Nick Schleter, The Miami Student
Super Bowl Sunday is upon us, and everyone – gamblers, casual fans, commercial fans and finger food aficionados alike – will be watching the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots square off. Unfortunately for many (the Patriots are the league’s most hated team, after all) the matchups indicate that New England is headed for its 5th world championship of the millennium. Here are the 3 keys as to why.
Reason #1: The Falcons are No Match Defensively
Tom Brady has one of the quickest releases in football and the Patriots use the quick passing game extensively. The only way to stop Tom Brady is to get pressure on him. See the problem? The only team that has managed to genuinely stifle the Patriots in the last couple of years is the Denver Broncos, and the Falcons are not equipped to follow this blueprint. Since the season ending injury to Desmond Trufant, the Falcons have been lackluster in the secondary. Outside of Robert Alford and rookie Keanu Neal, there are no players with anything approaching pedigree.
On the edge, the Falcons have no Von Miller – or even a DeMarcus Ware. Second year outside linebacker Vic Beasley finished as the NFL’s sack leader and certainly outperformed his rookie campaign, but the numbers lie. Beasley has gotten most of his sacks against three or four of the league’s human turnstiles and has not generated near the amount of total pressure one would expect from a player with 16 sacks. Unfortunately for Beasley, the player he will be lining up against for the majority of Sunday, Marcus Cannon, also drastically improved from last year. In fact, he was one of the league’s best right tackles this year and will not give up a sack in the big game.
Reason #2: The Patriots Can Slow Down the Falcons
The Falcons have the likely league MVP at QB, possibly the game’s best wide receiver, talent at every position on the offensive line, and two running backs who combined for an absurd 2500 yards from scrimmage and 24 TDs. It is unrealistic to expect the Patriots to play shut down D. After all, there is a reason the over/under is set at 59. But, Bill Belichick is a defensive mastermind, and his defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia, is no slouch either. They have a history of taking away their opponent’s number one option. They will be able to limit the damage Julio Jones does on Sunday by double covering him with a mix of Logan Ryan and Eric Rowe at cornerback and All-Pro safety Devin McCourty over the top.
This leaves the other nine defenders to deal with the rest of the Falcon’s dynamic offense. Oftentimes only three of them will be rushing the quarterback. This will allow the Patriots to clog the passing lanes and limit the mismatch the Falcon’s OL presents. The key will be the ability of athletic linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower to cover Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in space. The pair of young backs will be difficult to defend on the ground as well. However, New England boasts the third ranked defense against the run and allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns of any team this year — six. Throw in the fact that New England was the number one scoring defense in the regular season, and it is clear that they are in a much better position to slow down the Falcons than vice versa.
Reason #3: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick
Their history speaks for itself at this point. The Patriots are the only team in the league who could have an advantage at QB over the presumptive MVP. Tom Brady had the highest graded season in Pro Football Focus’ 10 year history at age 39. It is nearly impossible to believe that Brady will be starting the super bowl at effectively the same age a visibly aged Peyton Manning did last year. Tom Brady is starting his seventh Super Bowl which is two ahead of John Elway in second. Brady and Belichick’s seven super bowl appearances would be the second most of any NFL franchise.
A fifth win this weekend will put Brady ahead of Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the winningest QB in super bowl history. You won’t find me betting against him.
Prediction: Patriots 31 – Falcons 21