I realize the Super Bowl isn’t until Feb. 5. But I couldn’t wait another week. I already know what’s going to happen a week from Sunday in Houston. And I can’t possibly keep it to myself.
Most NFL analysts and “experts” will hold off from revealing their predictions until next week. But what’s going to change between now and then? If anything, maybe the spread will look a little different by the time we get to the big game.
The New England Patriots opened as a three-point favorite over the Atlanta Falcons. That spread surprises me a little bit. I expected the Patriots to at least be a six-point favorite. But I was wrong.
I wasn’t wrong with my picks last weekend. I went 2-0, predicting the Patriots (-6) and the Falcons (-4) to win and cover the spread, which they did.
So now, here we are, a week away from Super Bowl LI in Houston. And I don’t think my prediction here will surprise you:
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-3) over Atlanta Falcons
-Both the Patriots and Falcons had convincing wins in their respective Conference Championship games. New England defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17, while Atlanta defeated the Green Bay Packers 44-21. That sets us up for a Super Bowl that’s expected to be high scoring, based on the over/under of 60 for this one. Seeing how Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan just lit up the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round and the Packers in the NFC Championship, you’re going to get some analysts predicting that Atlanta’s high-octane offense is just too good to be stopped. They’ll tell you that Ryan just slayed the beast that is Aaron Rodgers, and that the Falcons just have too many weapons. They might even try to use Le’Veon Bell’s groin injury in the AFC Championship to defend their argument that the Patriots defense has yet to face an elite offensive attack, and that, perhaps, New England’s dominant defensive numbers are still deceiving. I’m not one of those people. Because I believe that the only thing deceiving is Atlanta’s defensive performance against Green Bay last Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, shutting out Rodgers and the Packers in one whole half is not an easy thing to do. That’s exactly what the Falcons did in the NFC Championship. They led Green Bay 24-0 at halftime, and even though the Packers were able to score 21 points in the second half, their defense was so bad that by that point, there was no stopping the Falcons offense. So while it looked good, Atlanta’s defense is nowhere close to as good as it looked in that first half. In fact, statistically, the Falcons’ pass defense was one of the worst pass defenses in all of football during the regular season. It ranked 28th in the NFL, allowing 267 yards in the air per game. And when it comes to points-allowed per game, Atlanta’s defense ranked 27th in the league, allowing 25 points per game. That’s not very good. Meanwhile, the Patriots’ defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL, allowing just 15.6 points per game in the regular season. They’ll certainly be tested by the Falcons in the Super Bowl, but in a neutral site, with two weeks to prepare, who would you pick to win one game, Tom Brady of Matt Ryan? If you answered that question with “Ryan,” you’re either from Atlanta or you’re just not very smart. I realize that there are other factors than the quarterbacks in this game. But if you’re willing to accept the reality of how bad Atlanta’s pass defense truly is, then you’re willing to accept the fact that Brady is set up to tear apart that Falcons’ secondary. I’ll say the same thing I said about Pittsburgh last week. The only way Atlanta has a chance to win this game, is if they’re in Brady’s face all game long and force a couple bad throws that create a few turnovers. If the Falcons’ pass rush can’t do that, then Brady won’t be stopped, and he’ll get the best of a shootout with Ryan, if it turns into that. Like I said previously, given how bad the Falcons defense is, I was expecting the Patriots to be a six-point favorite. Brady has won four Super Bowls. This will be his seventh appearance in the big game. Sunday will mark Ryan’s first Super Bowl appearance. There isn’t any matchup in this game that would force me to even think about picking Atlanta. Patriots win. And I don’t even think it will be close.
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