Super Bowl LI: What to Expect?

As the big game is less than a week away, here’s a look into what both teams bring to the table


Keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allison via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

Starting off with the Patriots, this will be their third Super Bowl appearance in the last six years, which means they have experience and a team that knows how to win. Led by quarterback Tom Brady, who has led the team on a tear since returning from suspension (12-2), the Pats are looking for their fifth Super Bowl ring. The challenger that has stepped up to the plate this year is the Atlanta Falcons. Although they have never won a Super Bowl, this team has been cruising through the NFC Division finishing with an 11-5 record. With that hunger for being the first ones on that team to hold up the Lombardi trophy, the Falcons won’t be easy competition. In fact, it is projected by NFL experts such as Jeanna Thomas, Louis Bien and even the OddsShark computer simulator that the Falcons will end up winning.

Going more into detail about the two teams’ post season performances, the Falcons have been lighting up their opponents regardless of what they brought to the table. The team’s two most recent opponents, the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers, were outplayed and outscored at almost every level. Matt Ryan, QB for the Falcons, has been putting up MVP level stats against these two teams throwing for 730 passing yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Many of these passing yards wound up in the hands of another stand out performer this year, Julio Jones. With 1,409 regular season receiving yards, he was Ryan’s number one target, and this didn’t change come playoffs. During the two postseason games, Jones became the first player in league history to have at least 150 receiving yards and two touchdowns in back-to-back playoff games. With these two MVP candidates as a dynamic duo, stopping their offense is a challenge for any team, and the Patriots are no exception.

Moving on to the Patriots, to the surprise of many, a good amount of people didn’t expect the Patriots to make it this far. With star tight end Rob Gronkowski on the sideline due to back surgery, people saw the team’s hopes of a Super Bowl run as low, but a few stand out performances got them where they wanted to be. Brady continued playing like an animal in the postseason with 671 passing yards including three touchdowns in their most recent win against the Steelers in the AFC Championship. History also seems to be on Brady’s side as he in 4:0 all time against the Falcons with a 9:1 touchdown-interception ratio. A player who has really stepped up during the playoffs for the Patriots is wide receiver Chris Hogan. An under the radar player came up big in helping the Patriots push past the Pittsburgh Steelers. In just nine receptions he had 180 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns to go with them. There is no doubt that Brady will have him in mind as an option on the offense.

The deal breaker in this matchup is almost for certain going to be the battle of the defenses. It is proven that both teams have playmakers on the offensive side, but both of them also have defenses that wreak havoc on the offense they face. Brady may have four wins against the Falcons, but none of them had come against Dan Quinn’s new defense. A defense that the Patriots are all too familiar with. Quinn was the former defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, and his aggressive defensive style was seen by the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. Along with this defense that previously troubled the Pats, the Falcons also have the potential Defensive Player of The Year Vic Beasley doing anything he can to get to Brady.

On to the Patriots defense. The Falcons will definitely be tested, as the last two weeks they have faced teams with defenses plagued with injury. The Seahawks losing Earl Thomas in the secondary critically affected their ability to stop the pass, and the Packers simply didn’t have an outstanding defense to begin with. This Sunday, the Falcons will come face to face with the defense that has held opponents to fewer points than anyone else in the league. The passing game, which is a huge part of the Falcons game plan, will be challenged by All Pros Devin McCourty, Defensive Back, and Malcolm Butler, cornerback.

Altogether, Super Bowl LI will come down to what team can capitalize on the others mistakes and who can make the biggest plays against the other team’s defense. Regardless, it is going to be a great game to watch.