Here’s Craig Farrell on SUPER BOWL LI – February 5th, 2017, Houston, TX.
New England PATRIOTS @ Atlanta FALCONS
These teams could not be further from one another in terms of Super Bowl participation. New England are set to play in a record 9th Super Bowl as a franchise and Brady and Belichick are looking towards their 7th appearance as a tandem. Atlanta on the other hand made just a single previous appearance losing in the 1998/99 Super Bowl.
It is rare that the Super Bowl pits two high octane offenses against one another, with the last encounter of such magnitude being the Saints and Colts in SB XLIX.
The largest combined scoring Super Bowl total is 75 points from the 1995 all-California clash between the 49ers and Chargers. This game certainly has the potential to eclipse that with both offenses having the ability to hit 40 and beyond.
That being said it is unlikely that either head coach will take the reigns of their team and send them out swinging from the first bell – although that is exactly what the Falcons need to do to win this game.
Dan Quinn is a defensive-minded coach. He orchestrated one of the greatest defenses in football history in Seattle and that was the very reason he was lured to Atlanta – to resolve their defensive woes and give them an opportunity to overcome electric offenses.
New England have a great team blend, not only on all sides of the ball but within each facet of their game. Tom Brady is garnished with all the praise but the rushing game is just as potent and is a three-headed beast that is a task or any defense to face.
Defensively, the Pats are highly underrated. They are a top 12 defense in passing and top 10 in the other two major categories. The only question mark over the strength of the New England defense is the competition in which it faced.
They squared off against Pittsburgh twice but on both occasions one of the Steelers big three were missing. The best team they went up against was Seattle, one of their only two defeats all season.
The Falcons are the best offense in football. Atlanta are top five across all three major categories and they are the most complete offense in football. They came out fast and strong against Seattle and Green Bay blowing both teams out in the first half – which is exactly what is required on February 5th.
Three Key Matchups
Malcolm Butler vs Julio Jones
Malcolm Butler has developed into quite a talent at corner, more than the Pats could have ever expected, but he will be going up against the best wide out in football.
Butler will have help ,undoubtedly, as Belichick has shown he is more than willing to double up on his opponent’s top receiver all game long.
Julio is different to most star wideouts in the sense that he has shown a willingness to work for the betterment of his team. He is happy to catch a single pass or double digit passes once it is in the course of winning.
Jones has the perfect blend of size, speed and strength and he is an absolute matchup nightmare. If New England go out to double him the Falcons running game should see a lot of open space. But if they don’t double him he will single-handedly tear through the Pats secondary.
Matt Ryan vs New England Defensive Backs
The Falcons QB has really performed beyond belief this season, so much so that he is a prime candidate for the MVP award.
However, Ryan has a tendency to slip into bad habits and telegraph passes. This was the case against Kansas City when Ryan literally threw a victory away by getting picked by Eric Berry on a two-point conversion attempt that was returned.
Ryan also had some suspect passes against Green Bay in the Championship game which DBs failed to hang on to. At some stage in the game Ryan will have to challenge the DBs of New England as the Falcons offense relies entirely on the team’s ability to stretch the field.
The Pats are averaging two picks a game in the postseason and had 13 in the regular season. Ball control, and more importantly, ball security will be imperative for the Falcons if they are to win this game.
New England Right Guard and Tackle vs Vic Beasley
Bill Belichick must be game-planning constantly in a bid to limit Vic Beasley’s chances of getting to Tom Brady.
Keeping LeGarrette Blount in the backfield to block or employing Martellus Bennett to chip block are viable options to help limit Beasley’s threat.
Ultimately it will come down to how RG Shaq Mason can anticipate and react to the linebackers stunts, and how RT Marcus Cannon handles one on one pressure when Beasley’s lines up so far to the left that it is only possible to designate a single lineman to him.
Beasley lead the league in sacks this year and has become a similar exterior pass rushing threat to that of Von Miller. The best way to stop Brady from hurting your defense is by having your defense hurt Tom Brady. The Giants won two Super Bowls against the Pats using the same mentality
Predication: Patriots 38-30 Falcons
This game will contain many key matchups within it but it will boil down to what defense can disrupt the passing game the most – and the advantage has to go to New England.
Vic Beasley is a force to be reckoned with, but he can not be a one man wrecking crew, especially not against a team that relishes the quick passing game.
Defenses that trouble New England are those that can get to Brady with just defensive line pressure. Atlanta do not have that in their arsenal.
Both offenses will get into the endzone with frequency, but it is the Pats that are best equipped to maintain prolonged drives, wear down their opponent’s defense and eat up the clock. That is not in the Falcons DNA, they are an explosive play, quick hitting offense.
Belichick will ensure that he schemes his defense to ensure that everything remains in front of them in a bid to suffocate the Falcons offense.
The only way Atlanta secure as win is by getting out in front earlier and forcing New England to become one dimensional.
Recommended Bet: New England to win / New England to win -2.5 / Total points over 51.5
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.