In a few short days, Super Bowl LI will kick off in Houston, Texas. The Atlanta Falcons are representing the NFC for the second time in their franchise’s history. The New England Patriots are representing the AFC for the eighth time, and seventh in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era. While Matty “Ice” Ryan and the Falcons are the top scoring offense in football, the Patriots are favored by three points. Here’s reasons to believe the New England-area will be rejoicing after the Big Game.
The Patriots have had themselves quite the season, with a lot of challenges thrown their way. Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones are traded off the team, arguably their best defensive players before the season even begins. Castaways like linebacker Kyle Van Noy and cornerback Eric Rowe step up in big ways. Brady receives a four-game suspension and the Patriots go 3-1 in his absence, using not only back-up Jimmy Garoppolo but also third-stringer Jacoby Brissett. New England loses one of the best tight-ends of all-time in Rob Gronkowski to a season-ending injury. Chris Hogan, who was once a standout college lacrosse player, turns into a reliable wide-receiver for Brady. The team continues to plug in guys who are on the back-end of rosters and find success with them. Head coach Bill Belichick really worked some magic this season with his personnel choices and decisions on how to work out of jams in 2016.
Defensively, the Patriots will have their hands full against a Falcons offense that may be considered as one of the greatest to witness on the gridiron. Julio Jones is one of the best receivers in the game, a quality second receiver in Mohamed Sanu, a hot quarterback in Ryan and a great running back combination in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman creates a tough situation for any defense. The first thing defensive coordinator Mat Patricia and the Patriots do well is take away the number-one threat in Jones. Rowe is the big corner for the Patriots, and having Devin McCourty play over the top should limit Jones’ production. The more talented corner in Malcom Butler can go man-to-man with Sanu, leaving the other Patriots safety, Patrick Chung, to come down and play the running backs or tight-ends. While the Falcons have an abundance of threats to go to, the most underrated player on defense is Logan Ryan, the nickel corner. He moved into the slot defensive position over the last six weeks of the regular season and has played phenomenally on defense. Ryan can tackle well, and his talents will be worth keeping tabs on. This defense is the number-one scoring defense in the league, and those teams have gone 5-1 in the Super Bowl, per ESPN.
Offensively, Brady will face a young, Atlanta defense that has struggled at times, but has shown resiliency as of late. The Falcons’ base defense is zone coverage, and in 2016 Brady had a completion percentage of 66 against the zone, per ESPN. This defense has speed, but is limited in size. New England will run LeGarrette Blount behind their big offensive line right up the gut against this defense. Then, they can use many route concepts with their quick receivers and pass-catching backs to confuse this defense. In open space, running backs Dion Lewis and James White have the edge against Atlanta’s linebackers.
This team has players with experience in the Big Game, led by a quarterback with 1,605 yards in Super Bowl games (most in Super Bowl history). Couple that with a defense good enough to keep them ahead of the Falcons, and the Patriots could be raising the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the matchup. Every element of the team can make plays. Brady has a high likelihood of taking home a record fifth Super Bowl victory on Sunday.
Final Score: 34-28, Patriots.