January 29, 2017

Super Bowl LI: Falcons Look to Upset; Patriots Look to Cement Legacy

Football, Mark Thomas, Storyline Events

We are officially seven, yes SEVEN days away from the biggest game of the year!

Super Bowl LI

At the beginning of the season, the Patriots had the best odds to win the Super Bowl at 6/1. Atlanta had the fifth-worst odds at 80/1 (Jets and Jaguars were ranked above the Falcons). Yes, you read that correctly.

Both Brady and Ryan are up for NFL MVP honors; an NFL MVP has not won the Super Bowl since Kurt Warner did so in 1999.

The last time the Atlanta Falcons made the Super Bowl was Super Bowl 33 during the '98-'99 season. Unfortunately, they suffered a 34-19 loss against the Denver Broncos. Inefficiency in the red zone ultimately cost the Falcons the game.

During the regular season, the  Falcons had the second-ranked offense in the league, averaging 415.8 yards/game. New England ranked fourth in the league with 386.3 yards/game (4 games without Brady). Both teams were ranked #1 and #2 in point differential. The Patriots were ranked first with 441 points scored and 250 against, coming to a 191 differential; The Falcons ranked second with 540 points scored and 406 against, coming to a 134 differential. Don't let those stats determine your winner for the game as the Patriots averaged 27.6 points/game, and the Falcons averaged 33.8 points/game.

Super Bowl LI will mark the Patriots 9th appearance, which is as many wins as the Falcons have in the postseason (9).

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta is making their second appearance in the Super Bowl. This year marked the first time the Falcons won multiple playoff games in the same year. Since 2000, the team is 5-6 in the postseason. In 2013, they lost the NFC Championship to the 49ers after getting into the Niners red zone with less than two minutes remaining and failing to score.

Atlanta looks to have a different ending this year, coming in with the top-ranked offense. The Falcons must be aggressive on defense. Getting after Brady is the biggest key for them. MVP hopeful Matt Ryan must be on his A-game, much like he has been all year. 

Atlanta's 540 points scored this season is the seventh-most in NFL history and 71 points clear of the next-best team. Their defense allowed the sixth-most points in the NFL this year and ranked 25th overall. Atlanta has outscored their opponents 80-41 in the playoffs.

A match-up worth watching is Julio Jones vs Malcolm Butler. Jones finished the NFC championship game with 180 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Much like he has all year, he's been unstoppable. Julio has 15 total catches this postseason with 247 yards gained and three touchdowns. This match-up is sure to be a determining factor, for whomever wins this duel can give their side of the ball a huge boost in confidence.

New England Patriots

Super Bowl LI will be Brady/Belichick's seventh appearance ranking first in history for most appearances by a head coach/player combo. The Patriots are 4-2 in the Brady/Belichick era; both losses came to the Giants and kryptonite Eli Manning.

Two interesting stats for Tom Brady:

  1. He has never lost to the Falcons in four career games, throwing nine touchdowns and one interception and he has his highest QB Rating against Atlanta.
  2. Tom Terrific has also never lost to a team he's in the playoffs he's seeing for the first time that season.

The biggest and most crucial key to this game for the Patriots? Offensive line. If the offensive line can protect Brady from the vicious Falcons defense the Patriots are sure to win. New England's secondary is also key. They must try and contain Jones, and Sanu if they want to be successful. 

Brady will attempt to become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to have 5 rings. A victory would tie Bart Starr for the most NFL titles ever by a QB. Starr won three NFL championships before the Super Bowl era and two Super Bowls.

Super Bowl LI will be an epic event with the potential to be one of the best showdowns in history.

I'm predicting a huge day for both quarterbacks. Brady and Ryan will combine for 700+ passing yards and 5+ touchdowns thrown. I think the Patriots will come out on top in the end 35-31. I firmly believe that who ever possesses the ball last will win this game. It is sure to be exciting and I cannot wait to enjoy the greatest show on turf.

Mark Thomas
Mark Thomas

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