The Ten Biggest Questions Heading Into Super Bowl LIII

It’s Super Bowl week! The NFL season is coming to a close this Sunday, as the Atlanta Falcons’ home stadium plays host to the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots, with the winner being crowned champions of the world. Will we see Tom Brady avenge last year’s loss with a win this year? Will we see Jared Goff shake off those “bust” labels once and for all? Will Sean McVay prove that a coach who doesn’t wear hats and also doesn’t rock a visor and has an awesome haircut can still win in this league?

Will Patriots head coach Bill Belichick prove that the old guard is still very much alive, as he seeks his 6th title in nearly two decades? Will the largest age gap between head coaches and QBs be an issue or will both teams lay it all out on the line? Which prop bet should you bet on, and what company will have the best commercial? Are you even interested in the game, or do you just want to see the commercials? Should the Chiefs and Saints get to play a third place game?

There are so many questions and so few answers out there! We asked two of our best and brightest (apologies to the actual best and bright people out there) to try and tackle some of these topics and more! We hope you have enjoyed the NFL season, and hopefully the game, the pregame show, the halftime show, and the commercials in between live up to your standards.

Without further ado, here is this week’s double issue lightning round!

1.       The Patriots are currently favored to win by a field goal. Without getting in to the weeds, on the surface how close do you expect the game to be?

(CM) I think this game is going to be very close. Maybe not as close (tie ball game with less than two minutes) as the last time these teams met in the Super Bowl, but it may be just the second time in the history of the NFL that a Super Bowl is not concluded after four quarters. Some might say that would be closer than a game deciding field goal, but in my opinion there is more entertainment but less drama when teams go to OT. If this game comes down to the last possession in regulation, there will be some drama. If both teams get the ball in OT I’ll still be glued to the screen, but not as much as if we see Brady or Goff driving for the win late in in the 4th quarter. New England has only taken part in one Super Bowl (XX) that was decided by more than one score – and all eight of Tom Brady’s super bowls have been won or lost by one score. If eight Super Bowls in 17 years is any sort of measuring stick, this one is going to be close.

(BK) I actually think this game is close all the way through but that the Pats pull away late and win by at least 10. New England realizes the end is nigh so long as Tom Brady doesn’t go all Benjamin Button and start getting younger. Rob Gronkowski really realizes it, as this could be the final game he plays in the NFL. Although we, admittedly, had this exact conversation a year ago, I think this really will be the beginning of the end for the Patriots. And as a result, we’ll get a good game but a convincing win by the time the clock strikes 0:00.

2.       Tom Brady has made a career out of Super Bowl appearances (and victories), but if you take away the three titles he earned early in his career as a cog in a very run heavy/defensive team, he is a very mortal 2-3, and the losses (and wins) have mostly not come against all-time great QBs. Has the Patriots QB lost some of his mystique on the NFL’s biggest stage?

(CM) I don’t know what idiot (was this you, producer Gene?) thinks you are allowed to vacate rings from the GOAT just for the sake of argument, but even if you did, it’s not like he suddenly sucks if you remove his first three rings. A record of 2-3 in the Super Bowl is still five appearances as a starter on the biggest stage, do you know how many QBs have accomplished that in NFL since 1970? I’ll give you a hint – there are two of them. Tom Brady, and John Elway. Does that take away from the mystique around John Elway? I didn’t think so. Elway dragged some really bad Broncos teams to the big game three times between 1987 and 1990 and then when he finally got a well rounded team, everything clicked. Brady has always had a good supporting cast and while he may seem more human because we’ve seen him lose a couple of times, ask anyone – ANYONE – and they will tell you they are scared to death when that guy has the ball with the game on the line at any stage of the season but especially this stage. Does it take away from his mystique? No, absolutely not.

(BK) Agree with Casey here. You can’t say those other titles don’t count. And even if they didn’t, it’s the LeBron Argument: Are you going to argue that an imperfect track record takes away from the simple fact that he led his teams to that many championship series? Nah. Don’t be that guy. Brady has certainly lost a step (if he ever had one) and has had some errant passes we may not have seen during his early prime, but he has plenty left in the tank to compete in this Super Bowl, and nobody can take away his mystique at this point in his career.

3.       If you look at the 2013 and 2015 AFC championship games, Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips may be the best in the business at finding ways to rattle the Patriots when it matters most. Although their personnel is not the same as the Broncos was and they have had an up and down year as a unit, do you expect the Rams to get after Tom Brady and make life difficult for the game’s most clutch performer?

(CM) I fully expect Phillips to send everything but the kitchen sink after Brady, it served him well in 2015 and it served the Giants well in 2007 and 2011 (not that he had anything to do with those). He likes to let his front seven generate pressure and stop the run and leave his back four to hold down the fort, which has worked wonders at times and created problems at others. Does any of that matter going in to this game? Maybe. It’s going to take more than a pass rush to shut down Brady, but he has shown that getting hit throws him off and keeps the offense out of balance when the coverage is able to hold up while the pass rush collapses the pocket on a historically immobile QB. If the Rams can get hits on number 12 even if they don’t get sacks, this game could go their way. With a leaky secondary though, that might be risking too much.

(BK) Absolutely. To Casey’s point, the secondary makes it a bit more difficult to get away with. But Phillips also has something he didn’t have back then: One of the best offenses in the NFL. This guy knows he can take risks with the fire power he has on the other side of the ball. LA was the No. 2 team in the league this season in terms of total offense, so if Brady beats the blitz deep and gets points as a result, Jared Goff and Co. will be ready to punch back on the defense’s behalf.

4.       Both sides feature an innovative offensive genius as their play caller, and both ask their QBs to play more of a point guard, using spread formations and play action to get the ball to the open man and lulling the defense in to giving up a big play. Who do you give the edge to on offense, the Rams and Sean McVay, or the Patriots and Josh McDaniels? And on a related note, do you prefer your playcaller to have an awesome hair cut or cover their ugly mug with a visor/hat?

(CM) It seems like this league really likes hats and visors, and while I’d prefer coaches were still required to wear a suit and tie to the game, you have to give the edge to McVay. There is something to be said about how consistently great McDaniels’ playcalling and offenses have been, but one has to wonder how good those teams would be without Brady under center. Or if the dude had a decent hair cut. McVay’s playcalling on the other hand, when you factor in such a young team and a very young QB, and slick hair cut, is simply next level. We’ll see how both perform when everything is on the line, but this game reminds me of the Super Bowl last year with a relatively unproven playcaller head coach in Doug Pederson (aka the old visor) and an up and coming young team found ways to upend the reigning champs. The main difference this year? The Patriots are not defending champs, so there is reason to believe they will be just as hungry as the young Rams. We’ll see if the gel or the visor gets the job done in this game. And let’s make those nicknames stick. If Belichick is the hoodie (and he is), we can make these happen.

(BK) I’m a hat guy. Always have been; always will be. I’m also a big fan of L.A.’s overall offense ahead of New England’s, but the Rams do have one distinct disadvantage: Rob Gronkowski is going to be an extremely tough cover for them if he’s somehow left in single coverage going deep down the sideline. Los Angeles’ fire power will be enough to punch back on the other side, but late in the game with a SUper Bowl on the line, I’d have a hard time betting against Gronk, whereas I could see the Pats’ D closing strong against the Rams’ wideouts.

5.       It’s been 17 years since Tom Brady famously led the game winning drive to defeat then NFL MVP Kurt Warner and the greatest show on turf. The Patriots were 14 point underdogs going in to that matchup, and their win is considered one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history. Both teams have changed drastically in the nearly two decades since, do you see any parallels between this year’s game and that matchup other than the names on the front of the jerseys?

(CM) Honestly? I don’t see any parallels. Since the teams met then and they are meeting now, the talking heads at various sports media outlets are bound to reach for something to connect the two games on some level, but don’t see it. Goff isn’t an unknown first year starter, Brady isn’t the best pure passer in the game, and neither coach is unproven. Even the point spread is way off. The game is being played in a dome, and one of the teams is going to win a title. Does that help?

(BK) I’ll fully admit that I wasn’t really watching football at that time in my life. If 12-year-old BK wasn’t watching basketball, he was eating or sleeping—honestly still watching, playing, thinking about or dreaming about the NBA. That said, while I can’t speak to the parallels specifically, I love something coming full circle. I’m on record (maybe foolishly) as saying I believe this will be the last time Tom Brady plays for a Super Bowl. This is his swan song before his decline hits and the fat lady starts actually singing for his legendary career. But I love the idea that Brady’s potential final dance is coming against the team where it all started.

6.       Do you prefer to host your own Super Bowl party, or attend one at someone else’s house? And what company do you think will have the best commercial?

(CM) Most years I prefer to host my own. There’s just something about having your close friends and family over for the last big football game of the year, it’s almost like a holiday. We have a busier schedule this year than most so we’ll be attending somewhere else, but we have a good time no matter where we are. My guess is All-State and more specifically Mr. Mayhem will have the best commercial, if they do one at all. But you never know, it can come from some obscure company that has never made one before. I believe Tide had the best marketing campaign last year, we’ll see who shows up this year.

(BK) I’m all about attending a Super Bowl party and bringing way more than what’s expected. Walking into someone else’s house arms full of spicy queso, deep-fried chicken wings, homemade pesto hummus and a self-brewed 12-pack of lagers….well, let’s just say it’s the closest you’ll ever get to being Santa Clause and seeing  the eyes of children light up across the world. As for the commercial, Budweiser will have the tear-jerker we’ve all grown to love and loathe—love because they touch our souls, loathe because they make us cry in front of our buddies. And Doritos will find a way to give another baby CTE or something, which will once again give the world a twisted case of the giggles.

7.       If you had to wager your annual salary on a prop bet, which one would you most comfortable choosing?

(CM) If forced to make a wager, I would go with how many times Sean McVay’s age is referenced. The over under is currently set at 1.5, I would easily take the over. They only have to mention it two times for me to win? They have to fill three to fours with a lot of talking, I guarantee it will come up more than that.

(BK) I’m taking one that is a little less of a surething, but still feels like low-hanging fruit. As it stands, the Over/Under on how many plays Tony Romo will correctly predict is set at 2.5. Have you listened to this former quarterback call a football game?! A 2.5 O/U feels like something I’m willing to take a bit of a risk on. He could very well have the best performance of anyone at Super Bowl LIII

8.       Going in to week one of the 2018 season, the Patriots were the favorite to get to the Super Bowl, and the Rams were 3rd. Both teams finished 2nd in their conference and here they are, just like Vegas drew it up. Does it take away from the match up to see the house win or do you like to see teams defy the odds?

(CM) It’s kind of fun to see Vegas get it right. So many early season predictions fall short, it’s nice to know the odds experts get it right sometimes. For the sake of drama, I’d like to see a dark horse make it all the way, but seeing two juggernauts go the distance from opening day favorites to Super Bowl sunday is fun to see also.

(BK) I’d definitely rather see dark horses make it every so often to add something of a novelty factor to the competition. But that doesn’t mean I dislike the best teams making it all the way. I’m just a bigger fan of mixing it up a bit when it comes to annual events.

9.       The presented a unique idea to do away with the Pro Bowl and instead play a third place game, which this year would have been the Chiefs vs the Saints. Do you feel like we should have been able to see that game, and did you watch the Pro Bowl?

(CM) Please, please PLEASE make this game happen. You could even have played it at the Super Bowl site in Atlanta with nothing going on last week. I’m sure there are people that genuinely enjoy the Pro Bowl and all-star games in general, I just have no interest in that game. You could still keep it, but let the runner up teams from both conferences play a third place game at the Super Bowl venue. The league gets more income, the fans get another great game, and the two teams left out of the Super Bowl get to go out in style. Everyone wins.

(BK) I hate to say it, but I don’t think a third place game would do anything for the NFL—as much as I would’ve loved to watch that contest this season. And here’s why I say that: Football is such a physically demanding sport that unless you’re competing for something meaningful, it’s not worth it to put your body on the line. And while I’m not personally saying third place is meaningless, the competitors in the two locker rooms may not have the drive to compete having one week earlier been eying a Super Bowl. If their hearts aren’t in it, it could be both dangerous to their safety and a potential risk if fans also don’t tune in. All that said, I also don’t want to see the Pro Bowl anymore. I didn’t watch it last year, didn’t watch it this year, may legitimately never watch it again. This is another game that just risks the health of star players, so understanding I sound like a total downer, I guess I’m saying more time off for guys to rest their bodies is the best thing in the long run.

10.   What is your prediction for the winning team, the final score, and who will win the Super Bowl MVP?

(CM) Rams win 30-21, CJ Anderson named MVP.

(BK) Patriots win 37-30, Rob Gronkowski named MVP.

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About Casey Mabbott 249 Articles
Casey Mabbott is a writer and podcast host born and raised in West Philadelphia where he spent most of his days on the basketball court perfecting his million dollar jumpshot. Wait, no, that’s all wrong. Casey has spent his entire life here in the Pacific NorthWest other than his one year stint as mayor of Hill Valley in an alternate reality 1985. He’s never been to Philadelphia, and his closest friends will tell you that his jumpshot is the farthest thing from being worth a million bucks. Casey enjoys all sports and covering them with written words or spoken rants. He has made an art of movie references, and is a devout follower of 80's movies and music. I don't know why you would to, but you can probably find him on the street corner waiting for the trolley to take him to the stadium or his favorite pub, where he will be telling people the answers to questions they don’t remember asking. And it only goes downhill from there if he drinks. He’s a real treat.