NFL Pick ‘Em: Super Bowl LIII

super bowl 53

Super Bowl Pick ‘Em Record (since 2011): 2-5

That is not something I’m proud of.

Of the seven Super Bowls I have seen thus far, the New England Patriots have been involved with four of them. Not only is that amazing, it also makes picking Super Bowls involving them incredibly difficult. On one hand, the Patriots win everything. It’s almost become guaranteed that the Patriots will be able to do anything they want because they have the greatest quarterback and head coach of all time. At the same time, they’ve lost in dramatic fashion to teams that, from the outside, seem lucky to even be there (i.e. every team that’s beaten them in the Super Bowl).

This year, the stakes are a little different. Many doubted the dominance of this year’s Patriots team, especially since many of the historically great players had down years (Brady, Gronkowski, Edelman missed four games). The team was only 3-5 on the road and, while an 11-5 record is still pretty good, it’s their first five-loss regular season since 2009 (which is amazing). I remember one commenter on the forums for ProFootballTalk lament that this team was “beatable,” and likely wouldn’t win a Super Bowl. After the precision kill they gave the Kansas City Chiefs in the Championship Game, it’s hard to think this team lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier in the same season.

One difference with this match-up compared to the Super Bowls between the Patriots and all the teams they lost against is that those teams came in as massive underdogs, and were debatably dubbed teams of destiny. The Los Angeles Rams were anything but lucky to get here (though some may argue that point with the NFC Championship Game). They traded, signed, and battled their way to a 13-3 record and were relatively healthy going into the playoffs, only losing their starting running back in Todd Gurley, whose absence didn’t end up mattering much as C.J. Anderson performed very well in his stead. Bettors have the New England Patriots as favorites, but it’s not by a wide margin. The Rams absolutely deserve to be there. They’ve earned it.

That’s why I think they’ll lose. Because I believe in this “destiny” garbage.

Of course, I’ve been wrong five times out of seven, but one of those correct calls came between the 49ers and Ravens, where the Ravens boosted themselves to send Ray Lewis out a champion after he announced he was retiring after the postseason. That team wasn’t going to lose, I could feel it. I was as confident picking the Ravens in that Super Bowl as I would be picking a champion team over perennial losers. They were absolutely a team of destiny. The Los Angeles Rams, I don’t feel that same magic with, and the New England Patriots always seem to lose the Super Bowl against unlikely teams of destiny.

Here’s the snag in that theory, though: The Super Bowl between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. While the Panthers weren’t anything like a team of destiny, Cam Newton had the year of his life, a year he hasn’t been able to match since (and likely not even close). The Denver Broncos, on the other hand, were a team built on spending on proven players to add to a punishing and ruthless defense, with the likes of Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and T.J. Ward. The Los Angeles Rams had a similar approach this year, trading for proven players like Marcus Peters, Brandin Cooks, Aqib Talib, and spending a fortune on Ndamukong Suh. While the defense has debatably gotten worse, they’ve played well when it mattered most, and these all-or-nothing defensive powerhouse teams tend to do pretty well in Super Bowls.

So it’s hard to choose, really. But deep down, I do what I always do when Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are involved: pick them. Despite a 1-2 Super Bowl record when predicting a New England win, there’s always that quality you just can’t find yourself predicting against when it comes to the Patriots. They’re the greatest dynasty in NFL history. That’s hard to pick against.

Winner: New England Patriots

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