Super Bowl 51 is almost upon us and two of the more explosive teams are set to face off in less than a week. While any football game can turn around quickly on a pick 6 or kickoff return, the New England Patriots have been favorites since the teams were announced and with good reason. While it may be tempting to choose the Atlanta Falcons to pull off the upset, and MVP candidate Matt Ryan and All-pro receiver Julio Jones are nothing to scoff at, the Patriots seem like they have the hardware to win yet another Super Bowl. Here is why they will be hard to beat in Super Bowl 51.
After the Deflategate scandal that marred the 2014 Super Bowl victory and allegations of cheating that have followed the Patriots since they defeated the St. Louis Rams and Marshall Faulk, Tom Brady was suspended for four games to start the 2016 season. The Patriots ended up with a 3 and 1 record during this period and showed how deep the team is, even without Tom Brady. While Jimmy Garafalo was solid with the Patriots, they truly came into form with Tom Brady at the head and only lost two other games all season.
Tom Brady came into the season with a monkey on his back and with a determination to win after being sidelined. If it weren’t for the time he spent on the sideline, Brady would likely be the MVP favorite, an honor that is now with the Falcons’ Quarterback Matt Ryan. Still Brady seams to be seriously devoted to pushing his team to yet another Super Bowl win and overtaking Joe Montana as the quarterback with the most victories in NFL history. Betting against Brady and his drive and experience is not a smart bet.
Belichick and the Patriots have already cemented themselves as the first NFL Dynasty of the 21st Century. Always serious and with his eye on the prize, Belichick will have his team and players prepared for the big game and focused on not squandering another Superbowl chance, like he did when he faced the New York Giants twice. Expect Belichick to have a few tricks up his sleeve but also to focus a strategy on taking away the first option for the Falcons, Julio Jones. While Jones is hard to stop, other Falcons players will have to step up (maybe Taylor Gabriel or Mohamed Sanu), and Belichick will likely have an answer for them. Never bet against Belichick in the post season, unless Eli Manning is there of course.
Experience in the Post Season
The Patriots are experienced in the playoffs and have won the AFC East in practically every season over the past decade. While Bill Belichick has discounted the role that experience has in the playoffs and Super Bowl, saying that anyone can step up and produce in a game. Still experience in playoffs and big games do matter, particularly when things go against a team in the early going. The Patriots have the experience to overcome an early deficit and also the experience to exploit an early advantage, while the Falcons lack of experience may show up in an inopportune moment and cost them a potential victory.
Defense Wins Championships
The Atlanta Falcons have an explosive offensive, perhaps the best in the league with the best receiver in Julio Jones. Brady has had to make do with more pedestrian receivers since Rob Gronkowski has been injured and is going to miss the Super Bowl. While the Atlanta Falcons have the top offense, the Patriots defense allowed the fewest points in the league in 2016. While New England may not have any standout names on defense, the unit is well rounded with Devin Mccourty, Donta Hightower, and Trey Flowers.
What the Patriots lacks in star power it makes up in versatility. The Patriots can cover tight ends and pass catching running backs with safety Patrick Chung, or can play a more conservative defense with their big nickel package that has three safeties drop back into coverage. This adds versatility when covering a complex offense like the Falcons have and may propel the Patriots to the Super Bowl podium. As the Denver Broncos showed last year, defense wins championships and the Patriots have the definitive advantage here.
The Super Bowl Podium
All of this means that we will likely be seeing that one thing that Roger Goodell likely doesn’t want to see; Tom Brady getting another Super Bowl victory right after the Deflategate fiasco. The Patriots will prove their reputation and will show how the Brady and Belichick combo is the best in NFL history. The game may not even be competitive if the Patriots manage to get an early lead and convert some early opportunities that they exploit for a blowout win.