What: Super Bowl LI
Who: Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
When: Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET, FOX
The end to another football season takes place on Sunday evening when the Atlanta Falcons take on the New England Patriots from Houston in Super Bowl LI.
The Falcons are virtual newbies to the ultimate spotlight game of the year, finding their way to the NFL’s championship game just one previous time, while Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will attempt to add a ring for their thumb, which would make five Lombardi Trophy’s they have hoisted together.
The PewterReport.com staff offers up their predictions for the big game, and this season is offering our readers a chance to get their scores in and win a PewterReport.com t-shirt along with a $25 gift card for Sports Legends Bar and Grill in Clearwater. The reader who most accurately predicts the winner and final score will win, so make sure to add your score prediction to the comment section below. In the event of a reader tie, there will be a drawing to determine the winner.
PewterReport.com publisher Scott Reynolds
Super Bowl LI features two teams from opposite ends of the NFL spectrum. It features New England, which is making its one-millionth trip to the Super Bowl with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady guiding the experienced Patriots, versus upstart Atlanta, which no one expected to make it to the championship game, especially after losing at home in Week 1 to Tampa Bay. The Falcons, led by second-year head coach Dan Quinn, have virtually no Super Bowl experience on their roster, especially among their starters.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons lead a potent and talented offense that features three dangerous wide receivers in Pro Bowler Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and speedster Taylor Gabriel and two do-it-all running backs in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, both of whom have game-breaking ability. Belichick likes to take away what opposing offenses like to do best, but can he stop the multi-faceted Atlanta attack? New England will be given a stiff challenge defensively, but give two weeks for Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, one of the best in the business, to figure it out and my money is on the guy with four Super Bowl rings and six Super Bowl appearances.
Super Bowls typically come down to three things. First is coaching. Great coaches typically don’t lose in big games, and Belichick is the best in the business – ever. If Quinn, who has been to Super Bowls before with Seattle, pulls this off, his profile will certainly be on the rise. I don’t expect that to happen.
The second is quarterback play. Ryan is having an MVP-caliber season and stepped up big in the NFC Championship Game in a head-to-head match-up against Aaron Rodgers. This is his first, best and perhaps last opportunity to truly be considered a great quarterback. He can move up from the very good ranks with Philip Rivers to the great quarterback ranks with Eli Manning with a Super Bowl win, especially over Tom Brady, who is the greatest quarterback of all-time. But Brady is elite, and has the big-game experience Ryan doesn’t. I’m not betting against Brady, especially this year with the chance to take the Super Bowl LI trophy from the man who suspended him for the first four games of the season.
The third factor in determining Super Bowl wins is the play of the defense. Does either team have a 1985 Bears defense, a 2000 Ravens defense, a 2002 Bucs defense, a 2013 Seahawks defense or a 2015 Broncos defense? Nope. The Patriots have the better defense as the Falcons defense leads the league in missed tackles. Expect a healthy dose of LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis on the ground to help Brady hit Julian Edelman and Martellus Bennett mid-range and Chris Hogan deep.
I don’t see this one being the shootout some expect, but I do see New England making history and prevailing with a field goal from Stephen Gostkowski on the final drive. Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Patriots Win 26-24 Reynolds’ Pick To Click: Patriots QB Tom Brady
PewterReport.com editor Mark Cook
It is hard to even remember back to last September when the Buccaneers went into the Georgia Dome and handed the Falcons an opening-day loss. It hard to even remember that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady missed the first four games of the season due to suspension for his involvement in “Deflate-Gate.”
Yet here these two teams are, squaring off for the ultimate NFL prize.
There is no question that most factors favor the Patriots who are attempting to win their fifth Super Bowl in the Tom Brady era. That experience alone should make the Patriots favorites to add another trophy to their overflowing case. Then add in future first-ballot Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick, who has had an extra week to prepare for the high-powered Falcons offense, and this – on the surface at least – doesn’t look good for the Falcons.
Fortunately for Atlanta, the game is played on the field and not in written analysis and talking head pundits who have spent the last two weeks debating and breaking down every angle and scenario, from the game’s final score, to if play-by-play man Joe Buck will have a beard or be clean shaven (yes, you actually can bet on that).
To say Atlanta has been on a roll the last couple months would be an understatement. Matt Ryan, who some thought was on a down cycle for his career after last season, proved the critics wrong and had an MVP-worthy season in 2016. And while you can bet Belichick will have a game plan that will slow down Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, Ryan can spread the ball around as proven by him throwing touchdown passes to 13 different receivers this season. 13!
As good as the Falcons offense is, the Patriots and Brady have been on a bit of a roll themselves. 39 years old and this was arguably Brady’s best season. We talk about Jameis Winston helping to raise the talent around him, but has anyone ever done a better job than Brady? He could probably grab three beer vendors from the stands, put them in at receiver, and still throw for close to 300 yards. The dude is good. Real good.
I believe the Patriots will jump out early, as the Falcons will suffer from a bit of nervousness under the pressure of the magnitude of the game, but will settle down. Ryan. Freeman. Coleman. Jones. Gabriel. The list of offensive weapons goes on.
And while I think the Falcons are a more talented team from top to bottom, you can’t count of the Belichick-Brady effect. I’ll take the Patriots winning late on a Brady-led drive culminating in a last-second field goal. Cook’s Score Prediction: Patriots win 37-35 Cook’s Pick To Click: Tom Brady
PewterReport.com beat writer Trevor Sikkema Well, friends, we made it. Not in the sense that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing for football’s ultimate glory this Sunday. But more of a “we made it” meaning this is the last football game you’ll watch for the next five months so you better enjoy it.
The Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots being the last two teams standing was not exactly what most people were predicting back in September.
The Patriots, despite being the NFL’s most dependable success story over the last 15 years, opened the year up at just 10-1 odds to win it all thanks to a four-game Tom Brady suspension to start the season. Throw in the fact that the team got rid of their top two pass rushers this year and you can see why most people were skeptical – passers and pass rushers have proven to be the two most important positions of modern football. But nope, not for ol’ Billy B. and the Pats. They say, “Who needs ’em?”
Instead of wavering, New England went 3-1 without Brady, 14-2 overall, and haven’t lost since early November (nine straight). I mean, what the heck, man? I was told winning football games each Sunday in the NFL was suppose to be tough. These guys, despite what we thought early in the year, continue to make it look easy.
The Falcons were 40-1 odds to win the Super Bowl when Week 1 began. Before the season, the narrative around the Falcons was that they had a good roster and nice passing attack, but would need contributions from unlikely heroes to have a chance at making a deep playoffs run. Well, that’s exactly what they got out of Taylor Gabriel, Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones, Brian Poole and a guy named Levine Toilolo. Atlanta is not only having the best season in franchise history, they’re also having one of the best season in NFL history offensively.
That’s why I’m taking them to win it. I do have my concerns about how Matt Ryan will do outside of his home dome, but being in a dome in Houston means that away feeling should be lessened. If he is anything like we’ve seen him be during these playoffs, the Patriots will not be able to keep up; they simply do not have the weapons, even with Brady. Pittsburgh’s secondary was god-awful two weeks. I do not expect the same from the Falcons. They dial up the pressure (something Houston did well that made Brady very uncomfortable) and have enough talent in the secondary to make sure Chris Hogan doesn’t go Michael Jordan-flu game on them like he did against the Steelers. Sikkema’s Score Prediction: Falcons win 38-24 Sikkema’s Pick to Click: Matt Ryan
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at email@example.com
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