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After we talked last week about how both the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons arrived at Super Bowl 51, it’s time to talk football. Who will hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy on February 5?
How New England Can Win
It is well-documented that the New England Patriots are good at football. It is also well-documented that Tom Brady is good at football. Playing in his seventh Super Bowl, the Patriots’ quarterback is at the top of his game in 2016-17 with the second-highest completion percentage (67.4%) of his career and the second-highest passer rating (112.2) of his career. Brady’s 2016 campaign is second only to his record-setting 2007 when he threw for 4,806 yards and 50 touchdowns. The scary part? The Patriots might not even go as Brady goes this year – the New England defense allowed the fewest points in the NFL this season, and the Patriots went 3-1 without their leader to start the season.
Perhaps even more important to the Patriots’ success than Brady is head coach Bill Belichick. Hard to find a metric beyond wins and losses for this, but simply put, Belichick is unmatched in this age of the NFL. The most relevant note heading into Super Bowl 51 – Belichick and Brady are a perfect 12-0 in the playoffs when facing a team for the first time that season. When teams do not have a recent game to go back to, they do not beat the Patriots. The most recent time the Atlanta Falcons faced New England? Almost four years ago (September 2013).
How Atlanta Can Win
The Atlanta Falcons‘ offense is the best in the NFL. They led the league in points scored, were second in yards gained, and were top-five in passing and rushing yards gained. There’s a reason the over/under for this Super Bowl is a record high. They’ve dropped 33-or-more points in nine of their previous 11 games, and non-coincidentally, won all nine of those games, losing the other two. Oh, if only football were that easy to analyze.
Everyone knows about Matt Ryan spearheading the Falcons’ offense, but don’t sleep on the two-headed monster in the backfield. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are one of two pairs of teammates with 10-or-more touchdowns this season, and the only pair of running backs to pull off the feat. On top of that, the Falcons have only one turnover in their past six games, while the defense has 13 takeaways in the same span. Simply put – the Falcons are good.
This Super Bowl is highly-anticipated, as all Super Bowls are. The narratives in play – Atlanta’s shot at their first Super Bowl in franchise history, New England’s seemingly eternal redemption tour – are part of the picture. Here, we look at the numbers and the statistics. Super Bowl 51 very well may come down to who has the ball last. It might also be as much of a blowout as most of this postseason’s games. The beauty of sports is that we don’t know the answers to these questions. The beauty of having a place to talk about sports is that we get to pretend we know the answers. That being said…
New England 27, Atlanta 22.
Matt Tardiff is the resident stathead at ChinMusicPod.com and doesn’t believe a prediction in favor of the Patriots jinxes their title chances. Then again, you’re reading a statistics column, so you probably already knew that. Check out @StatTardiff on Twitter for various relevant statistics about Super Bowl 51. As always, check back next Tuesday for more stats.