Monday, January 23, 2017

Super Bowl 51 will be Patriots vs. Falcons

The match-up for Super Bowl 51 is now set in stone. The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons will play for football's ultimate prize on February 5, after both teams destroyed Green Bay and Pittsburgh respectively in the conference championships. It was the first time since the 2005-2006 season that we saw both conference title games decided by more than 17 points. 

Falcons 44, Packers 21

This was a non-contest, which is sad considering this was billed as a match-up between two great offensive teams. Well, the Falcons were awesome offensively. The Packers were downright offensive; literally. Atlanta jumped out to a 17-0 start so quickly that you knew that Green Bay had no shot. The Packers had two chances to do something early, but a missed field goal by Mason Crosby and a fumble toward the end zone by Aaron Ripkowski did them in. 

Matt Ryan was downright spectacular. He ripped apart Green Bay's battered secondary for 392 yards and four touchdowns, while Julio Jones ripped off 180 yards and two scores receiving. It was a dominate effort by the duo. 

As for Atlanta's much maligned defense, you have to give them credit here. They kept Aaron Rodgers in check for the most part, and never allowed him to get comfortable in the pocket. They sacked him twice and hit him a total of seven times in the game. They held him to just 287 yards passing, the lowest amount of yards he's thrown for in a game since a December 18 game at Chicago. In short, it was total domination by an Atlanta Falcon team that played with a purpose on Sunday.

 The Falcons had been in this same spot four years ago and blew it against the San Francisco 49ers. They didn't let a 17-0 lead get away from them this time. They increased their lead to 24-0 before the half on a Julio Jones touchdown in the corner of the end zone. Then jumped out 31-0 to start the second half on Jones' 73-yard touchdown catch-n-run. At that point, the game was officially over. 

Patriots 36, Steelers 17

Like the Falcons, the Patriots steamrolled over their competition, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the AFC title game. New England jumped out to a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter when Tom Brady hit Chris Hogan for a 16-yard scoring strike, and from that point on the game was feta accompli. 

The biggest concern for Pittsburgh coming into the game was whether their sluggish offense could find the end zone, and the answer was clearly, no! After a second quarter touchdown that cut the deficit to 10-6, the Steelers managed only a field goal on their next six possessions. Most of their possessions either ended in a punt or a turnover. 

Meanwhile, Brady continued to pile up the yards. He threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Hogan continues to turn into a poor mans Julian Edelman, who was once a poor man's Wes Welker so many years ago. Hogan caught nine balls for 180 yards and two scores. Not bad at all for a Patriots team that is clearly on a revenge tour after the fall out from last season's Deflategate meltdown. 


Speaking of Deflategate, remember last season when Tom Brady was booed relentlessly at last year's Super Bowl in San Francisco when all the past Super Bowl MVP's were introduced? He took personal offense to it. I remember there was a report that Julian Edelman even saying he texted Brady that they were going to use that as added motivation. Not that the Patriots didn't have enough motivation after the NFL levied a 4-game ban on Brady at the start of this season. 

Roger Goodell has stayed clear of the Patriots all postseason; he attended the NFC Title Game in Atlanta instead. He won't be able to avoid the Patriots this time, especially if they win.  That plot twist will be one of the main plots for Super Bowl 51 in Houston. If the Patriots do win, and they are a -3 point favorite in Vegas right now, the trophy presentation will be so awkward it will make the handshake between Donald Trump and Barack Obama look cordial. 


What the heck does a new stadium have to do with a Super Bowl that is played in Houston? Very simple, the Falcons are opening a $1.5 billion stadium in Atlanta next season. You don't think Arthur Blank would love it even more if his team wins the Super Bowl in two weeks so that he can get the annual prime time NFL season opener in his brand new building against the Dallas Cowboys on September 7? You betcha! 

Might as well get this out of the way. The quarterback battle in Super Bowl 51 will feature Matt Ryan, an alum of Boston College against Brady. This is going to draw a lot of conversation among Bostonians in the next two weeks. 

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