This has been one of the worst postseasons in recent memory for the NFL. Other than the Packers thrilling win in Dallas, the games have been lousy for the most part. Most games have been one sided and dull, with the game all but settled before the fourth quarter. The big fear is that trend will continue in Super Bowl LI in Houston.
If the Atlanta Falcons are to win, they nearly need to play a perfect game, any turnover and missed opportunity and time they settle for a field goal in the red zone and their limited chances at winning are diminished. In both Super Bowl loses to the New York Giants suffered by Tom Brady and the Patriots, the Giants played nearly perfect games. The Patriots are playing at such a high level and have such focus on winning that anything less than perfection will spell certain doom for Atlanta.
One thing to consider is the experience factor. Last year it played a key role as the Broncos two years after a loss were focused and quickly took control of Super Bowl 50 against the Panthers who appeared to come in looking to celebrate and soak in the expiernce of the spotlight. Instead they were sloppy and played their worst game of the season. With the Falcons getting their first taste of the spotlight one must wonder if they are truly ready for it. In the past Matt Ryan has struggled in the postseason, winning just one of five playoff starts before this year’s run.
Matt Ryan in posting a MVP season has been helped by Devonta Freeman and the Falcons rushing attack, which has taken a lot of pressure away by giving Ryan time to throw the ball and setting up the passing attack. The Patriots however, are the best run defense in the NFL and have not allowed anyone to rush for 100 yards all season. With the Falcons running game shutdown the heat will turn up on Matty Ice, and most often that is when he melts down.
The Falcons run defense meanwhile has been vulnerable at times, and any team that has a good line and a power rusher has been able to have big games. LeGarrette Blount is the type of rusher that the Falcons have had trouble with all season. While most focus on Tom Brady for the Patriots success, the true driving force has been Blount who scored a league leading 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016. When the Patriots stumbled last year in Denver, a big reason was injuries making them one dimensional this includes the loss of LaGarrette Blount who suffered a season ending injury late in the 2015 regular season. LaGarrette Blount is the player to keep your eye on for having a big game as the Patriots will feed him often if he is able to gash the Falcons soft run defense.
There is no doubt Tom Brady has been on a personal mission all season to win his fifth Lombardi Trophy an open defiance after being suspended the first four games for the deflategate scandal. It is hard to imagine the Falcons being able to slow him down. The only chance the Falcons have is for Matt Ryan to have the game of his life, the only problem is Matt Ryan has never beaten the Patriots, losing both starts in 2009 and 2013. The Patriots secondary has been solid as of late and they will be able to clog the middle, especially after stopping the Falcons run game.
While Tom Brady and Matt Ryan are getting the headlines going in it will be the run game that makes the difference in Super Bowl LI. Brady will have his big game he will pass for over 200 yards and he will have at least two touchdowns. However, it will be all about LaGarrette Blount, look for him to emerge as the star and the game’s MVP with at least 150 yards gained on the ground and four touchdowns as the Patriots win going away.