Super Bowl L1 is underway this day of February 5, 2017. The Atlanta Falcons will try to win their first ever Super Bowl championship against an organization in the New England Patriots who have already won several of them. The Falcons will look to their regular season successes and their strong play in the postseason to give them confidence against the odds on favored team.
The Patriots will have the advantage of having been here before, as all four Super Bowl championships that they’ve won came with the legendary tandem of quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. They have the decidedly large advantage in coaching, and Falcons head coach Dan Quinn will have his work cut out for him. He will rely on the rest of his coaching staff to support him, especially with Kyle Shanahan as one of the best offensive coordinators in the league.
This season is arguably Brady’s best yet, at the age of 39-years-old. As Evan Lazar of the Boston Herald brought up, Brady set an NFL record a 28:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio and posted the second-highest passer rating of his career. Considering that he’s been missing his top tight end in Rob Gronkowski for most of the season, he showed further proof that he can do much on his own. A win at this Super Bowl would be a record fifth, and he would be the second eldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl championship, behind Payton Manning by less than a year.
For this Super Bowl matchup, the Patriots have the edge in defense. Although it started off slow at the beginning of the season, it peaked at the ideal time. As Kyle Hightower of the Associated Press noted, the Patriots had “the stingiest scoring defense in the NFL over the final three weeks of the regular season, and entered the playoffs giving up a league-low 15.6 points per game.” They continued with that into the playoffs, allowing just 16.5 points per game en route to the Super Bowl. As the old adage goes, defense wins championships, and the Patriots neutralizing the Falcons offense can lead to big things. We saw in the 2014 Super Bowl the league’s best defense completely shutting down the league’s top offense en route to a 43-8 victory.
With the combination of New England’s defensive superiority and their past Super Bowl experience, it’s difficult to go against them being the Super Bowl LI favorites. During the regular season, they were better than Atlanta in every major defensive statistic. They allowed 326.4 yards per game compared to the Falcons’ 371.2, as well as an outstanding 9.8 points less on average per game. It’s also difficult to argue against Brady, who can turn any game around in his favor.
In the Super Bowl, anything can happen with just one game and the Falcons plenty of options on attack. They won’t be without a star quarterback of their own, as Matt Ryan has been stellar this season. Of course, a quarterback would usually have to be if his team is to make the Super Bowl championship game. With an NFL’s MVP award under his belt, Ryan is glad to be under the Super Bowl spotlight.
His teammates have complimented him nicely, as wide receiver Julio Jones finished second in the NFL with 1409 receiving yards, wide Mohamed Sanu excelled in the red zone and Taylor Gabriel’s incredible running speed and agility makes up for his smaller stature. The Falcons had the slight edge over the Patriots in passing yards this season, with 295.3 per game vs. New England’s 296.2. They were also the stronger team on rushing plays, with 120.5 per game vs. 117. With running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman leading them in this category, the Falcons will rely on them to keep the Patriots defense guessing.
Many observers have the Falcons winning Super Bowl LI because of their high flying offense, in addition to a conscious desire to cheer for the underdog. The Patriots will be prepared to shut things down offensively, so the Falcons will need to be ready to adapt on the fly to win.
Super Bowl LI will take place at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas starting at 6:30 p.m. EST.
[Featured Image by David J. Phillip/AP Images]