Beasley led the NFL in sacks this season

Falcons Key Defensive Players’ Odds – Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons will battle the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium on Sunday.

The NFC South side have reached the Vince Lombardi trophy game for only the second time in the history of their franchise and will be desperate to leave Houston with their first crown.

Quarterback Matt Ryan’s exceptional form has guided them into the contest due to his brilliance during the regular and post-season, including a four-touchdown display in the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers.

The onus will be on the 31-year-old to win the game for Dan Quinn’s men and he is more than capable of achieving the feat having done so for the majority of the season. However, the Atlanta defense will at the least need to slow Tom Brady and company down, forcing the Patriots to play catch up.

We’ll now break down the three key defensive players for the Falcons in their attempts to hold Brady and the potent New England offense in check on Sunday.

Vic Beasley

Beasley led the NFL in sacks this season

The Falcons used the eighth selection in the 2015 Draft to pick Beasley out of the Clemson Tigers, where he had starred in the college game. Quinn’s men desperately needed to bolster their pass-rush ability following their underwhelming 2014 campaign and the defensive end fitted the bill to transform their defense into an attacking force off the edge.

Beasley struggled during his first season in the NFL as he notched only four sacks during the campaign. He was not the only player to suffer on the roster as Atlanta collapsed from a 5-0 start to lose eight of their remaining 11 matches. However, Beasley would use the experience of his rookie year to inspire him to greatness in his second term in the league, making the leap to an All-Pro calibre pass-rusher.

The 24-year-old had a breakout performance against the Denver Broncos as he was a constant presence in the backfield, notching 3.5 sacks against rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch.  He followed that up with a two-sack performance against the San Diego Chargers further strengthening his claim in being one of the dominant pass-rushers in the NFL.

Beasley displayed outstanding performances down the stretch with three sacks against the Los Angeles Rams and another two against the Philadelphia Eagles. He ended the campaign with a league-leading 15.sacks, although he has been extremely quiet in the post-season thus far, recording only two tackles.

For the Falcons to triumph on Sunday, the 24-year-old will need to be menace to Brady and his offensive line. The formula for beating Brady as the New Giants proved in Super XLII and XLVI is to put constant pressure on the 39-year-old, therefore he will need to have a productive day, with Bovada sportsbook backing him at -115 to have over 0.5 sacks.

Robert Alford

Alford will need a strong performance

The cornerback was selected in the second round of the 2013 Draft as the Falcons double-dipped at the position, picking Desmond Trufant in the first. Alford was a steady player for the club in his first two seasons at the Georgia Dome, but rose to become a permanent fixture alongside Trufant in the secondary in his third year.

He returned an interception for a touchdown against the Washington Redkins in the 2015 season, picking off Kirk Cousins and running the ball back 59 yards for the score in a 25-19 victory. He notched two picks on that day, highlighting his improvement as he put in a number of solid performances for the rest of the season.

The 28-year-old has become the senior figure in the secondary after the selection of Keanu Neal this year, while Trufant was ruled out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. He has risen to the challenge of being the number one cornerback in Quinn’s outfit, defending the opposition’s best wideout, and has deflected 19 passes over the course of the term along with two interceptions.

He scored his second defensive touchdown in a thumping win over the Carolina Panthers and will need to display that playmaking ability in abundance on Sunday. Alford will likely be covering Julian Edelman, knowing that he cannot allow the wideout to take over the contest. Should the Patriots receiver thrive at NRG Stadium then it will heap huge pressure on the rest of the defense as well as Ryan to keep pace with Brady and company.

He is backed at +600   to make an interception in the Super Bowl and a play like that could be enough to turn the match in favour of Atlanta.

Keanu Neal

Neal has been physical this season

The Falcons used another first-round pick on defense in the 2016 Draft going after Neal to add a physical edge to their secondary. Quinn was defensive coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks and witnessed firsthand the fear Kam Chancellor could instil on opposing receivers, especially his tone-setting hit on Denver Broncos wideout Demaryius Thomas in Super Bowl XLVIII. As a result, Atlanta selected almost a carbon-copy of the safety when they picked the 21-year-old.

Neal missed the first two matches of the season due to injury, but has made his presence felt over the course of the season. He has forced five fumbles from opposing players due to the ferocity of his hits, while he has also amassed 105 tackles – second in the team behind linebacker Deion Jones. The 21-year-old’s speed and length has allowed him to match up with tight ends, enhancing the types of coverage Quinn can use in the secondary. He has been well worth the first-round selection so far and has an extremely high ceiling to improve in the future.

The safety will be extremely important in this contest as Martellus Bennett is one of the leading tight ends in the NFL. He has yet to explode for the Patriots this term, but in the Super Bowl a player with talent is always a credible threat and he will need to be shackled in order for the Falcons to triumph. Neal’s sure tackling will also be vital in stopping yards after the catch from all of New England’s receivers.

Therefore take the over with Bovada for the 21-year-old to have 7.5 tackles or more at -115 . Neal has recorded the over on seven occasions this season, including in his side’s divisional round win over the Seattle Seahawks.

Tips Summary

Vic Beasley To Record Over 0.5 Sacks
Sunday 5th February 18:40 ET (23:40 GMT)
Odds: -115

Robert Alford To Record One Interception
Sunday 5th February 18:40 ET (23:40 GMT)
Odds: +600

Keanu Neal To Record Over 7.5 Tackles
Sunday 5th February 18:40 ET (23:40 GMT)
Odds: -115

 

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