The NFL playoffs have been a major bust this year. With only the wildcard games being close and the rest extreme blowouts, the playoffs have been an extremely underwhelming time of the year for many Americans. This, however, will change dramatically on Sunday in Houston during the biggest sporting event of the year: Super Bowl LI.
Super Bowl LI pits Tom Brady and the New England Patriots up against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. Both teams boast genuinely impressive offensive stats, along with the two best quarterbacks in the league this year in Brady and Ryan. The coaches for these two teams, however, tell two very different tales.
Bill Belichick, the head coach of the Patriots, will enter into his 10th Super Bowl, setting a record for most all-time appearances in NFL history. Belichick’s Vince McMahon-esque reputation of being a juggernaut in NFL dominance continued this year, as he led a Patriots team to a 14-2 record. What’s even more impressive is that he did it without his poster child, Brady, for the first four games on the year due to his suspension imposed during the offseason.
The Falcons have also had an impressive year, with an overall record of 11-5 and the highest scoring offense since the 2000 St. Louis Rams. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has led the team to just its second Super Bowl in Atlanta Falcons history in just his second year as head coach in the NFL.
With the coaching staffs of both teams coupled with the high-octane offenses and defenses, this Super Bowl is certainly going to be the most exciting game of the humdrum playoffs of 2016. Here’s a breakdown of what both teams need to do in order to succeed and leave NRG Stadium as the 51st Super Bowl champions.
New England Patriots
Defense is going to be the key for the Patriots in order to succeed on the field. The Falcons have put up gargantuan numbers thus far throughout the 2016-17 season, and they are only picking up steam as they close in on the Super Bowl. The Pats D has been impressive in the latter half of the season, silencing critics on the road to Super Bowl Sunday.
In the AFC championship, the Pats D was a brick wall as the team rolled through the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 36-17 finish. The Patriots, however, have yet to face a quarterback like Matt Ryan. The best quarterback the Patriots have seen so far was in the AFC championship game against Ben Roethlisberger who ranked just 11th in the league. Ryan boasts the league’s top passer rating at 117.1 percent.
In a press conference on Jan. 26, coach Belichick made it clear that Ryan will be the best quarterback his team has faced all year.
“He does everything well,” Belichick said. “He handles the line of scrimmage well, gets the team in the right plays, plays good in critical situations, deep ball, intermediate throws, possession passes. There’s really no weakness to his game.”
This matchup against the star studded Falcons, with some of the best athletes currently in the league at wide out and running back, will certainly be a testament to the will of the Pats defense. In the same press conference, Belichick spoke highly of wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.
“He has a great catch radius,” Belichick said. “He catches everything. He is a tough blocker and hard to tackle. He’s an explosive player.”
The key for the Falcons to roll past the Patriots will be its offensive arsenal. The Patriots will certainly be guarding top wide receiver Julio Jones, who has averaged more than 100 yards receiving per game and was seemingly unstoppable against the Packers in the NFC championship game.
Defending Jones poses the daunting task of maintaining the offensive prowess of the Falcons on the other wide outs on the roster. ‘Matty Ice’ will no doubt be looking for Jones, but don’t be surprised to see players like Mohamed Sanu and company step up and take on leading roles. The Falcons have a wide array of potential x-factors that could take over the game and put the Patriots on their heels, including running back Devonta Freeman.
In an interview on Jan. 23, Brady tipped his cap to the Atlanta Falcons and said they deserve to be in the Super Bowl.
“It will be a big test, they’re playing great and Matt has had an incredible year,” Brady said. “They’re there for a reason. They’ve beaten all the best in that conference.”
This Super Bowl will indeed be the most exciting game of the season. With dynamic quarterbacks and cerebral head coaches, the game could come down to whoever has the ball last. Anticpate both defenses to step up big in this one, as Super Bowl LI will indeed be a high-scoring, back and forth battle.