For the first time in nearly two decades, the Atlanta Falcons will be in the Super Bowl this year. They have had several strong seasons during this span, but rarely made the playoffs and could never quite make it all the way to the Super Bowl. This year’s sucess came as even more of a surprise because this season was not supposed to be a good one for the Falcons.
At the beginning of the season, the Falcons were given 80/1 odds to win the Super Bowl. Only four teams had lower odds, including the Philadelphia Eagles (100/1), Los Angeles Rams (100/1), Cleveland Browns (200/1) and the San Francisco 49ers (200/1). These poor odds were largely a result of the Falcons’ lackluster 2015 campaign. They had a very average 8-8 record, and starting quarterback Matt Ryan played poorly.
This season, however, the Falcons shattered expectations and won 11 games, earning themselves a playoff berth. Their offense is currently ranked best overall in the NFL, and their defense is ranked eighth. They have been a force to be reckoned with all season and will continue to be a tough team to beat on Sunday.
The Falcons will be put to the test against the storied New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. The Patriots have a team of similar caliber to the Falcons, but with a lot more playoff experience under their belts, having won four Super Bowls, all within the last 15 years. They have made it to the Super Bowl five other times, though they did not win. To top it off, since 2001, they have won the AFC East Division 14 times in 16 seasons. 2001 was also Tom Brady’s first year as the Patriots starting quarterback.
The Patriots’ resume and playoff experience is extremely powerful, and this is part of what has led them to the playoffs year after year. The fact that Tom Brady, the quarterback and leader of the team, has been around for all of these years and has all of this experience is particularly important, since he has a huge impact on the game. The Patriots do have a significant advantage in this game because of this experience.
Despite having the best offense in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons have been projected by many analysts to lose to the Patriots this Sunday in a close game. In order to beat the odds, Matt Ryan will have to perform at his absolute best. They need to expect New England to double cover and essentially shut down star wide receiver Julio Jones. Rather than continuing to throw to the stand-out, Ryan needs to use any lapse in coverage to throw to less notable receiver Taylor Gabriel.
On defense, the Falcons are in decent shape, as they have one of the best passing defenses in the league. The area they need to watch is the run. Pats running back LeGarrette Blount can be dangerous, especially when coupled with Tom Brady’s ability to pass. If the Falcons become too consumed with stopping the run, this will create weaknesses in their pass defense. This will certainly be a juggling act of sorts for the Falcons defense, as they attempt to combat an offense that poses many different threats.
A win would be fantastic for the city of Atlanta being that, for the most part, all of their professional sports teams have struggled for years. The city needs something to get fans excited about Atlanta sports. The Atlanta Braves built a brand new stadium for the 2017 season in hopes that it will increase ticket sales, but the impact of a Super Bowl win on Sunday night would be exponentially greater.
The Falcons will face their greatest challenge on Sunday, and it will undoubtedly be a great game to watch. Ryan has taken his game to a new level this season, and as long as the game is well managed there is no reason the Falcons should not be crowned Super Bowl Champions.