Previewing Super Bowl LI

Carson Field, Sports Editor

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The Falcons and Patriots clinched their spots in Super Bowl LI by winning their respective championship games. The teams will square off on February 5 in Houston, and it should be a very intriguing matchup.

The Falcons, who defeated the Packers in the NFC Championship, have had a great turnaround season. They won the NFC South and finished with an impressive record of 11-5. Atlanta is coached by Dan Quinn, who is in his second year as head coach. He was previously the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks. The only other Super Bowl the Falcons have appeared in is Super Bowl XXXIII, when the Broncos defeated them, 34-19.

The Patriots, on the other hand, are no stranger to Super Bowls. They have been to the Super Bowl nine times, which is the most of any franchise, and have won the championship four times. Bill Belichick has been the coach of the Pats since 2000 and led them to all four of their Super Bowl victories. The Pats won their 14th AFC East division title since 2000 this year and finished the regular season 14-2.

This season, the Falcons have been led by quarterback Matt Ryan, who is an MVP candidate.

Matt Ryan has played tremendously this year, throwing for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and just seven interceptions this year. These statistics put him second in the league in passing yards and touchdowns. Ryan’s main target this season, Julio Jones, is widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, receiver in the NFL.

Jones was second in the league in receiving yards this season with 1,409, and was a monster in the NFC Championship. In the Super Bowl, he will likely be lined up against Malcolm Butler, the cornerback who picked Russell Wilson off in Super Bowl XLIV to win the game.

If the Patriots want to win their fifth Super Bowl, they will have to stop Jones and the Falcons’ aerial assault. Ryan had no problem picking apart defenses in his first two playoff games, even against the Seahawks, who arguably have the best defensive backs in the NFL.

The Patriots’ secondary, however, has been impressive in the playoffs, forcing four total picks in the two games. They also held quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Brock Osweiler to passer ratings under 85. The unit will have a tough task of stopping the Falcons’ offense, who have one of the best quarterbacks and maybe the best receiver in the league.

The Pats are not the only defense that faces a tough unit, as the Patriots are led by the most experienced quarterback in the NFL.

Tom Brady started the season on a four-game suspension because of the deflategate scandal, but has been on a tear ever since. His stats are not as impressive as Ryan’s because of the suspension, but he has led the team to only one loss in the team’s last 14 games.

Another important aspect of this game is the matchup of the coaches. Bill Belichick is one of the best coaches in NFL history and, as I previously mentioned, has won four Super Bowls. Dan Quinn, on the other hand, is in his second season as the Falcons’ head coach.

Despite improving Atlanta’s defense tremendously, Bill Belichick certainly has the upper hand in big game experience. His coaching will help lead the Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl, assuming the Patriots can limit the Matt Ryan-Julio Jones combination.

Final Score Prediction: Patriots 41, Falcons 37

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