OK, we get it. The New England Patriots are the Patriots … with a capital P.
New England is the gold standard in the NFL right now and has been for years. Tom Brady is one of the all-time great quarterbacks in league history. Bill Belichick is one of the all-time great coaches.
On Feb. 5 in Houston, New England will make its ninth Super Bowl appearance, the most of any NFL team (Pittsburgh, Dallas and Denver are tied for second with eight), and the Patriots have won four times. Seven of those appearances have come since the 2001 season with Brady at quarterback and Belichick at head coach.
Those two have formed one of the great player-coach combinations in the history of American sports, and the Patriots will be the country’s darlings once again when they arrive in Houston for the big game.
New England’s opponent, Atlanta, is making just its second Super Bowl appearance and is one of 13 franchises to not win a Super Bowl title. The Falcons lost to Denver in their first appearance and had lost their two NFC title game appearances since that game … until Sunday. That’s when Atlanta dominated Green Bay to earn a second Super Bowl trip.
So the matchup is really one of the NFL’s haves against one of the NFL’s have nots. That said, Atlanta is the better team this year, and the Falcons are going to win the Super Bowl next week.
Brady, again, is a great quarterback, but Atlanta’s Matt Ryan has been even better than Brady this season. Ryan has had a terrific NFL career that really only needs a Super Bowl title to make it complete, and he’s going to win the league’s MVP next week before the big game.
But the Falcons’ attack isn’t just about Ryan. He has weapons all over the place, led by the league’s best wide receiver in Julio Jones and a dynamic running game. Try to stop one of the Falcons’ pieces, and three others will pop up and have a great game.
That’s what faces Belichick, one of the game’s great defensive minds who is going to have his hands full against this Atlanta offense.
But Brady and the Patriots’ offense are going to have their hands full, as well. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has revamped the team’s defense through the draft the past two years, and the Falcons have speed and athleticism all over the place on that side of the ball.
Yes, the Falcons are inexperienced and will be facing a quarterback mastermind, but the Falcons are going to attack Brady and not sit back and let him pick them apart like he did to Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game. The Steelers were way too passive on defense in that game, and the Falcons will not play that way.
What makes the Falcons so fun to watch is that they are aggressive on both sides of the ball. They throw the ball deep and attack on offense, and they get after their opponents and dictate pace of play on defense.
That aggressive nature will be perfect against the Patriots and is going to lead the Falcons to their first Super Bowl title.