I’ve been watching football for a really long time, and if there’s one thing I know it’s that anything can happen on any given Sunday. The Browns did indeed win a football game this year (and it should have been three). The Patriots did get shut out this year (by the Bills, no less). The Cowboys can’t buy a win at home in the postseason (which should go without saying). And while defense wins championships, neither of these two Super Bowl defenses is elite enough to stop either of these two offenses. So while nothing is predictable, on any given Sunday, on this Sunday expect a shootout.
Which is good for my pick.
The best way for the Patriots to win this Super Bowl is to keep the Falcons below 20 points, like they did with the Steelers. In that game they forced Ben Roethlisberger into mistakes, he looked uncomfortable, and, to add injury to insult, the team lost its best player early on in the contest (Le’Veon Bell). The problem with trying to translate that into the Super Bowl, and with trying to translate that to the Falcons, is that the Steelers are wildly inconsistent. They scored no touchdowns in the win against the Chiefs just the week before, and Ben just isn’t very good on the road. The Falcons have been maddeningly consistent all season long, and they always score touchdowns.
My point is that I don’t see the Patriots defense holding the Falcons under 20 points. Hell, I don’t see the Patriots holding the Falcons under 30 points. Atlanta led the league in points per game, and they do it in a variety of ways. Also, they have bulldozed through the playoffs, playing arguably their two best games of the season… in the postseason. This against stiff competition in that tough Seattle defense, and that juggernaut Aaron Rodgers offense. Didn’t matter. Matt Ryan is playing at another level right now, he finds receivers, and his running backs are flat out the best tandem in the league at the moment. I think they all come to play in the Super Bowl, and they turn this game into exactly the kind of game Atlanta can win — a shootout.
Now, Tom Brady is on the other side in this game, and he will get his points. He has made a career of turning water into wine, but he’s not Jesus. He is indeed human, and throwing two picks in that game against Houston puts that into stark relief. When he’s hurried, and he doesn’t have time to react, he can be rattled, and that young Falcons defense can get after the quarterback. Dan Quinn knows Brady’s tendencies, which will matter here. I don’t think the defense will stop Brady from scoring, but I do think it will stop him from scoring as often as he has against lesser teams (face it, the Patriots didn’t play a Murderer’s Row of teams this season).
All of that boils down to the Falcons lighting up the scoreboard, and the Patriots not being able to stop them when it counts. I think it will be a shootout, and I think the team left standing will be the one that has scored the most points per game this season, with the player who should be the MVP when the dust all settles. That player is Matt Ryan, and that team is the Atlanta Falcons.
Oh, and I think the first player from the Falcons to score a touchdown will be Taylor Gabriel. Mark it down.