Let’s be honest, you’re going to watch the Super Bowl tonight. Even with the lowest ratings in nearly a decade, there were still 103.4 million people who watched the Philadelphia Eagles defeat the New England Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl. With an uptick in ratings throughout the 2018 season, I think it’s safe to say at least as many people will be watching the big game tonight between the Los Angeles Rams from the NFC and the Patriots, once again representing the AFC.
If you’re any sort of fan of the 30 other NFL teams not playing today, you might loathe the Patriots, who are playing in their third straight Super Bowl and ninth in 18 years. Incidentally, the Patriots’ opponent in the first Super Bowl of that incredible run? It was the Rams, although the team was located in St. Louis, not L.A., at the time.
But chances are you probably feel indifferent about the two teams playing if you’re one of the many casual or non-sports fans who will tune into the Super Bowl to watch the commercials and so you have something to talk about at the office Monday morning. It’s always more fun to watch with a rooting interest, so here are a few tidbits about each team to help you decide.
Sometimes, you might root for a team in the Super Bowl because you prefer a high-flying offense or a tough defense. Both the Rams (second) and Patriots (fifth) ranked top 5 in the NFL in offense in the regular season, but were middle of the pack in total yards allowed on defense, with New England 12th and the Rams 14th. With that in mind, it should be a higher scoring game — the over/under of 56.5 is the second-highest in Super Bowl history, behind only 57 points in Patriots-Falcons two years ago.
Like cheering for an underdog? It’s the Rams but only at -2.5 points. The only other time the Rams have been a dog this year was two weeks ago in the NFC Championship game in New Orleans, where they beat the Saints (with an assist from a no-call on a clear pass interference you’ve probably heard something about by now).
Maybe you’re a fan of generational talent. If so, you’re probably rooting for the Patriots. They don’t call Tom Brady “The GOAT” (sports parlance for Greatest Of All Time, which you will undoubtedly hear 8 billion times on tonight’s broadcast) for nothing. His ninth Super Bowl appearance is more than any other team (besides the Patriots, of course), with the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers each tied with eight appearances. The next closest player is defensive tackle Mike Lodish, who went four times with Buffalo (all loses) and twice with Denver (both wins) during his 11-year career.
Brady has won five of those Super Bowl, and was named MVP in four of those victories. No other quarterback in league history has achieved those feats.
If the Patriots win tonight, Brady and the Pats will capture their sixth Super Bowl championship. No other QB has achieved that, but the team would move out of a second-place tie with the San Francisco 49ers and into a first-place tie with the Steelers’ franchise.
Of course, all of these things said about Brady can also be said about New England’s head coach Bill Belichick, who has been with the team throughout this incredible run. He’s already at the top of the coaching mountain for appearances and wins in the Super Bowl.
The Rams have some players too, though. Running back Todd Gurley and defensive tackle Aaron Donald were both named first-team All Pro for the 2018 season, and are the reigning offensive and defensive players of the year from 2017. Los Angeles Coach Sean McVay was also the Coach of the Year from 2017.
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When he was hired by the Rams, McVay was the youngest head coach in modern NFL history at age 30. Now having just turned 33, he is the youngest coach in Super Bowl history, making this game a battle of youth versus experience on the sidelines. At age 66, Belichick isn’t the oldest coach in the NFL (that’s Seattle’s Pete Carroll), but if he wins tonight, he will be the oldest Super Bowl-winning coach in history, surpassing the New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin who won his second Super Bowl — against Belichick’s Patriots — at age 65 in February 2012.
There is quite an age gap between the starting quarterbacks as well, in fact the largest in NFL history. At 24, Jared Goff will be one of the youngest quarterbacks to start in a Super Bowl (Miami’s Dan Marino started Super Bowl XIX, but lost, at age 23; Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger is the youngest to win a Super Bowl, also at age 23). With a win, Tom Brady would become the oldest quarterback, as well as the oldest non-kicker, to be victorious in a Super Bowl, surpassing his long-time rival Peyton Manning, who won with the Broncos at age 39. Brady is already the oldest quarterback/non-kicker to start a Super Bowl, a mark he achieved last year. The oldest player in Super Bowl history? Former Baltimore Ravens kicker Matt Stover, when he played for the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV at 42 years, 11 days old.
If you’re looking for some local Maryland flavor to choose which team you root for, pick the Rams. There are five players on the team who were either born or grew up in Maryland, including Gurley, who was born in Baltimore (although his family moved to North Carolina when he was young) and starting right offensive tackle Rob Havenstein, who grew up in Mount Airy and played at Linganore High School from 2006 to 2010 in Frederick County.
Other Maryland natives on the Rams include starting strong safety John Johnson III (Northwestern High School in Hyattsville), his backup Blake Countess (Our Lady of Good Counsel in Olney) and rookie linebacker Micah Kiser (Gilman School in Baltimore).
Patriots starting cornerback J.C. Jackson didn’t grow up in Maryland, but attended the University of Maryland, College Park. He was an undrafted free agent signed by the Patriots after the draft and became a starter in week 13.
The Patriots’ long snapper, Joe Cardona, attended the Naval Academy in Annapolis. He became just the fourth pure long snapper to be drafted in the NFL when New England selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 Draft. Belichick grew up in Annapolis and graduated from Annapolis High School while his dad was an assistant football coach at Navy.
Hopefully, this guide helped you pick a side, or at least learn a little more about each team. Have fun, be safe and enjoy the big game, no matter who you are rooting for. (Unless it’s the Patriots.)
An earlier version of this article misstated where Patriots coach Bill Belichick attended college.