I just know everyone has been waiting for the Beer Thinker’s prediction on the Super Bowl. And to be quite honest, I needed to really do a deep search on what my prediction would be.
Everyone knows that Bill Belicheck’s philosophy in winning games is to take away the opponent’s strength. It’s been a great strategy for them over the past 14 years. One can hardly argue with a team that has gone 176-48 over that span, winning 78% of the time.
There are a lot of teams in the NFL that would love to say a 10-6 season was an “off” one. Just ask the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns.
Back to Belicheck’s philosophy regarding taking away a teams strength. In the case of the Atlanta Falcons, I believe they just have too many weapons, starting with quarterback Matt Ryan.
Ryan passed for 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. He has been cool and calm under pressure and with the myriad of targets he has available, he has also come adept at finding the open man.
Let’s start with Julio Jones who is the most potent offensive weapons that Ryan has available to him. While Jones has missed some playing time this year with various injuries, he still put together a stellar season…1,409 yards receiving along with 6 touchdowns. And let’s not forget the monster game he had against the Carolina Panthers when he torched them for 300 yards and a TD.
Going to take away Jones? Now you need to worry about Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel. Combined they have caught 131 passes for 1,232 yards and 10 touchdowns. And let’s not forget running back Devontae Freeman coming out of the backfield with 54 catches for 462 yards and 2 scores.
Take away the passing game? No worries, Freeman put up solid numbers there as well with 1,079 yards rushing and 11 TD’s. And his partner in crime, Tevin Coleman, rushed for 520 yards with 8 scores. Both Freeman and Coleman average 4 plus yards a carry and both have breakaway speed once they get in the secondary.
New England just won’t have enough defense to focus on just one area of the game.
That’s not to say that they are just going to roll over. Admittedly, I am not a Patriots fan, I have to admire there consistency and game planning.
Tom Brady, despite missing 4 games because of the Deflategate fiasco, still passed for 3,554 yards with 28 TD’s and just 2 interceptions, completing 67% of his passes.
With Rob Gronkowski out with a back injury, the remaining Patriots receivers have stepped up. One of Brady’s favorite targets has been Julian Edelman who led the Pats wit 1,106 yards receiving but only 3 scores. Edelman’s job has been to be Brady’s go to guy on third down and he has excelled at it.
TE Martellus Bennett has done a serviceable job. He comes in with 55 catches for 701 yards and 7 touchdowns and has a knack for making a big play when the Patriots need it. Chris Hogan has come on strong in the playoffs, especially against the Steelers when he lit them up with 9 catches for 180 yards and 2 TD’s.
Patriots rushing attack, while not as strong as Atlanta’s two headed monster of Freeman and Coleman, isn’t anything to sneeze at. LaGarrette Blount had a fine season with 1,168 yards and 18 scores. Not much of a receiving threat as he only had 7 catches for 38 yards in 2016. For a receiving threat out of the backfield, Brady will rely on RB James White who had 60 catches for 551 yards and 5 TD’s.
It could be said offensively that who is better is a toss-up. I give a slight edge to the Falcons…they just have too many weapons and they can hang with the Patriots offense just fine.
Defensively is ultimately where this game will be decided and I believe that Atlanta will have the edge. Atlanta has great team speed defensively and I can see them getting some hits on Brady.
Atlanta tallied 34 sacks in 2016 with linebacker Vic Beasley racking up 15.5 of them. The defensive line collectively sacked opposing QB’s 12 times. The ageless wonder of Dwight Freeney recorded 3 sacks used in situational schemes.
As for the secondary, the Falcons intercepted opposing teams 12 times running back 3 of them for scores. Linebacker Deion Jones led the way with 3 interceptions, 2 of them the pick-six variety.
Atlanta defended 90 passes and many of those were clutch 3rd down situations to force three and outs, getting the ball back to their offense.
New England also racked up 34 sacks in 2016 with D-Lineman Trey Flowers leading the way with seven. Jabaal Sheard recorded five sacks and former Ram Chris Long chipped in with four. The have a pretty good defensive line scheme that will attack QB’s from different directions. Matt Ryan will need to rely on his offensive line to give him the time he needs.
New England also intercepted opposing teams 13 times but none resulting in a score. New England defended 68 passes but also gave up a lot of ground while doing so.
What I see is Atlanta being able to control the clock better than New England to keep Brady on the sidelines. They will take there shots and once they start scoring, head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will step on the gas and stay on it until the game clock reaches 0:00 and Lombardi Trophy for Super Bowl LI will be theirs.