Feb. 06, 2017
"The Stack" 2-3-17
The time has come. It is the last Football Friday of the 2016-17 NFL season. Heck it could be the last Football Friday with the way things have been going lately. By now everyone should know that the Super Bowl is this Sunday pitting the Atlanta Falcons against the New England Patriots. The Stack is here with the Super Bowl preview we hope you demand so let’s get right to “the stack” for today, Friday, February 3rd:
Super Bowl LI (Houston, Texas)
Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots 6:30 PM ET FOX
It’s all come down to this. One final game. The New England Patriots have been in this position a lot over recent years. Apart from a few players, the Falcons haven’t. Their head coach has though. He was the defensive coordinator with Seattle for their two Super Bowl appearances in the last few years and the Falcons will lean on his expertise. The over/under for this game is hovering right around 57, 58, 59 points. Take the over. We’re going to see a lot of points in this one I feel.
Look at Atlanta’s offense. Even if the Patriots find some way to slow Julio Jones down (easier said than done), the Falcons still have a lot of offensive weapons. Matt Ryan is playing the best football of his professional career. He is really going to miss Kyle Shanahan next year, but he has him for this game. He will take what the Patriots give them. And if the Falcons get the ball first, they will try to score an opening touchdown for the ninth consecutive game. That’s right, the Falcons have scored a touchdown on their first drive in each of the last eight games. We know Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are going to see plenty of action running the football and catching passes out of the backfield. The Patriot defense is good, but there is not way they completely stop the Falcons. Their only attempt is to slow them down. That is why it is critical that Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel and maybe even rookie Justin Hardy come up big when their number is called. It’s bound to happen.
Meanwhile, the Patriots seem to do just about whatever they want to on offense. I give you the AFC Championship game as an example. Who would have ever thought Chris Hogan would have 180 yards and two touchdowns? Maybe it was in part because the Steelers elected not to cover him, but this is what the Patriots do. They come up with different ways to attack you and make you bleed to death. Need five yards? They’ll pick up seven. 3rd and 10? Here’s 15 yards. They just do it. Tom Brady is a wizard at getting the right amount of yards he needs and guys like Julian Edelman are very difficult to bring down in the open field. LaGarrette Blount is going to have a decent day rushing the football, but it is the other two backs, Dion Lewis and James White who will have the biggest impact, because they will create mismatches for the Falcons defense when they line up to go out for a pass. I may even go so far as to say that Freeman, Coleman, Lewis and White combine for 20 catches. It would not shock me.
I thought that Atlanta’s defense had been getting this year. It feels like it anyway. Vic Beasley led the league in sacks. Dan Quinn is a defensive minded coach, but the way the offense scores points is quite deceiving when looking at the defense. They are in the bottom half of the league in passing yards allowed, points per game allowed and even rushing yards allowed. Again though, that can be a bit deceiving since teams are behind them a lot so they have to throw in order to catch up. The defense has improved some since Dan Quinn took over, but they are going to have to rise up to another level in order to stop Brady and Patriots offense who as I mentioned above can beat them a number of different ways.
The Falcons were the highest scoring offensive team in the NFL this season. The Patriots defense was the top rated scoring defense. Something has to give here. Four of the last five times the top scoring team met the top scoring defensive team, defense came out on top. That makes me want to lean towards the Patriots.
Before I get to making my pick, enjoy Lady Gaga at halftime and do yourself a favor and pick some of the prop bets. It doesn’t have to be anything special. Could simply be what the coin toss will be or what color Gatorade will be dumped on the winning team? Or you could go a little deeper and bet if Joe Buck will be cleanly shaven or sporting a beard. Will he say Houston, hello at any point during the game? How many shots of J.J. Watt will we see? There are plenty of prop bets to make and I encourage you to take part in them even if you don’t plan on betting. And we had a better batch of commercials last year overall I thought, but we haven’t had a great collection of commercials in at least five years. Hopefully this year we get consistent laughs. Doritos will deliver. GNC won’t since their ad was pulled by the NFL earlier this week. We’ll look at the commercials on Monday.
Now for the pick. I really want to pick the Falcons, truly I do. I think they have what it takes to beat the Patriots, but until some team other than the New York Giants and Eli Manning prove they can beat the Patriots, I have to go with Brady and Belichick in another close one. Roger Goodell will have to hand the MVP trophy to Tom Brady in what will be one of the most awkward moments not just of this season, but within the last few NFL seasons for sure. Points galore in this game.
Prediction: Patriots 34 Falcons 31
Coming up Monday: Super Bowl LI reaction