(Photo courtesy of sportingnews.com)
This is a matchup that has been hard for me to pick, both teams are loaded on offense, and the Falcons seem like the one team capable of getting into a shootout with the Patriots and coming out on top. The storylines to this game are plentiful. Can Belichick and Brady win their fifth Lombardi and with that will come a trophy presentation by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who seemingly went out of his way to derail the Patriots by suspending Brady for the infamous “Deflategate” incident. Can the young high flying Falcons bring a Super Bowl title to the city of Atlanta for the first time? How will Matt Ryan respond to playing in a Super Bowl? Ryan has always been known as a great regular season Quarterback who in the playoffs has never played as well. Can Ryan become an “Elite” quarterback? So let’s look at the key matchups to this great matchup.
Keys to the Game
Can the Patriots contain the Falcons offense?
Belichick has been in two other Super Bowl games that were eerily similar to this one. He was the defensive coordinator for the Giants in Super Bowl XXV against the high-powered Buffalo Bills, and he was the Patriots Head Coach in Super Bowl XXXVI against the St.Louis Rams “Greatest show on Turf.” Against those legendary offenses his defenses gave up 19 and 17 points, if they hold the Falcons under 20 points, they will win this game. Can they do that? I know this you can never doubt a Belichick coached team, he is known for eliminating what an offense does best. The question here seems to be how he will attempt to accomplish this goal?
As I see it these are Belichick’s best ways to at least limit, Julio Jones. Number one he puts CB Malcolm Butler on him one on one with safety help over the top. Number two they could bracket Jones with CB Logan Ryan and Safety Devin McCourty. The problem is when doubling Jones like this the Falcons two-headed running back of Devonta Freeman and Devin Coleman have tended to run at will on teams. The other interesting stat is this; the Falcons are 7-1 when Jones has less than 100 yards receiving and 4-4 when he has over 100 yards.
After looking at all the stats I think, and I know this will sound crazy, but I think Belichick may choose to put CB Malcolm Butler on Jones by himself. The theory being let Jones get his but limit the rest of the team from getting theirs.
How do the Falcons defend the Patriots explosive offense?
The Patriots can eat a team alive with their short passing game. The scariest part is there are such a diversity of players that on any given week beat you that it is hard to know exactly what to take away from the Patriots. The one thing we have learned over the last decade about beating Tom Brady is you have to get pressure up the middle to make him uncomfortable. The Falcons just beat the Packers Aaron Rodgers by keeping him in the pocket, this game against Brady is much different, you have to pressure Brady to get out of the pocket. I don’t think a lot of blitzing will help here, but a mixture of coverages with an occasionally well-timed blitz will be the key.
The biggest question to me about the Falcons defense is, are they big enough and physical enough up front to handle the Patriots ground game? If they are they have a real shot to win this game. To disrupt the short passing game I think that Falcons linebacker Deion Jones will be the key, he is excellent in coverage against the short and intermediate passes, Brady will have to keep an eye on where he is all day.
You have to be concerned about the health of Julio Jones and Center Alex Mack for the Falcons, especially with Mack. I believe Jones will play in the game at a high level, but Mack could be a different story and Mack, believe it or not, would be harder to replace than Julio Jones in this offense. After looking at everything the best way to pick a football game at any level is to stand back and ask yourself who do I think has the advantage at the point of attack. I think to do that my biggest concern in this entire game is the Falcons defensive line going against the Patriots offensive line. That’s why I am going with the Patriots in this game; I think they will overpower the Falcons at the line of scrimmage. Patriots 34 Falcons 27
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