NFL Game Previews: Super Bowl Matchup
NFL Game Previews: Super Bowl Matchup

This article is part of our NFL Game Previews series.

New England vs. L.A. Rams (+2.5) in Atlanta, 56.5 o/u – Sunday, 6:30 p.m. EST

The Story: Win or lose, Tom Brady is getting into the record books Sunday. A victory would make him the winningest player in Super Bowl history with six rings, breaking a tie with Charles Haley; a loss would move him into a tie with Jim Kelly as the losingest QB in Super Bowl history. The betting public seems to think it'll be the former – the line opened as a pick 'em but took less than a day to get pushed to Pats minus 2.5, and some books have even flirted with the full field goal – and it's hard to argue with them. New England may have the inferior regular-season record, but Bill Belichick's crew remains undefeated against playoff teams after their dramatic win in Kansas City. For the most part, though, Brady's been more worried about moving the chains than getting glory for himself. Over the Pats' last five games, including the two playoff wins, he's thrown exactly one TD four times, with Week 17's mauling of the Jets the only exception. Instead it's been Sony Michel (five postseason rushing touchdowns) and Rex Burkhead (three postseason rushing TDs) putting in the work once Brady leads the team into the red zone. Considering the Rams ended the regular season last in yards per carry allowed at 5.1, the Pats may not need to deviate from that game plan too much. They'll need all the points they can get, though.

New England's defense has given up 28 and 31 points in their two playoff victories against dangerous offenses in the Chargers and Chiefs, and the Rams offer more of the same. Last week's win over the Saints was the first time they'd scored less than 30 points since their Week 14 loss in Chicago, and the conditions should be a little more hospitable in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Like Brady, Jared Goff hasn't exactly been peppering the end zone lately – he's had only one game with multiple TD passes since the Rams' Week 12 bye – but the backfield duo of Todd Gurley and late-season surprise C.J. Anderson have kept the points flowing. The Pats' run defense during the regular season was nearly as bad as the Rams (4.9 YPC allowed), so the only real question is whether Gurley's knee is finally 100 percent healthy and he'll return to his early season form, or whether Anderson will have to shoulder more of the load again. Most eyes will be focused on the young gun vs. future Hall of Famer battle at QB, or the chess match between Belichick and upstart Sean McVay, but it's what happens in the trenches and who can keep their ground games going that could well determine who hoists the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the night.

Favorite Prop Bets
: Michel as MVP at +1200 if you think NE will win, Aaron Donald as MVP at +1600 if you think LAR will win (Von Miller won this three years ago, and two years ago Grady Jarrett would have had a good case given how disruptive he was coming up the middle in the second half had the Falcons held on); First touchdown will not be a passing TD +140 (both teams have been leaning on their ground games in the playoffs); Will a Patriots player score two or more TDs? Yes +120 (Belichick has never been afraid to stick with what's working and dare you to adjust); Will a Coke ad appear before a Pepsi ad? Yes -170 (the game's in Atlanta, c'mon now)

The Skinny:
NE injuries: none
LAR injuries: K Greg Zuerlein (questionable, foot)
NE DFS chalk: Michel (see above), Julian Edelman (LAR 28th in DVOA vs. WR1)
LAR DFS chalk: Gurley / Anderson (see above)
NE DFS tournament plays: Burkhead (see above)
LAR DFS tournament plays: none
Weather forecast: dome

The Scoop: Michel continues his impressive postseason run, racking up 120 yards and two TDs, while James White adds 50 combined yards and Burkhead chips in 40 yards. Brady throws for 280 yards and two touchdowns, finding Edelman and James Develin. Gurley looks healthy, pounding out 140 combined yards and two scores of his own, one rushing and one receiving, while C.J. Anderson adds only 40 yards. Goff throws for 260 yards and a second TD to Brandin Cooks. A Mark Barron fumble return to the house after a Donald strip sack keeps things close, but the Rams can't quite climb out of an early hole. Patriots, 34-31

Postseason record: 3-7, 2-8 ATS, 6-4 o/u
2018 regular-season record: 160-94-2, 112-134-10 ATS, 113-139-4 o/u
2017 regular-season record: 164-92, 111-131-14 ATS, 114-138-4 o/u
2016 regular-season record: 155-99-2, 110-136-10 ATS, 139-112-5 o/u
2015 regular-season record: 157-99, 137-111-8 ATS

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erik Siegrist
Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.
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