I forget who once said this to me, but it always rang true: America truly represents all that is great and terrible about the world. The best and the brightest along with the craven and opportunistic. And after the year of 2016 where our worst impulses prevailed, let's hope that 2017 turns the corner. There will be no fifth ring; there can't be a fifth ring. Falcons soar to the highest summit for the first time ever by winning Super Bowl LI. It's time to ride the Atlanta Falcons ML.
New England Patriots (16-2) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, February 5th --- NRG Stadium --- 6:30 pm EST
NFL Betting Line: New England -3 (58.5)
The number one historical trend I'm considering here is a simple one. Over the last five Super Bowls, the underdog is 4-0-1 SU (Pats-Seahawks was officially a pick'em). The Broncos, Seahawks, Ravens and Giants were all dogs. I'm betting this is a trend that will continue. My greatest concern here is the age-old football adage: offense moves the sticks but defense wins championships. And there could be no clearer illustration of this than these two squads. Atlanta's offense has been lights out all year, putting up an absurd 540 points in the regular season (almost 100 more points than the next highest team). On the other side, the Patriots defense was the stingiest squad across the league allowing a mere 250 points. Another huge concern is experience. How will the Falcons handle the pressure, particularly head coach Dan Quinn? Belichick will be coaching in his seventh super bowl and the Pats have retained most of the defense that won in 2015.
But this is why the Falcons will win this game: Julio Jones. This man is still the best receiver in the league, even injured. How are you going to stop him? You're probably going to have to double cover him because Malcolm Butler will not be able to do it alone. Matt Ryan finally has a run game to give him some time and space. Admittedly, I haven't given the Pats defense enough credit this year and I know Belichick will concoct some genius plan to try to slow down Julio. But I think this will be a somewhat rare example of where brawn triumphs over brains on the football field. For all that he can do (and not to diminish the importance of coaching), Belichick will not be on the field touching a football at any point.
I'm not going to pretend the Pats offense isn't scary. Blount has proven reliable all season and Brady… what is there left to say. If the Falcons are going to have any hope in this game, defensive end Vic Beasley will need to have to the game of his life. The Falcons are going to need to get to Brady early and often. If they don't record at least three sacks they will not win this game.
At the end of the day, after all is said and done, I still want to confidently assert that Joe Montana retains his title of GOAT. That conversation will become exponentially more difficult because as any fool can and will assert, four is less than five.