The match-up for Super Bowl LIII is now set. Here Press Association Sport tells you all you need to know about the game that will crown this season's NFL champions.
Who, what, where and when?
The Los Angeles Rams will take on the New England Patriots at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on February 3. Kick-off will be at 6.30pm local time – 11.30pm in the UK. Anyone planning to stay up and watch should probably try to keep Monday commitments to a minimum – where a normal NFL game takes around three hours, the Super Bowl is a more drawn-out affair, not least due to the extended half-time show (which this year will feature Maroon 5).
— Super Bowl (@SuperBowl) January 21, 2019
Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been coaching in the NFL since before Rams counterpart Sean McVay was born – by some 11 years. At 66, and with five Super Bowl rings to his name (the first of which came against the then St Louis Rams in 2001), Belichick is very much the old master, arguably the finest coach of his generation. He is nearing two decades at the helm of the Patriots, and is preparing to coach in his ninth Super Bowl. Under centre for the Patriots in all nine has been star quarterback Tom Brady, who at 41 has defied his age to get the Patriots to the Big Game once again. McVay and the Rams stand in stark contrast as a team driven by youth. Where Belichick made his name coaching on the defensive side, McVay is an offensive wizard. Like Belichick, he never played a down in the NFL but became a coach straight out of college, and was the youngest head coach in NFL history when the Rams appointed him aged 30. His 33rd birthday will come a little over a week before the Super Bowl. And in 24-year-old quarterback Jared Goff, 17 years younger than Brady, the Rams are led by youth on the field too.
How did the Rams get here?
Los Angeles started like a freight train, winning their opening eight games. They hit the brakes in week nine with a 45-35 loss to the New Orleans Saints, in which they rallied from 35-14 down late on only for the Saints to go clear again. Two weeks later, they beat the Kansas City Chiefs 54-51 in a game which saw an NFL team score 50+ points and lose for the first time. The Rams went on to win the NFC West, securing back-to-back division titles for the first time since 1978/79, and at 13-3 they were tied with New Orleans for the NFL's best record in the regular season. The 527 points Los Angeles scored in the regular season were second only to Kansas City's 565, but the 384 conceded put them down in 13th place. In the play-offs, the Rams opened with a 30-22 win over the Dallas Cowboys before a dramatic 26-23 win over the Saints in the NFC Championship Game. They fell into an early 13-0 hole, and never led in the game until Greg Zuerlein's winning field goal in overtime. The franchise owned by Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke are seeking their first Super Bowl title since 1999.
And the Patriots?
Early losses to poor Jacksonville and Detroit teams were the Patriots' first back-to-back double-digit losses since 2002, and brought plenty of questions for Belichick and Brady, whose time seemed to have passed. But they responded with six straight wins, highlighted by a 43-40 victory over the previously unbeaten Chiefs in week six. They clinched the AFC East title for a 10th straight season with a 24-12 win over the Buffalo Bills in week 16. Though it ended in a 34-33 upset defeat to the Miami Dolphins, in week 14 Brady threw his 580th career touchdown pass to break Peyton Manning's NFL record for the regular season and play-offs combined. In the play-offs, the Patriots dispatched the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 before going on the road to beat the Chiefs 37-31 in overtime. The Patriots are in the Super Bowl for the fourth time in five years and victory would see them move level with the Pittsburgh Steelers as the most successful team in NFL history with six titles.
Who's your money on?
Good question. Based on their superior regular-season record, the Rams are the early favourites with the Vegas bookmakers, but it takes a brave punter to bet against Belichick when he has two weeks to break down the opposition and prepare a game plan. It should be a fascinating contest.