This year’s matchup is one of the most intriguing in recent years. For decades the received wisdom has been that “defence wins championships”, but that has become less true in recent years, with Super Bowl LI boasting the two most prolific offences in the NFL.
The Atlanta Falcons are the highest scoring offence in NFL history – an amazing feat. A mixture of an MVP calibre QB, a one-two punch of complementing running backs, and one of, if not the, best WR and slot duos in the league is what has earned them that title. Their offence didn’t skip a beat facing either the Seahawks or the Packers in the play offs, posting up 80 points in those two matchups combined. This means that every team they have faced has had to play catch-up. When an offence can put the opposition in such a predictable passing situation, the defence’s job becomes much easier, and their defence has been able to capitalise on this and do enough to help the offence take them to victory. However, it is worth noting that this defensive unit is not one to be shrugged off. The Falcons have very quietly been doing a good job on the defensive side of the ball, capped by an all-pro, and perhaps league leading, performance by Vic Beasley.
Facing the Falcons is the prolific and frightening unit of New England Patriots. This is Tom Brady’s seventh Super Bowl, four of which he has won. This is the most by any player in the history of the NFL, and a stat that should strike fear into any opposing team. This experience will help Brady stay calm in a situation that would phase others and, if he can help level out his team too, they are going to be very hard to beat. The Patriots have thrived on doing what they always do; being productive on offence and “doing their job on defence”. Although their stat lines this year have not been much to write home about, they have been able to be productive no matter the situation or matchup.
If the Falcons are able to enjoy their usual production on offence then the Patriots are going to be in for a wild one. They are not a team that is used to playing from behind, as they are normally the team with the powerhouse offence. However, in this matchup they are undeniably outmatched on offence. Where the Patriots will need to thrive is in coaching and taking away the weapons of the Falcons – something that is easier said than done when there are so many. Look for this game to be a shootout, as neither defence seems capable of containing the other's offence. Although that was said about the Packers before facing the Falcons, the Patriots aren’t going to roll over like the Packers did, and Tom Brady is a different animal in the Super Bowl. The clincher in this game will be whether the Falcons' young team is able to stay composed and effective on such a big stage.
It seems as though it is the Falcons’ year. They have been agonisingly close to the Super Bowl so many times, but this year have been able to string it all together. Provided the offence can stay composed and effective, the magnitude of the weapons they have in their armoury, complemented by the pass rush ability of Vic Beasley, should edge the Falcons to victory, but don’t think this is going to be a blowout. Tom and the Patriots are going to put up a fight - that much is for sure.
- Sports.net’s Top Tip: Falcons to win at 7/5
*Please note, odds may fluctuate.