Much has been made about the offenses of New England and the Los Angeles Rams entering Sunday’s Super Bowl 53, but the defenses might be the key to one team coming away with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Aaron Donald
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald will be one of the keys in stopping the New England Patriots potent running attack. (Image: Getty)

Defense might also give those making proposition wagers some unique bets that could pay off well before the game is decided. The Rams have been utilizing a two-man backfield with Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson. Against Dallas in the Divisional Playoffs, Gurley rushed for 115 yards, while Anderson had 123. In the NFC Championship against New Orleans, the two were not utilized nearly as much the prior week. Anderson had 44 yards and Gurley just 10 yards.

The Saints had the fourth best rushing defense in the league. The Patriots have the best, and it has gotten even better in the playoffs. Against San Diego in the Division playoffs they limited the team to 19 total yards on the ground. Against the Chiefs, they allowed 41 yards.

Is Gurley Still Hurt?

Speculation for Gurley’s limited amount of carries and yards against the Saints was that he was still suffering from knee pain. Gurley missed the last two regular season games with inflammation in the joint, but he told reporters Friday that he is ready to go.

“I’m good,” Gurley said. “If there was an issue on my knee, it would be on the injury report. Come on now. I’m at practice. I’m playing.”

While he brushed off that game to poor performance, he is expected by coach Sean McVay to get more carries on Sunday than the four he got in the NFC Championship.

“Todd’s healthy and he’s feeling good,” McVay said. “He sure looked pretty healthy on that touchdown run where he ran through guys and demonstrated some explosion and what we know about him. More than anything, I’ve got to get him more opportunities.”

Rams Tough Against Run as Well

While the Patriots will have to focus on two running backs, the Rams will only have to put their attention on rookie Sony Michel. Against the Chargers he rushed for 129 yards, and had 113 against the Chiefs.

The game might come down to whether the Rams can stop Michel. If they center their defensive game plan on stopping him and succeed, it might put more pressure on Pats quarterback Tom Brady.

Michel’s performance in the playoffs, as well as the season, has earned praise from coach Bill Belichick, who told reporters in a conference call last week that he is happy with his first-year player.

“I think Sony has real good run instincts,” Belichick said. s first round rookie. “He’s done that for a long time but it’s always different when your plays are a little bit different.”

Defensive Prop Bets to Consider

If the Rams make stopping Michel a priority, a good bet might be how many tackles defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh will have. The over/under for each is 3.5 tackles at -110 for each. That number might be low if New England is going to try and run the ball.

With the Patriots clamping down on the run, one bet that stands out is total rushing yards by the Rams. The 81-90 yards, as well as the 81-90 have odds at 10/1. The 61-80 is 15/1 and the 41-60 is listed at 18/1. A repeat performance by the best rushing defense in the NFL could make the 41-60 yards awfully attractive.

Another defensive bet that is worth considering is the possibility that a nervous Jared Goff makes a mistake and throws an interception. Picking a New England player to pick off the LA quarterback provides some juicy odds. Stephen Gilmore and Jonathan Jones are both listed at 5/1, while J.C. Jackson has odds of 4/1.

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