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Alright everyone, show of hands. Who is a lifelong Atlanta Falcons fan and is expecting them to win the Super Bowl next weekend?
Just me. I should have known.
I would be shocked if there were too many of you who are as excited as I am about Atlanta being in their first Super Bowl in nearly two decades.
This past weekend was a bit tough for me because I am admittedly a fan of two teams, Atlanta and Green Bay. My old man is a huge Packers fan and still likes to talk a little smack when the two teams get together.
When Green Bay lost to the Broncos in the Super Bowl, I immediately cheered for anyone that played against Denver. The next season, that happened to be Atlanta. I slowly started paying more attention to the Falcons then. A few years later, they landed one of the most electric football players of the last 20 years, Michael Vick. The moment he stepped onto the field, I was hooked. The Falcons quickly became my team and I never wavered, despite some truly mediocre seasons since that whole Vick-going-to-jail thing.
Atlanta has come close to returning to the big game a few times, always choking it away. I was nervous they would do so again this past weekend against the great Aaron Rodgers - in my opinion the most fun quarterback to watch since, well, Vick. Fortunately, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones had other plans and the Falcons blew out the Packers on the way to the big game. Now they are just one win away from the team’s first-ever Lombardi Trophy.
The only thing that stands in the way? The evil empire. The New England Patriots.
You may have heard that Star Wars comparison a time or two, but just in case, let me break it down for you. Bill Belichick is like the emperor. He’s the brains of the operation. He is behind the chess game each and every weekend, never stepping onto the field of battle himself. Darth Vader is obviously Tom Brady. He carries out Belichick’s every wish without hesitation and helps the empire, err, Patriots, continue their dominance of football. The rest of the team is a bunch of storm troopers, none of which will entirely scare you as individual players, but they all help carry out the team’s plan. Unfortunately for the NFL, the Patriots players have a bit better success rate than the storm troopers do.
Alright, now coming back from my corny, nerdy moment there, lets talk about what to expect. Despite being led by Tom Brady, the strength of the Patriots is actually their defense. They are the top scoring defense in the league, allowing just 15.6 points per game. The Falcons, on the other hand, are the top scoring offense in the league, scoring 33.8 points each game. Jones gives Ryan a much deadlier weapon than anything Brady has in his arsenal. However, the Patriots do have much more depth to work with.
One advantage the Falcons do have overall, in my opinion, is team speed. The Patriots haven’t often been a team that will outrun you on a regular basis. However, speed is one of the main reason the Falcons beat the Packers so thoroughly. The pass defense is hit-or-miss for Atlanta, but they have played much better as of late, and part of that is thanks to the ability of their speedy front seven to disrupt plays behind the line of scrimmage.
The x-factor may just be the speediest of all that front seven, Vic Beasley, the league leader in sacks this year. If he can beat up the Patriots’ line and keep Brady on the run, it could mean big things for Atlanta.
Now, I’m going to put my prediction in stone. It won’t be a popular one, especially at the office.
Atlanta, 30. New England, 27.