One of the primary matchups in Super Bowl LI this weekend is the high-scoring offense of the Atlanta Falcons against the sturdy defense of the New England Patriots. The Falcons boast one of the most consistent offensive lines in football, having the only group of five to start every single game this season. It’s not quite the same as offensive lineman Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns having never missed a single snap in the National Football League (NFL) during his eleven seasons, but it’s a streak.
The Falcons have a passing attack led by Matt Ryan, who has put together a strong candidacy for league MVP. A 38-7 touchdown-interception ratio is one of the best in recent memory, and comparable to the opposing quarterback, Tom Brady. Passing for an astounding 28 touchdowns to only two interceptions in the regular season, Brady has been marred by the fact he missed a full quarter of the season.
A result of the “Deflate-gate” scandal, Brady’s possibility of being handed the Lombardi Trophy from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after his failed appeal is anticipated to be one of the more awkward interactions by many—not including Brady and Goodell.
The Patriots boast the best scoring defense in the league, allowing only 15.6 points per game, and giving up more than 30 in a match only once. It’s a group attuned to the physical nature of the game, with solid tackling and patience from their big men. The Falcons, on the other hand, are all about speed. On offense and defense, the goal is to fly around the field and attack the ball. Thought of as a poor type of defense to contend for a championship, the Falcons style of play fits well with their young personnel. The top two leading tacklers, Deion Jones and Keanu Neal, are both rookies.
The youthful defense of the Falcons hopes to go toe-for-toe with one of the more experienced offenses in the history of the NFL. Bill Belichick, coach of the Patriots, and Brady are no strangers to the postseason. As a coach-quarterback pair, they have reached six Super Bowls, winning four. This, Brady’s seventh Super Bowl start, extends his NFL record for appearing in the biggest of games.
Receiver Julio Jones will play a big part for the Falcons, as he will likely face a large amount of coverage from Patriot Malcom Butler. If you don’t remember, this was the guy who intercepted the ball intended to be handed off to Marshawn Lynch in the Super Bowl two years ago, sealing a Patroit victory. Jones’s speed and size will be a large challenge, and do not be surprised if he can open up some lanes for his fellow pass-catchers Mohammed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel.
I expect this to be one of the highest-scoring championship games of the past decades. A time when defenses can’t enforce their will as freely and quarterbacks aren’t allowed to play pattycake has led to a preference for offensive statistical dominance. Along with the raw ability of the two teams and their preparation, we should see two defenses get picked apart over the course of 60 minutes. I believe Atlanta has the tools on offense to sustain drives and score consistently against the best defense in the league, and will exceed the margin any other team has put up so far.
38-36 final score, Atlanta wins their first Super Bowl.