Super Bowl LIII — Upstart LA Rams can upset veteran New England Patriots

Tom Brady is playing in his ninth Super Bowl — quite incredible considering some players’ careers are defined by appearing in one — and he could win his sixth title with victory over Jared Goff’s Rams on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 03 February 2019

Super Bowl LIII — Upstart LA Rams can upset veteran New England Patriots

LONDON: Five months of gruelling gridiron action will culminate in Sunday's Super Bowl — a clash of the veterans against the upstarts. Here Arab News examines why each team has a shot at the biggest prize in American Football.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
So, here we go again.
For the fourth time in five seasons, the Patriots have ducked and dived their way to yet another Super Bowl appearance.
Given the start they made, it has certainly raised a few eyebrows that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are here once again. But, they deserve their place and that is testament to those two and the consistency that owner Robert Kraft has created in Foxborough over nearly two decades.
So much of the Patriots’ success in the Brady-Belichick era is owed to the aura of invincibility that has snowballed since their first success at the end of the 2001 season.
In the last ten years, New England being in the playoffs has been almost as certain as death or taxes. But this year, for the first time, there was a sense that the empire was crumbling — that perhaps the good times were about to end for the Patriots.
That is looking more and more likely to be a very premature prediction.
The Patriots’ unbeatable air got stronger and stronger this year, despite them losing five regular season games for the first time since the 2009 season.
If they are to win this evening, the front-line is the key. One of the biggest factors in their success after their shaky start has been their offensive line, which has ended up being one of the more reliable units in the run and pass games during the second half of season and into the post-season. Their five main players up front have only got better during the playoffs.
A lot has been said about the Rams’ offensive line too, but Belichick’s defensive genius has served the Patriots well throughout his reign. And tonight, in Adrian Clayborn and Trey Flowers, the Patriot’s have two of the best defensive players in pressuring opposing quarterbacks.
Whichever way you look at it, this is a strong case for Brady and Belichick going out with a final bang.

LOS ANGELES RAMS
As good as the Rams have been all season, they have one thing going against their bid to win the Super Bowl — inexperience.
Experience, which we have seen the Patriots have in spades, really matters when the Super Bowl gets into its critical stage. The last time we saw that reversed was in 2014 when Russell Wilson upset all the odds to cruise to victory with Seattle Seahawks over the vastly more experienced Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos.
Meanwhile, the story of the Rams — one of upheaval and underachievement — could play into their hands. For nearly 50 years, the Rams belonged to the City of Angels. Then, for a brief two-decade spell, they uprooted to St. Louis where they won the Super Bowl in 2000, much to the chagrin of the franchise’s loyal LA fans. Now, having been moved back to their spiritual home in 2016, they have a chance to bring the success-starved LA fans have craved for so long.
And the reason they can lies with their quarterback Jared Goff. He has led this Rams offensive line with effortless, imperious ease this season and thoroughly deserves his shot at glory tonight.
And he has been helped by one of the best frontline attacks we have seen for a long time.
But if Goff’s greatness casts a big shadow over this Rams team, stepping out of it with aplomb this year has been Aaron Donald and Aqib Talib. Both have proven themselves to be vital defensive players throughout the season, when the going has got tough. While Donald is the Rams’s star, Talib has been the shrewdest buy. Of the $221 million the Rams spent before this season, no acquisition has provided a better return on investment than Talib.
Everyone expects the Patriots to do what they always do, but this Rams team have the ability to etch themselves into gridiron history.

ARAB NEWS PREDICTS: Rams to pull off a late victory and upset the sporting world.


The NBA MVP finalists: Antetokounmpo, James and Harden

Updated 09 August 2020

The NBA MVP finalists: Antetokounmpo, James and Harden

  • James would join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a six-time winner), Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the NBA’s only five-time MVPs
  • Antetokounmpo is bidding to become the 12th back-to-back winner of the award

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: This season’s NBA MVP has won the award before.
A trio of past winners of the award — reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, four-time MVP LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and 2017-18 winner James Harden of the Houston Rockets — were announced Saturday as the finalists for this season’s top NBA individual honor.
James would join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a six-time winner), Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the NBA’s only five-time MVPs. Antetokounmpo is bidding to become the 12th back-to-back winner of the award, and Harden is vying for his second MVP in three seasons.
“He’s an incredible teammate, plays unselfishly, does everything,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Antetokounmpo last month, stating his best player’s MVP case. “And I think that’s kind of what the MVP is, so we certainly feel like he’s very deserving and we’ll be excited to support him.”
Antetokounmpo is also a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year, while Utah’s Rudy Gobert is bidding to win that trophy for a third consecutive season.
The league announced the top three vote-getters in six individual categories. Voting has already taken place by a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.
The NBA has not set specific dates when the winners will be announced.
None of the games taking place at the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World factored into the voting, because ballots were due before games began again July 30.
The league took the step of saying games played before the league suspended the season on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic could factor into award consideration, out of fairness to the eight teams that were not invited to the restart.
The other finalists for NBA honors:
Rookie of the Year — Ja Morant, Memphis; Kendrick Nunn, Miami; Zion Williamson, New Orleans.
Most Improved Player — Bam Adebayo, Miami; Luka Doncic, Dallas; Brandon Ingram, New Orleans.
Sixth Man — Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers; Dennis Schroder, Oklahoma City; Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers.
Defensive Player of the Year — Antetokounmpo; Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers; Rudy Gobert, Utah.
Coach of the Year — Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee; Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City; Nick Nurse, Toronto.


GASOL VS. GRIZZLIES
Marc Gasol spent parts of 11 seasons in Memphis, going to three All-Star Games with a Grizzlies jersey on his back, earning two All-NBA selections there and a Defensive Player of the Year award as well.
And now, he’ll play against his former team for the first time.
The Grizzlies face Gasol and the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. It’ll be the first game between the clubs since Gasol was traded to Toronto in February 2019 — a move that helped the Raptors win last season’s NBA championship.
Gasol said facing Memphis would be emotional.
“I got there when I was 16 years old. It was my first time out of Spain,” said Gasol, who still owns his Memphis home. “I started high school there as a teenager and left as a father of two kids. ... My ties to the city and my roots go pretty deep and my love for the people there, what they mean and the franchise, it’s forever.”
Gasol helped Memphis make the playoffs in seven consecutive seasons including the 2013 run to the Western Conference finals. He is the Grizzlies’ all-time leader for minutes played, field goals made, free throws made and attempted, rebounds, blocks and triple-doubles and is second in points — 49 behind Mike Conley.
The Raptors were supposed to have played back-to-back games against Memphis this season, going there March 28 and then playing host to the Grizzlies March 30. Those games, of course, were called off because of the season suspension caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Obviously it’s a little bittersweet that we couldn’t play in the city of Memphis, to get that love and feel that Iove from the fans,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said. “But I’m sure he’ll be happy to see some familiar faces and a lot of the people that he spent a lot of time with over the years.”


WORKING WIZARDS
On Friday, the Washington Wizards were eliminated from playoff contention.
On Saturday, they practiced.
The Wizards knew they were playoff longshots even before coming to the NBA’s restart at Disney, especially since Bradley Beal didn’t make the trip because of injury and Davis Bertans opted not to play because of health concerns.
But these eight games — Washington is 0-5 at Disney with three games left — were considered learning opportunities for the team’s young players, and a chance to get some high-level work in before the offseason starts. And just because the playoff chances are now gone doesn’t mean Wizards coach Scott Brooks is changing his thinking on that front.
“It’s about getting better,” Brooks said. “You know, I love our group. We want to keep improving. And the record, I’m not happy with it but I’m happy with our effort after every game that we’ve been in.”
Brooks has told his team repeatedly at Disney that the losses go on his record, not theirs.
“You can’t waste the days, you have to keep working on each day and keep improving and it’s hard,” Brooks said. “It’s hard to go through, you know, five losses in a row. But in order to get where we need to get to, you’re going to have to deal with it. You’re going to have to be able to handle it. You’re going to have to be able to get better from it, and it also has to hurt, going through it. And that’s fine.”


BUCKS CLINCH
The road to the NBA championship will go through Milwaukee’s white uniforms.
The Bucks have secured the top overall seed in the NBA playoffs for the second consecutive year, the clincher coming when the Los Angeles Lakers lost to Indiana on Saturday.
Ordinarily, that would come with the right to host Game 1 and Game 7 of every series. This year, it just means that the Bucks will be called the home team in those games in each postseason round that they reach.