This day doesn’t happen very often. In fact, Sunday will be only the second day of its kind in the history of… well, history.
The Atlanta Falcons will play for a Super Bowl championship. As surreal as it still may be, this is now a reality. The long wait is almost over. It’s time.
It would have been nice if the last two weeks had dissuaded me from feeling so confident about Atlanta’s chances, but it hasn’t.
The Falcons are going to win Sunday. They are going to win the Super Bowl.
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Such a strong statement is dangerous in space like this. If the Falcons win, a columnist will look like a genius for writing such a demonstrative comment. If they lose, well, look out.
The New England Patriots are very good, and no one will be surprised if they win the game in Houston. They’ve got Bill Belichick. They’ve got Tom Brady. They’ve got talent. They’re very good.
But the Falcons may simply be better.
The chess match between these two teams, and the two coaching staffs, will be fun to watch. How will Belichick plan to slow down Atlanta’s offense? And how will the young Falcons defense react to playing against perhaps the best quarterback of all-time?
Atlanta’s defense is so young, with four rookie starters and three starters in just their second year. Most of them were in third grade when Brady first won a Super Bowl, but they don’t seem to care too much about that.
Let’s see if New England tries to ram running back LeGarrette Blount right at Atlanta’s young defense. That’s what they should do. When Philadelphia ran the ball all day on the Falcons back in November, it kept Atlanta’s offense off the field and the Eagles won easily.
Seattle did that three weeks ago, with a long drive that ate up half the first quarter. But once Atlanta got the ball, the offense just didn’t let up. If Matt Ryan gets this team in a rhythm, can the Patriots stop them?
Probably not. Let them focus on Julio Jones all day long, but there are nine other options for Ryan to target. Can you imagine what the Packers thought two weeks ago, when on one of Ryan’s first passes, he hit fullback Patrick DiMarco with a 31-yard completion?
That was on Atlanta’s first drive, and Ryan had already thrown to four other receivers.
New England hasn’t faced an offense like this. Of the 13 different teams the Patriots have played this season, only two were in the top 10 in the league in total offense. Seven were actually in the bottom third in total offense.
Belichick will have his team ready, but the Patriots are still going to be challenged like they never have been this season. If they force Ryan to make mistakes, maybe it won’t matter. But Ryan has faced defenses that were arguably more talented this season (Arizona, Denver and Seattle) and eaten them alive.
The Patriots will not be able to stop the Falcons. The Falcons might stop the Falcons, but they haven’t shot themselves in the foot a lot this season. There’s a little worry about center Alex Mack, but as long as the offensive line is intact, Ryan should have time to be Matt Ryan.
Maybe this won’t happen. Maybe the Falcons will once again be the Falcons and we’ll all just shrug our shoulders and realize we got excited about nothing.
Then again, maybe the Falcons are simply the best team in football. Maybe it’s my heart talking, but my head is telling me the Falcons will win 33-24. Well, it’s my heart as well, but why ruin a good feeling?
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.