In what promises to be another incredible showcase of ‘America’s Game’, the Atlanta Falcons will be looking to cause an upset, as they face a side with eight appearances and four victories at the Super Bowl – the New England Patriots – led by star quarterback Tom Brady.
On Sunday 5th February in Houston, the Atlanta Falcons will play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51. For Matt Ryan and co. this marks their second trip to the big game, while for his opposite number Brady, it is number seven, going 4-2 in his previous six.
Brady’s Patriots have never won or lost a Super Bowl by more than one touchdown, and the over under on total scoring is the highest ever at 58, so expect a high scoring but close game.
Atlanta boasts the most prolific offense this season. They are extremely well rounded, with Most Valuable Player (MVP) favourite Ryan, a strong one-two punch both at running back (Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman) and especially at wide receiver (Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu Sr.), boasting a consistent and healthy offensive line.
Their defense, although questionable early in the season, has taken an upward turn in the last seven games, and Vic Beasley Jr. led the league in sacks this year. The fact that Atlanta can run and pass so effectively is what stops defenses from having multiple members of the secondary on players like Julio Jones.
New England’s General Manager Bill Belichick is known for halting the other team’s best offensive weapon. He managed to keep Antonio Brown under 100 yards and without a score in the AFC championship game, but it’s doubtful he will be able to contain Julio Jones in quite the same fashion in what promises to be a real test for the Patriots’ defensive line.
Atlanta may be stronger in offense, but there is little doubt that New England’s defense is the stronger of the two franchises. For the second time since Belichick became General Manager, the Patriots finished the season first in scoring defense with just 15.6 points per game allowed, an achievement realized largely through Belichick’s proven ‘do your job’ mantra.
As impressive as the defense has been this season, it is the remarkable success of the Patriots’ offense that deserves to be heralded once again, with the likes of Tom Brady and Julian Edelman only drafted 199th and 232nd respectively, while receiver Chris Hogan – who left the Bills with little resistance last season – exploded for 180 yards and two touchdowns against Pittsburgh.Yet however strong the players on field might be, the most crucial matchup of this game is arguably on the sidelines. Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn has done an exceptional job this season, and he could have his revenge on Belichick, who cost him his second ring in as many seasons in Super Bowl 49.
Quinn was the defensive coordinator for Seattle’s ‘Legion of Boom’, who under his direction were the best defense in the NFL two years in a row, a feat that was followed up by turning Atlanta’s offense into the best in the league in just his second year at the helm.
Piers Eaton (The Bubble Sport contributor): New England Patriots – though this comes with some bias having been born in Boston.
Lewis Wright (The Bubble Sport Editor): New England Patriots – backed them from the start and their chances only increase after Green Bay’s exit in the NFC Championship game. NB: no bias as a Miami fan.
When to watch:
Sunday 5 February, 23:30 (GMT)
NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas