It’s Super Bowl Sunday and we are all in store for a great game between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons.
The line for the game, which hasn’t budged since officially being released, has the Patriots favored by a field goal. To me, that seems like the right number, which makes predicting the outcome that much more difficult, but let’s give it a shot anyway.
I have been on the Atlanta-to-the-Super-Bowl bandwagon since the first month of the season expired.
While the Cowboys were busy getting all the hype in the NFC, the Falcons quietly took care of business with one of the best offenses in the entire league, finishing as a top-five unit in total offense (second, 415.8 YPG), passing (third, 295.3 YPG) and rushing (fifth, 120.5 YPG). Even more impressive, Atlanta had the top scoring team in the NFL, finishing at 33.8 points per game.
Things haven’t change in the postseason, as the Falcons beat the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks by a combined score of 80-41.
Matt Ryan is having his best year as a professional quarterback, and wide receiver Julio Jones is showing he may be the best in the game at his position. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman provide Atlanta a pair of running backs who are as effective catching the ball as they are running the ball.
What’s concerning is the Falcons’ defense was in or near the bottom half of the league in every category. The reason for the red flag is the Falcons are coached by Dan Quinn, former Super Bowl Champion as the defensive coordinator with Seattle.
Honestly, this Atlanta team reminds me a lot of the Indianapolis Colts teams during Peyton Manning’s prime — great offense and mediocre, at best, defense coached by a defensive guru.
Unfortunately, the Colts’ biggest foe in that era is who the Falcons are matching up with — enter the Patriots.
Everyone is going to talk about this being Tom Brady’s seventh Super Bowl appearance, but I look no further than Bill Belichik. There are so many crazy stats when it comes to facing the Patriots, but the one which tipped the scale for me was the record of opposing coaches in their first matchup against Belichick — 3-22.
Put simply, he is the greatest coach ever at creating a game plan and then adjusting it to near perfection on the fly to consume opponents.
Belichick is known for taking away the opposing team’s best weapon.
So, the question is, can the Falcons beat the Patriots without a strong day from Julio Jones?
I don’t think so, which is why I think the Patriots cover the spread and win 27-23.
Brady, accounting for two touchdowns, will have a strong day passing to a group of guys you’ve probably never heard of, and LaGarrette Blount will rush for a score and get near the 100-yard mark as the Patriots fall behind early, only to take the lead in the second half on the way to the win.
-- Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @LDsportswriter.