On paper, Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta between New England and Los Angeles will likely be high scoring.
The only way it isn’t is if each defense can somehow contain five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and Jared Goff, who had a breakout season.
Brady, playing in his record ninth Super Bowl, has established himself as arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
Goff, in his third campaign, completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 4,668 yards with 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions across the regular season.
Brady had 29 scoring passes with 11 picks and hit 65.8 percent of his tosses for 4,355 yards.
The Rams’ running attack is led by Todd Gurley, who had 1,251 yards with 17 touchdowns and garnered 116 yards in a 30-22 victory over Dallas in the NFC divisional round, but had 10 yards in a 26-23 overtime decision versus New Orleans in the NFC championship game.
C.J. Anderson, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Denver Broncos, played sparingly with the Carolina Panthers, but has delivered 167, 132, 123 and 44 yards with the last two in victories against the Cowboys and Saints.
Goff will keep an eye out for Robert Woods (86 catches for 1,219 yards and six touchdowns), Brandin Cooks (80 receptions, 1,204 yards and five scores), Cooper Kupp (40 catches, 566 yards and six scores) and Gurley (59 catches, 580 yards with four touchdowns).
New England’s running attack is spearheaded by Sony Michel (931 yards with six scores) and James White (425 yards and five touchdowns).
Brady will target White (87 catches, 751 yards, seven scores), Julian Edelman (74 receptions, 850 yards, six touchdowns), Rob Gronkowski (47 catches, 682 yards, three touchdowns) and Josh Gordon (40 receptions, 720 yards, three scores).
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald leads the league with 20.5 sacks and strong safety John Johnson paces the Rams (15-3) with four picks and is second with 119 tackles, while linebacker Cory Littleton is tops with 125 tackles.
Middle linebacker Kyle Van Noy leads the Patriots (13-5), who drilled the Chargers 41-28 in the AFC divisional match and held off the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31 in overtime of the AFC title tilt, with 89 tackles, while defensive end Trey Flowers collected a team-best 7.5 sacks and strong safety Duron Harmon has a team-high four interceptions.
A case can be made that New England’s Bill Belichick is the NFL’s all-time best coach, while the Rams’ head man, Sean McVay, at 33, will someday rise to that level.
Points will be scored at a high rate and it’s not smart to go against Brady. My pick: New England 34, Los Angeles 31.
Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at email@example.com.