Patriots vs. Falcons, February 5, 6:30 PM ET, FOX
The big game is upon us. That’s right, Super Bowl LI is almost here. This year’s match-up is between the proverbial year-in-year-out favorite, the New England Patriots, and the Atlanta Falcons.
Quite remarkably, this will be Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s 7th Super Bowl appearance since they’ve been in the league. No other duo in the history of the NFL has even been to six. Brady and Belichick have a chance to make history Sunday night if they win, becoming the only quarterback and coach to win the Super Bowl five times.On the other side, we have the “Dirty Birds” from Atlanta.
This will be the Falcons’ second appearance in the Super Bowl, and first since January 31st, 1999 against Elway’s Broncos. Atlanta will look to bring home their first championship behind the arm of Matt Ryan.
This game has it all, from the chance to make history for both squads, to the explosive offenses, and to the stingy opportunistic defenses. The Patriots and Falcons come off impressive blow-out wins at home in the conference championship games. They will look to carry that momentum into the Super Bowl.
Patriots offense vs. Falcons defense
The Pat’s offense has been masterful this season. Tom Brady posted the best TD to interception ratio in history with 28-2. On the ground, the Patriots have just given up 8 fumbles. The simple fact is New England just doesn’t give up the ball very often. Aside from that, their aerial attack ranks 4th in the league with 269.2 passing yards a game. Their rushing attack is impressive also ranking 7th with 117 yards per game. This squad can beat teams in many ways and can get into any kind of slugfest.
The Patriots will still be without top downfield target Rob Gronkowski. It will be interesting to see how Tom Brady attacks the Falcons secondary. Even without their star tight end, New England’s “next man up” philosophy has been tantamount to their success over the years.
Julian Edelman and Martellus Bennett have stepped up admirably this season by becoming go-to targets for Brady. They also have a host of other gritty receiving options that can have big games. Namely, Chris Hogan, who hauled in 9 catches for 180 yards and 2 TDs two weeks ago. The Pats offense has simply been dominant this postseason.
The Atlanta Falcons defense possesses a lot of speed, something they’ll need if they plan on getting to Brady. He gets rid of the ball at such a fast pace. The Falcons employ a bend but don’t break method.
Overall, Atlanta ranks 25th with 371.2 yards per game and 27th with 25.4 points per game. As a whole, the defense has 34 sacks with Vic Beasley claiming 15.5 of those. Dwight Freeney brings a multitude of experience to the table as he’s played against the Patriots several times as a Colt and he frees up Beasley.
They’ve snagged 12 interceptions with Deion Jones leading the way with 3. If the Falcons are to have any success of stopping the Patriots offense, they will need to stifle Brady like the 2007 and 2011 New York Giants did. If they can get to Brady using their front 4, then it could be a long day for New England.
Falcons offense vs. Patriots defense
The Falcons don’t have much experience on the big stage, but they’ll need to step up big if they hope to win. Atlanta possesses the number one offense in the league. This team has several similarities to the 1999 Rams who had stars all over the offensive side of the ball and could make a play from anywhere on the field. Matt Ryan has been spectacular all season, passing for nearly 5,000 yards and 38 TDs to only 7 interceptions.
The Falcons field a full slate of receivers with Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Taylor Gabriel. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have been a nice power and speed tandem in the backfield this season and have caused headaches for opposing defenses.
New England’s defense has been hard nosed this entire season and haven’t let up in the post-season. Points are at a premium against this Patriots defense as they only give up 15.6 a game. As a unit, they have 34 sacks, 16 fumbles, and 13 interceptions on the season. Versatility has been the name of the game for New England as Patrick Chung can play in the box to help against the run or drop back in coverage and cover receivers. Dont’a Hightower is another major staple of the defense. He can play both the run and pass at a high level.
A match-up to look for all night will be Patriots shutdown corner Malcolm Butler against the prolific deep field threat Julio Jones. The showdown could be vital to the outcome of the game. While the defense hasn’t played an offense quite the caliber of the Falcons, Belichick always has his team prepared for what comes their way.
The Falcons come in as the new kid in town at Super Bowl LI while it is all too familiar territory for the Patriots. Look for the the Patriots to open up the game poised and take an early 14-0 lead. The Falcons will catch their bearings and claw their way back before halftime. The third quarter will be slow pace but will pick up in the final minutes. The fourth quarter will be action packed and Matty Ice will make a name for himself by reeling off a 4th quarter comeback for the ages.
Falcons 31 – Patriots 28