Super Bowl LI Preview: New England Patriots

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are entering their seventh Super Bowl together as the best player-coach combination in the history of professional football. Though Super Bowl appearances seem commonplace for the iconic duo, Tom Brady will take on the Atlanta Falcons this week in perhaps the biggest game of his career. Brady served a four-game suspension earlier this year after the NFL conspired against him in the biggest witch-hunt in league history — more commonly referred to as “Deflategate.” Ever since the suspension was announced last year, TB12 has undoubtedly been dreaming of a scenario in which Roger Goodell has to look him straight in the eye and hand him the Lombardi Trophy. A motivated Brady with a massive chip on his shoulder should be more than enough to carry the Patriots to victory over the upstart Falcons, but in case you don’t believe me, let’s dive into the X’s and O’s.
 
When you think of the Patriots’ offense, you think of their prolific passing attack; but the
Patriots marched to the NFL’s best record in large part because of their balanced offensive
scheme. They boast a top ten rushing attack while the Falcons sit in the middle of the pack allowing nearly 105 yards a game on the ground. The Patriots should be able to run enough to keep the defense honest, which will allow them to unleash Brady and company.
 
Ultimately, the only way to slow down Brady is by completely stopping the run — which the
Falcons cannot do — and then get pressure to Brady without blitzing. If the Falcons can get home with only four pass rushers while dropping back seven in coverage, Brady may be in trouble.
 
But, with their formidable offensive line, a protected Brady will have no trouble carving up one
of the most inexperienced secondaries in football. Look for the offense to put up over 30 points.
 
Now, defense. There is no doubt that the Falcons’ offense is the kind of juggernaut seldom seen in the NFL. But, may I remind you who is waiting on the other side: the defensive genius of Bill Belichick, and the league’s number one scoring defense. The Patriots — as they always do — will take away the Falcons’ best player, Julio Jones and force quarterback Matt Ryan to challenge them in other ways.
 
The Falcons will counter with an impressive two-man backfield, but, again, the Patriots have an answer. The emergence of defensive linemen Alan Branch and Malcolm Brown and the consistent play of linebacker Dont’a Hightower should be enough to contain Atlanta’s backs.
Look for New England’s defense to continue their season-long trend of bending but not breaking and keep Atlanta from scoring as many points as the Patriot offense.
With all of this said, experience matters immensely in a game like this, especially when the experience comes in the form of two of the game’s best. Even if the game is close, Belichick’s proven coaching genius and Brady’s clutch performances time and time again should lead the franchise to its fifth ring. But Falcons fans should save themselves from all potential false hope: this one won’t even be close.

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