Super Bowl LI is gonna be EPIC! Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, continuing on their revenge tour after the DeflateGate scandal, face their toughest test of the playoffs in the unstoppable Atlanta Falcons. With the Big Game in Houston only a few days away, I’ll tackle the storylines surrounding Super Bowl week and my prediction for the game.
X Option: Skills Challenge proves crown jewel of Pro Bowl Weekend
Making an exhibition tackle football game with little at stake and injury risk isn’t the greatest of ideas, so it is hardly a surprise that the NFL’s annual Pro Bowl lacks in quality of play and drama. But the NFL’s new idea, a skills challenge with teams made of the best and most exciting players in the game, proved to be an amusing event that needs to return again next year.
In the competition, Pro Bowlers from the NFC and AFC faced off in 5 events- a receiving challenge, a power relay, a drone drop, a throwing accuracy challenge, and the best of all, the dodgeball game. Comparing this year’s competition to real football is like comparing apples to oranges, but as far as entertainment value goes, the competition lived up to the hype. Young stars like Odell Beckham Jr. and Ezekiel Elliott brought a ton of energy and skill to the game and it didn’t seem like players loathed the contest, like they do the Pro Bowl. The best of all was the dodgeball game, which was entertaining as expected. For one day, the NFL moved away from its No Fun League moniker and toward the youthful exuberance the game needs.
Y Option: Tomlinson, Warner deserve gold jackets
On Super Bowl eve, the year’s awards are announced NFL honors show as well as the inductees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 15 modern finalists were announced earlier this season, many of whom are deserving of enshrinement in Canton. Of the 15, two players that I’ll be pulling for to make the final cut are longtime Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson and Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner.
LaDainian Tomlinson, in his first time on the ballot, is a near lock to be named to the Hall of Fame. The electric Tomlinson scored a record 31 touchdowns in 2006 and earned MVP honors. If not for questionable front office decisions, Tomlinson might have won a ring. He retires as arguably the best San Diego Charger of all-time. Kurt Warner, on the ballot for the first time, was the best underdog story in NFL history, going from the supermarket to league MVP and Super Bowl MVP in only a couple months. Warner also led the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis and reached three Super Bowls, including one in Arizona. It’s time- put LT and Kurt in Canton.
Z Option: Super Bowl LI Prediction
Recent Super Bowls have let us down recently, but every time the New England Patriots reach a Super Bowl, it’s bound to be a classic. From Tom Brady’s upset of the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI (34) to Malcolm Butler’s goal-line interception two years ago in the best game I’ve ever seen, the six Super Bowls in the Brady-Belichick era have all been decided by either three or four points. I doubt that Super Bowl LI will buck the trend.
The main focus in this game is on the quarterbacks. Tom Brady and Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan are the two best quarterbacks in the league this season and proved it with blowout victories in their playoff games this season. Brady is looking for his fifth Super Bowl title, which would be most all-time for a quarterback, while Ryan is fighting for his first. The clash between these two quarterbacks is expected to be a high-scoring affair and the game could come down to which team has the ball last.
Like every non-Patriots fan in America, I’m rooting for the Falcons to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history, but my prediction is against them- Patriots 31, Falcons 28. Here’s why.
- The Patriots have played in six Super Bowls since 2001. The Falcons have played once, and in a blowout loss in 1998. New England’s experience in the Super Bowl gives them a definite advantage, especially considering Brady and Belichick have been in all six of those games.
- The Falcons are happy to be here, while the Patriots are Super Bowl or bust. After their 44-21 beatdown of the Green Bay Packers, the Falcons celebrated like they won the Super Bowl. Their 74-year-old owner, Arthur Blank, busted out the dance moves for a couple joyous minutes. And New England? Head coach Bill Belichick took one look at the AFC championship trophy and didn’t care at all. For the Falcons, reaching the Super Bowl was a dream come true. For the Patriots, it was expected.
- The Patriots defense is superior to Atlanta’s. The Falcons’ defense shut down the best quarterback in the game, Aaron Rodgers, for a whole half in the NFC Championship, and they’ll need a similar performance to top Tom Brady. But the odds of a repeat dominant performance are slim, considering the Falcons have one of the worst defenses in the NFL and are up against a more consistent, better coached team. On the other hand, the Patriots have a no-name, under-the-radar defense that allowed the fewest points in football this year.
- New England’s coaching gives them an edge over Atlanta. Kyle Shanahan is an offensive genius on the Atlanta sideline, but Bill Belichick is arguably the greatest coach in NFL history and has slowed offenses like the previously unstoppable Rams in 2001 and Russell Wilson’s Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. The idea of Belichick having two weeks to plan for the Falcons is simply scary.
- The Falcons aren’t in the mold of the 2007 and 2011 New York Giants. When the Giants defeated the then 18-0 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, it was one of the greatest upsets in NFL history and was possible because of the suffocating pass rush that New York sent at Brady. The same thing happened four years later as the pressure on Brady was too much. Atlanta boasts one of the best pass rushers in football in Vic Beasley but don’t have any other serious threats. Plus, New England’s decorated offensive line coach, Dante Scarnecchia, is back from a short hiatus and has boosted this line immensely. And another thing- the Falcons aren’t the Giants, the only team to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl this century.
- History is on the Patriots side. In the last 12 Super Bowls, the team wearing white has won 11 times. Guess who’s wearing white this time? You’re right, the Patriots.
All this being said, Super Bowl LI figures to be an exciting game. Happy Super Bowl Sunday!