By Amanda Neppl / Staff Writer
Happy Super Bowl Sunday! Tonight, at 6:30, the New England Patriots will face the Atlanta Falcons at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Here is a run-down from the season.
If you’re here for Luke Bryan, halftime, and Broadway, scroll down.
Yesterday, quarterback Matt Ryan was named NFL MVP as well as Offensive Player of the Year. “Ryan led the highest-scoring offense in the NFL at 33.8 points per game, posting incredible individual numbers in the process,” writes Rob Goldberg for Bleacher Report. His passing yards for this season totaled nearly 5,000; he was 56 yards away. “Maybe he’ll complete almost 70 percent of his passes again,” writes Vaughn McClure for EPSN. “Ryan has enough talent around him on offense – not to mention a maturing, fast, and energetic defense – to make the Falcons a contender for years to come.”
Next to having more points per game and passing yards, the Falcons defeat the Patriots in rushing yards, too. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman – “Atlanta’s running back tandem” – managed to add “more than 170 yards from scrimmage in 2016,” reads a line in an ESPN article on the Falcon’s goals for tonight. Freeman ranks 9th in top running backs during regular season, but is 6th in postseason with Coleman right behind him.
From the looks of Julio Jones during the Falcon’s game against Green Bay, he is ready to make a catch – or catches – like that again. However, from postseason injuries, “Jones, who is expected to play in Super Bowl LI against the Patriots on Sunday, may require offseason surgery on his sprained toe,” reports Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Jones sits at 2nd under T.Y Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts during the regular season, and 5th during postseason. Jones performance tonight, due to the sprained toe, is “questionable” per ESPN.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady will make his 7th Super Bowl appearance tonight. After tonight, Brady will have “the NFL record for most Super Bowls by a player,” writes John Breech for CBS Sports. “Tom Brady is a future Hall of Fame quarterback. It’s hard to stop a guy like that that knows defenses,” Jonathan Babineaux, Falcon defensive tackle, says. “He’s seen it all. The thing that we have to do is rattle him and make sure he’s not comfortable in the pocket.” Brady ranks 4th in postseason passing, but 20th in regular season. No matter personal opinions on Brady, how a player plays football is a reflection on how good they are, not how many Super Bowls they have been to.
LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis, and James White should give the Patriots the rushing yards needed to get to the end zone. That is, if they can work like Coleman and Freeman. The three “combined for 2,293 scrimmage yards and 23 touchdowns,” writes Vince Masi for ESPN. Almost 200 yards and 1 touchdown short of the Freeman/Coleman duo. Blount ranks 8th in postseason and regular season.
Just like Jones, Chris Hogan showed he could also catch *like* a professional football player. During postseason, Hogan is 2nd is receiving, yet, does not place in the top 50 during the regular season. “New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said the risk in sending an extra body to make Ryan move from his launch point is that approach leaves Coleman and Freeman open in space, where they’ve been destructive,” per ESPN. Sticking someone in the middle of Ryan’s line to throw could disturb his anticipated throw, only for it to be intercepted by Hogan, which would be interesting for him (Hogan) and the Patriots. Then, there’s Julian Edelman, the *other* wide receiver, who just might win the game at the last second. Of course, that only happens when they play the Steelers.
The Last Word Super Bowl 51 prediction: The Atlanta Falcons
Country singer Luke Bryan will perform “The Star-Spangled Banner”, but before that, Broadway musical Hamilton will take the stage, as The Schuyler Sisters will sing “America the Beautiful.” This year’s halftime show hosts the “one-of-a-kind” Lady Gaga. “This will be Lady Gaga’s second time performing on the Super Bowl stage, after having sang the National Anthem at Super Bowl 50 last February,” reads a description on the NFL website. Gaga will not be alone, as John Breech of CBS Sports reports Tony Bennett will join the stage, too.