After an impressive victory in the NFC Championship, the Falcons are going back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1999. The Falcons are one of 13 NFL franchises that have yet to win a championship.
In their last Super Bowl appearance, they were beaten by John Elway and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII. Chris Chandler threw three picks for the Falcons, and the Broncos cruised to a 34-19 win.
Unlike that team in 1999, these Falcons have been an unstoppable force on offense. Matt Ryan is an MVP finalist, and his duo of young running backs have kept things balanced. Adding All-Pro center Alex Mack stabilized the offensive line, which was the only line in the NFL to start the same five men all season. The offense is run by coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who is a leading candidate for 49ers head coaching position next season.
Then there’s the Patriots. They defeated the Steelers in their seventh straight Conference Championship appearance, and now Tom Brady will go for a fifth career Super Bowl win. After winning his first three trips to the game’s biggest stage, Brady and the Patriots are 1-2 in their last three Super Bowl appearances.
Despite a four-game suspension and the loss of Rob Gronkowski, Brady has been sensational this season. Pro Football Focus gave Brady a 99.3 rating for the 2016 season, the highest rating in the history of PFF.
At a combined record of 25-7, these were the two best overall teams of the regular season. The Patriots have opened as an early favorite, but the Falcons will receive plenty of action.
In two weeks, the winner in Houston will be the team that can make the most plays on defense. That’s usually Belichick and the Patriots, who defeated the Falcons in their only meeting with Matt Ryan at QB. But given the way the Falcons won their last two playoff games, it’s hard to imagine anyone slowing down Atlanta’s attack. Even if the Patriots can shut down Julio Jones, the complimentary tandem of Sanu and Taylor Gabriel have proven to be effective. The Falcons, above all else, are the healthier team heading to Houston.