The Patriots may be the Vegas favorite to raise the trophy after Super Bowl 51, but don’t count out the Falcons. They’ve scored over 30 points in six straight games, and won’t be intimidated by Tom Brady or the Patriots top-ranked defense. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has been to a Super Bowl before, and he’ll have his team well prepared for their first trip to the big game in 18 years.
The Falcons have a defensive-minded coach, but all eyes will be on that prolific offense. Julio Jones is the alpha among a talented receiving corps, and two versatile running backs cause defenses all types of matchup problems. It’ll be interesting to see how Belichick organizes his defense against Atlanta: he will most likely keep double-coverage on Jones, but use one of his better corners to match up with Sanu. Atlanta will try hard to force mismatches, which include getting their speedy running backs out against linebackers.
The Patriots offense begins and ends with Tom Brady. There is a strong running game and a pair of quick wideouts, but the offense will go as far as Brady will take them. The Falcons defense isn’t as stout as New England’s, but they’ve forced a turnover in ten straight games.
As with previous Patriots Super Bowl appearances, their opponents ability to generate pressure will play a vital role in the game’s outcome. In both of New England’s Super Bowl losses under Brady and Belichick, the Giants were able to consistently knock Tom Brady off-balance.
After the pressure, the game will be determined by each team’s ability to finish scoring drives. The Falcons will definitely move the ball on Sunday, but their ability to convert red zone opportunities will be key to their success. Expect both teams to be aggressive on fourth down, as the scoring potential of both offenses will have both coaches reluctant to settle for field goals.