New England Patriots at Los Angeles Rams
Mercedes Benz Stadium (Atlanta, GA)
Sunday February 3rd 6:30 ET
We reach the end of a long season, and we can’t complain about the Super Bowl matchup. The Rams were heavily favored to make a deep playoff run, and the Patriots seemingly find their way into this game year in and year out. New England went 11-5 controlling the AFC East, while the Rams finished 13-3, finishing second in the East. Both teams finished inside the top five in points per game this season. Los Angeles finished second, averaging 32.4, while New England averaged 28.6 finishing fourth. Defensively, New England allowed just 21.3 points per game, ranking 10th, while Los Angeles allowed 23.8 points per game, finishing 19th.
The Patriots offense has been rolling, and defensively they have held quite a few superstar caliber players quiet, such as Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and the Chargers offense. For the Rams the big talking point has been Todd Gurley’s usage. We have seen C.J. Anderson thrive, but overall Gurley has hardly used in the last game against the Saints. With two weeks off, and two coaches that can changes things at the drop of a hat, it will be interesting for both sides to try and prep against what is to come.
Of course we can mention that these two teams met back in 2001 when the Patriots started their dynasty run, which is still going on 20 years later. These two teams are offensive juggernauts, but the Patriots defense are a bit ahead of the Rams. Regardless of last week’s penalty calls, which have been a hot topic, both these teams are highly deserving of their spots in the Super Bowl.
New England Patriots Analysis (-2.5)
The Patriots have been running wild this postseason, and they attacked the Chiefs defense that ranked dead last against the run 48 times. They have rushed over 30 times per game across all games this season, and this could be another chance to do the same. Los Angeles ranks 28th in DVOA against the run, and are 9th against the pass. New England’s group of pass-catching options have gotten the job done, but this isn’t the most talented group either. Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski saw over 20 combined targets last week against the Chiefs, before Gronkowski has hardly used. We have seen his role in the offense trend downwards this season. Ultimately that has us wondering if this is the year he retires.
Running the football was done wonders for New England, and avoiding it just doesn’t make sense. They have used all three backs sporadically over the last two weeks. Sony Michel has led in touches by a wide margin. Rex Burkhead and James White have each had their role. White sat third in snaps and touches against the Chiefs. The Patriots are fully healthy, and that can’t be said for the Rams. They will have a slight edge there, and New England’s offensive line has been excellent over the second half of the season and into the playoffs.
In terms of the passing game, Tom Brady has had his share of volume in the Super Bowl. Most of the touchdowns have been on the ground this postseason, which has capped the ceiling of Brady and his pass-catching options. Brady has thrown for over 300 yards in both playoff games, and over 40 passing attempts. He has just two touchdowns. New England has scored 42.6% of their touchdowns via the ground game this season. That should continue into the Super Bowl.
Los Angeles Rams Analysis (+2.5)
Los Angeles limped into the postseason with Todd Gurley missing the last two games, and then he split his workload the first two games of the playoffs. This is a talking point with about one week left before the big game. The Rams have still ran the ball well, although they struggled a bit against the Saints. This makes sense against one of the tougher rush defenses in football. With two weeks in between games, it will be interesting to see if we get the normal dose of Gurley or not. C.J. Anderson has rushed 23 and 16 times in the last two playoff games. He isn’t going to work much in the passing game, but neither has Gurley.
Jared Goff has been very pedestrian since the halfway point, and you have to wonder about his play heading into the Super Bowl. He has had a lot of games where he just needs to do enough to get them over the hump. Last week was a key example. Goff should see 40+ attempts this week due to the positive game script New England puts on opponents. Patrick Mahomes and Philip Rivers had over 80 combined attempts. There is some upside for the pass-catchers in this spot.
The key for the Rams is going to be playing smart. Time and time again we have seen teams shoot themselves in the foot with penalties. The Rams were an opportunistic defense this season, averaging 1.7 takeaways per game. New England doesn’t turn the ball over much, but we saw it a few times last week. It takes a perfect game in all aspects to compete with New England, which says a lot about how fundamentally sound they are.
FanDuel & DraftKings Breakdown
We have the big Showdown slates on FanDuel and DraftKings for the Super Bowl. For those who have not played a Showdown contest before, you have a roster of five or six FLEX players. There is a captains spot, which that player will accumulate 1.5x fantasy points. This throws a wrench into strategy, but we will talk about ways to attack right here. Winning a large field tournament with one game is going to take being different, and some luck. It is a touchdown dependent style of contest, and we have two teams with a wide variety of options that makes it difficult yet fun to play.
Jared Goff and Tom Brady square off and volume should be there for both of them. New England ranked 14th in pass DVOA, so it is a middle of the road matchup for him. The Rams ranked 9th, but of course this is Tom Brady. Brady has scored 29, 32, and 34 fantasy points in the last three Super Bowl appearances. It is worth mentioning that New England fell into a pass-happy game script the last few super bowls.
The upside hasn’t been there in the regular season, but a few trips to the red zone that end in a passing touchdown would give him a massive fantasy outcome. As for Goff, the floor isn’t the same as Brady’s, but the upside is there. Goff’s upside relies on the Patriots getting out to a lead, which the odds of that happening are pretty good. If the Rams control the game, it will be with the run, and Goff’s fantasy upside goes away.
The Rams now all of a sudden have two fantasy viable running backs. We saw the ideal scenario of running both against Dallas, and then we saw the floor against New Orleans. New England isn’t a bad rush defense, but don’t allow a ton of upside. The real question mark is going to be how many touches Todd Gurley gets? We have seen C.J. Anderson out-touch him in two straight games. Anderson was a beast in the last two games of the season, which doesn’t seem flukey now. It is one thing for Gurley to be out-touched, but he only played 46% of the snaps last week. If you are building multiple lineups, getting exposure to both seems to be the safest way to cover angles here.
Sony Michel is coming off back-to-back strong games, and will get a rush defense that 28th against the run in DVOA. If you are buying into the Patriots controlling the game, Michel is going to be a big part of that. He has 24 and 29 rushing attempts in the last two weeks. The five rushing downs are also a plus to go with back-to-back 100+ yard games. After scoring a touchdown against the Chargers, Rex Burkhead had 12 rushing attempts and four targets in the passing game.
He also topped it off with two rushing touchdowns. This was somewhat random, but we can’t rule out the Patriots using him as a red zone back behind Michel at times again. James White is best suited for a PPR site like DraftKings, where he can rack up catches. White is going to be best used if you are a believer that New England finds themself down, or in a shootout.
Julian Edelman has been peppered with targets in the playoffs, seeing 23 over the last two weeks. He is the most reliable for fantasy production among the New England pass-catchers, even without finding the end zone. If he does find the end zone, he will bank for a good FanDuel play, but if he doesn’t you might be able to get his production cheaper. DraftKings suits him well, where he has put up 16 and 27 fantasy points without scoring. He is going to have a tough matchup against Nickell Robey-Coleman. This leaves Phillip Dorsett against Marcus Peters, and Chris Hogan should see Aqib Talib. I am not putting a ton of stock into these matchups, but Dorsett draws the best matchup.
He has scored in each playoff game so far, on eight targets for 70 receiving yards. Even finding the end zone he is a low producing option, but allows you some salary relief. Rob Gronkowski hasn’t had a blowup game since Week 14 against the Dolphins. Gronk has topped 100 receiving yards just twice this season. Last week was the first week he saw over ten targets in a game. The Rams allowed the fourth most receiving yards to opposing TE this season.
Los Angeles is not in a good spot for their pass-catching options. . I am not looking too heavily into the cornerback matchups like New England, but Bill Belichick is one to move around a cornerback or two to try and slow down the main threat. That could be Brandin Cooks or Robert Woods. I would bet more on Cooks with his home run speed. Stephon Gilmore would likely be tasked with him. Josh Reynolds would see Jason McCourty, and Woods would see J.C. Jackson. Going based off of WR-CB matchups, Woods draws the best matchup.
I do prefer Woods over the other two, but their upside is still there, especially if they get down quick. As far as the tight end play goes, there isn’t much to like for the Rams. If you are punting a spot, Tyler Higbee is worth a look. The Patriots did allow 11 touchdowns to opposing tight ends.
Special Teams Game
I don’t have a ton of interest in either defense, and even special teams play has some red flags. With the implied totals over 25 for both teams, and a 57.5 Over/Under, you have to basically hope they get a defensive touchdown to cover the points they are going to give up. Greg Zurlein is banged up, but expected to play. This is a bit concerning given he has missed time this season. He is also a question mark with the Rams being an aggressive offense, and once again game script comes into play. If the Patriots get up, you won’t see Sean McVay kicking many field goals. Stephen Gostowski would be one to consider if you expect the Patriots to move the ball, but fall a bit short in the red zone.
Vegas expects a very close game, but the underdog Patriots are slight favorites. You are looking at a 57.5 Over/Under, which is the highest in Super Bowl history. Since 200, there have been five Super Bowls with an Over/Under over 50 points. The under has hit four of the five times, with the exception being last year’s Super Bowl between New England and Atlanta. At the moment, the under has a slight edge in terms of public betting. Lineups algorithm currently favors the under with a 49.4, lowering both team totals by about 3-4 points.
Per Lineups Matchup Page, New England is 5-2 against the spread when they are within -0.5 and -3. The Rams are 2-1 within 0-3. We still like the Patriots to win, but we give the Rams 3% more of a chance to come away with a win. The public is on New England to win their sixth Super Bowl, but some more action goes to the Rams for a straight up win. With the spread being minimal, this would be the more obvious choice at better odds.
I have talked about game script for fantasy purposes, but this can translate into how we think this game will go. With a shootout expected, a quick start for one team is going to be key. Despite New England using the ground game, their offense moves quick. We often associate heavy run teams with being lower scoring games. That is not the case with New England, and we saw that last week. New England has averaged 39 points per game this postseason, and the Rams have averaged 28. Of course these two offenses can put up points, so an over here would be an interesting bet, but 57 means about seven to eight touchdowns need to be scored between both teams.