Super Bowl LI Preview

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Super Bowl 51 is airing Sunday, February 5th in Houston, Texas. The AFC representatives are the New England Patriots and the NFC representatives are the Atlanta Falcons, two football powerhouses playing for Super Bowl glory, but only one will emerge the victor. Who do you have?
Let’s start with the AFC Champions, the New England Patriots. Renowned quarterback Tom Brady and his offense have proven to be a force reckoned with out on the field. Brady, holder of numerous post-season NFL records, has the field on lockdown when him and his wide receivers are in position to make big time plays. Recovering from their scandal (formerly known as deflate gate) the Patriots have set their sights on coming back to Foxborough with another Super Bowl under their belt. While this set back the Patriots, Eastern Illinois graduate Jimmy Garoppolo filled in for Brady. Not long after that, Garoppolo suffered a shoulder injury and the search for answers began again. Third string quarterback and former University of Florida Gator, Jacoby Brissett, swept in and took the reins. However, only a week later, Brissett tore a ligament in his hand and was quickly benched. Luckily for the Patriots, Brissette played the rest of the game just in time for Tom Brady to rejoin the team after his 4 week suspension.

Among other obstacles, star tight end Rob Gronkowski endured a back injury early in the season and still remains out. Despite these hindrances, the team continued to dominate conference and playoff games. There is no doubt in the mind of sports analysts’ that this team is still Super Bowl material. Tom Brady is expected to surpass the names of quarterback legends like Peyton Manning and Brett Favre in records such as; most consecutive games with touchdown passes over Favre (20), most yards gained over Manning (6,589) and most touchdowns over the likes of Favre and Joe Montana, with 44 and 45 touchdowns respectively. In the regular 2016 season alone, the Patriots have produced a total of 6,180 offensive yards with 4,456 passing yards. They’ve made more than half of their field goals this year and completed 51 touchdowns.

This team has made an impact on the rushing and passing game but not so much on the defensive end, rounding out the season with 24 sacks and 13 interceptions. That may seem disappointing and even a little discouraging, so New England will have to rely heavily on their offense. Statistically speaking, the Patriot’s offense has made their name as one of the most dominate forces in the NFL with the likes of Blount, Brady, Edelman, Amendola and Hogan. Like them or hate them, everyone can expect New England to show up big on Super Bowl Sunday.
The Atlanta Falcons ended their regular season campaign with a respectable 11-5. They are the league’s best offensive team. They are first with 457.5 total offensive yards per game and the Patriots are 3rd with 404 yards per game. The Falcons run this category with an extra 54 yards in hand over the Patriots. The Falcons offensive attack is by far one of the most aggressive and multi-dimensional in the NFL. Matt Ryan threw for 38 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 4,944 yards total, and has a quarterback rating of 117.1 this season. In perspective the league average quarterback rating is 83.2.

It is an understatement to say that their high flying offense carries their defense. The Falcons defense is 27th in points given up, 25th in 371 yards per game given up, 28th in 266 passing yards given up, and 17th with 104 rushing yards given up. In the match-up against New England, they have the NFL’s 4th best defense. Although the offense is explosive and high tempo they will have to carry their own defense against arguably the NFL’s best mastermind Bill Belichick. Just as Belichick has some history leading up to the “Big Game” so does a memorable playoff lore accompany Atlanta.

The Falcons played in the Super Bowl one other time before their current trip and the matchup was against the legendary 1998 Denver Broncos. How the Falcons punched their tickets to the Super Bowl that year still remains as a devastating playoff story. The NFC Championship was on the line and the Falcons were up against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings were stellar that year.

With the game heading towards a Viking victory they sent out their kicker Gary Anderson who had not missed one field goal all year. Anderson had all the advantages in his favor; they were playing in a dome, the Vikings were in the lead, and he was perfect all year long. The play is snapped and Anderson’s kick goes wide left. That gave the Falcons the boost they needed. The next drive resulted in a touchdown and the game headed to overtime. Atlanta won the coin toss and moved down the field to kick a successful field goal to send them to their first Super Bowl with a 30-27 score. Leaving the Vikings with a gut wrenching loss that is still remembered today.The Falcons eventually lost their first Super Bowl game to the Broncos; sealing John Elway’s legacy as an NFL great and Atlanta would surprisingly not return to the Super Bowl for another 18 seasons

PREDICTIONS
John: Alright, I know I’ll get a lot of flak for picking the Pats, but frankly, you really can’t go wrong with them. Tom Brady and his monstrous offense have proven time and time again that they can come clutch when it’s important, make big time plays to create a substantial point margin, and they overall have everything within their arsenal to get the job done.

Let’s face it, they have been in this game 8 times in the past, winning 4 of those games. They have experience and they know how to, in the words of Belichick, “Do your job.” Brady holds numerous Super Bowl records and I think this will be an easy game to win. However, Ryan does make a strong argument concerning Atlanta. Matt Ryan led for passing yards earlier in the regular season and the last thing the Falcons need is for him to come up short. Relying on Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones will not win this game alone no matter how good the offense. I’m sticking with the Patriots and they are coming back to Foxborough with that Lombardi Trophy. Final score: 21-17 New England.

Ryan: Outside of the Kyle Shanahan playbook fiasco the Atlanta Falcons have their offense flying smooth all the way to the Super Bowl. It is odd that scandals regardless of severity occur around Belichick’s Super Bowl campaigns. There is no doubt that the league leading offensive numbers will continue to show up and score up in SBLI for Atlanta. It is the defensive side of the ball that has me slightly worried.

The same scenario played itself out in Super Bowl XLVIII when the historic Denver Broncos offense led by Peyton Manning got beat out by Pete Carroll’s league leading Seattle Seahawks defense. If the Falcons can learn a lesson from Super Bowl past and tighten up their secondary scheme to match the Patriots highly skilled receivers, Atlanta will win their first Lombardi Trophy.
It will not be an easy win for either side and the score will be high. If the Falcons stick to their high-powered multi-dimensional offensive scheme and use their time wisely to gameplan a solid defensive strategy. The difference maker in the “Big Game” will be the use of valuable crucial minutes at the halftime break (as Lady Gaga will be capturing our attention) to make the chances necessary to outsmart Belichick and the Pats on the defensive side most likely. If done right the Falcons will “Rise Up” to have the Patriots in their talons and a Super Bowl victory to glide them home. The winning score will be Atlanta 38-37.
I have a hunch this will be a memorable Super Bowl to watch. Watching the Falcons offense, Belichick’s legacy, Tom Brady’s poise, Kyle Shanahan’s briefly stolen playbook, and the nachos I will be eating has all the makings of a good Super Bowl matchup in Houston.

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