Super Bowl 51: New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons preview and predictions

Ladies and gentlemen, the day is finally here. After 256 regular season games that spanned four months, as well as a Playoff season that featured some insanity, the Super Bowl finally takes place in Houston tonight.

The matchup? It’s an iconic one. Number one offense vs. number one defense. New contender that’s only made the Super Bowl once in its 50+ year existence, versus the modern day dynasty. The Falcons, versus the Patriots. Stevens and Ryan, two men who’ve been good to great more often than not but haven’t been given too much credit, against Belichick and Brady, two icons of the game who might well be the greatest coach and quarterback in league history.

And all that doesn’t even include Deflategate! Will Roger Goodell have the last laugh, or will he have to hand the Lombardi Trophy over to Brady and Belichick yet again, as the latter duo aims to win their fifth Super Bowl?

I won’t bore anyone with stats or a season recap of both teams. At this point, it can’t be denied that the Falcons finally played good to great for a full season, while scoring 80 combined points in two blowout postseason games.

Quarterback Matt Ryan just won MVP last night. Julio Jones is one of the league’s two best receivers. The running duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman is a great 1-2 punch. The offensive line is as great as it’s ever been for the team, and the defense, led by NFL sack leader Vic Beasley struggled in the regular season, but has held up well in the playoffs. If they can pressure Tom Brady and the league’s top offense can deliver, they can win the game.

As for the Pats, what’s there to say? The team didn’t have Tom Brady at quarterback in the first four games this year, yet still went 3-1 in that stretch. Since his return, they scored at least 30 points in seven of the final 12 regular season games, and 70 combined in their two playoff games.

Julian Edelman is still as great a weapon for the team as he always was. There’s a bevy of other receivers that just do their jobs, including deep threat Chris Hogan, and even without Rob Gronkowski,  the offense has been doing just fine.

The Falcons running duo is often talked about, but the Pats have a bruiser in LeGarrette Blount, who led the league in rushing touchdowns this year. Combine him with terrific dual threat backs Dion Lewis and James White, and voila! Great running back core detected.

What else do the Patriots have, besides an offense that’s still very potent? They have the league’s top defense. They also have a coach who many people consider to be the greatest in NFL history in Bill Belichick. They are a team that never beats itself. And this time, they’re on a mission against the league, and are one win away from extracting their vengeance.

So, what’s going to happen? Will the Pats get their revenge for Deflategate?  Or will the Falcons, who less people bet on to make it this far than the lowly Browns, a team that’s been to one Super bowl in their half-century long existence and has been best known of late for choking down the stretch, finally pull it off?

Well, here’s my take. The Falcons offense is obviously great. Nobody who knows anything about the game can deny that. Well, so is the Patriots unit. Both teams have excellent special teams. The Pats have the coaching and experience edge. And on defense too. But they’ve yet to play an offense as great as the Falcons this year.

As a result, I believe the Falcons will play well tonight. They’ll load up the stat sheet with yards, first downs, etc. They question is, will they score more points than the Patriots?

My gut says that either the Falcons will somehow win big, or the Pats will win by a single possession. The former is just a flier of a thought, while the latter is much more reasonable. Either way, this could and likely will be a great game.

In the end, I think both teams will play well, avoid mistakes and play an ideal football game. Both Brady and Ryan will play well, with Ryan garnering more yards. All the running backs will do decent, but none of them will do anything too great. Taylor Gabriel and Chris Hogan, the two speedsters, will both make a big play for their respective teams, as will tight end Martellus Bennett for the Patriots.

It’ll likely be first to 30 wins, and while the score is hard to predict, (38-34? 34-31? Something else wntirely?) I’ll say the Patriots will win a close game by four points. I just hope it’s a great game that, like the college football championship, will be a classic that will leave fans satiated and satisfied with a game for the ages, or at least a good one that represents the stage in an ideal manner.

Prediction: Patriots 31, Falcons 27.


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