Key Matchups in Super Bowl LI
They say everything is bigger in Texas, including the showdown between this year's AFC and NFC Champions. As we approach the slugfest in NRG Stadium, that are some matchups that look to be critical in how the game may pan out.
Julio Jones vs. Malcolm Butler
It is no surprise that Julio Jones shows up early on this list. Julio Jones has cemented himself as one of the top 3 receivers in the NFL.
Queue Operation BB. Bill Belichick is known for his ability to make his opponents #1 weapon disappear. Last week, Antonio Brown was a non-factor, piling up 7 catches on 9 targets for only 77 yards (his longest catch went for 18 yards late in the 3rd quarter). Malcolm Butler has done an exceptional job shutting down opposing #1 wideouts, but Julio Jones poses a unique threat. Standing at 6'3", 220 lbs., Jones may be Butler's (who stands at 5'11", 190 lbs.) toughest task this season.
Devonta Freeman & Tevin Coleman vs New England's Front 7
Not only were the Atlanta Falcons #1 in Total Offense and Passing in the NFL, but they ranked #5 in Rushing behind arguably the best two-headed running attack in the NFL. Freeman finished the regular season with over 1,000 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns, while Coleman ended the year with an impressive 4.4 yards per carry and 8 touchdowns.
The Patriots rush defense, however, is not one to take lightly. The New England Defense gave up only 79.8 rushing yards per game, making them the #4 ranked Rush Defense. They also only allowed one rushing touchdown all season. After the Jaime Collins trade in Week 8, all hope for the 'bend but don't break' defense seemed to be lost, but key contributions from a couple former first and second round picks (Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy) sured up the Patriots front 7.
David Andrews vs. Falcons Pass Rush
It is no secret that the best way to slow down Tom Brady is with pressure in his face. Whitney Mercilus and Vince Wilfork wrecked havoc against the Pats during the Divisional Round, and most of the pressure came from up the middle. Quite simply, if the Falcons are looking to disrupt Brady, the formula says the man to watch is David Andrews.