Finally. What we have all been waiting for. The stage is set. Two of the best teams in the league are set to battle one last time before we say goodbye to the 2016-17 NFL season.
SUPER BOWL 51
Who: Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots
Date: Sunday, February 5, 2017
Time: 3:30 PM PT
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
Two questions: Will Tom Brady lead the New England Patriots to victory, claiming their fifth ring in team history or will Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons win their first Super Bowl title in team history? Besides winning his fifth ring and becoming the only quarterback in NFL history to do so, Tom Brady could also become the only quarterback to win his 4th MVP trophy.
Now in terms of overall efficiency, these two are literally the best of the best.
The Atlanta Falcons are ranked #1 in offensive efficiency and #22 in defensive efficiency, while the Patriots are #2 in OE and #7 in DE. According to these stats, there’s a slight advantage to New England. When it comes to Special Teams, the Falcons are 10th in STE (Special Teams Efficiency), while the Pats are 4th in STE. With these efficiency numbers, we really are getting the best you can ask for.
The Falcons offensive unit is definitely considered to be the best in the league this year, led by the anticipated MVP Matt Ryan. This team is completely loaded with weapons. They are currently on a six-game winning spree, outscoring their opponents 234-116 during this streak.
Scoring early on is an advantage for the Falcons. This is because of their increasingly impressive offensive weapons of Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, etc. These weapons couldn’t be sprung without their offensive line that features the likes of Alex Mack (Pro Bowl Center). One more offensive stat for Atlanta: Matt Ryan ranks in the top 2 in QBR ranks of passes 10 yards and under, 11-20 yards, and more than 20, while against that, the Pats defense is 6th in 10 and under, 17th in 11-20, and 6th in more than 20. These two teams have scoring differentials off the charts.
Two Matchups to Watch (ATL OFF vs NE DEF):
Two-headed Atlanta rushing vs. Patriot Defensive Line
Now we go to the fierce Patriots offense up against the hot and young Falcons defense. This offense in Foxborough is ranked the second-best unit in the league, of course behind Atlanta. Tom Brady has really stuck it to Roger Goodell with his red-hot run, only throwing 2 interceptions in his 12 games this season.
They would love nothing more than to stick to him more by winning another title. On the other side, the Falcons defense wasn’t the best all year, but have shown up, only allowing 116 points in the last six games, which isn’t all bad when you considering they’ve had to fend off Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees.
When you look at the QBR rankings, Brady is 7th in 10 yards and under, 1st in 11-20 yards, and 8th in the 20+ yards category. For Atlanta, in 10 yards and under they are 26th, 5th in 11-20 yards, and 21st in 20+ yards, giving a clear QBR advantage to Tom Brady.
Two other things that could hurt Atlanta are their defensive experience and getting after the quarterback, where they rank 27th in QB pressure at 24.9%. On the plus side, their defensive minded head coach Dan Quinn has been in two of the previous three Super Bowls as the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks .
Two Matchups to Watch (NE OFF vs ATL DEF):
Tom Brady vs. Young Falcons Secondary
Patriots Offensive Line vs. Vic Beasley Jr.
For Atlanta, they rode a four-game winning streak into the playoffs and knocked off tough Seattle and Green Bay teams. Matt Ryan in the two playoff games this season has thrown for 730 yards, seven touchdowns, and zero interceptions, with a completion percentage of 70.6%.
On the other side, New England defeated the Texans and Steelers on their path to Houston. Brady in the playoffs this year has thrown for 671 yards, with 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, but both of those interceptions came from deflected passes against Houston.
Numbers from Vegas: The current line is (-3) in favor of the Patriots, and the over/under total is 59, the highest O/U in NFL Super Bowl history. The last over/under over 50 was the Super Bowl in 2012 between the Giants and Patriots, where the O/U was 53, but the game only totaled 38 points.
The second highest over/under ever was in 2010 at 57, a game between Peyton Manning and the Colts and Drew Brees and the Saints. The game totaled 48 points, nine short of the over/under. In the last five Super Bowls, the Vegas underdog has won the game. The last time a favorite won and covered the spread was Super Bowl 45 in 2011, when Green Bay won by six with being three point favorites.
Super Bowl History: Super Bowl LI will be the ninth time the New England Patriots have been in the big game, while Atlanta has only been to one Super Bowl prior to this one. The Pats have won four Super Bowls of their eight previous trips, all in the Brady-Belichick era, while the Falcons lost to the Broncos in their one previous Super Bowl appearance.
Q: How do the Patriots take away Julio Jones? (@Lecroytroy4)
A: I’m not sure you can even take him away, he is truly a matchup nightmare. The Patriots can double him up, but they may pay by giving up numbers to the other receivers or the Falcons running game.
Q: Do you think the New England defense can shut down the Atlanta offense? (@TheJonCarter)
A: There is absolutely no way to just shut them down, but if they can hold them under 30, it’d be a success. If there was a defense out of the final four in the conference championship that could shut them down, Patriots definitely stick out.