By Wade Haugen
The Tom Brady-Bill Belichick deflate gate revenge tour will finally reach its climax Sunday evening when Super Bowl LLI kicks off. The New England Patriots will be facing off against the high-powered Atlanta Falcons in Houston on Sunday in a matchup that is sure to provide plenty of drama.
It’s hard to remember a Super Bowl with this much offensive firepower coming in. Entering Sunday night, the Atlanta Falcons will be equipped with the number one total offense in the league, the number one passing attack, and the number five rushing attack, led by the two-headed monster at tailback in Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
This Atlanta offense not only lead the league this year, but they also flirted with history. Their 540 points scored this season is tied for eighth all-time in the history of the NFL. They exhibit a very balanced attack centered around a great rushing attack to go along with a very accurate passing game.
One of the most compelling matchups in this game will be Malcolm Butler, the Patriots shut down corner, covering Julio Jones on the outside. Jones is arguably the best receiver in the league and has an innate ability to make the big play. If the Patriots can successfully shut down Jones, their chances of stopping the high-octane offense Atlanta has will improve greatly.
While not near as flashy as Atlanta’s attack, New England’s offense didn’t miss a beat this season. Even with their leader Tom Brady missing four games to suspension, the Patriots offensive unit still finished 3rd in the league in total offense, and are right behind the Falcons with the league’s second-best passing attack.
While Brady put together another MVP-like season, he did so with weapons that would only flourish in New England’s system. Julian Edelman mans the slot for this team and has become somewhat of a security blanket for his quarterback.
The rushing attack is shared between two running backs who bring very different skill-sets to the table: LaGarrette Blount, whose career has twice now been resurrected by the Patriots, handles the duty of running in between the tackles, while Dion Lewis specializes in strengthening the passing attack out of the backfield.
While both teams have very respectable defenses, the outcome of this game lies in the hands of quite possibly the two front-runners for the MVP trophy this year, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan.
With that being said, it’s hard to bet against Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots. During their tenure together, Belichick and Brady have combined to win 14 of the last 16 division titles, played in the Conference Championship game 10 times, and won four out of six Super Bowl appearances. At the end of Sunday night’s game, I think we will witness an awkward exchange of epic proportions when Roger Goodell hands the Lombardi Trophy to Robert Kraft. Or even better than that, Bill Belichick. OR even better than that, Tom Brady, who will be hoisting his fifth Super Bowl trophy.
Prediction: Patriots 35, Falcons 31