Who will win Super Bowl LI between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots? The Patriots are currently 3-point favorites. Here are your Big Blue View staff predictions.
As much as it galls me, I think I have to pick the Patriots here.
There are match-ups to consider, but ultimately I'm erring on the side of experience, which is solidly on the side of the Patriots. No coach has more experience using the two-week lead-up to the Super Bowl to scheme for an opponent than Bill Belichick, and no quarterback has more experience on the biggest stage than Tom Brady. If they can run the ball, (or simulate a running game with short passes) the Patriots have the formula to keep the Falcons explosive offense off the field and their small defense from playing with a lead.
That isn't to say that the Falcons don't have a chance. Julio Jones is a match-up nightmare for the Pats' defense, and even if they succeed in taking away (or at least containing) both Jones and Mohamed Sanu, the Falcons still have a dynamic running back combination to contend with, who can also contribute in the passing game. Likewise, the Falcons' defense has some dynamic pass rushers and if they can be turned loose, we all know how little Brady likes to be under duress.
But ultimately, the Falcons still have something to prove when it comes to big games against opponents at their best, so I'm going to side with the Patriots. I just don't like it.
I don't bet against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in big games. Love 'em or hate 'em, respect is due; the results have spoken for themselves for over a decade. Even when it was the New York Giants on the opposing sideline I wasn't betting against them (a win/win in the end!) and I won't start now.
The Falcons had a strong 2016 and have only improved through this playoff-run. Classic example of a team who peaks at just the right time and wins it all and I would've picked them against anyone else in the AFC. Not Brady or Belichick, not with NFL-history on the line. They'll become the all-time winningest coach-QB tandem with a win Sunday, their fifth, surpassing Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw's four.
I see Atlanta jumping out to an early lead before New England evens things up by the half. I have two predictions from that point: we will NOT see the Migos join Lady Gaga for the halftime show and Belichick will win the second-half adjustments. I've got it 31-27 Patriots, who'll seal the game on a big stop with Atlanta driving late in the fourth.
Atlanta’s offense is as good -- maybe better -- than advertised, but the New England defense isn’t quite as good as the “No. 1 scoring defense” would indicate. The Patriots were only 16th in defensive DVOA and the ability to stop teams from scoring is from as much as the opponents than the Patriots. Still, Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia got two weeks, so we also shouldn’t expect the Falcons to throw up 40 points.
The problem on the other side of the ball is the Atlanta defense isn’t all that good -- it was 27th in DVOA during the regular season. It’s been better in the playoffs, but that might not be sustainable, and the defense might not have to be great to win. During the regular season the Falcons allowed 25.4 points per game, so three touchdowns is slightly better and still a lot to give up. I don’t see Atlanta having a great defensive performance, but I think it plays well enough for the offense to pull through and get the win.
Bill Belichick has been involved in 10 of the 51 Super Bowls in history. That is completely insane. The man flat out knows how to coach and it is a treat to see it year in and year out. He can trade half of his team away for draft picks, and it will not matter. Of course, having Tom Brady as an ageless wonder is a huge help to him as well. These two have it all: the talent, the intelligence and the experience. There is no better duo out there to win a championship.
The Atlanta Falcons are a great team in their own right. And they have been playing well despite lacking a lot of playoff experience. But facing Belichick and Brady is a whole other level of challenge. Will Matt Ryan succumb to the nerves of the Super Bowl? Will second-year head coach Dan Quinn? It is tough to say. But on the other side, you already know what the Patriots are capable of. They've done it many times before.
Brandon stole my line! I can’t, won’t, refuse to pick against Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots here. The Giants beat them twice, but we have all seen the Patriots do this too many times. There is just something about the potential for Roger Goodell having to hand the trophy to Brady and Belichick that even makes me want to see the Patriots win.
The Falcons certainly could win. They have been the NFL’s biggest offensive juggernaut and if they get going on Sunday who knows what could happen. I will not, though, pick against New England.