February 5th is a bittersweet date for football fans like myself. While we finally get the matchup of the #1 defense versus the #1 offense, we have to say goodbye to another great season of football. Greatness, of course, is the name of this historic game. The Super Bowl has consistently captivated the attention of Americans from coast to coast. Whether it was the first Super Bowl ever; Where the Green Bay Packers took home the first Lombardi trophy, or Super Bowl 49, where minds were boggled nationwide by the decision to not give Marshawn Lynch the ball on the two-yard line, we have loved and we have lost. Now we come to an age of football where the Atlanta Falcons: a team who have made it to the big stage only once before, are pitted against the New England Patriots: an organization that is no stranger to the Super Bowl. Neither team is perfect, but both teams made it here by the seed of their own hard work, vigor, and domination of their opponents. Only one team can take home the coveted Lombardi trophy, however, and dissecting these two teams is what I am here to do. So, without much more hesitation, let’s finally take a look as to what makes each team a champion contender.
New England Patriots
I will begin with a basic fact. By the numbers, the Patriots have the best defense in the NFL. Only 15.6 pts/gm. A number that doesn’t stack up to all time great defenses, but still gives the high-octane offense enough breathing room to comfortably operate. With big names such as Malcolm Butler, Rob Ninkovich, and Patrick Chung, the Falcons are in for their toughest test yet. The matchup to watch is Julio Jones and Malcolm Butler. The high-flying Falcon versus the show-stopping Patriot. Sure, if Matt Patricia wants to play it safe, he will give Butler help in the secondary to cushion the impact of #11. This, however, may not be enough to stop Jones. The battle will be won and lost in the Patriots ability to get to Matt Ryan and stop the dynamic duo in the backfield. Pressures on, Patriots D.
As long as the opposing quarterback in the Super Bowl is not named “Eli Manning”, then the Belichick Patriots have done fairly well. Actually, really well. Perfect, that’s the word I was looking for. Beating teams spanning from Seattle to Charlotte, Belichick has ran the table. Atlanta could be that jewel in the south that he will add to his trophy case. Last year we were met with a similar situation; A surprise team from the NFC South with a surging offense go up against a team who has done it all before with a wily, declining quarterback who has done it all before. A team that had a sensational quarterback playing against an immovable defense. We all saw the MVP go down with a couple of blitzes and a couple of turnovers. If the Kubiak-led Broncos could do it, Belichick could do it and then some.
Saying Bill Belichick is a disciplined coach would be a wild understatement. According to Footballdb.com, The Patriots are ranked 5th in total penalties this year. Falcons are ranked 12th. With a difference in 10 penalties on the year, that could be a make or break statistic in the end of the game. Looking at false starts, the Patriots have 17 to the Falcons 19.
That’s a whole 10 yards; Or maybe, a key 1st down. Last week against Green Bay, Atlanta had 2 red zone false starts. Patriots had none. This may seem like a nit-picky stat, however, the NFL puts forth the best Referees in the league. Referees with a trained eye and a hand on the flag. Maybe I’m over-exaggerating, but Seahawks fans remember how referees in a Super Bowl can change the tide. The Patriots have a great locker room culture and a discipline unmatched by any team in the NFL.
Here is a list I compiled of all the receivers this year who have tallied over 300 yards in one game:
- Julio Jones
One of the many things the Falcons have been known for this year is their ability to pounce ahead and take a lead. In 10 of their 13 wins, they have been able to jump ahead by 10 points or more. That’s domination. With their powerful offense never taking their foot off the throttle, they can use their multiple weapons to burn you with every play in their playbook. Kyle Shanahan has been able to use Matt Ryan and his accuracy in the playoffs so effectively, it is scary. After Jumping ahead 17-0 against Green Bay, I realized this offense operates with lightning-quick speeds and plays that are simple, yet effective.
The Man with the most ice in his veins since Mr. Freeze in Batman in Robin
Matty Ice. I never really liked that nickname. Or the phrase “Ice in his/her veins”. The phrase makes the person being discussed is cold, a loser, and doesn’t have a winning bone in their body. None of these, of course, describe Matt Ryan.
The odds on favorite to win MVP this year (#notmymvp) and NFC Champion, Ryan has certainly proved the critics wrong this year by finally winning more than one playoff game. He has been doing it in wonderful fashion as well. 117.3 rating 70% completion, 4944 Yards, 38 TDs and only 7 INTs! Hey, that’s pretty good! Not to mention he has yet to turn the ball over in the playoffs. Brady has twice. It will be a true test of character and skill for #2 going up against a defense that doesn’t bend or break. But with the help of one of an offense that could be described as a Swiss Army Knife, He has a good chance of getting his first ring
Running Backs: Advantage, Atlanta.
It’s rare to have two teams in the Super Bowl that have a pair of starting Running Backs each. Lewis and Blount lead New England’s rushing attack, while Freeman and Coleman run for Atlanta. While both sets of backs are incredible, the ability to catch out of the backfield that the Atlanta backs have is a substantial advantage. Both backs have over 400 yards of receiving. 400 Yards! That’s like having 2 Le’veon Bells on your roster! Not only that, Freeman has racked up 1079 rushing yards and Coleman has 520. On the New England offense, James White is the receiver out of the backfield. With 551 yards, he is someone to watch out for. Neither of the other two backs, however, have more than 100.
Another New Team in Canton
I cannot believe I am saying this, but the Atlanta Falcons will be Super Bowl 51 champions. For whoever listens to the NFL Rundown on KRUI, you know how much it hurts my heart to say this. For personal reasons and a sibling rivalry too long for a simple article, I cannot explain my dissatisfaction with the Falcons. They’re just too hot right now. Matt Ryan is playing on another level. Julio Jones is cementing his place in the HOF. The backfield of doom is playing up to immortal standards. And the defense is pulling together at the right time. Rise up, Atlanta.
Falcons 27, Patriots 23
Make sure to come back next week where I will recap my Superbowl picks!