Super Bowl LI to be a close one
Swimmers in an infinity pool view Super Bowl LIVE on Jan. 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Tim Warner/Getty Images)
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
We’re about to find out in Sunday’s Super Bowl LI (as in “51” — Jet Li didn’t buy naming rights) when the Atlanta Falcons No. 1 scoring offence (33.8 ppg) goes head-to-head against the New England Patriots No. 1 scoring defence (15.6 ppg).
The game features the two highest-rated quarterbacks during the 2016 season.
Matt Ryan (117.1 passer rating) and Tom Brady (112.2) had superb touchdown-to-interception ratios of 38-7 and 28-2, respectively.
Both are at the top of the league in third-down conversions and both are great against the blitz.
What could be the differentiating factors between the two QBs, then, and ultimately the two teams?
While I’m very high on Atlanta – and especially Ryan – and have been leaning towards picking them to win, there are reasons why New England is a three-point favourite.
The “Big Game” (as unaffiliated advertisers refer to it) experience of Brady and head coach Bill Belichick is unparalleled.
Brady’s seventh Super Bowl appearance sets the record for most by any player at any position in history.
He has led game-winning fourth-quarter drives in each of his four Super Bowl victories.
Although improved in the second half of the season, weighing the Falcons young defence versus the Patriots coach/QB experience is not a favourable match-up for Atlanta.
In fact, while New England had the No. 3 scoring offence (27.6 ppg) this season, Atlanta’s scoring defence (25.4 ppg) was ranked 27th.
This will be a close game, however, and the Falcons have a few other things going for them beyond Ryan and his offensive arsenal.
Head coach Dan Quinn was the Patriots defensive co-ordinator versus Seattle in the Super Bowl just two short years ago, so he is intimately familiar with Belichick and his game plans.
Defensive end Vic Beasley is a sack specialist like Denver’s Von Miller, and led the NFL in the category.
If he can get to Brady once or twice at crucial times it could be a difference-maker.
With New England’s weak schedule and relatively untested D, they haven’t seen anything like the high-flying Falcons.
Expect this one to rival or surpass the Green Bay-Dallas divisional match-up as the game of the year, and come down to the final possession.
Patriots 34 Falcons 31