This year’s Super Bowl is a matchup between two very equally-matched, equally-powerful teams, the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots. Now about this time last year you could’ve seen the Patriots being in SB LI, but definitely not Atlanta. This team really came out of the grave it’s been in for years and years, since 2012 really when they lost to the 49ers in the Conference Championship.
Atlanta was broken, small, weak, kind of a pushover for bigger teams like the Packers, the 49ers, the Seahawks, even the Cowboys just a few years ago, and today they stand as the single most dominant, most explosive offense in the NFL- only in opposition to the Patriots. The past few years, Matt Ryan has been an interception machine inside the 20, and has graduated to having the most pass yards, and the most pass TDs in the league, more than Brady, Rodgers, and Roethlisberger who typically lead the race. It sure looks like Ryan will win the MVP given his performance in the playoffs against such high-caliber teams, but that doesn’t mean at all that they can win this Super Bowl (ask Cam Newton about it, he’ll probably storm out).
If there’s one thing New England has over Atlanta, it’s playoff and Super Bowl experience; not only experience, but also recent experience. They’ve been in the playoffs every year since 2003, and have been in six of the last 14 Super Bowls. Now, the Patriots have the most Super Bowl experience, the first team to go to nine SBs. They have rings, Atlanta does not, that’s what half of this battle is going to come down to- how each team handles the pressure. Brady thrives in the playoffs, and he makes his receivers and his team shine like gold on the big stage, Ryan’s inexperience hinders him, but he is not to be underestimated as he’s put up 40+ points on two playoff-caliber teams. But on Brady’s side, he’s faced the best defense in the league, and a defense who’s had a turnover for a streak of six straight games.
How will Atlanta win the game? Atlanta HAS to win this game on both sides of the ball. If they focus on offense too much the Pats will take total control with throwing that ball down field and scoring a touchdown on every drive. The Falcons defense has to rush Brady, they have to make him make a bad decision, and have to create turnovers. In every Super Bowl with the Patriots if they turn the ball over at least once, they have about a 50% higher chance to lose the game from that point on, and Atlanta has been a turnovers powerhouse lately, with at least one every game for the last 10 games. Along with their defense their offense has to stay hot, healthy, and focused. They have to move the ball down field like they have been, they have to pound that Patriots defensive line, and then switch to a short passing threat, the Pats DBs are too good down field, and if Julio isn’t open, Ryan will have to run around quite a bit.
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How will the Pats win the game? New England has to stop the Atlanta offense at all costs, don’t let them run the ball and take away the passing attack. The Falcons’ o-line is the better of the two so a lot of what New England will have to do is cover Atlanta’s receivers rather than blitz. Never leave Julio Jones open way down field, up in the field, not even in the backfield. Put the best guy on the best guy and maybe double down on him. Be careful of Ryan’s rushing attack, because he is a nightmare for defenses, he’s very underrated but a very quick guy and can pick up a lot of yards, and won’t go down on the first hit. On the offensive side of the football, the Patriots must move down field and move quickly like they always do. Their average drive time on scoring drives is about 3:19, compared to Atlanta’s average scoring drive 4:02. Get their offense on the field longer and tire them out, score quickly, and wear down that defense with a good rushing attack.
Now I know what you're thinking about this time of year, Who can possibly beat New England, in the playoffs with home field advantage throughout? Well the only teams who have proven so multiple times are the Broncos, Ravens, and of course the Giants (on the big stage twice as you probably know). So this year, who can beat the Patriots with the unstoppable and constantly changing offense that they have? Well, my answer to you is none other than the Steel City natives themselves, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers have by far the most explosive offense on the AFC, and could really be the only team (besides the Patriots) who could beat the Falcons in a shootout (the Falcons have by far the best and most explosive in the league, and have really just outscored all their opponents this season, hard not to see them in my Super Bowl picture).
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Offense isn't the only thing Pittsburgh has under its belt, their defense has been great in the playoffs against a young Dolphin team, with 3 turnovers in their wild card win (2 fumbles and an INT) and going into the Chiefs' house this week the winner of the turnover battle will ultimately be the winner of that game. The Steelers are also red-hot right now, with an eight game win streak including their victory over the Dolphins last week, making their momentum an even bigger threat to deal with. Although the Steelers may have the upper hand, it's still no match for Tom Brady and the team under him in playoff mode, we haven't seen a team like this ever, a team so unstoppable in the playoffs that they are compared to the Alabama Football of the NFL in that you know they're always good, and always one of the best teams if not the best.
Happy New Year everyone, welcome to 2017, however it may not look like a new year in college football, the same matchup as last year in the National Championship, Alabama and Clemson, round 2. Alabama beats Washington in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, 24-7, in the past two years in semi-final games only allowing 7 points. The offense had a rough time all game, but that seemed to be because of Lane Kiffin's play calling, maybe he should go ahead and leave Alabama early so they don't waste so much time on offense. What really led the Tide to the end zone this game was their defense setting up drives, and the good old-fashioned, Alabama ground-n-pound football, wit Bo Scarbrough in the backfield. This was a much lower scoring game than a lot of people thought, and of course the defense was heavily involved on both teams. No doubt though Washington looked like they deserved the playoff spot they received, and was the most well-put-together offense Alabama has faced all year. Onto the next game, the matchup experts thought would be the closest semi-final we've ever had, really wasn't that exciting. A 31-0 Clemson blowout over the Buckeyes sent a message to the College Football Committee, "You made the right choice with Clemson, not so much with OSU." This game actually reminded a lot of people about, wait for it, last year's playoff picture. It's actually funny how this almost worked out exactly the same- in the 2015-16 season, Clemson was ranked #1, 14-0, and won over a battle-tested Sooners team 37-17. Alabama, ranked #2 with one loss, took on Michigan State, and shut them out 38-0 in the semi-final, then went to beat Clemson in a shootout, 45-40. This year looks very similar, just flip 'Bama and Clemson; Alabama is the #1 team in the country, on a big 26-game win streak and are 14-0, winning their playoff game against a fairly matched up Washington team 24-7-- Clemson at #2, 13-1, have shut out Ohio State 31-0. Could this be the year for Clemson to beat Alabama, or will the Tide Roll Clemson once again in the National Championship Game? This will make for one great matchup, and a great possible trilogy between the teams.