The Super Bowl might as well be a holiday for many of us. Families and friends gather to witness the two best teams in the country play their hearts out. Now I am not an expert or a sports writer at all, far from it. I am, however, someone that watches a lot of football and constantly keeps up with the sport through articles, highlights, stats. etc. But not everyone that watches the Super Bowl follows football closely. This is who this short guide is meant for, the casual fan who may have little to no knowledge of these two titans.
In case you’re interested in watching the game, or headed to a Super Bowl party, here is a short breakdown on the two teams so you can get familiar and further enjoy your Super Bowl experience.
Led by their 2nd year head coach, Dan Quinn, the Falcons soared year round and quietly posted one of the best records in the NFL (11-5). Defensively, Deion Jones (LB) and Keanu Neal (S) led all rookies in tackles this past year. The real leader of the Falcons D is 2nd year Linebacker, Vic Beasley, who lead the league in sacks (15.5). Even with the absence of their #1 CB Desmond Trufant, their secondary remains solid with Robert Alford and 2nd year cornerback Jalen Collins.
This is a team that barely received attention all year despite having one of the best offenses in the NFL. The Falcons were top 5 in every offensive category. Atlanta bolstered their offensive corps by picking up a few key free agents this past off season, which include: Alex Mack from the Browns, one of the best Centers in the league; Taylor Gabriel (Browns) and Mohammad Sanu (Bengals) which provided quality depth at Wide Receiver after letting go of the veteran Roddy White.
The ground attack consists of 2 of the most talented Running Backs in the league, Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Either of these two backs can slice up the backfield with either runs or as a receiving threat. This RB tandem helped Atlanta finish the season as #5 in rushing yards per game and #3 in rushing TDs. The variety of weapons in the Falcons’ arsenal is one of the biggest reasons why they were #1 in total points in the 2016 season.
None of this would be accomplished without their Quarterback.
QB: Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan should absolutely be the NFL MVP this year. In his 9th season, he completely dominated the league with a brutal passing attack that resulted in career highs in yards (4944), passing yards per game (309), touchdowns (38), and completion percentage (69.9%). He also led the league in passing yards per attempt (9.1) and passer rating (117.1). His abundance of reliable receivers and Kyle Shanahan’s offensive play calling let him tear up any secondary that got in his way.
Out of all his play makers, there is only one that truly stands out.
Biggest weapon: Julio Jones
Julio Jones only scored 6 TD this season and missed two games due to injury, but he’s still the most dangerous threat the Falcons have in their arsenal. This man racked up 1409 yards in only 83 receptions, which averages out to an insane 17 yards per catch. Apart from that, this is his 4th straight year in which he averages 100 yards a game, becoming the first player ever to do so. He’s been slowed down due to a lingering injuries but even if he takes the field at less than 100%, he’ll still command double teams from the Patriots secondary which will give other players the opportunity for more favorable match ups.
New England Patriots
Yep. These guys again. The Empire of the NFL doesn’t seem to be dwindling it’s stranglehold any time soon. To top it all off, they might be a more complete team now than they’ve ever been. After an average start, the Patriots D finished the season with the least points per game allowed (15.6). Malcolm Butler is not a shut down corner yet, but he gets the job done against whatever receiver he’s covering, and he’ll need to do everything in his power to cover Julio Jones. Even though Dont’a Hightower has been banged up recently, the middle linebacker is still the Patriots defensive captain and a player which will definitely need to be accounted for.
On the Offense, LeGarrette Blount is the work horse and a complete train of a man who bulldozes through defenses and leads the league in touchdowns (18). Even on games where he is handling most of the carries, the Pats will find ways to get the ball in the hands of Dion Lewis. Lewis is a dangerous play maker who recently became the first player in post-season history to score a receiving, rushing and return TD in the same game. However, he does have a tendency to fumble the ball.
After Gronk was ruled out for the season, they’ve lacked a true receiving threat. Their #1 wide receiver, Julian Edelman, finished the season with the 4th most receptions in the league, barely cracked 1100 yards and had only 3 TDs. But that doesn’t mean much since Bill Belichick and Tom Brady can make stars out of random players. For a perfect example, look towards the AFC Championship game in which Chris Hogan caught 9 passes for 180 yards and 2 TDs.
But of course, Tom Brady is the man that makes the offense click.
QB: Tom Brady
If the Pats are indeed the NFL’s Empire, then Tom Brady is Darth Vader and he’s been force choking the league for 15 years. This man is 39 years old and he plays like he can last another 5, annoying isn’t it? After being suspended for 4 games at the beginning of the season, Brady came back with a vengeance and led NE to 11 wins and only a single loss within that time. Even putting up one of his most statistically pedestrian seasons, he’s still one of the smartest quarterbacks in the game today.
Even if Brady were to somehow get injured in the middle of the game, Belichick would still find a way to make it work.
Biggest weapon: Bill Belichick
This man is so used to winning that he holds the AFC title like someone passed him an empty bag of Doritos.
The disdain with which Bill Belichick received the Lamar Hunt trophy is truly awe inspiring pic.twitter.com/A6RG8eafCo
— Jason Schwartz (@JasonSchwartz) January 23, 2017
This might seem ridiculous seeing as how he’s not on the field, but the Patriots coaching is by far their biggest advantage. Whether you hate him, love him, call him a cheater, say he sold his soul to the devil, it doesn’t matter because he always finds a way to win. Under his coaching, the Patriots have only missed the playoffs three times since the year 2000. Every other time they’ve finished first in their division, made the playoffs, and gone to the Super Bowl seven times. That’s unheard of. Whenever the Dark Lord retires, he’ll be known as the greatest coach in league history.
Belichick’s entire plan consists or taking your best player out of the game plan, forcing you to beat him with the rest of your team on even ground. Apart from that, he’ll switch up his offense and make sure the opposing team is completely off guard. They seem prepared to handle Blount? Cool, just have James White and Dion Lewis tear it up as receiving threats. Covering Edelman? Hogan or some other random receiver will emerge as a break out player with 150 yards somehow. Belichick treats football like alchemy formulas and ends up with gold most times.
I believe everyone except Patriots fans want New England to lose. Hopefully Atlanta comes out the gate hungry because a Super Bowl win will mean the world to that entire city. Still, if New England wins, it’ll be an incredible accomplishment for both Belichick and Brady. The only way the Falcons can beat the Patriots is to out coach them. Dan Quinn needs his offense better than they’ve ever been and to never fall far behind. Atlanta has enough talent on every skill position on offense to keep New England guessing. If the Patriots hold any significant lead at any point in time, then they will use Blount to grind down the Atlanta D.
Once again, this will be a Super Bowl between the #1 scoring offense (Atlanta) and the #1 scoring defense (NE). You guys remember what happened last year right? It was proof that defense wins championships as the Broncos completely demolished Cam Newton and crippled their high powered offense.
Will history repeat itself? We’ll find out on Super Bowl Sunday.