The NFL season culminates tomorrow night, as the New England Patriots face the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas.
Both teams breezed through their Conference Championship matchups.
The Falcons dominated the Green Bay Packers from start to finish, with Matt Ryan throwing almost 400 yards and four touchdowns. Julio Jones torched the Packers secondary for 180 yards and two touchdowns. The defense didn’t allow Aaron Rodgers to get into a rhythm until it was too late for a comeback.
The Patriots made quick work of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tom Brady had a bounce back game, throwing three touchdowns and throwing for 384 yards. Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman combined for 298 yards and three touchdowns on the evening. With an injury to Le’Veon Bell, the Patriots defense was able to focus all their attention on Antonio Brown, containing him for just 77 yards.
One of the biggest questions heading into Super Bowl Sunday is how will the Patriots cover Julio Jones? Expect plenty of double-teams with Devin McCourty providing safety help over the top. Despite rumors that New England wants to move McCourty to corner, I would expect a combination of both Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan to matchup on Jones. Butler has the speed while Ryan can use his physicality.
The Patriots are notorious for taking away an opponents top option. Which, in this case, is Jones. Expect Matt Ryan to turn to Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel while testing Eric Rowe. The Falcons love to spread the ball around, so the “David Tyree and Chris Matthews Award for Showing Up In The Super Bowl Against The Patriots” will go to Justin Hardy.
In the backfield, Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman are one of the best duos in the NFL. While Freeman rushed for over 1,000 yards this season, he can also hurt teams through the air. Freeman had over 450 receiving yards, while Coleman had 421. Expect the Patriots to do what they did against Marshall Faulk in Super Bowl XXXVI. This Falcons team resembles that St. Louis Rams team in many ways. They spread the ball, have pass-catching backs and love to play the vertical game.
With the depth the Patriots have at linebacker and defensive line, they should be able to get enough pressure on Matt Ryan to make him feel uncomfortable. Ryan, the likely NFL MVP has never been on a stage this big before.
The number one offense in the NFL will go up against the NFL’s top scoring defense. Last time that happened? The Seattle Seahawks stomped on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos parade.
On offense, the Pats should have no trouble moving the ball on a young defense. While the Falcons defense has good speed, they’re undersized and struggle against teams that can use the power run. The Pats have human battering ram LeGarrette Blount, and he’ll be expected to pick up tough yards and enter in short yardage situations. But expect the Patriots to air it out against the 28th ranked passing defense that allowed 25 passing touchdowns in the Red Zone. Brady could break Kurt Warner’s record of 414 passing yards in a Super Bowl.
Jalen Collins has stepped up in Desmond Trufant’s absence, but Robert Alford has been exposed all year long. Brady will turn Alford into this year’s DeShawn Shead, who was attacked time and time again in Super Bowl XLIX. Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman were both brilliant in the AFC Championship game, and could be in for similar results Sunday night.
Unless the Falcons can pressure Brady from up the middle, it could be a long day for the Falcons secondary. Grady Jarrett is quickly becoming one of the best 4-3 defensive tackles in football. Joe Thuney and David Andrews will have their hands full. Brady has seen every defense, but more importantly, he’s already seen a better version of this defense in Super Bowl XLIX, where current Falcons coach Dan Quinn was the defensive coordinator in Seattle.
The young interior offensive line will play a huge factor in New England’s ability to establish a rhythm and move the ball effectively.
The linebacking corps of the Falcons is young and fast. Vic Beasley led the NFL in sacks with 15.5, but should see plenty of double-teams and chips from Martellus Bennett and the running backs, as there is no other elite passing rushing threat on this roster. Deion Jones can fly around the field and make plays, while De’Vondre Campbell is an underrated playmaker. While Jones and Campbell are solid in coverage, neither will be able to cover Martellus Bennett or Dion Lewis.
There just doesn’t seem to be a case where the Falcons can stop the Patriots in key situations, as the Falcons were porous in the third down situations.
At the end of the day, the preparation and experience of the Patriots will carry them to a fifth Super Bowl victory in 16 years. Tom Brady will cement his status as not only the best quarterback of all time, but as the greatest player of all time by winning a fourth Super Bowl MVP. Bill Belichick will be the official greatest coach ever and the Lombardi Trophy will have a name change.
Roger Goodell (read as: Satan) will have to hand Robert Kraft the Lombardi Trophy in front of millions of people watching around the world and give a lame speech about how happy he is of the franchise. Robert Kraft will in turn give the biggest metaphorical middle finger to the haters in a speech that will likely make no sense. GET THE DUCK BOATS READY!
PREDICTION: New England 34 Atlanta 23
Cover Photo via Awful Announcing