Rams-Patriots Super Bowl is a matchup truly worth Best Picture consideration

The Rams will face off against the Patriots 17 years to the day of Super Bowl XXXVI
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It’s only fitting with a team hailing from Los Angeles that Super Bowl LIII is playing out like a script worthy of consideration for Best Picture.

Two franchises that could not be more dissimilar find themselves pitted against one another for the ultimate crown.

It’s new school vs old school; youth vs experience; free agency vs draft; up-and-comers vs dynasty.

When the Rams and New England Patriots square off in Atlanta February 3 — 17 years to the day from their meeting in Super Bowl XXXVI — it will be a football game with more than a championship on the line; it’s a game of ideologies.

Los Angeles, led by the 33-year-old Sean McVay– the youngest head coach in Super Bowl history– is an offensive-minded team. In his second season at the helm, McVay has led the Rams to produce the NFL’s 2nd-ranked scoring offense at 32.4 PPG, the 2nd-highest yards per game tally with 420.8 and the 3rd-most rush yards per game with 143.4. He has taken a third-year quarterback in Jared Goff, who was 0-7 in his rookie season, and turned him into a back-to-back Pro Bowler.

Roaming the New England sideline in his patented cutoff hoodie will be Bill Belichick. Standing at twice the age of McVay, Belichick is entering his 12th-career Super Bowl appearance as either a head coach or assistant (9, 3), meaning he has been a part of 22.6 percent of all Super Bowls in NFL history. With a Patriots win, Belichick will tie George Halas and Curly Lambeau for the most NFL championships in the history of the NFL with six. Whereas McVay built his resume as an offensive guru, Belichick concocts one of the League’s most feared defensive schemes year in and year out. The Patriots defense has ranked in the top-10 in scoring each of the past eight seasons, including finishing ranked 7th this season.

While the dichotomy between coaches is evident, the quarterback situation may be more surprising.

In the largest age disparity between opposing starting QBs in Super Bowl history, Goff and Brady will be meeting for just the second time in their careers (Week 13, 2016). While Brady ventures into the game with five rings to his name and 517-career passing touchdowns decorating his resume, the player 17 years younger has strung together the statistically more impressive 2018 campaign.

Goff’s 287.3 YPG is over 13 yards higher than Brady’s average, while also having a higher passer rating (98.7 vs 96.2) and better TD to INT ratio (33:13, 31:13). Where does Brady have the upper hand? Well, aside from the 36 more career playoff games, eight more Super Bowl appearances, 10,000 more playoff passing yards and 71 more TDs, Brady has better career numbers in a dome.

Throughout his 269 games in the League, Brady has tallied a 11-3 record indoors. That said, Mercedes-Benz Stadium has a retractable roof which favors Goff.

The 24-year-old is 3-0 in these conditions whereas the 41-year-old is 6-2.

Advanced analytics at their finest.

Undoubtedly the QBs deserve the attention they will receive heading into the meeting, but it’s the other 52 players stuffing the locker room that reveal a larger story.

The Rams constructed this team with a win-now approach, garnering top talent through offseason trades and highly-paid free agents, setting up a short span with a legitimate run at a title.

Rams win in NFC Championship is good for every NFL player says Colin Cowherd

After dealing for Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, they continued to bolster the secondary by signing Sam Shields and Nickell Robey-Coleman to one and three-year deals, respectively. Then the franchise realized the best way to continue the success of their All-Pro running back Todd Gurley (who they also extended) and third-year quarterback Goff would be to bring back the veteran signal caller on the offensive line, inking center John Sullivan to a two-year contract. They then brought in Ndamukong Suh on a one-year deal before trading for Brandin Cooks (from the Patriots) and extending Aaron Donald, one of the best defensive players in the League.

The Patriots, on the contrary, are built on depth and draft history.

Pointing out Brady as a sixth-rounder is obvious, but a further evaluation of the roster truly shows the genius of the front office. Prior to the start of the 2018 season, 59.5 percent of the team’s training camp roster was made up of either drafted players or undrafted signees, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by Belichick throughout his tenure.

In 2015, when seven players who entered the league as Patriots were voted to the Pro Bowl, Belichick told reporters: “I’m proud of the fact that all seven of those players are homegrown … They all came in as Patriots, spent their whole career as Patriots, developed as Patriots one way or another, but that’s what they all are.”

But this game is more than just the individuals filling the roster; it’s about where these franchises have been and what led them to this matchup.

February 3 marks the fourth time in the last five years the Patriots will play in the Super Bowl (2-1). In 2016, they claimed the title in epic comeback fashion against the very team that calls the Mercedes-Benz Stadium its home, the Atlanta Falcons. Where were the Rams on Feb. 5, 2017? Sitting at home after completing a 4-12 regular season.

New England is approaching its NFL record 11th Super Bowl; LA is entering its 4th.

New England is the first team to lose a Super Bowl and make it back the next season since the Buffalo Bills in the early 90s; LA hasn’t been back since they lost … to New England …. in 2001.

Rams victory in NFC Championship wasn’t perfect, but historic nonetheless

This is truly a story of the newcomers vs. the savvy vets.

So while films like FOX’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Black Panther have already earned nominations for their Academy Award, voters may want to tune into the world release of Super Bowl LIII before casting their ballots.