NFL: Comparing Super Bowl Defensive Units

The Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots are slated to meet in Super Bowl LIII. The matchup on paper puts two of the top offensive teams in the league against one another. However, we may not be seeing the shootout some expect from two of 2018’s most potent offenses.

Los Angeles Rams

Firstly, the Rams have the best defensive player in the league on their defensive line in Aaron Donald. So far this postseason neither the Chiefs nor Chargers were able to get close to Brady. But they were bringing pressure from the edge, whereas the Rams will bring it up the middle.

Between Donald and Ndamukong Suh, the Patriots will have a much harder time keeping Brady clean. Although Suh has had difficulties withteams running directly at him. If he can be patient and wait for the runner it will give the Rams an advantage up front. Likewise, DE Michael Brockers needs to set the edge as he did against the Saints.

On the other edge will be Dante Fowler Jr., who will need another big game and be charged with getting after the RB’s. The Rams defensive line first and foremost have to do their best to limit Sony Michel and James White. As an added advantage, if they can pressure Brady, the Rams will be in good shape.

The rest of the Rams defense will have their hands full. Linebackers Corey Littleton and Mark Barron could be chasing down back’s and busting screens if James Develin and Rob Gronkowski continue to block as they have been.

Simultaneously, the secondary will need to play tight man coverage to limit Julian Edelman’s involvement. Expect Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters to try and force the receivers to the outside, as well as be physical at the line of scrimmage.

Look for Lamarcus Joyner will need to play the Eric Berry role that was seen in the AFC Championship Game. This could keep him on either Gronkowski or White. Where the Rams will need to win this battle is up front. Although they have the speed and tackling ability, they will be open to exploitation from RBs making catches out of the backfield.

New England Patriots

The New England defense has played two phenomenal first halves in the playoffs so far. They have been helped by the offense chewing up the clock, but have also held up their share of the work.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy has been their biggest playmaker on defense in the postseason, and will likely be tasked with wrapping up Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson. Dont’a Hightower will man the other side of the field, and these two linebackers are both quick and strong. They will be perfectly suited to not only limiting the rushing attack but also disrupting tightend’sTyler Higbee and Gerald Everett.

The Patriots’ secondary is less suited to their opponents, Robert Woods and Brandon Cooks, and to a lesser degree Josh Reynolds. Stephon Gilmore has had a strong season, and Jason McCourty is a seasoned veteran. But they will both need to find another level to really clamp down on the Rams’ dynamic receiving duo.

Cornerback Jonathan Jones had some trouble holding his own against Sammy Watkins and the Chargers receivers in the matchups leading up to the Super Bowl. Yet, Safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung are so experienced, especially in Super Bowls, that they will be there to clean up and help out in coverage.

Finally, the Patriots’ line. Trey Flowers, Malcolm Brown, Lawrence Guy, and Adrian Clayborn have loved the lead that their offense has given them. It has allowed the defense to be more aggressive and get after opposing QB. They pressured Mahomes from the get-go, and Jared Goff will be in similar conditions. The Rams’ offensive line is marginally better than the Chiefs’, but will still be hard-pressed to hold their own.

And the Winner is…

So where does that leave us? The Rams have the better defensive line, purely because of Donald, but Patriots have the better linebackers.

Where the Patriots can take the lead is the secondary. Although Talib might be the most talented corner on the field, the overall Rams secondary is not at the same level as their New England counterparts. Belichick, McDaniels, and Brady might be able to take advantage of the matchups in the passing game, but Los Angeles is counting on their line to mask their flaws.

Equally, Gurley and Anderson need to have success rushing the football to prevent the Patriots’ front seven bringing Goff down. The defensive advantage leans slightly to New England overall, but the more talented individuals reside in Los Angeles.

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