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Super Bowl LI Preview

Super Bowl 51 is set for Sunday at 6:30 PM (ET) on FOX. The game will be in Houston at NRG Stadium with the New England Patriots squaring off against the Atlanta Falcons. Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Falcons Offense versus Patriots Defense

Atlanta has the number one offense in the league scoring 33.8 points per game led by Matt Ryan (117.1 QB rating). The Falcons have scored well in both playoff games against Seattle and Green Bay. Atlanta has a plethora of weapons led by Julio Jones (1,409 yards and 6 TDs with 27 (20+ yard plays) and 17.0 YPC average). Mohammed Sanu added 653 yards and 4 TDs and speedy Taylor Gabriel had 539 yards and 6 TDs with a 16.5 YPC average. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are passing threats at RB with over 400 yards each. Ryan can spread the ball around or Julio can take over games.

Matt Ryan is fairly well protected this year (37 sacks) led by Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder as book end tackles. Guard Andy Levitre and Center Alex Mack have solidified the interior offensive line but Chris Chester is a liability at guard. The Patriots will look to exploit Chester and garner some much needed presser on Ryan. It will be interesting to see if Belichick blitzes often or relies on a four man rush to beat Matty Ice.

Trey Flower (7 sacks), Jabaal Sheard (5 sacks), Chris Long (4 sacks) and Rob Ninkovich (4 sacks) supply the pressure for the Patriots. Malcom Brown also has some pass rush ability from the DT spot. The Patriots have the number 1 scoring defense in the league allowing only 15.6 PPG this season. They have made it work with strong secondary play (84.4 rating 8th in league allowed) and pass rush when needed. The Patriots allow only 3.9 YPC rushing which is 8th in the league as well. Matt Patricia and Belichick’s defense forced 23 turnovers on the season. The Patriots have the talent to stop the Falcons firepower or limit them just enough for Tom Brady to work his magic.

Malcolm Butler against Julio Jones is the biggest matchup of the game. If Butler can limit Jones, like he did with Antonio Brown, then the Patriots can stop or limit the Falcons offense. Turnovers will be key as well to change the game and provide short fields for Tom Brady or Matt Ryan. Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon will be the last line of defense and must limit big plays from Jones, Sanu and Gabriel.

The Falcons also run the ball well with Freeman (4.8 YPC in 227 carries) and Coleman (4.4 YPC in 118 carries). Atlanta must establish the run to keep the Patriots defense off balance.

This will be a fantastic matchup to watch if you love football. How will Belichick and Patricia figure out how to stop the number one offense in the league.

Patriots Offense versus Falcons Defense

Atlanta’s defense has been much stronger in the second half of the regular season and both post season games. The Falcons have allowed 20.5 PPG since their bye. They have faced some poor offenses but did limit Green Bay in the Championship game. Atlanta has done this without top corner Marcus Trufant (IR). Robert Alford and Jalen Collins have played well and rookies Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Devandre Campbell have been very big contributors. This young talent could help transform the Falcons defense.

Vic Beasley is the Falcons pass rush with 15.5 sacks of their 34 sacks. The first rounder from 2015 is crucial to pressuring the opposing QB. If Beasley can beat Nate Solder/Marcus Cannon and rattle Brady then the Falcons defense can have success. Freeney is a veteran but Adrian Clayborn is on IR. Grady Jarrett surprisingly has 3 sacks. The Falcons may need someone besides Beasley to step up to take Brady off his throwing point.

Blount had 1,161 yards and 18 TDs. He is a workhorse pack and could control the clock on the Falcons. Atlanta allowed 4.5 YPC this season. McDaniels, Brady and Blount can attack this weakness.

The Patriots offense is very good and seemingly overlooked. The Patriots score an impressive 27.6 PPG which is 3rd in the league. Brady notched a 112.2 rating in 12 games. Brady had a terrible game in the divisional round but a great game against Pittsburgh.

The key will be pressure on Brady to avoid him finding wide open weapons in Josh McDaniel’s scheme. Chris Hogan had a monster championship game and a solid year. Martellus Bennett is a weapon at tight end. Edelman had 1,000 yard season out of the slot. Michael Floyd, Malcom Mitchell and Danny Amendola can make plays if needed. James White and Dion Lewis are threats as receiving running backs.

Atlanta was 22nd in the league allowing a 92.5 rating. The Falcons forced 22 turnovers in the regular season The Falcons defense was much better after the bye but the Patriots have a very strong offense and QB that knows how to exploit young rookie and second year players. New England has the advantage in this matchup.

Prediction

This is the final prediction of the 2016 season. The New England Patriots will beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-20 in the Super Bowl. The Falcons offense is good but Belichick is a mastermind with the number 1 scoring defense. The Falcons defense is improved but the Patriots offense is very good with HOF QB. Goodell hands Brady the Lombardi trophy. I’m sure he’ll love that. I hope you enjoyed the 2016 season. It had ups and downs for all the North teams (mostly downs for the Bears). It will be the Lions time to shine in the 2017 season.