Super Bowl LI Preview
On Feb. 5 Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons will step onto the NRG Stadium field against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Houston, Texas. Both teams coasted through the playoffs with fairly dominant performances leaving them as the last two teams standing for Super Bowl LI.
The Patriots (16-2) are on a roll after a 19-point victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game sending them to their seventh Super Bowl in the Bill Belichick / Tom Brady era. Even without Rob Gronkowski’s game-changing abilities, the offense has flourished all season long with Brady finding a mismatch on a weekly basis.
Martellus Bennett has stepped in for Gronkowski while Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan all consistently find a way to get open. The Patriots defense is same as usual with their “bend but don’t break” mentality. There aren’t many big names on that side of the ball but they all do their job on every snap.
The Falcons (13-5) clinched their second Super Bowl appearance after dismantling the Green Bay Packers by a 23 point margin. Matt Ryan threw for a jaw-dropping 392 yards on 27 out of 38 passes. Julio Jones was the star of the game catching nine of those passes for 180 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The Atlanta offense has been flying high all season long and is the most balanced in the league. With running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman taking turns in the backfield making explosive runs, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has turned his young defense into a turnover-making machine with second-year pass rusher Vic Beasley thriving at getting to the quarterback.
However, the injury bug has plagued the Atlanta offense of recent. Jones has been playing through a bad toe for the latter half of the season and should not be affected in the Super Bowl, but their Pro Bowl center Alex Mack sustained an injury to his lower leg in the NFC Championship Game. Center Alex Mack sat out of practice all week but will be snapping the ball to Matt Ryan in the Super Bowl.
This should be a knockdown drag out fight of a Super Bowl with truly the two best teams playing one another. One of the game’s biggest questions is can the Falcons score touchdowns against Bill Belichick’s stingy defense that suffocates teams in the red zone forcing them to kick field goals? In a game that may come down to the final drive, both teams have quarterbacks that excel in leading their team down the field for game winning drives.
The Patriots last six Super Bowls have been decided by four points or less, meaning this Super Bowl will likely be another close one.