Super Bowl LI Preview: Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are back in the Super Bowl for the second time in team history and the first time since 1999. There are 13 teams in the NFL that have never won the Super Bowl and this is the year the Falcons hope to scratch their name off of that list.
 
At the start of the season, only four teams had worse odds to win the Super Bowl than the
Falcons, and the first few games were a reflection of those odds. Atlanta started the season 4-3, but bounced back and finished the season 7-2 in large part because of the highflying offense led by Julio Jones and top MVP candidate Matt Ryan.
 
Flip on any sports channel and there are two central topics you hear about the matchup
between the Falcons and the Patriots. The first is that the young and inexperienced Falcons defense will not be able to compete with the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady. The second is that Bill Belichick is the best ever at taking your best offensive weapons and shutting them down.
 
Yes, the Falcons defense is young and inexperienced. Two rookies and three second-year players starting on defense won’t possibly be able to stop an elite quarterback like Brady, right? That’s what they said all season, but the defense survived each test, besting star quarterbacks Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers — twice. With 22 forced turnovers and the NFL’s sack leader, the Falcon defense is also hitting its stride right on time. So far in the playoffs, the defense has allowed 20 and 21 points to offenses ranked in the top seven of total offense in the NFL.
 
Not to mention exceptional defensive coaching led by ex-Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Quinn has experience game planning against great quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and current Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in previous Super Bowls.
 
So even if the Falcons defense holds the Patriots to a reasonable score, what happens if Bill Belichick can stop the NFL’s best receiver, who is averaging over 100 yards a game? It may not matter. With the seventh most proficient scoring offense in NFL history, the Falcons can score with any player at any time. Julio Jones caught six of Matt Ryan’s 38 touchdown passes, who set a NFL record by throwing touchdowns to 13 different receivers, and in the three games where Jones had less than 30 yards, the offense averaged 34 points a game. This means the offense does not revolve around Julio Jones as many people assume. And say Matt Ryan and his receiving core all get shut down, running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, one of the most dynamic duos in the league, can step in and carry the load. The duo had over 1500 yards rushing and 1000 yards receiving out of the backfield combining for 24 touchdowns.
The Falcons are the underdogs in the Super Bowl to the best coach-quarterback combo in the history of the NFL. 2016 has been a historic year for ending championship droughts, with the Cubs and the Cavaliers both winning titles. The Falcons have made it their job this year to upset teams, and with one more win as the underdog they can finish off the 2016 NFL season ending one more championship drought.

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