Super Bowl LI Preview

Super Bowl LI

Jan. 29, 2016

by Chase Gage

 

And then there were two. The Falcons will face the Patriots in Houston on Feb. 5 for the ultimate crown in the game of football; the Lombardi Trophy.

First things first, I would like to apologize to the Atlanta Falcons (as if anyone associated with them will ever even see this) for sleeping on them. I picked them to lose against the Seahawks and also picked them to lose to the Packers. They won both of those games, and neither was even that close. Will I pick against them for the third time? Keep reading to find out (I probably will, though).

NFC Championship Recap: 

The Falcons came ready to play. Matt Ryan threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns while adding 23 yards on the ground and another score. Julio Jones finished with nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns, including this 73-yard touchdown where he proved he may be the best receiver in football. The Packers never really had a chance in this game after facing a 24-0 halftime deficit that turned into a 31-0 advantage for the Falcons early in the third quarter. Atlanta pulled out the victory by a final score of 44-21.

AFC Championship Recap:

Tom Brady may be the best to ever play the game. Brady passed for (a franchise playoff-record) 384 yards and three touchdowns in New England’s dominating performance. LeGarrette Blount added 47 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries to solidify the Patriot victory. The New England receiving core proved it may be even more deadly than that in Atlanta. Chris Hogan had nine receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns, while Julian Edelman added eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. Nine different Patriots had a reception in the AFC Championship game.

The Steelers faced adversity early in the game when LeVeon Bell left the contest after only six carries. Veteran DeAngelo Williams took over at running back and managed 34 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries. Ben Roethlisberger had 314 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Steelers lost the turnover battle with two to New England’s zero.

Super Bowl Matchup:

Atlanta has one of the best offenses the NFL has ever seen. They have so many weapons and can score in so many ways. Ryan and Jones may be the best quarterback/wide receiver duo in football this year, while Freeman and Coleman may be the best running back duo in the league.

Since Brady and Belichick arrived in New England, they have been the standard for greatness in the NFL. Making their seventh appearance in the biggest game of them all, they are looking for their fifth title together. The New England offense may not be historically great like that of Atlanta, though they have several weapons as well. They are without Rob Gronkowski, but still have receivers such as Edelman, Hogan, Danny Amendola and Martellus Bennett. In the backfield, they have Blount and Dion Lewis. And of course, they have a salty quarterback. The key factor for New England, however, may just be their defense. They are the best in the league in terms of scoring defense.

The true matchup here will be the New England defense versus the Atlanta offense. Atlanta WILL score points. That much seems to be inevitable. New England should not have much trouble scoring either. Can the Patriots slow down that killer Atlanta offense enough that they can outscore them? That will be the difference in this Super Bowl. Also, the turnover battle will be of utmost importance. Neither of these teams commit many turnovers. Self-inflicted wounds such as fumbles, interceptions and penalties could spell defeat for the team on the wrong end.

Official Super Bowl Prediction:

Tom Brady is old. He is 39, to be exact. Matt Ryan is in the prime of his career. Brady has won four Super Bowls and played in six. Matt Ryan is making his first appearance. The Atlanta offense is unstoppable. It’s hard to score on New England. I can keep going back and forth and keep stalling and trying to deceive you until I make up my mind, but I’ll just get to it. Never bet against Brady. Never bet against Belichick. Never bet against New England in the Super Bowl if they’re not facing Eli Manning. Brady and his Patriots will walk away with yet another Super Bowl victory, though I expect a very close game. I will not be surprised in the slightest if I am wrong. Atlanta is a solid team and has all the tools needed to win the big game. I just can’t in good conscious go against one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) quarterbacks to ever play the game when the Super Bowl is on the line. Brady and Belichick leave Houston with their fifth Super Bowl title together.

Fun Facts:

  • The last Super Bowl played in Houston was won by the Patriots. The Patriots defeated the Panthers 32-29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII thanks to a last-second field goal by Adam Vinatieri. This game might be more memorable as the game that featured the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” halftime show.
  • Tom Brady has played in 32 postseason games in his career. Let me say that again. Brady has played in TWO SEASONS worth of playoff games. If you treat his stats in those games as if it were two seasons, here is how he would stack up: 4,122 yards and 29 touchdowns per season with a record of 23-9 (12-4/11-5 each season). Oh, and all of that is against playoff competition.
  • This will be the seventh Super Bowl appearance for Brady and Belichick. It is only the second for the Falcons organization.
  • The Falcons played in Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999 in which they lost to John Elway and the Denver Broncos.
  • This is Brady’s 17th NFL season, his 15th as a starter (only played in one game as a rookie, was injured in 2008). This will be his seventh Super Bowl appearance. That comes out to one appearance every 2.4 years or every 2.1 years as a starter.
  • The Falcons have the top offense in the NFL and the Patriots have the top defense in terms of scoring. In Super Bowl XLVIII, the Denver offense (best in the league) took on the Seattle defense (best in the league) and the defensive team won. In Super Bowl L, the Panthers boasted the top offense while the Broncos fielded the best defense. Denver walked away with the victory. Defense wins championships…?
  • Sunday’s leading receivers posted identical stats: Julio Jones and Chris Hogan both had 9 receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns. To make this fact even better, Hogan had 12 receptions for 147 yards and three touchdowns in his entire college career. In the AFC Championship alone he had three fewer catches for 33 more yards and one less touchdown than his entire college career.
  • Tom Brady’s full name is Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. Just thought I’d add that.

 

Well, this is it. I am 7-3 overall, with two of my losses being when I picked against Atlanta. The other came when I picked the Cowboys against the Packers even though I knew better. I did not miss a game in the AFC. I am nervous about this game, though I am utterly excited. I believe this could be a truly great Super Bowl and I am definitely looking forward to it. I may be wrong, but that will be just fine. I have had a blast writing about the sport I love so dearly. I want to thank my (very few) readers for sticking with me on this journey through the playoffs. I hope you have enjoyed the ride as well. I will continue writing about other sporting events until August when football returns, but the end of football is always the start of a sad offseason. Be safe this Super Bowl Sunday. Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered. See you next time.

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