7. Los Angeles Rams (AWAY – Week 14)
The first thing that comes to mind with this game is Super Bowl LIII of course.
A little over a year ago, the Patriots and Rams locked horns down at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Georgia. While the New England offense was mostly held in check by the Los Angeles defense that day, the Patriots did just enough (13 points) to escape with the win and their sixth Lombardi Trophy.
Of course, Belichick’s defense was the true star of the show. Julian Edelman might have won Super Bowl MVP, but really it was Belichick who deserved the hardware — or at the very least, the New England defense as a collective unit.
The stars played superbly during that game — Stephon Gilmore, Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, etc. — but so did lesser-heralded defensive role players like Jason McCourty, Danny Shelton, and Jonathan Jones.
While Shelton and Van Noy are gone in 2020 — along with 2019 defensive standout Jamie Collins — this Patriots defense should still be formidable enough to shut down Sean McVay’s Rams offense once again.
The jury’s still out on L.A. quarterback Jared Goff. The former No. 1 overall pick looked revolutionary under McVay’s tutelage in 2018, but he floundered in the Super Bowl and then seriously regressed in 2019. He still has Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods to throw to, but Brandin Cooks is gone and so is Todd Gurley.
The Rams defense still has Aaron Donald, but the rest of the unit looks very different today than it did in Super Bowl LIII — and that’s probably not a good thing.
I think the Patriots will go 1-1 on their L.A. road trip. If they lose to the Chargers, they’ll find a way to beat the Rams. If they beat the Bolts, they might come up just short against the Rams in a game that will certainly mean a lot more to McVay, Goff, and other L.A. players and coaches who will be looking for redemption.