New England Patriots (14-2SU) vs. Atlanta Falcons (11-5SU)
Super Bowl 51
Date/Time:Sunday, February 5, 2017 at 6:30 PMEST
Where: NRG Stadium
byChad Holloway,ExpertFootballHandicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread:NE -3/ATL +3
Congratulations to the New England Patriots on making their record ninth Super Bowl. As a longtime Miami Dolphins fan, it pains me to see them do so well each and every year. That said, Im neither blind nor delusional. Bill Belichick is the greatest coach in football, probably of all time, and with all due respect to Dan Marino, Tom Brady is likely the same in the quarterback category (though I think arguments can be made for Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Joe Montana.
Likewise, congrats to the Atlanta Falcons on making it to the big game. Matt Ryan surprised a lot of people, myself included, and deserves to be the NFL MVP. Meanwhile, he is surrounded by a talented roster of players and coaches led by Dan Quinn. Their excitement and drive to win the franchises first title for owner Arthur Blank is palpable. Also, how about Blanks generosity of sending every single Falcons employee to Houston for the Super Bowl. Thats a boss Id like to have.
So, who do I like come Super Bowl Sunday? Well, if you read any of my previews throughout the season, you know I like to look at the numbers. Lets start with the QBs.
Fittingly, Ryan and Brady went No. 1 and 2 this season. With total QBR ratings of 83.3 and 83.0 respectively. In the regular season, the former went 373 of 534 (69.9 CMP%) for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. That gave him a 117.1 QB rating to end the season. Meanwhile, Brady went 291 of 432 (67.4% CMP%) for 3,554 yards, 28 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. He finished with a 112.2 QB rating.
Both QBs are not only good, theyre great. So little separates the two, but as you can see Matty Ice edged out Brady in 2016.
Offensively, the Falcons were top dog averaging 415.8 total yards per game (YPG), including 295.3 passing YPG and 120.5 rushing YPG. The Falcons also scored an average 33.8 points per game (PPG) and converted 42.1% of third downs.
For the Patriots, they were third in the league averaging 386.2 total YPG, including 269.2 passing YPG and 117 rushing YPG. They scored an average of 27.6 PPG and converted 45.8% of third downs.
Defensively, the Patriots finished eighth in the league holding opponents to an average of 326.4 YPG (237.9 passing YPG and 88.6 rushing YPG) and 15.6 PPG. As for the Falcons, they were 25th allowing an average of 371.2 YPG (266.7 passing YPG and 104.5 rushing YPG) and 25.4 PPG. Thats a big difference and suggests the Patriots are the more balanced team while the Falcons have to make up for their defensive woes with offensive firepower.
Chad Holloway’sPick to Cover the Point Spread: This is going to be one hell of a game. Fundamentally, the Patriots are a force. Teams plan for one thing, then they throw something new at you like Chris Hogan in the AFC Championship Game. Belichick is a formidable foe, and Brady is a surgeon. Theres a reason theyre the favorites.
That said, I like the Falcons in this game. Theyll need to fire on all cylinders, and the coaching staff is going to have to have to take a page out of the Patriots playbook by doing the unexpected. They need to find a way to use their talents in such a way that the Patriots couldnt possibly prepare for it. Theyre talented enough both on the ground and through the air that they have options to accomplish that.
As corny as it sounds, the real difference maker for me is heart. The Patriots are a cold, calculating team, and its worked wonders. This isnt their first rodeo so to speak, and in some sense, its Super Bowl business as usual. Meanwhile, the Falcons are in the Super Bowl for just the second time. They bid adieu to the Georgia Dome in spectacular fashion, and theres just an excitement about them.
I like the Falcons at +3, and even if they lose, I know theyll leave it all on the field. Also, given the high-powered offenses, I like both teams to combine for enough points to cover the over.
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