Super Bowl LI preview and prediction
With another NFL season set to come to an end on Sunday, the Patriots and Falcons could be in store for a high-noon showdown of two extremely powerful offenses. Which team has the edge to take home the Lombardi Trophy?
Once again, we’ve reached that part of the year when college football is over, and the NFL season is just days away from wrapping up as well. The 51st edition of the Super Bowl takes place tomorrow, and what an end to the season it will be.
Down at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, the perennial kings of the NFL – the New England Patriots – will clash with the red-hot Atlanta Falcons. Very few, if any, believed Atlanta would reach this point, but behind one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history, the Falcons proved the naysayers wrong.
The Falcons’ offense really is one of the best in NFL history. Want some evidence? Well, there just so happens to be plenty of it. The Falcons scored 540 points this season (tied for seventh most all-time), 40-plus in a game five times (tied for second most in a single season) and 3.23 points per drive (No. 1 in the league). Matt Ryan also became just the third NFL player – along with Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers – to pass for over 4,500 yards and less than 10 interceptions in a single season.
The sheer number of weapons that Atlanta possesses on the offensive side of the ball is staggering. Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Taylor Gabriel, Tevin Coleman and Mohamed Sanu have all provided valuable contribution to the league’s top offense. These playmakers, along with insane efficiency and consistency, have made the 2016 Atlanta Falcons’ offense one of the best ever.
However, the defense has not been nearly as stellar as its offensive counterpart. Although the defense has made significant strides in recent weeks, it still has some work to do and is no doubt the weak point of this Falcons team. Atlanta ranked No. 25 in total defense, No. 28 in pass defense, No. 17 in rush defense and No. 27 in points allowed this season. Not exactly great numbers, especially considering the team, and quarterback, that’s lining up on the other side.
While Atlanta’s offense is receiving most of the attention, like always, Tom Brady has been the architect of a lethal New England offense. The Patriots rank fourth in both total offensive yards and pass yards per game, and the team overall averaged the third most points per game this season.
Bill Belichick, Brady and the New England offensive playmakers are more than capable of keeping pace with Atlanta in a shootout. What this game may very well come down to, though, is the Patriots’ defense.
Unlike the Falcons, New England had a very solid defense this season. Statistically speaking, the Patriots finished eighth in the league in yards allowed, 12th in the league in pass yards allowed per game and tied for third in rush yards allowed. The Pats also allowed the fewest points by any defense in the NFL this season.
Despite countless people rooting for Atlanta to put an end to the Patriots’ reign over the NFL, there’s one glaring obstacle that stands in the way. New England has shown that it has a solid defense that is capable of slowing down powerful offenses – Atlanta hasn’t.
The Falcons’ explosiveness and skill on offense will keep this one close, but New England’s defense will stifle them and keep it from becoming an all-out shootout. Belichick and Brady—annoyingly so— prove once again why they’re so great and close out their fifth Super Bowl victory.
Kick-off is set for 6:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
Prediction: New England 31, Atlanta 27
Edited by David Bradford
Featured image by Keith Allison, courtesy of Creative Commons
Adam is the Assistant Sports Editor for the Tennessee Journalist and a Junior at UT. Most of his free time is spent watching sports, listening to good music, and enjoying life. If you wish to contact him, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter, @AdamMilliken14, or find him at https://www.linkedin.com/pub/adam-milliken/109/a89/a32.