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The talk is over; it’s time for Super Bowl LI to commence as the Atlanta Falcons face off against the New England Patriots for the Vince Lombardi trophy.
History beckons for either of these outstanding teams as the Falcons could claim their first NFL Championship, while Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are pursuing a fifth crown as a tandem that would see them surpass all of their respective rivals.
Both sides have had two weeks to prepare for their explosive offenses, but all that will be put to the test in the chaos on the field at NRG Stadium.
The Patriots have the experience, while Atlanta has the youthful exuberance, so we’ll see which attribute comes out on top to claim the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Both of these sides are excellent outfits and the match will be determined by who comes up with the plays in the crucial moments. New England experienced this first hand in their Super Bowl triumph in the 2014 campaign when Malcolm Butler came out of nowhere to win the contest for Belichick’s men with a goalline interception.
There could be a member of either side ready to emerge to become a superstar on the NFL’s biggest stage. Therefore the outcome of the contest is an incredibly hard game to predict as it has staged some of the biggest upsets, including the Patriots loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
Third-string wide receiver David Tyree pulled off one of the most memorable catches in NFL history, ruining the potential for a perfect season for Belichick’s men. The AFC outfit have been on both sides of heartbreak and joy, and that experience will help keep their emotions in check on Sunday.
Atlanta have a young team and that could be a blessing and a curse in key moments. It has affected them at times this term, which is why they boasted an 11-5 record. At their best they were electric, but at their worst were cut open with ease by quality opponents; which is why the 14-2 Patriots are favoured heading into the contest.
The Falcons will need the 2016 season’s MVP to have a stellar performance to overcome New England’s number one ranked defence and given his form of the last two playoff matches it might be a solid option to take at 5/4 2.25 +125 1.25 1.25 -0.80 with Bovada sportsbook. The line has not changed at all since Championship weekend, highlighting the uncertainty over the result.
Ryan’s fellow 2008 Draft class quarterback Joe Flacco put on a clinic in the post-season four years ago to guide the Baltimore Ravens to their second triumph. The 31-year-old has been outstanding thus far and has the nickname ‘Matty Ice’ to prove that he won’t be overawed by the occasion. Expect him to have a strong display to guide the Falcons to a narrow victory over the Patriots.
Therefore it would also be wise to take the +3 spread at evens for the Falcons. All of New England’s Super Bowls under Belichick have been decided by four points or fewer, so we should expect another close game. Whatever happens we’ll be in for a thrilling contest.
The Falcons have the best offense in the NFL and could simply outscore the Patriots. New England’s defense has not face many quality quarterbacks over the course of the season, and when they did come up against a fearsome foe in Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson they conceded a term-high 31 points.
Belichick’s men were not tested in the playoffs either as Houston Texans’ Brock Osweiler proved to be an anchor to his team, while the Pittsburgh Steelers lost their dynamic running back Le’Veon Bell after a handful of plays.
Dan Quinn’s side have enough depth on their offense to stretch the Patriots’ defense, putting pressure on players such as Patrick Chung and Eric Rowe to cover down the field.
Julio Jones will draw a lot of coverage from the Patriots, with Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty likely to be faced with the All-Pro. However, he has the talent to make incredible plays that have haunted New England in Super Bowls past to guide the Falcons to victory.
The running game has also been crucial for Quinn’s men this term. The Patriots struggled to cover CJ Prosise in their defeat to the Seahawks and have had no answer for receiving backs in the open field. Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman have the ability to turn small catches into huge gains in the open field and have the ability to break the Patriots with their chain-moving carries.
On the other side of the ball, the Falcons defense will not be able to stop Brady and company, but must limit them to help Ryan and his offense. Vic Beasley will have an important role as one strip-sack of the Patriots quarterback might be enough to swing the match in favour of his side.
Brady and company have also been outstanding, but are not the infallible offense they were in their last Super Bowl triumph in 2014. On that occasion Rob Gronkowski was in the line-up, fit and healthy to make crucial catches, including one for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Julian Edelman has been excellent over the last three matches, with 100-yard performances in both playoff games. Chris Hogan has enjoyed a breakout season and notched two touchdowns in the AFC Championship game to guide the Patriots to the win. Both of these players have the skill and speed to break open the Falcons’ defense and continue their level of brilliance, while Danny Amendola, Martellus Bennett and Malcolm Mitchell will also play a vital role.
Atlanta’s defense is not the best and the Patriots can increase the pressure on Ryan to perform by moving down the field with ease. The running game will also be crucial as LeGarrette Blount has been a force in the redzone this term with 18 touchdowns. He can control the pace of the game with his brute power to keep Ryan and company off the field. Dion Lewis and James White can also be a factor in the ground game should the Patriots choose to employ a power philosophy.
The game will be decided on the contest between New England’s defense and the Falcons’ offense. Should they limit Atlanta’s success in the endzone like they have done all season, then the franchise will be hoisting their fifth Vince Lombardi trophy, but if they fail and put pressure on Brady then it could lead to a fifth defeat in the Super Bowl.
Given that offense has been vital in the NFL this season, the Falcons carry the slight edge into the contest due to the diversity of the weapons. Their primary man Jones will be on the field, while Gronkowski will be forced to watch from the sideline due to his back injury.
Both teams will be able to put up points, but Ryan will just edge his side ahead of Brady and company to secure the Falcons’ first Vince Lombardi trophy.
Atlanta Falcons 34-31 New England Patriots
Atlanta Falcons To Beat New England Patriots
Sunday 5th February 18:40 ET (23:40 GMT)
Odds: 5/4 2.25 +125 1.25 1.25 -0.80
Atlanta Falcons To Cover +3 Spread
Sunday 5th February 18:40 ET (23:40 GMT)