New England Patriots (16-2 SU, 15-3 ATS) vs. Atlanta Falcons (13-5 SU, 12-6 ATS)
NFL Super Bowl XLI
Date/Time: Sunday, February 5th, 2017 – 6:30 PM ET
Where: NRG Stadium – Houston, TX
by Keith, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NE -3/ATL -3
Over/Under Total: 58.5
There is no other way to break this one down other than this is the “granddaddy of them all”, the “one for all the chips”, the Super Bowl. The latest installment features two teams that come in with contrasting pedigrees. For the Patriots, the Super Bowl and the post-season is a regular occurrence and nothing extraordinary or out of the blue for the Pats. The Patriots went to six straight AFC Championships and they went 4-2 in those contests, including their recent rout of Pittsburgh. Overall, the Patriots have won four Super Bowls but that number can easily get to number five here under the captainship of Bill Belicheck and of course a perennial MVP candidate in Tom Brady. Without divulging too many opinions and perspectives, Brady could easily be classed as the greatest quarterback of all time given his portfolio of performances in the post-season and in the game as a whole. He will be squaring off though with a favorite to hoist the MVP credentials this year, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan who vividly displayed why the Dirty Birds fostered the league’s best offense in 2016 when they smoked the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship on Sunday. Wide-receiver Julio Jones single-handedly put on a show for all in attendance and the millions watching at home, gassing the Green Bay secondary for two touchdowns in a memorable performance. As for the Packers, their points only came after Atlanta called the dogs off and the game was well in hand. This Atlanta team has had quite the uncanny path to the Super Bowl, knocking off both Seattle and Green Bay on their way to Houston.
The Patriots have won nine straight games and seemingly made an example of the AFC as they did so. This is a team that qualified for the playoffs by beating down the AFC East in route to the number one seed in the playoff overall. The Pats have only two losses this season. A home shutout in the early stages of the 2016-17 season where Buffalo pulled off a historic shutout when against a maligned and nicked up Patriots offense and then when Seattle came to town to shock the Patriots in Gillette Stadium. Nevertheless, as typified by a Patriots offense, no-name talent has produced premiere production. The most recent hero to emerge from the fold is wide-receiver Chris Hogan. Previous to this, it was Julian Edelman. Tom Brady has a knack for making superstars out of what many consider mediocre talent. This is a man that broke single-season passing records with Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell split-wide. Nothing showcases the magnificence of the Patriots’ execution better than the story of Deion Branch. Branch was a Super Bowl MVP who departed to Seattle to take on a number-one receiver role with a big salary. Deion was a bust for the Hawks and he returned to New England where once again he would put up a 1,000 yard receiving season. The Patriots simply know how to work with what they have and this game in particular plays to their strength as their goal every season is to win a Super Bowl. Given Atlanta’s absence from this contest since their encounter with Denver in the 90’s where John Elway defeated them with the help of Terrell Davis, the Dirty Birds are assuredly looking to make history.
Mirroring the trends of what we saw this year across sports with feel-good stories of atypical teams winning titles, Atlanta fits in perfectly as the NFL’s rendition of this narrative. In the NBA, we had Cleveland. In college hoops, Villanova. In college football, Clemson. In the MLB, the long drought of the Cubs finally ended when the Billy Goat curse was wiped away in Game Seven. Now Atlanta has a chance to capture their first ever Super Bowl victory and they have the personnel to challenge New England in what is chalked up to be a shootout in the making. Two years ago New England arrived here and escaped with the Vince Lombardi Trophy by virtue of a terrible play call that cost Seattle an opportunity to repeat as defending NFL Champion. New England doesn’t make mistakes typically that cost them the game but we wonder if their more or less easy path to Houston may have left them ill-prepared for a team as potent as Atlanta. However, we can never argue that for the Pats be that they take every opponent seriously.
We are simply going to approach this one yet again from the perspective of experiential advantage as this is a game that New England has a lot of experience in. However, Atlanta may have more intangibles in our favor. Both team’s stocks are through the ceiling but assuredly Atlanta’s win was more of a surprise given the fact they absolutely pummeled Green Bay. New England is expected to yield such results but too many the jury was out on Atlanta. Now, the Birds may be subjected to an overreaction. What works in our favor is the fact that the entire country and betting community bore witness to their dismantling of the Packers and thus an overreaction as it was a nationally televised fixture not a regular season divisional game. With this being said, it wouldn’t be shocking to see sharp money move in first on New England and thus give Atlanta takers more lumber. As a result, we will probably see a late push on Atlanta and reveal a public propensity for what is the NFL’s adaptation of Cinderella. However, New England is a different animal and though this will certainly be a four quarter game, New England knows how to win here and we have to like our chances backing them given their ability to cover even when they are likely to incur a premium on anyone wishing to take action on them. Gladly we will spot the points.
In Over/Under markets, New England will likely deploy their defense to dictate the flow of the game. With this being said, the shootout many are expecting may be nothing of the sort. Do not forget here that Atlanta’s defense showed great maturity against Green Bay and held them to no points in the first half. New England’s defense has won games for them by virtue of the fact, they shut down the opposing offense and allow New England to slowly and steadily build leads. Given the master strategist of the New England coaching staff, the Patriots will find ways to curtail this red-hot Atlanta Falcons attack and force this game to be a defensive-oriented affair contrary to popular belief. With this being said, a play on the Under is worth a second look in these particular markets. Prediction for the score: New England 25 Atlanta 21 in some theatrics and dramatics to conclude the affair.
KEITH’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: NEW ENGLAND -3
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