Super Bowl LI Preview

 

That’s right, it’s that time of year again. It’s time for the Super Bowl. Every single moment and nuance of the season has culminated to this event. Over 20 weeks of regular season and playoff football have been played and now it’s time for the granddaddy of them all. Football pundits are salivating at the idea of adding their take on THE big game, The Super Bowl. I, like many others around the globe, am particularly excited for this winner-take-all showdown between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons.

 

How They Got Here

The mighty New England Patriots entered the playoffs with a 14-2 record, which to no surprise earned them yet another first round bye. Their first playoff game came in the divisional round when they played host to the Houston Texas. The Texas were reeling off a wildcard round win over the banged up Raiders, however, they had no chance at stopping TB12 and company up in chilly Foxboro, as the Patriots went on to win by a score of 34-16. Their next test came in the AFC Championship game, where they played host to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers came into Foxboro fresh off wins against the Dolphins and Chiefs. However, their quest to the Super Bowl came to a screeching halt. The Patriots defense came up big against Big Ben and the high-powered Steeler offense, as they earned the 36-16 win over their AFC foes.

 

The high-flying Atlanta Falcons entered the playoffs with an 11-5 record and a first round bye, similar to their Super Bowl opponents, the Patriots. They jumped into action in the divisional round against the big-bad Seattle Seahawks. Atlanta fell behind early in the game; however, they stormed back and left the Seahawks down and out. Their next test came in the NFC Championship, as they played host to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers and company we’re on a great role. They had run the table in the NFC North and managed to earn a playoff spot and playoff wins against the Giants and Cowboys. However, it turns out; their game against Packers’ wasn’t really competitive at all. The Falcons were about to trounce the Packers, taking the game by a score of 44-21.

 

THE Game

Super Bowl 50, which took place last year in the newly built Levi’s Stadium, featured two of the league’s best defensive teams and led to a rather low scoring final. Nevertheless, Super Bowl LI features two of the league’s best offenses, so I would expect the outcome of this game to be the exact opposite of last year’s. It’s no surprise that Tom Brady and Patriots come into this game with one of the league’s best offenses. They can run the ball extremely well with RB LaGarrette Blount, and when it comes to the passing game, the Patriots have a great list of players that can make an impact. We all know the type of impact the stars like Edelman, Bennett and Blount can have on any game. However, it’s important to remember that players like Chris Hogan, James White, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell are also just as capable of stepping into the spot light and excelling when their number is called. Head Coach Bill Belichick has always been the master of getting the most out of his players, regardless of the level of their stardom; he has proven that year in and year out. On the other side of the ball, the Patriot defense has been playing some fantastic football. They are a top 10 defense that can absolutely shut down the opposing running game and more than contain star wide receivers they may face. Their biggest test of the season will come in the Super Bowl when they go head to head with the league’s most potent offenses.

 

Led by nine year starting QB, Matt Ryan, yes the guy with two names, the Atlanta Falcons find themselves in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1999, when they took on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXIII. The Falcons lost that game to the game MVP, John Elway and company. The Falcons come into this game with an offense that is clicking on all cylinders. They lead the league in average points per game at 33 and are a close second in total yards per game at 415.8. They have proven that they can run the ball very well, with star RB Davonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman splitting duty. They can also shred the opposing secondary with non-other than WR Julio Jones, who is accompanied by Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel. It doesn’t end there for the Falcons; they have two very good pass-catching tight ends in Austin Hooper and Levine Toilolo. On top of that, Freeman and Coleman are fantastic pass-catching running backs that can sneak out of the backfield and catch the ball in open space for some serious yardage. However, on the other side of the ball, the Falcons defense has looked a bit shaky at times. Sure, they can score a ton of points and win these high scoring games, but if your defense regularly allow 25-30+points a game, you’re team is in trouble. The Falcons defense has been playing very well as of late though. In the playoffs, they managed to get after QB’s Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, by winning the battles in the trenches and creating the right amount of pocket pressure. What has impressed me the most has been the play of Rookies LB Deion Jones and SS Keanu Neal. They have been playing some terrific and aggressive football down the stretch. Really playing with a veteran edge and intensity and you can tell that the rest of the defense is feeding off of it.

 

This game features two teams that both move the ball down field with ease, but, at this moment in time, the Falcons have the edge. They will look to keep that high-octane offense going in this game in an effort to build a massive lead and allow that defense to play at their own pace. The Patriots however, will focus on defense and how they can shut down Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and CO. If they fall behind early, it’ll be tough for them to come back, mainly because the way Atlanta can pile on the points. It’s going to be tough for Julio Jones to break free from the clutches of Patriots DBs Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. I would look for WRs Taylor Gabriel to be that unmarked deep threat type receiver with Mohamed Sanu there in support. The same thing goes for Davonta Freeman. Surely the Patriots have their scheme setup to stop him, so I would look for RB Tevin Coleman to play the wildcard. If the Patriots can really clog up those running lanes and stop the potent Falcons ground game, they have a great chance at stopping the whole offense because it will limit the Falcons ability to execute their go-to play action pass. That’s their key, stopping the run.

 

The Falcons defense will be going up against the type of team they’ve never played before. Sure, they’ve watched film on the Patriots, however, Coach Belichick is a preparation mastermind. He will have prepared his team to look nothing like the normal Patriots-they will line up differently, call plays differently and field players differently, and if all else fails, they can simply revert to the regular Patriots. There are a lot of variables in this game, much like most Super Bowls really, but this one has a special feel to it. Atlanta hasn’t been there in forever and they are the hottest team right now. But, they’re playing against a team that has won four titles, all relatively recently, so they know how to get it done. If the Patriots win, it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone because; well…they’re the Patriots. But if the Falcons win, it’ll prove that a team other than the New York Giants can beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

 

The Prediction

A logical personal would pick the Patriots. They are three-point favorites and have bundles of championship experience. They have a QB that has won four titles and understands what it takes to get the job done in the big game. However, the Falcons are playing a special kind of football, on both sides of the ball. They are running over defenses and scoring tons of points and on the other side of the ball; they are playing some edgy defense that has been limiting some of the game’s best offenses. They are coming into this game red-hot and have earned my pick. My final prediction is New England 30 – Atlanta 34. I truly hope that this game delivers on all the hype that it’s been getting.

 

Game Details: Kickoff on Sunday, February 5th at 6:30pm EST. From NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

 

Interesting Things to Know About Super LI

  • Since losing star TE Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots are unbeaten
  • QB Matt Ryan has beaten 29 of 32 NFL teams (Falcons, Steelers and PATRIOTS)
  • More people bet on the Cleveland Browns to win the Super Bowl than the Falcons
  • QB Tom Brady has more Super Bowl experience than the entire Falcons roster
  • Patriots will be wearing white jerseys… the team wearing white has won 11 out of the last 12 Super Bowls
  • If the Patriots win, QB Tom Brady will have an NFL record 5 titles
  • Tickets are expensive. The cheapest ticket listed is $2,200. The most expensive $1,000,000.

 

Author: Matthew Kassabian

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