By Norm Elrod
(CBSLA/CBS Local) — The squall of festivities surrounding Super Bowl LIII all comes down to one game. When the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams take the field Sunday in Atlanta, the buildup, the hype, the storylines will fade away. The focus, at that point, will be on the two teams contending for one Super Bowl trophy.
What team has the advantage? Is it the Patriots, in their continuing quest to rewrite the NFL record books? Or is it the Rams, who tied for the best regular-season record, and feature a young core of elite players? Our CBS Local Sports experts recently broke down the game’s key matchups.
Now it’s time for them to give their picks. We caught up with CBS Boston’s Steve Burton and CBS Los Angeles’ Kevin Cuenca to see whether the Patriots or the Rams will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy Sunday night.
New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Steve Burton, CBS Boston:
“Patriots upset the Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI back on February 3rd, 2002. Now, on February 3rd, Super Bowl LIII, these same two teams will be going at it. The difference — the Patriots will not be underdogs. The advantage — the hunger. The Patriots are coming off a Super Bowl loss a year ago that left a bad taste in their mouths.
The Pats are loaded and peaking at the right time. The offensive line has quietly become the MVP of the season. And in the AFC Championship game, they kept Tom Brady completely clean. The Rams, like the Patriots, are well balanced. And their offensive line may be the best in the business. But Bill Belichick loves to rattle young quarterbacks. And Jared Goff may be ripe for the picking.
And how about the coaches, an offensive guru versus a defensive genius. Rams head coach, Sean McVay, just turned 33. Coach Bill Belichick is twice his age and just happens to be the greatest coach ever.
The Patriots are making their 11th Super Bowl appearance. That right there is an NFL record. And while the rest of the country is tired of New England, there’s a 41-year-old quarterback that wants his sixth ring. Patriots 38, Rams 34.”
Pick: New England Patriots
Kevin Cuenca, CBS Los Angeles:
“The Patriots, they are running the ball extremely well, with a trio of running backs. And then, of course, Tom Brady might be the greatest quarterback of all time. His relationship with Bill Belichick, their cohesion, and their system as a whole obviously paying huge dividends, as they are back in the Super Bowl once again.
They are going up against the Rams, with all this youth, all this talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball. To me. That’s where the Rams have a bit of an edge in this game. To me, that unit is a little bit stronger than the Patriots defense in this one. The Rams have a great special teams unit and an offense full of weapons. To me, the difference will be how the defense, on the Rams’ side of the ball, plays in this Super Bowl.
I’ve got the Rams squeaking out a victory in this Super Bowl, out there in Atlanta.”
Pick: Los Angeles Rams