LONDON: The culmination of five months of gruelling gridiron action has all led to this point — the Super Bowl, which kicks off tonight in Atlanta. It is a clash of the veterans against the upstarts, and here Arab News examines why each team has a shot at the biggest prize in American Football.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
So, here we go again.
For the fourth time in five seasons, the Patriots have ducked and dived their way to yet another Super Bowl appearance.
Given the start they made, it has certainly raised a few eyebrows that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are here once again. But, they deserve their place and that is testament to those two and the consistency that owner Robert Kraft has created in Foxborough over nearly two decades.
So much of the Patriots’ success in the Brady-Belichick era is owed to the aura of invincibility that has snowballed since their first success at the end of the 2001 season.
In the last ten years, New England being in the playoffs has been almost as certain as death or taxes. But this year, for the first time, there was a sense that the empire was crumbling — that perhaps the good times were about to end for the Patriots.
That is looking more and more likely to be a very premature prediction.
The Patriots’ unbeatable air got stronger and stronger this year, despite them losing five regular season games for the first time since the 2009 season.
If they are to win this evening, the front-line is the key. One of the biggest factors in their success after their shaky start has been their offensive line, which has ended up being one of the more reliable units in the run and pass games during the second half of season and into the post-season. Their five main players up front have only gotten better in the playoffs.
A lot has been said about the Rams’ offensive line too, but Belichick’s defensive genius has served the Patriots well throughout his reign. And tonight, in Adrian Clayborn and Trey Flowers, the Patriot’s have two of the best defensive players in pressuring opposing quarterbacks.
Whichever way you look at it, it is a hard argument against Brady-Belichick going out with a final bang.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
As good as the Rams have been all season, they have one thing going against their bid to win the Super Bowl — inexperience.
Experience, which we have seen the Patriots have in spades, really matters when the Super Bowl gets into its critical stage. The last time we saw that reversed was in 2014 when Russell Wilson upset all the odds to cruise to victory with Seattle Seahawks over the vastly more experienced Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos.
Meanwhile, the story of the Rams — one of upheaval and underachievement — could play into their hands. For nearly 50 years, the Rams belonged to the City of Angels. Then, for a brief two-decade spell, they uprooted to St. Louis where they won the Super Bowl in 2000, much to the chagrin of the franchise’s loyal LA fans. Now, having been moved back to their spiritual home in 2016, they have a chance to bring the success-starved LA fans have craved for so long.
And the reason they can lies with their quarterback Jared Goff. He has led this Rams offensive line with effortless, imperious ease this season and thoroughly deserves his shot at glory tonight.
And he has been helped by one of the best frontline attacks we have seen for a long time.
But if Goff’s greatness casts a big shadow over this Rams team, stepping out of it with aplomb this year has been Aaron Donald and Aqib Talib. Both have proven themselves to be vital defensive players throughout the season, when the going has got tough. While Donald is the Rams’s star, Talib has been the shrewdest buy. Of the $221 million the Rams spent before this season, no acquisition has provided a better return on investment than Talib.
Everyone expects the Patriots to do what they always do, but this Rams team have the ability to etch themselves into gridiron history.
ARAB NEWS PREDICTS: Rams to pull off a late victory and upset the sporting world.