Feb. 01, 2017
Super Bowl Preview
Arguably the biggest game in all of American sporting is finally upon us. The Atlanta Falcons and New England coasted to victories in their conference championship games. Atlanta stifled the hot Green Bay offense, and strutted away with a 44-21 victory and their first Super Bowl appearance since 1999. New England and Tom Brady did as they usually did and defied the odds and expectations to make it to the big game. They downed the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17. The two will clash in the biggest game in football, and what better way to get ready for it than to break it down from a fundamental standpoint.
This game will be one of quarterbacks with something to prove. For much too long, Matt Ryan has been questioned on the legitimacy of his talent and success. Many say his success should be accredited to the "system" he is a part of. That, of course, is garbage. Anyone with the statistics Ryan has is a good player, regardless of the offense that they run. Matt Ryan is an elite quarterback in my eyes, but not so in the eyes of the masses. A Super Bowl win over Brady and Belichick would solidify him as a top tier quarterback.
As for Brady, he's just angry. He's out to spite Goodell, the entire NFL, anyone who's every doubted, and basically anyone who'll watch. He's doing a good job of doing so too. After his four week enforced hiatus from football, Brady came back with a vengeance, and torched the entire league. A great way to top off his outstanding play this season would be putting another ring on his hand. He has to be running out of room by now.
The game itself is an intriguing one. Atlanta brings a red hot offense into the game. The dirty birds rank first in points per game, second in yards per game, and third in pass yards per game. Matt Ryan orchestrates Kyle Shanahan's offense perfectly. The steady diet of quick hitter passes lulls a defense to sleep, only for Matty Ice to launch a bomb to an uncovered Julio Jones or Mohamed Sanu. This is not a one dimensional offense, however. The deadly one-two punch of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman make them as much of a threat on the ground as they are through the air. Not to mention, Freeman is one of the best receiving backs in the league, which makes him a perfect fit for this Falcon's offense.
As for the Patriots, they just keep finding ways to win. Brady and Belichick make average players look like Pro Bowlers. For example, former Penn State lacrosse player Chris Hogan snagged 9 passes for 180 yards and 180 yards in the AFC championship game against the Steelers. Also against the Steelers, former Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman caught 8 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. Belichick's nose for talent is incomparable. He and the New England front office have pieced together a perfect offense for Brady to work with.
The game will be decided by who's defense shows up. Atlanta looked impressive stopping Green Bay's signal caller Aaron Rodgers, even though he was out of receivers, running backs, linemen, and everything else. The Patriots too shut down the otherwise unstoppable Pittsburgh offense. Le'Veon Bell had just 20 yards, but Big Ben and his receivers still had a decent day. Roethlisberger threw for 300 yards, 77 of which went to Antonio Brown. Matt Ryan and his boys are much better through the air, which could be an issue for the Patriots.
Predicting a winner is a tough task. The gut feeling choice is the Falcons. Atlanta moves the ball with ease, and their defense is good enough to make a few stops, which is all Matt Ryan needs. Then again, we're talking about the Patriots here. Brady and Belichick have never cared when the odds were against them. They find ways to win. Brady can orchestrate a scoring drive at will. This time however, I think Brady fails to add to his trophy case. The balanced air and ground attack from Atlanta will be too much. While the Patriots will put up their fair share of points as well, their defense is not prepared for the monsters that are the dirty birds. Atlanta will walk away with the win in a shootout, 49-35. Regardless of the actual outcome, it looks to be a well contested game, one that the sports world will appreciate. A proven legend and future hall of famer squares off against a quarterback with something to prove and his band of speedy targets. We're in for a treat for Super Bowl LI.