After weeks of media buildup, trash talk, and near endless interviews, Super Bowl LIII is almost upon us. If this game is anything like the Conference games, this Patriots vs. Rams matchup is going to be epic.
In anticipation of the big game, we ran through the numbers and came up with a prediction using Madden. Before the Super Bowl parties kick off, let’s go by the numbers of the simulation and player ratings to find the players to watch in Super Bowl LIII.
Aaron Donald isn’t just the foundation of the Rams defensive front, there’s a legit argument to be made that he’s the NFL MVP. He’s had an absolute stellar year and has maintained his 99 OVR status throughout the season. Yet to record a sack this postseason, Donald’s value can’t be measured by a box score. He’s deceptively shifty at the line of scrimmage and brings endless amounts of pressure. The SB Madden simulation has Donald racking up four sacks and winning Super Bowl MVP honors. The Rams will need him to deliver this level of impact, which is a tall order against the Pats’ O-line, who haven’t allowed a single sack this postseason.
The Beast Known as Gronk. On the stat sheet, this was one of Gronkowski’s least productive seasons. However, the magnitude of his talent demands defensive attention, which opens up the field dramatically for the Pats offense. He was also significantly more involved against Kansas City. If the Rams’ defense has a weak point, it’s the middle of the field, where Gronk makes his money. Even if Gronk draws attention from the absurdly talented Aqib Talib, that’s a huge benefit for outside passes to Pats WRs. He might not get in the end zone, but Gronk’s presence on the field alone is a tremendous game-changer.
Robert Woods may be the one who brought in the numbers in the Sim, but Cooks is likely going to be a focal point against his old team. Cooks didn’t score against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship, but his catches were critical to keeping the Rams offense moving. Based on the Sim, if you take out Woods’ big 46-yard TD Cooks leads the Rams in receiving yards. He’s the fastest player on the Rams roster.
In typical Patriots fashion, some key players have been lights-out since the postseason started. There’s been no escaping Kyle Van Noy over the last couple of weeks. Van Noy has amassed 14 tackles, two sacks, one pass defense, and a forced fumble in just two postseason games this year. We expect him to keep this defensive train rolling, as the simulation has him racking up 10 tackles and a sack in Super Bowl LIII. The Pats in the playoffs have a proven track record for getting to the football. Look for this to continue, with Van Noy leading the charge.
The importance of C.J. Anderson to the Rams cannot be overstated. He’s been absolutely outstanding with Gurley battling through injuries. He couldn’t get moving against the Saints, but that was the NFL’s second-ranked rushing defense. In the three previous games, Anderson ran for 422 yards and four touchdowns on 66 carries. That’s averaging more than six yards every run. Madden predicts 64 yards rushing in Super Bowl LIII, providing the steady ground game the Rams will need in order to beat the Pats. The Rams will have to use clock control to keep Tom Brady off the field, so look for Anderson to be given the call early and often.
No player has been more crucial to the Patriots playoff success this year than rookie running back Sony Michel. In the regular season, Michel had just four games where he was given 20 carries or more. He’s had 24 and 29 carries in two postseason games. He’s also totaled 242 yards and five rushing TDs. The Patriots are a team built to dissect and grind away defensive schemes. You give them a rusher that produces consistent positive gains, then you’ve already lost time of possession. As a general rule, if Tom Brady is on the field more than your QB, you’re likely losing the game. Michel is benefiting from the Pats’ red-hot O-line, but he’s given New England a more dynamic backfield. James White is still going to get his, but they’re going to keep feeding Michel until that train stops.
– Daniel Williams (Follow Dan on Twitter @thatDanW)
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