Any individual who has tuned into a sports talk show lately, flipped on a late-night episode of SportsCenter or been in the general vicinity of someone in a Patriots’ jersey has heard the same, overdrawn narrative. Supposedly, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are an unstoppable dynasty and are destined to solidify their status among the greats with another Super Bowl victory this Sunday.
Despite the fact that the Patriots struggled to put away a Houston Texans team that had as much business in the playoffs as Andy Dalton in a tanning bed, and then were gift-wrapped a home matchup against a Steelers team that Tom Brady has man-handled throughout his career, some analysts have decided that this year’s Super Bowl outcome has already been etched into stone. However, I believe the case is quite the opposite. For these three key reasons, I believe that the Atlanta Falcons stand more than a fighting chance against the “unbeatable” Patriots. In fact, it may surprise you just how beatable the New England Patriots can be.
Reason #1: Atlanta’s Slew of Offensive Weapons
If the Falcons have proven anything this season, it has been their ability to score. Between the emergence of key role players and numerous crafty free agent signings, the Falcons have revamped their offense to lead the league in scoring by over 70 points. The signings of wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and wide receiver/return man Taylor Gabriel have unlocked numerous dimensions for a Falcons’ offense that had been deeply in need of a second option outside of Julio Jones.
Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are also sure to play a pivotal role in Sunday’s matchup. This season, the tandem of running backs have combined to carry the Falcons to 5th in the league in total rushing yards. As if their contributions on the ground were not enough, both Freeman and Coleman are legitimate threats as receivers out of the backfield too. In The duo has combined for 85 receptions, 883 yards, and 5 touchdowns this season alone.
On Sunday, the Patriots will be left playing a game of defensive whack-a-mole. Every time they manage to snuff out one option, the Falcons will be able to counter with viable option after viable option.
Reason #2: Matt Ryan and Julio Jones
Originally, I was going to package Ryan and Jones together with the rest of the Falcons’ offense, but if the other players in the Falcons’ offense are the weapons, these two are the executioners.
Just a season ago, Ryan’s struggles had prompted some people to question whether he was the Falcons’ long-term answer at QB. However, in 2016, Ryan firmly silenced his critics by piecing together an MVP-caliber season and leading his 11-5 Falcons to their first Super Bowl bid in almost 20 years.
Julio Jones’ talent, on the other hand, has never questioned. A freak athlete whose planet of birth has never been verified, Jones has consistently been one of the top receivers in the NFL for his entire career. Although the Patriots have a knack for keeping top playmakers in check, Jones is sure to give them a run for their money. If Jones is able to break free from the Patriots’ Malcolm Butler and Bill Belichick’s highly touted defense, there is a strong chance that the Falcons will be the team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the game.
Reason #3: A Sneaky Good Pass Rush
If there is one way to defeat Tom Brady in February, it is by making him uncomfortable in the pocket. In his lone Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants, the Giants pass-rush consistently pressured Brady throughout the entire game. It forced him to make poor throws and crucial mistakes. Although the Falcons do not have near the caliber of defense as the 2007 and 2011 Giants, they do have a couple of playmakers who will be sure to make a difference in Super Bowl LI.
Defensive end Vic Beasley led the NFL with 15.5 sacks this season and has demonstrated an innate ability to get to the quarterback and finish tackles. If Beasley is able to have his way with the Patriots’ offensive line, it will open the door for big plays from the Falcons’ other defensive contributors like Adrian Clayborn, Deion Jones, and hard-hitting safety Keanu Neal. Although the Patriots’ offense may not be able to be completely stopped, the Falcons have the tools in place to keep it contained.
If the Falcons are able to execute their gameplan and avoid getting lost in the hype surrounding their first Super Bowl in 20 years, Atlanta should come away victorious. Regardless of the outcome, I certainly expect Super Bowl LI to be one for the ages. At the end of the day, though, I’m siding with The Dirty Birdz!
PREDICTION: Atlanta 34 – New England 28