy Reid did that in the second half, which is why the Patriots needed overtime to beat the Chiefs.

McVay might not have the experience to adjust to Belichick’s genius. So, yes, both teams win two factors, but the Patriots win the more important factors. New England wins Super Bowl LIII and covers the spread. I'll leave discussing what that outcome means on a larger scale for another time.

Super Bowl LIII Pick: New England Patriots -2.5