This game starts fast. Both of these offensive coaching staffs thrive on the two weeks of preparation and script out the first 15-20 plays to perfection. Tom Brady does it with his trademark short passing game, exploiting the Rams underneath with a ton of James White. Jared Goff hits the Pats secondary over the top. Call it Brandin Cooks for a 54-yard TD. Three possessions. Three touchdowns.
Score: 14-7 Patriots
Things slow down. Both offenses try and get their running games established, to limited success. Goff makes the first major mistake as halftime approaches, tossing an interception to Stephon Gilmore, and setting up the Pats for an easy score and a comfortable half-time lead.
Score: 28-14 Patriots
The best bar in Atlanta.
Thought 1. The Rams need a steady & consistent interior pass rush
Nobody pressures Brady from the perimeter because no quarterback in the history of the league is more comfortable stepping up quickly in the pocket and delivering the short-range bullet to a wide open, usually-white receiver. If your game plan to defend him is reliant upon edge pressure and disguised coverages (*cough* Vic Fangio *cough*) Brady will dice you up like a sous-chef working a garlic bulb.
You must put defenders in his face. And few teams are better equipped to do so than Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and these Rams. This game has career-defining potential for Donald.
Thought 2. Where the hell is Todd Gurley?
A few months back, the player Bill Belichick would have completely removed from this game would have been Todd Gurley. “Eliminate Gurley and force Jared Goff to beat us” might have been his rallying cry. And it would have been the correct approach. The Bears showed the league that if you take away the Los Angeles rushing attack and pressure Goff, you control the game.
But Gurley seems to have eliminated himself, unless you believe the injury fairy tale spewing out of the City of Angels. C.J. Anderson has somehow become every bit the horse but Anderson does not have anywhere near the game-changing explosiveness of a man many considered the best offensive weapon in the sport in, like, October! If the Rams are going to win this game, Gurley can’t be riding the stationary bike on pivotal possessions.
Thought 3. Return Men
Three names will be involved.
For the Rams, JoJo Natson.
For the Pats, Cordarrelle Patterson and Julian Edelman.
All three are capable of conjuring the kind of game-altering play that decides which team is holding the Lombardi at the end of the evening. (And all three rank in the top ten at all the relevant return statistics.)
Who will it be? Watch out for Patterson. If Greg the Leg gives him an opportunity to give the Pats an easy six, he may just do it.
Today’s offering is not meant to advocate gambling. I do advocate gambling because it’s a shit ton of fun but that’s not the intention of this particular column. Today, I will be showing you how to spend a mere $100 to greatly increase your enjoyment of another Super Bowl featuring the New England Patriots.
$15 on the game being decided by exactly 3 points (+375)
The Pats used to play three and four-point Super Bowls exclusively and this doesn’t feel like a game that can go wildly in any direction. Plus you’re getting almost 4-1 odds on the bet so why not? It’s also far more fun to root for close games.
$25 on over 56.5 points (-110)
Always bet the Super Bowl over. Who the hell wants to root for teams not to score, especially when you don’t care about the result? This is the most fun bet to place for a Super Bowl party because even those who don’t know/care what’s happening on the field will be excited to know every single point scored helps them win a little cash.
[Side note: If you have access to a book, legal or otherwise, always incorporate everyone at your Super Bowl party in at least one bet TOGETHER.]
$20 on no field goals in the second quarter (+240)
I have almost no rationale for this bet other than (a) it’s silly and (b) I think these are two coaches who will understand the uselessness of field goals in a game like this.
$40 on a team scoring in the final 3:30 of the game (-170)
By the fourth quarter a lot of non-football fans are checked out on the game. So this is the bet to get them re-motivated to focus on the television set. And since the assumption on this game is that it’ll be high-scoring and close, how is the game going to remain scoreless over the final three and a half minutes? It’s not. The odds aren’t great here so you’ll have to lay out some cheese. (I’m betting way more than $40 on this.)
If the 2019 Chicago Bears plan on making the same kind of jump the 2018 Los Angeles Rams did, they must find ways to add high-caliber players, just as the Rams did. They simply can’t sit back and let the rest of the division catch up to them.
The Rams went into the 2018 offseason with a goal to get better and did they ever. They traded for Marcus Peters, Brandin Cooks and Aqib Talib. They signed Ndamukong Suh. Once the season started, they traded for Dante Fowler and signed C.J. Anderson. All six of these players were essential to their reaching Super Bowl LIII.
At every turn, the Rams had an eye toward making their roster better. Talib and Suh were both veterans whose previous teams decided to move on. Peters and Cooks were young players who most figured would be re-upping with their former teams. But, alas, the Rams saw opportunities and made moves.
The Bears need to do the same. Who they can get remains to be seen.
Data has done a tremendous job over the past two days breaking down the cap situation facing the Bears this off-season. But I disagree with some of his conclusions, primarily a single point.
The Bears had the best defense in the NFL in 2018 and exited the playoffs on Wildcard Weekend. There’s no doubt in my mind they can return to Wildcard Weekend without Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan on the roster. (The Eagles just made it a weekend further with Cre’von LeBlanc as their BEST corner.)
The immediate focus should be Bobby Massie. Is the right tackle one of the best in the league? Probably not. But he’s a very good starter and a solid veteran presence on the offensive line. Couple that with the great unknown beside him at right guard and it would seem pivotal for the Bears to not enter the 2019 season with the right side of their OL being a question mark. The offense has to make a jump in Year Two of Nagy. Continuity will be key.
The Hunt situation is a delicate one. So next week both Emily and I will be writing full-length columns on the prospects of the Bears bringing him to Chicago. I thought it was imperative to present a female perspective. But I also thought it was imperative to present an opinion with an historical, football-based context. We’ll do both.
We’ve had fun with Pat Mannelly over the years, specifically naming this column space after his crazy decision in that Packers. But he’s one of the best long snappers in NFL history and now he’s trying to pave the way for the next generation of specialists. It’s very, very cool.
It is finally here! Together with @TheChrisRubio and Kevin Gold of @longsnapcom, we present to you The Patrick Mannelly Award presented to the top collegiate Long Snapper! For more information, please go to https://t.co/6lCzCYekfv pic.twitter.com/xOz3WuViRp
— Patrick Mannelly (@PatrickMannelly) January 15, 2019
I was sitting on a stool at The Copper Kettle, my local in Woodside, Queens, and a liquored up friend of mine, a mumbling Irishman known as “Mel” who loves the Pittsburgh Steelers, turned my way. “You know I think you’re going to the Super Bowl,” he said, referring to the Chicago Bears. He actually said, “Joe, binky broofer soul” but I got where his brain was going.
I did what I always do when that particular suggestion is made (and it’s happening more often these days). “We’ll see,” I said. It wasn’t a response out of modesty or fan humility. It wasn’t an attempt to avoid a jinx. In other words, it wasn’t bullshit. It was about altering expectations. That can take time.
I came into this season, especially after the acquisition of Khalil Mack, believing the Bears could weasel their way into the postseason if the quarterback and offense came along by midseason. After watching the Bears dismantle the Vikings from a Paris hotel room in the middle of the night, those expectations changed to a division title. The Bears were clearly the best team in the NFC North. They needed to finish the season atop the table. They did.
Now, with two weeks to go in the regular season, there are only a pair of teams in the NFC with better records than the Bears: the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. And I’m no longer convinced the Bears can’t beat both of them. In any building.
It is nice to have such thoughts in December.
After holding one of the ten best offenses in the history of the league to just one legitimate scoring drive, Super Bowl dreams no longer seem far-fetched for the 2018 Chicago Bears.
Yes, they have to take care of business the rest of the season and any playoff run is going to require Mitch Trubisky to be infinitely better than he was Sunday night. But now that we’ve seen the defense be that good, there’s no reason to put a cap on what the Bears can accomplish this season.
Say what positive you will about the Bears teams of the early-to-mid 2000s, but they never faced — much less beat — an offense like the 2018 Bears just did.
While the defense’s performance Sunday makes the games against Brock Osweiler, Eli Manning and gimpy Aaron Rodgers even more confusing, it also gave validity to their claim as a potentially historic defense. If they can do THAT to the Rams, they can beat anybody — especially when you consider the defensive issues the other top scoring teams have.