New England Patriots vs Atalnta Falcons: Super Bowl LI Preview

The Super Bowl. The pinnacle of American Football. One of the most famous sporting finals in the world.

Over the last six months 32 teams have fought (and I use the term loosely in that respect) for the right to play in this game. But their can only be two, the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. The AFC and NFC Champions.

It may not be everyone’s favourite teams, especially the Patriots, but like it or lump it these two are heading to Houston for Super Bowl LI.

Although the Patriots have been champions as little as two years ago, have reached the Super Bowl seven times in the Brady/Belichick era whereas the Falcons have only reached the Super Bowl once. The performances of the Falcons this year have been outstanding.

In the last 10 years I have been following the sport I have never seen an offence so diverse. Las Vegas have the odds three points in favour of the Patriots but I am not convinced. The Falcons, although they have only been to one Super Bowl, pose a serious threat to the Patriots reign. They have one of the best offensive co-ordinators in Kyle Shanahan who has helped revolutionise this offence into one of the best ever. Atlanta have only scored less than 30 points on four occasions during the regular season.

They do not need to rely on Julio Jones anymore. Jones who is one of the best receivers in the business, doesn’t need to make the big plays for the Falcons. Matt Ryan (or if you’re cool or hip Matty Ice) has got options with Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel both of which have been playing excellently throughout the season.

Their running game is not too shabby either with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The double headed beast ended up with one of, if not the best running games in the NFL. They can also be a serious receiving threat.

With all this attacking skill the Patriots defence has a humongous task upon its hands. Speaking of which the Patriots defence have been one of the better defences throughout the Patriots dynasty but I still believe you cannot stop this offence.

In that case for the Patriots it looks like ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ situation. Can they go tit for tat with the Falcons? Can they do it physically? Tom Brady may go down as one of the greatest of all time and has one of his best seasons since coming back from suspension, but he is 39 years old.

Am I wrong in thinking his four-game suspension helped? There have been some whisperings that if he wasn’t suspended the Patriots wouldn’t get to the Super Bowl. I believe that it helped him because he is definitely fresher.

Their schedule has been kind to them this year, but you can only beat what is in front of you. This is by far the biggest threat the Patriots defence is going to face. Malcolm Butler, the hero of Super Bowl XLIX, has cemented himself as one of the best in the cornerback position along with Aqib Talib and Richard Sherman.

Two members of the Patriots defence had made the pro bowl, Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty. Many people raised questions when they traded Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns as he was said to be one of the best players on the defence, but they seem to be playing better without him rather than with him.

The Falcons also have had their questions, a lot of accusations that they are ‘along for the ride’. They had the leader for most sacks in Vic Beasley (15.5 for those keeping score). You can see that they have improved over the past few weeks only allowing an average of 20 points allowed in the last five games. Where before in the first five it was 28 points.

Their head coach is Dan Quinn, who was defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks during the legion of boom era that won Super Bowl XXVIII and got to XLIX, knows how to go all the way. He has turned a mediocre team into one of the best two teams in the NFL.

As it was said earlier Vegas began with the Patriots edging it by three points. Does this mean that it will be a shoot-out? The Colts should have beaten the Jets, the Patriots should have beaten the Giants. The magic of sports is that there is no guaranteed winner.

As a fan of the sport I want to be a close one, have everyone on the edge of their seat at 3am (well in the UK at least). As a Patriots fan I want it to be all over and done with by the time Lady Gaga comes on stage! Since I watched Star Wars episode IV I have rooted for the underdog, although the Patriots have been compared to the Empire in recent times, the dominance of the Falcons offence could put them in the driving seat.

 

Jimmy Whitehead

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