Welcome to Against All Odds: Super Bowl LIII! From the opening weekend of the NCAA football season through Super Bowl LIII, Mike Drakulich (PSN), the man behind Pittsburgh SportsNation, takes on his father, Michael J. Drakulich (MJD), in picking NCAA and NFL games against the Vegas spread.
Mike Drakulich covers both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt Panthers during the season for NGSCSports.com!
To appease the taste buds of Pittsburgh’s local coverage area, Pitt, Penn State, and West Virginia, when they are playing, will always be on the docket among the NCAA games chosen, as will the Pittsburgh Steelers for NFL games.
Once Bowl Season arrives, we’ll bring you EVERY Bowl Game and then continue throughout the conclusion of the NFL Playoffs.
Itchy vs Scratchy. Black Spy vs White Spy. Cheers vs Gary’s Old Towne Tavern. History is full of rivalries, but none are better than father vs son! Who will rise above the other this season and become the 2018-19 Against All Odds Champion?
All good things must end! It doesn’t seem that long ago we started the Against All Odds 2018-19 season, but yes, it’s true… August was five months ago!
It was an up and down season for myself, but I did register a perfect week of 10-0, and one 9-1 offering. As usual, the Bowl Season absolutely destroyed what could’ve been a very good year.
Dad started off slow, but eventually chipped away until suddenly he couldn’t lose a game, especially during the Bowls… so for the 3rd time in four years, he is the Against All Odds Champion for the year. With one game left, he has a solid record of 96-85, good enough to whack me by eight games.
Thanks to the Pittsburgh Steelers not making the playoffs, despite the overwhelming amount of talent they possessed, I haven’t done a Game Preview in a month, and I have an itch that can’t be left unscratched until next August, thus, with this Odds Finale, I’m adding a Super Bowl LIII Preview to boot!
Until next we meet, be sure to check out my up and coming weekly commentary columns! Thank you for joining us for the ride and your support, but most of all, congratulations to my dad, Michael J. Drakulich, the 2018-19 Against All Odds Champion!
Vegas Lines as of 2/1/2019
Super Bowl LIII
New England Patriots (13-5) at Los Angeles Rams (15-3)
Venue: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA. | Field: FieldTurf Revolution
TV: CBS (locally KDKA-TV, channel 2) | Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play) Tony Romo (analyst) | Tracy Wolfson (sideline) Evan Washburn (sideline)
National Radio: Westwood One | Announcers: Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) Kurt Warner (analyst) Mike Holmgren (analyst) | Tony Boselli (sideline) Ed Werder (sideline)
Kickoff: Sunday, February 3rd at 6:30 p.m. (EST)
Vegas Line: New England -2.5
The Pick: PSN: LA Rams | MJD: LA Rams
Just when you thought the Patriots were dead… like Michael Myers, New England appeared like they were headed for greener pastures, especially after they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 15 by a 17-10 score. The loss was their third in five games. Tom Brady seemed lost. Star tight end Rob Gronkowski looked finished.
Like Michael Myers, they returned with a vengeance.
Four wins later, the Patriots find themselves in their third straight Super Bowl, hopeful to win their 6th Title, and tie the Steelers for the most in NFL History.
The Los Angeles Rams have looked like a championship contender all year. With a young, brash coach in Sean McVay, a high powered offense featuring star dual threat Todd Gurley, and an opportunistic defense, LA lived up to the hype and secured their third Super Bowl appearance in Rams history, albeit with tons of scrutiny, thanks to the NFC Championship game against the New Orleans Saints. Somehow, the refs in that game missed one of the most blatant pass interference calls in history, a call that would have 99.9% sent the Saints to Atlanta instead of the Rams.
But, as they say, it is what it is. The call wasn’t made, and the Rams were able to force the Saints to kick a field goal with 1:41 left. The Rams, with time running out, drove downfield and tied it with 15 seconds left. In OT, Drew Brees threw an interception which the Rams turned into a 57 yard FG to send them to the Super Bowl.
It was a crushing defeat for the Saints, especially with the no-call, but then again, so were the two horrible drive continuing calls against the Steelers in week 16, both of which led to touchdowns after the Steelers appeared to stop them on 4th down. Those calls likely kept Pittsburgh out of the playoffs.
Enough about the “what ifs”… let’s talk Super Bowl LIII.
Aaron Donald, the all-world defensive lineman from Pitt, knows what the recipe for success is against the Patriots.
“Well, we got to stop the run first, I feel like they’ve been running the ball great,” Donald said. “Getting a lot of opportunities to get the pass going with Brady, so we stop the run, get after the quarterback — I know he gets the ball out quick — but I trust our secondary, our guys on the back end to do their job and lock things down.”
And what if it’s Tom Brady time, late in the game where the Rams need a big stop?
“Aaron Donald,” Rams RB Todd Gurley said. “Playoff Suh,”
Gurely knows how much Donald turns it his game-play late in games, as evident by recording 9.5 fourth-quarter sacks in 2018.
The Rams have a balanced attack, and plenty of weapons in the passing game.
“It’s huge because one guy can’t be targeted, so many guys get the ball, even our tight ends and our running backs,” WR Brandin Cooks said, explaining the possible advantage. “I think it makes us special and keeps us on our edge.”
Super Bowls are won with big plays, plays that become immortal as time passes. Every player dreams of being the one who made the play that lead his team to a Lombardi Trophy.
Said Los Angeles WR Robert Woods, “Just visualizing making a play, been watching the Larry Fitzgerald play against the Steelers taking it down the middle — just watching receivers make plays — Santonio Holmes in the corner of the endzone, plays like that.”
“You always visualize making a big play like that,” Donald said. “A game-changing play — that’s what you’re here for. What better stage to do it than now?”
41 year old Tom Brady hopes to make a few more of those plays, too.
“I’ve just been a part of so many great teams that have had the opportunity to play in this game,” Brady said. “It is once in a lifetime, this experience, but we’ve just been fortunate to play good enough in the playoffs to advance and then get to play in this game. It’s hard to believe that this is the ninth time doing this.”
It’s going to be a fun game to watch between the Patriots and Rams, very likely a high scoring affair, like we witnessed in both Conference Championship games.
The key for the Rams is pressure on Brady and being aggressive in the secondary.
The Patriots will be balanced with their attack, trying to establish Sony Michel early, and using the Rams aggressiveness against them with passes to James White out of the backfield, and short, crisp passes to Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson. Don’t sleep on Rob Gronkowski, either. He may not be what he was years ago, but he may conjure up one final performance to remember before calling it a career.
The Rams will feature Todd Gurley as much as they can, with C.J. Anderson being available if Gurley’s injuries start nagging him.
Jared Goff has a bevy of weapons to play with in the passing game, including a pair of 1,000 yard receivers in Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks. Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds will wreak havoc all over the field if not properly covered. Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee give Goff two big targets at tight end.
That said, you know Patriot’s head coach Bill Belichick will have some type of game-plan set to disrupt the Rams offense. Question is, how long will it work and what adjustments will the Rams and McVay make to counter it?
I like this one to go back and forth, especially late in the game. I think the Rams are the better team, top to bottom. The biggest question will be how well Goff handles the pressure of playing in the biggest game of his life, on the NFL’s biggest stage.
Rams payback the Patriots and avenge their 2004 defeat…
Rams 31 Patriots 27
New England Patriots-LA/STL Rams History
- Series History: Began in 1974
- New England leads the overall series vs the Rams 8-5.
- Streak: New England has won previous five meetings.
- Last Regular Season Meeting: Oct. 28, 2012, at St. Louis (New England 45, St. Louis 7)
- Post-Season: New England is 1-0 vs the Rams in the post-season.
- Last Post-Season Meeting: February 3rd, 2002, at Superdome in New Orleans (New England 20, St. Louis Rams 17) – Super Bowl XXXVI
Did You Know?
- The New England Patriots, with a win, will tie the Pittsburgh Steelers (6) for most Super Bowl wins in NFL history. They are currently tied with Dallas (5) and San Francisco (5) with five Super Bowl wins.
- Tom Brady is the all-time leader in Super Bowl passing yards (2,576), completions (235), pass attempts (357), touchdowns (18) and starts (8).
- Super Bowl LIII will mark the Patriots 11th Super Bowl appearance, extending their own record for most in NFL history.
- Super Bowl LIII is the seventh Super Bowl rematch in NFL history, and the Patriots will become the first team in NFL history to play in three Super Bowl rematches. The Patriots and Rams first met in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Patriots have also faced the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles in two Super Bowls. Dallas is the only other NFL team with two different Super Bowl rematches.
- James Conner is 91 rushing yards from 1,000 in 2018.
- Conner needs 33 receiving yards to tally 500 in 2018.
- Antonio Brown needs one touchdown catch to reach 75 in his NFL career and with the Steelers.
A look at the New England Patriots!
- Overall Record: 13-5
- Head Coach: Bill Belichick (19th Season with Patriots)
- Overall Regular Season Record: 261-123 (.680)
- Playoff Record: 30-11 (Qualified for playoffs 16 times)
- 2018 New England Patriots Roster
- Patriots Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats
- Playoffs: Divisional- New England 41 LA Chargers 28 | AFC Championship- New England 37 Kansas City 31
Scouting the Patriots
Tom Brady may not be the version of himself five years ago, but he still has the goods to shred you to pieces if you allow him the time to throw. He has 4,355 yards passing, with 29 TD passes and 11 interceptions this season. He has been sacked 21 times.
Sony Michel is the lead back for New England, amassing 931 yards on the ground with six touchdowns. James White is a dual threat, doing much of his damage catching passes out of the backfield. He leads the team with 87 receptions, good for 751 yard and found the endzone seven times.
They may not be world beaters, but Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson use their skills to get open, catch passes, and find extra yards when called upon. Edelman is Brady’s top choice at wideout, catching 74 passes for 850 yards and six scores. Be wary of Patterson out of the backfield, as he has 228 yards rushing and a score in 2018-19.
Rob Gronkowski is a shell of what he used to be, but with this likely being his last game, maybe we’ll see one more stellar performance out of him. Battling injuries all year, he’s only collected 47 catches for 682 yards and three TD’s.
They’re not flashy, and they don’t get to the opposing QB too often, but they play takeaway quite well, with 18 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. They give up yardage, but get stingier as you get into the redzone, only allowing 20.3 points per game.
- Tom Brady (4,355 yards passing | 29 TD passes | 11 interceptions | 21 sacks | 35 yards rushing | 2 TD’s)
- Sony Michel (931 yards rushing | 6 rushing TD’s | 7 receptions | 50 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- James White (425 yards rushing | 5 rushing TD’s | 87 receptions | 751 yards receiving | 7 receiving TD’s)
- Rex Burkhead (186 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 14 receptions | 131 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
- James Develin (8 yards rushing | 4 rushing TD’s | 12 receptions | 61 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Julian Edelman (74 receptions | 850 receiving yards | 6 receiving TD’s)
- Chris Hogan (35 receptions | 532 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
- Phillip Dorsett (32 receptions | 290 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
- Cordarrelle Patterson (21 receptions | 247 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s | 228 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s)
- Rob Gronkowski (47 receptions | 682 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
- Stephen Gostkowski (Extra Point: 49-50 | FG: 27-32 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 11-11 | 30-39: 10-10 | 40-49: 4-6 | 50+: 2-5 | Long: 52)
A look at the Los Angeles Rams!
- Overall Record: 15-3
- Head Coach: Sean McVay (2nd Season with Rams)
- Overall Regular Season Record: 24-8 (.750)
- Playoff Record: 2-1 (Qualified for playoffs 2 times)
- 2018 LA Rams Roster
- LA Rams Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats
- Last Week: Divisional- LA Rams 30 Dallas 22 | NFC Championship- LA Rams 26 New Orleans 23 OT
Scouting the Rams
Jared Goff is starting to make his presence felt in the NFL. This year he passed for 4,688 yards with 32 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. He was sacked 33 times. Can he keep his focus in the biggest game of the year, on the NFL’s biggest stage?
Todd Gurley can do it all, gaining 1,251 yards rushing with 17 TD’s, as well as 59 receptions for 580 yards and another four scores. He has been plagued with the injury bug since late in the season and will have to summon up one more big game before rehabbing his injuries in the off-season. C.J. Anderson has played great when called upon. He has 299 yards on the ground with two scores, most of that coming in the last four games after the Rams picked him up off waivers.
Robert Woods leads the team with 86 catches and 1,251 yards receiving. Six of his receptions have ended up as scores. Brandin Cooks is the speedy outside guy with 80 receptions, good for 1,204 yards and five TD’s. Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds can wreak havoc all over the field if not properly covered.
Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee form quite a duo, combining for 57 catches and 614 yards between them.
The Rams front line with Aaron Donald and Nadamukong Suh create chaos every snap. Donald is on his way to a Hall of Fame career, as an almost unstoppable force. He has 20.5 sacks this season. The Rams don’t give up many yards, but they are susceptible to giving up big plays now and then. They are giving up 24 points per game. They’ve sacked the opposing QB 41 times and have collected 18 interceptions.
- Jared Goff (4,688 yards passing | 32 TD passes | 12 interceptions | 33 sacks | 108 yards rushing | 2 TD’s)
- Todd Gurley (1,251 yards rushing | 17 rushing TD’s | 59 receptions | 580 yards receiving | 4 receiving TD’s)
- C.J. Anderson (299 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 4 receptions | 17 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Robert Woods (86 receptions | 1,219 receiving yards | 6 receiving TD’s)
- Brandin Cooks (80 receptions | 1,204 receiving yards | 5 receiving TD’s)
- Cooper Kupp (40 receptions | 566 receiving yards | 6 receiving TD’s)
- Josh Reynolds (29 receptions | 402 receiving yards | 5 receiving TD’s)
- Gerald Everett (33 receptions | 320 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
- Tyler Higbee (24 receptions | 294 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
- Greg Zuerlein (Extra Point: 35-36 | FG: 27-31 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 9-9 | 30-39: 10-10 | 40-49: 4-6 | 50+: 4-6 | Long: 56)
Offensive & Defensive Stats
- Total Yards: Patriots average 402.6 YPG | Rams average 435.1 YPG
- Rushing: Patriots average 127.3 YPG | Rams average 139.4 YPG
- Passing: Patriots average 275.3 YPG | Rams average 295.6 YPG
- Scoring: Patriots average 27.3 PPG | Rams average 32.9 PPG
- Total Yards: Patriots allow 359.1 YPG | Rams allow 358.6 YPG
- Rushing: Patriots allow 112.7 YPG | Rams allow 122.3 YPG
- Passing: Patriots allow 246.4 YPG | Rams allow 236.3 YPG
- Scoring: Patriots allow 20.3 PPG | Rams allow 24 PPG
- New England (Sacks: 30 | Interceptions: 18 | Fumbles: 10)
- LA Rams (Sacks: 41 | Interceptions: 18 | Fumbles: 12)
Injury Report (2/1/2019)
New England Patriots
- Out: None
- Doubtful: None
- Questionable: None
Los Angeles Rams
- Out: None
- Doubtful: None
- Questionable: K Greg Zuerlien (left foot), S Blake Countess (foot)
Against All Odds Pick Results
MJD: Last Week: 1-1 | Bowls: 27-12 | Overall: 96-85 — .530
PSN: Last Week: 1-1 | Bowls: 17-22 | Overall: 88-93 -8 .486
2018 Champion: MJD
2017 Champion: PSN
2016 Champion: MJD
2015 Champion: MJD
2014 Champion: PSN
2013 Champion: PSN
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.
There's nowhere on earth that is more dedicated to its sports teams like Western Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh. The passion and pride of Pittsburgh's fan base is second to no one. From the NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA football and basketball, to W.P.I.A.L. high school sports, "The City of Champions" has it all!
As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides top notch opinions and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania, including WPIAL High School Football.
For a refreshing view of sports, mixed with humor and uncensored opinions, check out Pittsburgh SportsNation today on Facebook, Twitter @PghSportsNation and videos with over 1,000,000 views on YouTube!