I know deep in my heart and in my mind that the Falcons can win. They have the offensive weapons to keep up in a shoot-out – watch out for some deep magic from Sanu since Julio Jones will certainly get a lot of attention from the Patriots secondary. More importantly, they have the running game and offensive line to keep hold of the ball for as long as possible, thus keeping the Patriots offence off the field. I can talk down the upgraded Patriot defence, which has made the real difference this year. But how many top sides have they played against? They are not well tested.
As much confirmation-bias as I throw at this, it’s really about two people: Brady and Bellichik. As usual, Brady is largely unflappable in the pocket for two reasons: he’s an unflappable sort of guy that reads defences as well as anyone, and his offensive line gives him that all important extra second make decisions. For so many (too many?) years, this has been the secret of the Patriot’s offensive success. With that time, Brady can pick any defence apart, and take what he gets. The addition of Blount in recent years has given him an extra dimension.
And what can I say about Bellichik? He will certainly go down as one of the best NFL coaches of all time, because he understands that NFL, more than any other sport, is about the system – the way players work together. He probably picks players on that, more than raw talent. He can take a sixth-round reject, teach them the system, and slot them in seamlessly. There are so many examples of how he has done this to fill a gap as a result of injury.
I know exactly how to beat the Patriots, and I’ve said it before (and the Giants did it): Get to Brady. Get in his face. Burst through their outstanding offensive line and bring pressure on him. It happens so infrequently that when it does, the Patriot offence really does break down, and mistakes start to happen: missed throws, interceptions and fumbles. The Falcons have the line backers with pace and strength to do this. They also need to maintain ball control, and again here they tick the box: they are capable of those energy-sapping long drives that chew up time and frustrate the opposition. If they can do all that, they are a strong chance here. If.
The X-factor is Bellichik, and his vast experience in playoffs and pressure games. He will surely dig deep into his playbook and pull out plenty of surprises. This is the Falcon’s first Superbowl in a while, and they could easily wilt on this big stage. As they say, it’s all from the neck up.
Betting: with two fast-scoring offenses, take the over of 59 points. I don’t think this will go down to the wire, so if there is a thing such as “either team by more than 9.5 points”, then take it.
The two teams competing this year have been standouts in their conferences, and made it through the playoffs barely breaking a sweat. They should both be primed for a fantastic competition, and I’m looking forward to a big show this year!