Super Bowl LI features the New England Patriots taking on the Atlanta Falcons for the right to call themselves 2017 Super Bowl Champions.
This game features the Atlanta’s No. 1 scoring offense versus the Patriot’s No. 1 scoring defense. Historically, this is the eighth time that such matchup has occurred in the Super Bowl. Seven times, the defense has come on top.
The only No. 1 offense to beat a No. 1 defense in the Super Bowl was the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV versus the Denver Broncos, per Fox Sports.
Not to mention, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan just won MVP. The last player to win the Super Bowl and regular season MVP award was Kurt Warner in 1999, per CBS Sports. Otherwise, only 10 players in NFL history have done that.
Since 2000, seven NFL MVPs have won the award and made it two the Super Bowl. None of those players had their team win the Vince Lombardi trophy. Peyton Manning and Cam Newton are the most recent examples of regular season MVPs, who came up short in the Super Bowl.
Hence, the Falcons and Matt Ryan hope to become the exception and not the rule. Therefore, Atlanta must win the individual matchups. Otherwise, New England will win the micro matchups and Super Bowl 51.
Here are some highlighted individual matchups for the 2017 Super Bowl.
— Patriots 101 (@Patriots_101) February 5, 2017
Julio Jones and Malcolm Butler are both ranked among the top players at their positions, per Number Fire.
Jones owns a 26.7 percent share of the Falcons regular season targets. He’s averaged 100.6 yards per game in the regular season.
Meanwhile, Butler grades as Pro Football Focus’ No. 5 ranked corner in coverage. He has allowed.25 fantasy points per route, while being targeted on 18 percent of his routes in coverage.
Butler held Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown to seven catches for 77 yards in the AFC Championship game. Meanwhile, Jones beat the Green Bay Packers secondary for 180 yards and two scores on nine catches.
Jones already said earlier this week, that he does not believe any single player can stop him. Hence, the Patriots may use double coverage against Jones. Either way, don’t forget that Butler was the hero the last time New England won the Super Bowl two seasons ago.
According to the USA Today, pressuring Patriots quarterback Tom Brady without blitzing is the only way to beat New England. Even if Atlanta can not sack Brady, they must force him to throw early and from different spots.
Falcons pass rusher Vic Beasley takes on Patriots tackles Marcus Cannon. Beasley has a 78.3 accumulative grade from PFF, while Cannon has an 88.1 grade.
Beasley led the NFL in sacks with 15.5 for the regular season. He faces a tough challenge to get more versus the Patriots.
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman Vs. James White and Dion Lewis
Any Field. Every Time. pic.twitter.com/DvsSLQyJQ4
— Nike Football (@usnikefootball) February 5, 2017
These players will not be on the field at the same time. However, it is a Super Bowl 51 matchup to watch as both running back groups are crucial in their teams’ passing games.
The Patriots running back group had Lewis and White earn touchdown passes versus the Houston Texans in the division round. Patriots runner Shane Vereen also set a Super Bowl record for receptions by a running back two seasons ago.
Atlanta has allowed the second most receiving yards and receptions to opposing running backs, per Number Fire. However, Falcons linebackers Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell have improved against receiving running backs over the last seven games.
Meanwhile, the Patriots defense has not allowed a back to rush for more than 100 yards all season. Nonetheless, the Falcons running back Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman are great in the passing game. The duo combined for 85 catches and 883 receiving yards during the regular season, per USA Today.
Another obvious matchup for the 2017 Super Bowl includes the two quarterbacks Tom Brady and Matt Ryan. Ryan won the MVP, but Brady finished second. Therefore, both players could have a great game.
Both quarterbacks will need production out of the slot. Number Fire points out that Tom Brady is one of the best at intermediate passes. Patriots receiver Julian Edelman is among the best at middle and intermediate catches. However, Atlanta slot corner Brian Poole is PFF’s 37th graded corner, and he has not allowed many big games.
On the other side of the ball, USA Today points out that Patriots corner Eric Rowe has struggled at times. Therefore, Falcons speedster Taylor Gabriel could find himself with some mismatches. Gabriel registered 579 receiving yards and six touchdowns as Atlanta’s No. 3 receiver this year.
Otherwise, UPI points out the matchup between the veteran kickers. Falcons kicker Matt Bryant is 34 of 37 for the season with a season-long of 59 yards. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski is 27 of 32 with a season long of 53 yards. This is critical as the Super Bowl could be close and come down to either kicker connecting on a field goal.
Ultimately, Super Bowl 51 could come down to any of these individual matchups. Will the New England Patriots or Atlanta Falcons dominate these matchups?
Watch the 2017 Super Bowl at 6:30 p.m. EST to find out.
[Featured Image by David J. Phillip/AP Images]