ATLANTA — Well, here we are, the Patriots’ third straight trip to the Super Bowl and fourth in the last five years.
Finishing the regular season 11-5 and being the No. 2 seed in the AFC, the Patriots were not supposed to be in this game, but thanks to an upset win over the Chiefs in the AFC title game they are in Atlanta taking on the Rams.
The Rams got to the game by way of a 13-3 regular-season record and then wins over the Cowboys and Saints in the postseason. Obviously, they are led by 33-year-old head coach Sean McVay, which has been a major storyline going up against Bill Belichick.
Los Angeles finished the regular season with the second-ranked offense, but 19th-ranked defense.
Patriots vs. RamsSunday, February 3, 20196:30 p.m., CBSPatriots -2.5, over/under 56
3 keys to the game
Establish the run
The Rams finished 23rd against the run in the regular season, but have been much better in the playoffs, allowing 50 yards rushing against Dallas and 48 yards rushing against the Saints. The Patriots’ run game has carried them in the playoffs and they will need it again Sunday night. Not only will it help with long, sustained drives, it also will help set up play action. One of the biggest matchups to watch is the Patriots’ offensive line against the Rams’ front-four, which is led by Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh.
Get off fast
This is a key every week, but even more so with how the playoffs have gone. The Patriots have got off to great starts in both games, and they are a much different team when playing with the lead. Jumping out quickly against the Rams would put a lot of pressure on Jared Goff and also likely take Todd Gurley out of the mix. Don’t be surprised if the Patriots win the toss, they will take the ball, just like against the Chargers.
Don’t allow big plays
The Rams have one of the most explosive offenses in football and the last thing the Patriots want to have happen is allow big plays. Gurley has the ability to break through the line for a long gain or two, and then obviously Brandin Cooks on the outside is a big time deep threat. One thing to keep an eye on with Cooks is his ability to draw pass interference penalties, which he did quite well in New England. To that point, we don’t see JC Jackson getting matched up with him because that is something he’s had issues with in his rookie season.
1. Since 2001, the Patriots are 16-1 in playoff games where they didn’t play their opponent earlier the season. In rematch games, they are 13-9.
2. With a win, the Patriots will pass the Steelers for most playoff victories all-time (37). It would also tie them with the Steelers for most Super Bowl victories all-time (five).
3. When Julian Edelman has more than 55 yards receiving in the playoffs, the Patriots are 10-1. When he doesn't, they are 2-4.
4. The Rams allowed the third-most receiving yards to tight ends during the regular season.
5. Per ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, the Patriots have allowed just one sack to an interior lineman since Week 2 (Green Bay’s Mike Daniels in Week 6).
Patriots 27, Rams 20
The Patriots have been loose and enjoying themselves all week long, but have remained focused, while the Rams have been a little wide-eyed with the whole experience. Playing in this game before will go a long way for the Patriots. Also, we like the matchup of the Patriots defense against Goff and its ability to rattle him. If Gurley doesn’t have a big day, the Patriots should be taking the Lombardi trophy back to New England once again.