The 2017 NFL playoffs has produced a prolific number of blowout contests with all but two games decided by 13 or more points with the average winning margin of 17.5 points. That being said Super Bowl 51’s matchup between the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons and AFC Champion New England Patriots has all the potential to become an instant classic. These teams are clearly the two best in the NFL and have routed practically every team that has gotten in their way from preventing them from reaching the Big Game this season. Combined they have a win percentage of 80.5% for their season total with a record of 29-7. Atlanta has the top ranked offense in the league this year scoring a remarkable 34.4 points per game during the regular season and scored 36 plus points in both playoff games. New England on the other hand has the best defense in the NFL in keeping opponents from scoring allowing just 15.7 points per game this year. The Falcons are certainly not as experienced on the big stage compared to the Patriots reaching the Super Bowl only once in franchise history back in 1998 where they lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos. New England is setting an NFL record with their ninth appearance and this will be their seventh trip in the last sixteen years alone all under coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady as the duo will be looking for the fifth championship together. The Patriots are favored by three points entering the game, but this one could easily go either way and should be a nail bitter that comes down to the wire before one team prevails victorious.
Atlanta’s last loss came back in week 13 were they lost by one point to the Kansas City Chiefs and held an overall record of 7-5. Since that moment the Falcons have turned into a force to be reckoned with rattling off six consecutive wins and scoring at least 33 points in each. In five of those games they won by at least 16 points and quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown 18 touchdowns with zero interceptions in that span earning him a chance at becoming the league MVP at year’s end. He’s also thrown a touchdown pass to 13 different receivers this season (NFL record) which shows he has a plethora of threats to choose from that can cause havoc. Ryan will need to continue his MVP type level of play if he wants to outperform New England’s Tom Brady in Houston. Though the offense has been electric this season the Falcons defense is the only thing questionable about the team. They ranked 23rd in the league at the end of the regular season and many experts had doubts before playoffs starting saying their young talent is to inexperienced and will alter their chances in making a postseason run. However the defense has played the best they have all year the last two weeks. They’ve forced four turnovers along with five sacks and have held both opponents to an average of just 256 passing yards, 100 yards rushing, and 20.5 points per game all in which are better than their season averages.
First things first Atlanta has to put pressure on Tom Brady early and often to prevent him from dictating the flow of the game. This is where defensive end Vic Beasley needs to establish his dominance like he’s shown all year with his 15.5 sacks (led NFL). Secondary has to play a flawless game and maintain the level of performance they’ve produced throughout the playoffs. Brady and company will definitely put points on the boards since they have the 4th best offense in the league. Though in order to beat the Patriots those points need to be three and not six which is easier said than done but is a necessity. On the offensive side of the ball, Ryan needs to take control of the game and play the best game he’s ever had. You can’t go up against Goliath and expect to go punch for punch with the beast. No you need to go in for the kill to win that fight. He’s got the arsenal with enough fire power to do it since Atlanta has six receivers with over 300 yards receiving and seven with three or more touchdowns this year. In the run game they have Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman that have rushed for 1600 yards with 18 touchdowns combined this season. Freeman and Coleman need to start fast and finish strong, cause the Falcons best defense in this matchup is their offense keeping Brady on the sideline. The ground attack has to be implemented and affective throughout the course of the game for Atlanta’s offense to succeed. This offense has produced historical numbers this season and they’ll need to continue that in order for the franchise to be claimed Super Bowl Champs for the first time in team history.
(WR) Julio Jones- Dealing with a toe injury that lingered with him for a few weeks it seems Jones is back to full strength after absolutely obliterating the Green Bay Packer defense in the NFC championship game catching 9 passes for 180 yards and two scores. He’s the best wide receiver playing in the super bowl and should easily see double digit targets so plug him in as your WR1 and expect big numbers.
(WR’s) Mohamed Sanu + Taylor Gabriel – Each of these guys has the ability to be a game changer in the super bowl. With Jones likely to see double coverage means they’ll see plenty of one on one opportunities that either or both could capitalize on for a breakout performance, making them worthy choices as WR2/Flex options in the final game.
(RB) Tevin Coleman- In this game I’m predicting Coleman has a better outing than starter Devonta Freeman. Due to the fact the Patriots have a great run defense and haven’t allowed a back to go over 75 yards in the playoffs. Coleman will be utilized frequently and is a more efficient receiver out of the backfield. He’s going to play nearly half of the snaps with around 15 touches and always carries positive upside value for fantasy.
Once again the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl making it the third time in the last six years and ninth in franchise history. New England went 14-2 during the regular season which was the best record in the league. They are an extremely well balance team in all three phases of the game ranking 3rd in the NFL in total offense, 4th in team defense, along with the 7th best special teams unit leaving many to believe that this squad might be the best in the Belichick/Brady era. The Patriots have established one of the greatest dynasties in the world of sports and have a great chance to add to their legacy when this game is all said and done.
The main key to the game for New England to find success is to follow the old cliché phrase “Defense wins Championships”. Patriots need their front seven to get pressure on Ryan and make him flustered in the pocket and make ill-advised decisions. With the secondary having such a tough matchup against Atlanta’s pass game this would allow them to settle into coverage with a chance of forcing turnovers. Pro Bowl cornerback Malcolm Butler has a tough task matching up against Julio Jones. Butler can bend but cannot break in his coverage and has to keep Jones big play potential to a minimum or he could be living a terrible nightmare. Patriots offense and pretty much the team itself will rely strictly on the performance of Tom Brady (could be worse right!) After being suspended by the league the first four games, Brady seems to have gone back in time and not looking like a 39 year old man. He has 33 touchdown passes and four interceptions on the year and looking to add a fifth super bowl title to his Hall of Fame legacy. Brady wants this bad and Atlanta is the only thing in his way from becoming hands down the greatest football player EVER!
(TE) Martellus Bennett- Bennett has been quiet during the playoffs with just six catches for 36 yards over the last two weeks but now faces a Falcons defense that is the sixth worst in the NFL against opposing tight ends. Allowing over nine fantasy points per game to the position and already giving up a total of 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns in the playoffs means Bennett has great odds of finding paydirt during the super bowl.
(RB) Dion Lewis- During the playoffs Lewis has scored three total touchdowns and averaging over 40 yards of offense a game. He’s most dangerous as a receiving threat out of the backfield which has been a weak point for Atlanta to stop all season. They’ve allowed nearly 900 yards receiving to running backs this season which is the highest in the NFL. Anticipate Lewis to see a fair share of targets that should turn into satisfying numbers.
(WR) Malcolm Mitchell- Mitchell has had a bit of a setback in the postseason dealing with injuries but seems he’s going to be a full go come the time of the big game. With Julian Edleman leading the way for the receiving core and Chris Hogan breaking out in the AFC championship game Atlanta will probably scheme on slowing down the duo. Leaving the rookie a great opportunity to become a game changer in this matchup as Brady tends to go after the best possible matchup. He’s a bit of a risk but could pay off as a huge reward.