While the road to get us to Super Bowl LI has been rather disappointing, full of blowouts and snooze fests, Super Bowl LI may be the best game of the playoffs. The Atlanta Falcons will meet up against New England Patriots to decide who takes home the Lombardi Trophy. So who’s got the edge on Sunday?
After floating between mediocre and slightly above average, Matt Ryan has played the best football of his career for the Falcons this season, and it has been they’re prolific offense which has helped carry them to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1999. Atlanta led the NFL in offense this season averaging nearly 34 points per game, and it was not by mistake. They have a great receiving corps led by the best wideout in the game, Julio Jones and they’re ground game is just as impressive with the duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Patriots’ defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is going to have his hands full.
Tom Brady has been to the Super Bowl seven times, and he always comes ready to play. The Patriots’ offense has no real “headliner” especially after losing Rob Gronkowski to yet another injury, but the team continues to put up numbers. Julian Edleman is the team’s best receiver, but it has been the emergence of Chris Hogan this postseason that has made, given the Patriots’ offense life.
The Patriots’ ability to turn anybody into a star at any time is scary, but as a whole I’d take my chances against them right now over the Falcons’ offensive juggernaut. Edge: Falcons
The Patriots come into the Sunday’s game as the best overall defense in the NFL allowing just 16 points per game. New England has continued the same stifling defense in the playoffs holding the Steelers to 17 point and Texans to 16 points. Third down conversion will play a big role in Sunday’s result and whatever team can keep their offense on the field most likely has the best shot of winning the game. The Patriots allowed opponents to convert third downs just 37 percent of the time, while the Falcons allowed opponents to convert over 41 percent of the time.
Atlanta’s one advantage on defense will be their pass rush. While neither team is great at getting to the quarterback (both teams tied for 16th with 34 sacks), Vic Beasley will be the best pass rusher on the field for either team and led the NFL with 15.5 sacks during the regular season. His presence could mean good things for Atlanta.
The Falcons defense is a lot better than people think, and they’ve gotten better as the season has gone on, but Brady is going to test them and without pressure it may be a long night for Atlanta’s defense.Edge: Patriots
This one’s not even close. Bill Belichick is arguably the best coach of all-time and is coaching in his seventh Super Bowl passing the great Don Shula for the most Super Bowl appearances in NFL history. Besides the historic excellence of Belichick, he is a guru and can flat out coach. He always has something up his sleeve, and that won’t change Sunday against Atlanta.
Dan Quinn has done an excellent job in two years and has brought the Falcons back to relevance. Quinn also has Super Bowl experience as the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator during their two Super Bowl runs including coaching against these Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. If it was against any other coach, I might give Quinn the advantage, but not against one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. Edge: Patriots
Normally, the team who has played in the Super Bowl seven times in the better part of two decades would have a huge advantage, but this year doesn’t feel that way. Both teams have gone through the first two rounds without being tested, and both teams for the most part are healthy. The best offense vs. best defense in the NFL. Something’s gotta give.
The Super Bowl is being played in Houston this year and while thousands of fans from all over the world are there, it’s important to note that Houston is only 792 miles. It is very likely that the Falcons have some home field advantage and the fact that people cheer against the Patriots also plays a role in that. Edge: Falcons
I’m not a Patriots hater like many football fans are. The fact that they’ve had the ability to maintain sustained success for as long as they have is pretty remarkable. That being said, the Falcons are hot and while the Patriots have gone to seven Super Bowls in the Belichick/Brady era, I don’t see this Falcons squad being fazed by it. I believe Ryan will show why he deserves to be the NFL MVP and carry Atlanta to the Promise Land. I’m flying with the “Dirty Birds.” Prediction: Falcons 30, Patriots 28