On Sunday the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons will battle it out at NRG Stadium in Super Bowl LI for the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Both teams boast a vast array of talented players and coaches; therefore we should be in store for an outstanding match.
The two sides have had two weeks since their respective wins in Championship weekend to put their gameplans in place, with both hoping the time has been enough to put a solid scheme to guide their team to victory in Houston.
Atlanta’s offense has been one of the most potent in the history of the NFL and the Patriots will have their hands full coping with Julio Jones and company.
However, on the other side of the ball the Falcons have had their struggles on defense and will have to face arguably the greatest quarterback of all time in Tom Brady.
We’ll now take a look at how both teams will deploy themselves on Super Bowl Sunday in their attempt to win the Vince Lombardi trophy, with the Patriots currently backed by Bovada sportsbook as the favourite at – to win their fifth crown.
Atlanta made a point of adding talent around Jones in the off-season. The burden on the All-Pro was overwhelming last term, but the arrival of players such as Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel and tight end Austin Hooper has added a new dimension to the Falcons’ offense and has allowed Ryan to sit into a comfortable groove.
The 31-year-old has been outstanding at spreading the ball around his wideouts this season, which has allowed the offense to have rhythm throughout the term. Ryan has thrown 38 touchdowns to just seven interceptions, but no player on the team has more than receiving strikes, highlighting the balance the club have in their passing game.
On the other side of the ball, the Patriots were forced to rebuild their secondary since their last Super Bowl triumph. Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington all started the contest, but were moved on following the success. The club’s hero of that day Malcolm Butler has risen to become one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks, while Logan Ryan has provided a steady influence alongside him.
The third position has been a revolving door with Justin Coleman and Cyrus Jones unable to prove their worth, forcing Bill Belichick to trade for Eric Rowe. He’s been decent, but could be exposed by the Falcons’ depth of weapons. Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon will do their best to limit the damage.
Look for Ryan and McCourty to attempt to limit Jones’ impact on the game, while Butler will erase the second option – either Sanu or Gabriel – with the contest hinging on Rowe’s coverage of the third option. Mario Manningham won the game for the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, while Chris Matthews came close two years ago. Could there be a hero lurking for the Falcons?
The Patriots’ offensive line were blamed for the club’s collapse in the AFC Championship game last season as Von Miller destroyed Tom Brady, with the Denver Broncos’ defense hitting the quarterback 20 times. Dave DeGuglielmo was fired as offensive line coach and Dante Scarnecchia was brought back from retirement to steady the ship.
Since the opening weeks of the campaign, New England have enjoyed consistency across their line with Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder excelling in the tackle positions, while Shaq Mason has flourished in his sophomore season. Joe Thuney has endured some rookie issues, while David Andrews was mauled by the Texans’ defensive line, highlighting an area that the Falcons could exploit to get to Brady.
The problem for the Falcons is outside of NFL sack-leader Vic Beasley there are not many of their players that can get after the 39-year-old. Dwight Freeney has an abundance of experience, but his best days are behind him at the age of 36, while Grady Jarrett and Rashede Hageman are not renowned for their ability to burst through the line. Brooks Reed could offer a surge, but Atlanta cannot afford to blitz Brady as he will pick apart their defense with ease.
Teams that have had success against Brady and the Patriots in the past have been able to rattle the quarterback. The Giants, Broncos and Ravens are the last teams to beat the Patriots in the playoffs and have made life extremely difficult for him to thrive. Unless Beasley has a monster game against Cannon, expect Brady to have a clean day for Belichick’s men.
One of the underrated aspects of the Super Bowl coming into the contest is how the Falcons will attempt to stop Brady and company. A lot of the attention has been focused on Matt Ryan’s battle against New England’s defense, but Belichick’s can do just as much damage when they have the ball with the plethora of weapons.
Julian Edelman has been outstanding over the past month, recording 100-yard performances for three matches on the bounce, while Chris Hogan put the Steelers to the sword with a two-touchdown display in the AFC Championship game. Elsewhere the Patriots have Martellus Bennett, who has struggled with injuries, but remains one of the best tight ends in the league, as well as the experience of Danny Amendola and the potential of Malcolm Mitchell.
The Falcons would love to have Desmond Trufant healthy and his absence could tip the balance, although the other hand the Patriots are missing Rob Gronkowski. If both players were fit, the matchup would still favour the AFC side. Robert Alford, Jalen Collins and Brian Poole have their work cut out for them covering Edelman and company as all three rely on their physical skills rather than their technique.
New England’s wideouts are all technicians and make yardage after the catch and with their skill at route-running. Tackling will be key to limit their YAC, as should they struggle like the Steelers there will be no stopping Belichick’s men from running riot. Keanu Neal should match up well with Bennett to keep him under wraps, although should he lose the battle that could really tip the scales in the favour of the AFC outfit.