It’s that time of year again. When you think of February, most people think of hearts, flowers and chocolates. The stereotype is that women think of Valentine’s Day as one of the most romantic times of the year. But, chances are, when men think of February, they think of wings, loaded-down nachos, sweaty men in uniforms and Super Bowl Sunday.
As a sports writer — and a woman — I get the benefit of both worlds.
Super Bowl LI kicks off at NRG Stadium in Houston, Sunday, and should be one for the books. The No. 1 scoring defense, the New England Patriots, will face the top-ranked scoring offense, the Atlanta Falcons. The teams couldn’t be any more different, which, will make for one of the most intense games in the history of the NFL.
The Patriots are making their ninth Super Bowl appearance, having won four titles already. They are obviously the veteran team and a shoo-in to win a fifth ring. But, don’t cancel out the Falcons just yet. It’s your typical underdog versus champion showdown, and I have always loved seeing the underdog trump the champions, especially if it includes Tom Brady deflating, just like the footballs that caused him to be suspended for the first four games of the season.
The Falcons finished their regular season 11-5, before defeating the Seattle Seahawks, 36-20, in the divisional round and the Green Bay Packers, 44-21, in the championship round to make their overall record 13-5, earning their second spot in the Super Bowl, after making their debut in 1999.
As far as stats go, the Atlanta team has a .688 winning percentage, second only to the Cowboys in the National Football Conference. They have a points-for of 540 against a points-against of 406, a home record of 5-3 and on the road record of 6-2.
Assessing the team by players, first in line is the second-ranked quarterback, Matt Ryan. Ryan had 38 touchdowns, 4,994 total yards and a passer rating of 117.1 in the 2016 season. Wide receiver Julio Jones is another top contender for the Patriots to fear. Jones had 83 receptions in the season, 1,409 completed yards and six touchdowns.
The Atlanta Falcons have a great chance of winning the game. The offensive line will hold their own against New England’s power defense, and will bring their A-game.
ESPN.com predicts that the Falcons only have a 44-percent chance of winning the Super Bowl, but would ultimately fall somewhere in the three-point range. David Steele, from Sporting News predicts the Patriots, 26-24 and Fox Sports’ Dan Salem predicts Patriots 29-24.
However, they are all wrong. Atlanta had an amazing season, picking off their opponents one at a time and defeating some of the best teams in the NFC division. They have power behind Matt Ryan, who is a top contender to win the MVP trophy, and an offense that can’t be stopped. I can’t wait to watch the birds of prey soar over the Patriots in a 26-23 victory, while I eat a bucket of wings, large pizza and 50-piece McNugget meal — waiting on my flowers and chocolates to arrive.
UP staff writer