All of the attention for Super Bowl 51 is on the New England Patriots as they have the legendary quarterback who is supposedly on his revenge tour (my gosh, maybe this story will die by next season), the genius coach, the edge in experience, and on and on and on. Take heart, Atlanta fans, because I’ve got five reasons to believe that the Atlanta Falcons can beat the New England Patriots.
1. Don’t fall for the mystique of Bill Belichick’s defensive genius and overlook the fact that the Patriots defense is vulnerable.
This Patriots defense isn’t as good as previous Super Bowl versions and not even close to the defensive unit that halted the “Greatest Show on Turf” years ago. Sure, things look great for the Patriots defense as they do lead the league in points allowed as teams only averaged 15.6 points a game against them. However, the Patriots got to pad their defensive statistics by playing some of the worst offensive football teams in the NFL this year. First, they played their division foes twice: the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and New York Jets. Name the prime-time quarterback that scares defensive coordinators out of that list? Next, their schedule this year also included the Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers, and Los Angeles Rams. (Forget the prime-time quarterback, name the NFL-capable quarterback from that list.) Of all the teams in the NFL, the Rams were the worst at scoring points, averaging 14 points a game, followed by the Browns with 16.5, the Jets at 17.2, and the Texans at 17.4. Throw in the 49ers (19.3) ranked 27, the Bengals (20.3) ranked 24, the Broncos (20.8) ranked 22, and the picture is pretty clear that the Patriots feasted on some pretty inept offenses this year. In other words, the teams the Patriots played had trouble scoring against *any* team. By the way, the team that beat the Patriots by hanging 31 points on them at home was ranked 18 in the league in scoring at 22.1 points per game. Yet, people think this defense will shut down an explosive, versatile Atlanta offense that averaged 33 points a game. Well, let’s just say the Patriots will need every bit of Bill Belichick’s genius.
2. Matt Ryan will have time to distribute the ball to all of his weapons.
Although the Patriots pass rush improved a bit in the AFC title game, they really don’t rush the passer well. The leading sack provider for the Patriots was Trey Flowers with 7. In case you were wondering or didn’t want to do the math, that is 8.5 off Falcons’ defender Vic Beasley’s mark. Give Matt Ryan or any capable NFL quarterback enough time, and he will find open receivers no matter the different types of defensive schemes.
3. The Patriots linebackers can’t cover Atlanta’s running backs
Double Julio Jones all you want, Coach Belichick, but who’s going to cover Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman coming out of the backfield? The Patriots linebacking corps does a nice job of stopping the run, but they are going to struggle to cover Freeman and Coleman in the passing game. Don’t believe me? Please see the Seahawks versus Patriots in week 10 and watch Seattle running back C.J. Prosise catch passes against the Patriots defense. No offense to Prosise, but Freeman and Coleman are better options; especially, since they are teamed with Julio Jones and company.
4. The Falcons defense can put pressure on Tom Brady
Like most pocket passers, a good pass rush is Tom Brady’s Achilles’ heel. Brady may actually be the best quarterback ever to play in the NFL, but he gets a little unhinged when teams can actually hit him every now and then. (See the Houston Texans playoff game where he went crazy after getting hit.) Rattled quarterbacks make bad decisions. These bad decisions usually lead to turnovers. Anyone remember the two interceptions Brady threw because of the Seahawks’ pass rush in Super Bowl 49 (I’m guessing no, since the Patriots won the game, but it did happen.) The Atlanta Falcons defense is fast and will find ways to pressure Tom Brady. They were successful in making Aaron Rodgers uncomfortable in the NFC Championship game, and Rodgers moves a lot better in the pocket than Tom Brady. Make Brady uncomfortable and the Falcons can give their prolific offense more chances to score.
5. Atlanta’s offense is more explosive than New England’s.
The great equalizer to defensive schemes, experience, and an opposing legendary quarterback is explosive plays, and the Falcons offense can carve up yardage in big chunks with Julio Jones and Taylor Gabriel. Defenses shouldn’t sleep on Mohamed Sanu, Tevin Coleman, and Devonta Freeman, either. Without Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots rely more on their efficiency, which isn’t a bad thing, but the Falcons can match that efficiency with explosive plays.
If I was betting real money on this game, I’d bet on the Patriots. Experience and efficiency almost always win; especially, in championship games where yards are tougher to earn and mistakes are more devastating.
Yet…the blueprint to beat the Patriots was established by the Giants: make Tom Brady uncomfortable, control the ball, and make a couple of
lucky deep ball throws. Explosive plays make up for the lack of experience and efficiency. Defensively, Atlanta doesn’t have to shut down Brady and the Patriots – they just need to outscore them, and this Atlanta offense can outscore a Patriots team without Rob Gronkowski.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons (+3)
Atlanta, #RiseUp and win the Super Bowl.