New England's defense could be in some trouble in this game. The Patriots have used man coverage on 54.6 percent of coverage snaps, easily the highest rate in the NFL. And they create all of their pass rush from man coverage. The only downside is Jared Goff has performed better against man coverage this year than zone. While his completion percentage is much higher against zone coverage, he's posted a 10:1 TD-to-INT ratio and a passer rating of 104.1 against man. The Patriots have also allowed more than 5 yards per rush against 11 personnel (which the Rams run, like, all of the time), meaning Sean McVay can get the run going.
And if you'll notice, McVay is a member of the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree. A team that crushed the Patriots' defense in the Super Bowl two years ago. Obviously, the Falcons ran out of juice in that game, but I feel like McVay has learned that lesson and won't be done in by that. So I guess that's a lot of words to say I'm leaning Rams defense here. The Patriots often stepped up when it counted this season, and although they don't have a game-wrecker like the Rams have in Aaron Donald, they have Bill Belichick. He keeps the defense disciplined and puts his players in position to succeed in every situation. Belichick is the master at knowing his opponents' and own players' strengths and weaknesses, and it often shows on the scoreboard. Tom Brady has been far worse when pressured from the interior (2:2 TD-to-INT ratio) than from the edge (7-0 TD-INT ratio) in 2018, which plays right into the Rams' defensive strengths. Rams DTs Aaron Donald, the likely Defensive Player of the Year, and Ndamukong Suh get after the quarterback more than any other interior duo, so I expect Brady to be uncomfortable for most of the game.
And Aqib Talib makes the Rams' secondary so much better. The Rams allowed 12.5 fewer points per game this season when Talib, who had an ankle injury earlier in the season, is on the field. The defense has also allowed fewer total yards per game, third-down percentage and passer rating against with Talib in the fold. He will be a huge factor in this game. Statistically, the Rams are a smidgen better in yards per game and turnover differential. However, I trust New England's defense more in this matchup because Bill Belichick's unit is better against the run, ranking 11th in the league. Stopping the ground attack will be very important for both teams in this game, but New England's ability to do so is the difference. Let's face it: Nobody outside New England wants to see Tom Brady on the riser with yet another Lombardi Trophy in his hands. Been there, done that. Luckily, the Rams' defensive line -- led by all-world tackle Aaron Donald -- is here to make life miserable for TB12. The Patriots' offensive line has done exceptional work in the playoffs, but they haven't seen anything like Donald, a generational talent who deserves legit MVP consideration. Add Ndamukong Suh and Dante Fowler Jr. into the mix, and the Rams are well-equipped to short-circuit the Patriots' attack.
Of course, we thought the Chargers and Chiefs would do damage in the trenches, as well, and we saw how that worked out. The Rams must be better. Both units are led by fantastic coaches in Bill Belichick and Wade Phillips, but the Rams get my vote because their defensive line -- featuring Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Brockers and Dante Fowler Jr. -- has the ability to take over. And those guys will have to do just that if they want to bring the Lombardi back to Los Angeles.