It’s finally here, the Superbowl. On Sunday night (Monday 10:30 AEST), the New England Patriots go head to head with the Atlanta Falcons in the biggest game of the year. It’s the No. 1 Seed in the AFC versus the No. 2 Seed in the NFC. It’s the top ranked scoring offence versus the top ranked scoring defence. NFL fans around the world can’t wait for what is set to be an incredibly exciting match.
No one is hotter than the Falcons right now. After finishing the regular season with the top ranked offence in the league, there were still question marks over whether the Falcons could continue to perform in the postseason. Matt Ryan had a playoff record of 1-4, and there were fears over whether the Falcons were legitimate Superbowl contenders with Ryan at the helm. Those fears have now gone out the window. In their two games in the playoffs, Atlanta has taken no backward steps, scoring a total of 80 points. Matt Ryan has been simply superb, throwing for a total of 730 yards at a completion rate of 70.7%, with 7 touchdowns to no interceptions. His connection with Julio Jones has only gotten better, as Jones has 15 receptions for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns.
After playing in a record sixth straight Conference Championship, the New England Patriots are in yet another Superbowl. This is, almost unbelievably, their seventh Superbowl in the Belichick-Brady era. Tom Brady is ageless. After breaking the all-time touchdown-to-interception ratio in the regular season, he is now searching for his fifth Superbowl ring. He and Bill Belichick led this team to a 14-2 record. Added to this is their very stout defence. The Patriots gave up just 15.6 points throughout the regular season, and have again given up just 33 points in two games in the playoffs. Perhaps New England’s most impressive performance of the entire season came against the Steelers in the Conference Championship, winning 36-17 in a dominant performance, particularly on the defensive side against the three-headed beast of Big Ben, Bell and Brown. However, now they go up against Matt Ryan and the best offence in the league, who are showing no signs of slowing down.
Brady should be able to exploit the Falcons’ suspect secondary, as his combination with receivers Julian Edelman has continued to be strong, but more surprisingly is the emergence of Chris Hogan. Hogan exploded against the Steelers, hauling in 9 catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Edelman has continued to be Brady’s go-to receiver, with 16 receptions for 255 yards and a touchdown in the two games.
The biggest question will be whether the Patriots defence can stop the high-powered Falcons offence. Atlanta are facing their biggest test of the postseason, coming up against a stingy defence that limits big plays. Matt Ryan and the Falcons must try and score early and put pressure on the Patriots. If the Falcons fall behind early, they could struggle to keep up with Brady and co. Past Superbowls have showed us that top defence wins over top offence. Will this year’s game be the same?
Prediction: This is set up to be one hell of a Superbowl. Ryan and the Falcons seem unstoppable right now, and Brady’s play continues to impress. Brady and Belichick, however, know how to win in these big matches. Brady gets his fifth ring in a close one. Patriots by 3.