Super Bowl LI preview

caption: Quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick will attempt to win their fifth ring together in Super Bowl LI.

Courtesy of @ItsTomBrady on Twitter.

caption: Quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick will attempt to win their fifth ring together in Super Bowl LI.

Edward Melsher, Public Relations

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It’s hard to follow up last year’s Super Bowl between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers. After an incredible upset which gave fans closure for distinguished quarterback Peyton Manning before he promptly retired, expectations are sky high for a shootout between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.With Super Bowl LI just a few days away, let’s take a look at each side of the ball for both contenders:

 

OFFENSE

New England Patriots

It’s impossible to mention the Patriots without mentioning legendary QB Tom Brady; the two are synonymous for the success they’ve achieved together since 2000. After stepping in for an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Brady has been a model of efficiency, boasting the record of winningest quarterback in NFL history, a perfect season in 2007, as well as four Super Bowl rings in six appearances. Even as he gets older, his skills never diminish; even after serving his four-game suspension for his role in “Deflategate,” Brady had the second highest QB rating (QBR) in his career this season, only behind that magical 2007 season in which he threw for 50 TD. With or without this fifth Super Bowl win, Brady will go down as perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Brady’s not all they have to worry about. The Patriots, while missing superstar TE Rob Gronkowski due to injury, have had other receiving playmakers emerge such as WR Chris Hogan (nine receptions for 180 yards and two TD in the AFC Championship Game) and fourth-round rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell (401 yards and four TD this season). However, as deadly as the passing attack is, the Patriots can also lean on RB Legarrette Blount if necessary; the sixth-year player out of Oregon racked up over 1,000 yards rushing and a whopping 18 TD, which lead the league. The Falcons’ defense will undoubtedly have their hands full.

 

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are no slouches on offense, however. QB Matt Ryan has kept pace with Brady in the race for the coveted MVP trophy. Ryan has thrown for nearly 5,000 yards and 38 TD this season, attaining a 117.1 QBR along the way, the highest in the league. His top target, superstar WR Julio Jones, amassed over 1,400 yards as well as eight TD, and will cause matchup problems for the New England secondary. Jones has been a nightmare for opposing defenders since entering the league in 2011; excluding the season in which he fractured his foot, Jones has had four straight 1,000 yard seasons, and nearly a 2,000 yard season last year. His partner-in-crime, slot receiver and former Cleveland Brown Taylor Gabriel, will be the X-factor in this game. Gabriel’s extraordinary big-play ability could be on display if the Patriots turn all their focus to Jones. RB Devonta Freeman is the definition of a dual-threat; even while sharing snaps with equally explosive backup RB Tevin Coleman, Freeman gained over 1,000 yards rushing and another 500 receiving, with a total of 13 TD to show for it.

 

DEFENSE

New England Patriots

The Patriots’ defense is built upon its versatility, and Bill Belichick will throw a plethora of different formations to try and confuse Dan Quinn and the Falcons. Super Bowl XLIV hero Malcolm Butler and fellow CB Logan Ryan will attempt to contain Jones, while safety Patrick Chung will moderate the rest of the Falcons and patrol the field. LB Dont’a Hightower can plug up the middle as well as any top-tier rusher in the NFL, and defensive lineman Trey Flowers and another former Brown Jabaal Sheard will bolster the rush, whether it be towards Ryan or Freeman.

 

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are outmatched by the Patriots in nearly every single defensive ranking: the Patriots have the least points allowed, while the Falcons are 27th. The Patriots are 8th in yards allowed, while the Falcons reside in 22nd. However, there are a few players that could have a large impact for Atlanta. Linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. is gaining a lot of attention for his outstanding play thus far, and is currently a popular pick for Super Bowl MVP. Beasley accumulated 15.5 sacks on the year, good enough for the top spot in the league. Experienced veteran defensive lineman Dwight Freeney, while not getting onto the field that much, will play a role with both his mentoring ability and leadership. While unfortunately there isn’t much of note about this Atlanta defense, the unit could still have a large impact in the outcome of this game.

 

FINAL PREDICTION: Patriots 31, Falcons 20

All in all, although their offenses match up well, the experience of the New England Patriots should prove to be too much for the Atlanta Falcons. Not only is Belichick one of the greatest coaches of all time with six Super Bowls already under his belt, but the Patriots have 22 players on the roster with Super Bowl experience compared to the Falcons’ measly four. Don’t expect anything new this year; Brady will win his fifth title since 2004.

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