Not score predictions — those are boring. We came up with five predictions you might not have seen to help you get ready for the championship game.
C.J. Anderson gets more touches than Todd Gurley, again
Despite being a member of the Rams for a little more than a month, C.J. Anderson has become the trusted runner in Los Angeles — even with Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley on the team. Over the Rams’ two playoff games, Anderson has 40 touches compared to Gurley’s 23 touches.
Gurley might have found himself in the doghouse during the NFC Championship game, dropping two passes. One of those drops turned into an interception that instantly gave New Orleans the ball in the red zone.
Demario Davis came up big for the #Saints on their first defensive series of the game, but he has been huge for them all year. He became the franchise's first player since 1998 to have 100+ tackles and 5+ sacks in a single season this year #LARvsNO pic.twitter.com/NxV0mXKQRa— Kevin Boilard (@247KevinBoilard) January 20, 2019
It’s unclear whether Gurley is hurt or not, but it definitely appears that McVay trusts the talent of Anderson.
Tom Brady ends it with a game-winning drive
It’s the easiest Patriots prediction, because it seems to happen every dang time. When New England is in the Super Bowl, it’s always a good game and it always comes down to the wire.
Every bit of Belichick-Brady history tells us it’s going to come down to the final possessions of the game, and — when it inevitably does — you fully expect Brady to win it, right?
The Rams defense ended the regular season No. 20 in points allowed, and — had it not been for a blatantly missed pass interference call — the defense would’ve cost them the NFC Championship too.
Brady has ripped apart great defenses on his way to Super Bowl rings. There’s not much reason to believe he can’t tear apart the Rams defense too when it comes time for him to do so.
Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski throw things back to 2012
The Patriots’ receiving duo is nearing the end of its effectiveness on the field with 19 combined seasons of experience between them, but they didn’t look like aging veterans in Kansas City. Edelman led all receivers in the AFC title game with seven receptions. While he did allow one Tom Brady interception to carom off his hands, his three catches and 55 yards over New England’s final two scoring drives helped push the Patriots over the hump and into the Super Bowl. Two of those catches came in third-and-10 situations in overtime.
If it wasn’t Edelman coming through in the clutch, it was Gronkowski stepping up to make the plays that saved New England’s season. His third-down catch in the fourth quarter made All-Pro safety Eric Berry look foolish.
His key overtime catch on a slant on third down — a play that set up Rex Burkhead’s game-winning run three plays later — wasn’t even in the game plan leading up to the AFC title game.
Brady operates best with the two players he’s had in his lineup since 2010. That pairing has been dynamite on football’s biggest stage. Gronkowski has averaged 70 receiving yards and a touchdown per game in the Super Bowl. Edelman has 196 receiving yards in his last two Super Bowls. Both should show out in Atlanta.
Aaron Donald will end the Patriots’ streak of keeping Tom Brady upright
New England’s offensive line faced a crossroads last spring when left tackle Nate Solder, a seven-year starter with the team, left in free agency. Part-time starter Cameron Fleming exited as well. But any questions about the Patriots’ blocking have been answered over the course of a season where 41-year-old Tom Brady has been sacked more than twice in only a single game.
That momentum has carried over into the postseason, as the powerful pass rushes of the Chargers and Chiefs were stymied in back-to-back weeks. The New England offensive line hasn’t given up a sack yet in the playoffs, and Brady has only been hit three times over those two games.
That unit hasn’t faced Aaron Donald, though. Donald led the league with 20.5 sacks this fall, staking his claim as a legitimate MVP candidate thanks to his ability to topple quarterbacks from the interior of the defensive line. While that hasn’t carried over to the playoffs — he’s yet to record a sack this postseason — he’s still been a force up front that allows his teammates to thrive. After sacking Dak Prescott only once in the Divisional Round, the Rams leveled up against a less mobile quarterback to sack Drew Brees twice and hit him seven more times in an NFC title game win.
The Patriots have gotten amazing play from their interior blocking trio of David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Joe Thuney. But their streak of clean sheets will end in the Super Bowl — Donald hasn’t gone three games without a sack since September, and now he’s got a chance to shine in the biggest game of his football career.
There will be a side-by-side pictures of McVay and Bill Belichick at age 33
Rams head coach Sean McVay will be 33 by the time Super Bowl 53 kicks off, making him the youngest head coach in Super Bowl history.
You know that means. Side-by-side pictures of Sean McVay and Bill Belichick at the same age. When Belichick was 33, he was the defensive coordinator for Bill Parcells’ New York Giants.
Look at how charming a young Bill was.
The side-by-side look is the prediction that we’re most sure of.