It’s here. Super Bowl 51. It is the biggest sporting event of the entire year. The AFC powerhouse New England Patriots will take on the Atlanta Falcons, who finished with the top offense in the NFL, on Sunday, Feb. 5.
This is the NFL-record seventh Super Bowl appearance for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his future hall-of-fame quarterback Tom Brady. They are obviously no strangers to the big stage, and they can pretty much seal the deal as the best coach/quarterback duo in the history of the game with a win.
The Falcons are in the Super Bowl for only the second time in franchise history, the first coming in 1998 when they lost to the Denver Broncos 34-19. Their quarterback Matt Ryan, who will probably win the league MVP, and his NFL-leading offense hope to bring the first championship to Atlanta since 1995 when the Braves won the World Series.
The Patriots opened as three-point favorites after this past Sunday night’s beatdown on the Pittsburgh Steelers, and that might be a bit generous. It is safe to give them the edge over the inexperienced Falcons when you have guys like Brady, Julian Eddleman and LaGarrett Blount who have done this before. But don’t be surprised if the Patriots’ top scoring defense is exposed by this high-power offense of the Falcons. They haven’t seen an offense this explosive all season.
If you like to cheer for the underdog (if you can even consider the Falcons an underdog) and you love to see a lot of points scored, this is the perfect Super Bowl to watch. The Falcons offense was second in the league in passing yards per game (295.3) and was first in points per game (40), and was second in the league to their NFC South counterparts, the New Orleans Saints, in total yards per game (415.8). While their offense has been virtually unstoppable all season, their inexperience could be their downfall.
When it comes to the New England Patriots, you either love them or hate them, but you have to respect their success. They have been to the conference championship game each of the last seven years, and been to two Super Bowls, defeating the Seattle Seahawks in 2014. No matter the circumstances, it is always safe to pick New England as the favorite.
As much as I hate to do it, I will have to choose experience over explosiveness. While I think Ryan will put his Falcons in a position to win and keep the game close, I don’t see them overcoming the brilliance of Belichick and Brady. It will be a shootout, but Brady will have the ball in his hands last and lead his team to a second Super Bowl win in four years.