Super Bowl 51 Preview

This Super Bowl has a ton of storylines, like most.  But the types of storylines are different.  Neither team was a shoe-in to get here.  I thought the Falcons were an 8-8 squad at the beginning of the year.  Tom Brady missed four games and people wondered whether Jimmy Garrapolo would take over his job (That ended up happening in another city).  Atlanta’s defense has improved more than anyone’s.  New England hasn’t had Rob Gronkowski, one of the scariest weapons in the NFL, since Week 12.  Has he played his last game as a Patriot?

Off the field there’s plenty of storylines too.  Does Roger Goodell send DeMaurice Smith to the winner’s podium if the Patriots win, forcing him not to have to hand the Lombardi Trophy to the trio of Brady, Bill Belichick, and Robert Kraft, the trio which he railroaded/witch-hunted the past year and a half?  Is Brady the GOAT QB if he wins ring number five?  What is his future?  And if the Falcons win…  What does the song composed by every terrible-or-not Atlanta rapper dedicated to the Super Bowl Champions sound like?

S0 yeah, like always there’s a lot at stake.  This reporter clearly didn’t realize that.

Don’t be that reporter.

This game figures to be a shootout.  Atlanta has more weapons than anyone can cover.  Tom Brady and the Patriots, no matter what weapons they have, are a hassle to deal with, mostly because Brady is a machine that cannot be stopped.

But is there any way that its not a shootout?

The Patriots could do some things to disrupt Atlanta.  They’re gonna do a double team on Julio Jones, put Malcolm Butler on the speedster Taylor Gabriel, and let the Falcons beat them running the ball and throwing to Mohammed Sanu.

If that goes well, the Patriots can easily match Atlanta’s offensive output.  The Falcons have gotten much better defensively though.  They’re fast and can rush the passer.  Thats huge against Tom Brady.  The stats don’t really show it, but Brady can struggle a bit with guys in his face – Its the best way to get in any 39 year old’s head.

But New England’s offensive line has been too good this year for me to see that happening.  If you can’t pressure Brady, he’s going to eat you alive, no matter how well you do at taking away his weapons.  He’s going to find Julian Edelman across the middle or Chris Hogan along the sideline.

The New England defense likes to keep everything in front of them, which is usually a pretty sound strategy.  But Atlanta’s wide receivers and running backs are insanely fast, and the Falcons have some of the best yards-after-the-catch runners in the league.  Its not hard for them to slip through and be gone.  New England has to focus on tackling well Sunday night.  They’re probably gonna get beat a couple times with good defense, but with bad defense, the Falcons could soar offensively.  Thats not a situation the Patriots want to get into, even with Tom Brady on their side.

Atlanta is too explosive and powerful on offense.  You don’t want to test them, and if the Patriots defense falters, you’re putting a lot of pressure (Not that he can’t handle it) on Brady.  Its probable he can work you out of it, but the situation is not ideal.

I see this game being extremely close throughout.  Like, its Tom Brady (GOAT) vs. Matt Ryan (MVP).  This game is coming down to who’s making that tiny mistake, whether its via a penalty, turnover, or missed kick.  Who’s more prepared?

This where it gets hard to go against the Patriots.  This is Tom Brady’s 7th Super Bowl start.  This is Belichick’s 7th time preparing for one.  Who is not doing their job on the Patriots?  Its a psychological thing with them now.  Its too hard to imagine anyone on the Patriots screwing up, or being upset, or being at fault for something.  The two times they’ve lost in this game have came on plays and occurrences that they couldn’t help.

Put it all together, and the Patriots just aren’t screwing up.  Matt Ryan is more likely to throw that interception.  Matt Bryant is slightly more likely to miss that kick.  And the youth on Atlanta’s defense is more likely to commit that penalty.  Its the little things, and its gonna determine this game.  It sounds mainstream, but when the matchup is this close, it matters so much.

Prop Bet Fun!

Before I make my pick, I’m gonna find some of my favorite prop bets for the game.  We’re continuing the yearly tradition!

Overall line (-3 NE): Sounds about right.  I’m kinda surprised it hasn’t gone up a bit, since the Patriots have been here before and Atlanta hasn’t.  But this game could very well come down to a kick at the end.

Over/under 59: OVER.  Tough call.  This game really feels like one team scoring 30 or more and the other scoring slightly below 30.  But if the Patriots defense really has no chance, then both teams probably score above 30.  Trust the offenses and take the over.

Over/under total touchdowns scored in the game 6.5: OVER.  Split it evenly and someone is scoring more than 30.  I see that happening.

The pick

The Falcons are going to have to get substantial pressure on Brady if they’re gonna have a shot.  Their defense is good, but its not great.  Even with some pressure, Brady is going to be able to adjust on the fly and make a play.  Matt Ryan, though equipped with the better weapons, isn’t able to do that.  New England is going to give up some big plays; its too hard to stop everyone on the Falcons.  But the Patriots have the experience, the coaching, and the reliability of not screwing up.  I think this game is close and down to the wire.  Its gonna come down to a kick or turnover at the end.  The Falcons are really good, but I don’t see them being able to stop the machine that is Tom Brady.

Prediction: Patriots-34 Falcons-28