Super Bowl LI Preview
It’s been a long wait for Super Bowl LI, and we certainly all want this game to come quicker. It’s been a historically boring playoffs with blowouts galore – and little to no exciting games. But, there is one thing that can save this season from being a bust and it’s this year’s Super Bowl. The young, up and coming, and high flying Atlanta Falcons, led by MVP front runner Matt Ryan look to pull of a historic upset on the determined, inspired and most of all experienced – New England Patriots led by legends Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
Atlanta comes in following a 11-5 record this season, good for first in the NFC South and the NFC #2 seed. They breezed through the playoffs with big wins over Seattle and Green Bay, putting them in the big game. They are led by 2nd Year HC Dan Quinn, and OC Mike Shanahan, who led the offense to a historic season. Quinn was the DC of Seatles infamous “Legion of Boom” defense, who were in back-to-back Super Bowls, defeating Denver and losing to New England. This game is expected to be Shanahan’s last leading the Offense, as he is prepared to take on the 49ers HC role in 2017, and look to rebuild their disasterous team. Atlanta has been to only 1 Super Bowl in their 51 years of existence, losing to Denver in 1999. The team is young, and lacks playoff experience – which may bite back on them later on. QB Matt Ryan is in his 9th season under the helm for Atlanta, and had his best season to date this year. He passed for 4,944 YDS and threw 38 TD’s to just 7 INT’s. He has pleanty of weapons around him in matchup nightmare WR Julio Jones, the explosive Taylor Gabriel and Running Back duo Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. This group runs like a well-oiled-machine when they’re on the field, as Ryan is able to spread the ball all over the field, and not just his well known weapons. The defense developed significantly this year, from a young, shaky group, to a decent defense. Young DL Vic Beasley Jr. went off this season leading the NFL in sacks, and powering a pass rush in this unit. The defense ranked 11th in points allowed per game, averaging 20.5 PPG after their bye week. They’re truly going to have to play lights out to give them a shot at winning.
New England finished with a 14-2 record taking the AFC East again, and gaining the #1 Seed in the AFC. They overcame the infamous 4 game “Deflategate” susipension of QB Tom Brady, who responded to play with his head on fire for the rest of the season. They also went through the playoffs with no problem beating Houston and Pittsburgh with ease. Legend HC Bill Belichick has once again led this team to perfection this season, but what’s overlooked is his help at the coordinator positions. OC Josh McDaniels conducts a creative offense to perfection using everything from trick plays from the back of the playbook, to the simple and effective ones. DC Matt Patricia led a #1 ranked unit this year, as they locked down teams completely, averaging 15.6 Points Allowed Per Game. Both coaches are solid HC candidates for the future – but seem content in their crucial positions as of now. New England will play in their record 9th Super Bowl, as they’ve won 4 so far, looking for a 5th. Both Brady and Belichick are in a record 7th Super Bowl (for their respective positions) and looking for a record 5th win. The Patriots offense may be down All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski, but they have played like he’s never left in his absence, as they have ran the offense to perfection like always. There may not be a ton of big names in the offense aside from Brady, Gronk and Edelman, but there is always an unsung hero from that unit. Look for players like bruiser RB LeGarrette Blount, playmaker RB Dion Lewis, AFC Champion hero Chris Hogan, trade acquisition TE Martellus Bennett and even Waiver claim WR Michael Floyd to make an impact. On the D the Pats face their toughest test of the year – and need to again, play lights out to take this game. There aren’t many huge names on the unit, but the chemistry flows high and that’s what makes the Defense the way they are. They force crucial turnovers and make clutch stops when needed, just as seen in the AFC Championship this year.
Game Trends and Headlines to Watch:
There are many huge storylines going into this historic matchup to watch for. Here’s the top ones to watch…
•Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots record appearance
•Falcons possibly breaking the 51 year drought
•#1 Offense vs #1 Defense
•Experience vs Non-Experience
•All the X-Factors on both sides
And Most Importantly…
•A possible scenario of Commisioner
Goodell handing the Super Bowl trophy to Brady after suspending him this season…
In my opinion, what will determine the flow of this game will be the possible X-Factors from both teams… Here are my favorites to break the game open…
•Vic Beasley – Brady was shaky under the Texans high pressure, and the NFL’s sack leader had the potential to stop Brady.
•Taylor Gabriel – The speedster WR can break the game open at anytime with a huge catch and run.
•Julio Jones + Mohammed Sanu vs Pats CB’s – These towering receivers can take advantage of the smaller Corners of New England.
•Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman’s Two Headed Monster Backfield – These two RB’s have together torn apart defenses this season, and will look to break a big one on the stingy Pats D.
•Matt Bryant – A very underrated, veteran Kicker is capable of hitting a clutch kick in the end, which very likely can decide a game like this.
•Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount’s 1-2 Punch – Lewis brings the ability to pull of a burst and a game changing play, while Blount brings a unique source of power and a dominant goal-Lin threat.
•Martellus Bennett – Despite dealing with a nagging injury, Bennett can make some clutch plays down the stretch as a very consistent TE.
•Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and Michael Floyd – As the Falcons may focus on WR Julian Edelman down the stretch, WR’s Hogan, Amendola and Floyd can make a big impact and crack a big run open.
We’ve all been analyzing the matchup of the Patriots #1 Defense vs the Falcons #1 offense, but what may take over is the matchup of the Patriots Offense and Falcons Defense. The Falcons still have a middle of the pack defense, and face a high ranked Pats Offense. So look for this matchup to be a game changer as well.
Well, here goes my big prediction…
Both teams start strong with back to back TD’s to start the game, as they head in to Quarter 2 tied 7-7. The second half sees an explosive play by the Falcons Offense as they take a 17-14 lead going into the half, despite an early turnover. The 3rd Quarter is a defensive battle as Brady and Ryan are picked off, and they trade FG’s putting the game at 20-17 going into the final quarter. The final quarter is a high scoring one, leaving the game down to the wire, as Brady leads his unit to two scores, and lead 34-33, after Atlanta adds a TD and two Matt Bryant FG’s. In a two minute drill for the ages, Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan leads the Falcons down the field, to set up a 46 YD, Super Bowl winning FG by Matt Bryant, clinching a Super Bowl victory for Atlanta.
MVP: Matt Ryan – 374 YDS, 3 TD’s, 2 INT
FINAL – 36-34 FALCONS
And that’s where it ends! Enjoy the game!