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What to watch for in New England Patriots-Los Angeles Rams game on 'Thursday Night Football'

Much has changed since these teams last played in Super Bowl LIII.

It was the New England Patriots' last postseason win and the Los Angeles Rams' last postseason appearance.

Now, the Pats are clinging to hopes of continuing an all-time streak of postseason appearances, while the Rams are aiming to hold on to an NFC West lead. A Super Bowl rematch awaits with plenty at stake to kick off Week 13.

Cam Newton and the Patriots (6-6) face Jared Goff and the first-place Rams (8-4) at 8:20 p.m. ET at SoFi Stadium on Thursday Night Football, airing on NFL Network, FOX and Amazon Prime.

Here's what to watch for:

Quarterbacks under the spotlight

Newton and Goff really aren't all that similar, at least in regard to their skillsets. In some ways, though, they have had similar campaigns -- ups and downs and the seemingly never-ending need to play for their futures. Each of them is coming off wins as well and all is rosy -- for now. Newton has had a particularly topsy-turvy campaign in his first season with the Pats, who are clinging to aspirations of a 12th-straight playoff berth. He's largely struggled throwing the ball and New England is 4-1 in games in which he attempts fewer than 20 passes and 2-4 when he throws it more than 20 times, per NFL Research. His 11 rushing touchdowns and five passing scores indicate the ground element he's added to the team and the passing element that's hindered it. Newton has four games with multiple rushing touchdowns, which is the most by a QB in a single season in league history, but he's also on pace to become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to start eight-plus games and finish with at least twice as many rushing scores as passing, per NFL Research. In the Patriots' 45-0 win over the Chargers, Newton had just 69 yards passing, but three total touchdowns (one passing, two rushing). It's been a crazy kinda campaign. As for Goff, his Week 13 showing was a phenomenal one in which he threw for 351 yards, a score and no interceptions in a 38-28 win against the Cardinals. Perhaps of most importance was the no interceptions, as Goff rebounded from a Week 12 loss to the 49ers in which he threw a pair of picks. So far this season, the Rams are 5-0 when Goff is interception-free. Goff, who's thrown for 281 yards per game, 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, is having a rather solid season, but scrutiny abounds as L.A. looks to hold on to first in the NFC West and get back to the playoffs after losing to the Patriots in the Super Bowl two seasons ago.

Donald-led defense leading the way

Aaron Donald, despite the respect and accolades he does receive, might well never get the attention he truly deserves and his greatness should command. It comes with the territory when you're a defensive stud whose impact isn't always accurately measured by statistics. Nonetheless, the Donald-led Rams defense has taken on the identity of this L.A. story. Donald leads the NFC with 11 sacks, a number he's reached in four straight seasons, which is the longest-active streak in the league, per NFL Research. Donald leads, Jalen Ramsey dominates just the same and the rest of the defense has followed suit. Troy Hill had a huge pick-six in the team's Week 12 win over the Cardinals in which the Rams held Arizona to 232 yards. L.A.'s allowed more than 28 points just once this season. Its defense has become a dependable and often dominant entity. For a Patriots offense that's struggled much of the season, it could be a long evening.

Jackson, Gilmore shoring up Pats secondary

Sometimes shaky, more often a standout, Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson has been consistent in his ability to lead the New England defense in the big-play department. Jackson's seven interceptions, 12 passes defended and three fumble recoveries each lead the Pats. With Stephon Gilmore back for the Patriots and seemingly back to form, the New England secondary has been impressive lately, most notably with Gilmore shutting down Keenan Allen in Week 12 a game after the Patriots held DeAndre Hopkins in check in a win over Arizona. With one of the elite receiving duos in the NFL -- the Rams' Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods -- up next, the Patriots are healthy and primed for an entertaining matchup.

Special performances on the agenda

In the Patriots' 45-0 throttling of the Chargers in Week 13, New England scored a pair of special teams touchdowns via a blocked field goal and a punt return. Back in Week 7, Rams punter Johnny Hekker had a stellar performance in prime time to help L.A. past the Bears. These are a pair of squads who remind you that games are won and lost in all three phases. For L.A., Hekker has been his usual extraordinary self, but the kicking department has been troublesome. Matt Gay is the team's third kicker this season and has shown promise, but has hardly been automatic (5-for-7 on field goals). New England has had big plays and Gunner Olszewski has become a special teams dynamo, but the kicking game has also been consistent. Jake Bailey (48.3 yards per punt) has been outstanding and despite initial doubt at kicker, Nick Folk has settled in and hasn't missed a kick in the last three games. A punter, a kicker or a returner might well decide this one.

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