Definitive Super Bowl LI Roundtable Preview

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Feb 1, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; A general view of the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots next to the Vince Lombardi Trophy prior to a press conference in preparation for Super Bowl LI at George R. Brown Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 1, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; A general view of the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots next to the Vince Lombardi Trophy prior to a press conference in preparation for Super Bowl LI at George R. Brown Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What storyline are you most looking forward to following throughout the course of the game?

Justin Ekstrom: For me, it has to be the number one scoring offense versus the number one scoring defense. I know, I am a sucker for the major headlines in the Super Bowl.

Jacob Infante: I’m looking forward to seeing if the Falcons can continue their Cinderella season after missing the playoffs entirely a year ago.

Shane Davies: I’m thoroughly intrigued by the idea of New England winning a Super Bowl in the same year in which their star quarterback was falsely accused of cheating and substantially suspended. They now have an opportunity to give the ultimate “F-you” to the league by winning the Super Bowl.

Apr 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announces a pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at Auditorium Theatre. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announces a pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at Auditorium Theatre. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Philip Robinson: A storyline nobody is lending much credence piquing my interest, what happens to Tom Brady’s place in history should the Patriots lose a third Super Bowl. Will he still be in the conversation for the best ever with a 4-3 Super Bowl record?

In the last five Super Bowls in which the top scoring offense matched up with the top scoring defense, the superior defensive team has won four times. Do you see New England being able to slow down Atlanta’s offense?

Justin Ekstrom: Not so much slowing them down as making them settle for field goal attempts much more than they are accustomed to. The Falcons will gain plenty of yards but the Patriots red zone defense may stifle them more than teams in the playoffs have.

Jacob Infante: I agree with Justin. New England won’t be able to completely shut down the Kyle Shanahan-led Falcons offense, but they’ll be the hardest test Atlanta has faced all year.

Shane Davies: I do, actually. New England’s defense is so fundamentally sound in terms of tackling and always being in the right place at the right time. I think Atlanta will be able to move the ball between the 20’s, but will find tougher resistance inside of the red-zone.

Philip Robinson: Atlanta averaged 33.6 points per game, do I see Patriots holding them to under that total? Yes, but I also see Atlanta scoring three touchdowns and winning.

Who do you envision having a better performance, Matt Ryan or Tom Brady?

Justin Ekstrom: Since I see the Patriots winning this game, Tom Brady. I see Matt Ryan making more mistakes than Brady ultimately being the Falcons’ undoing.

Jacob Infante: I think Matt Ryan will put up prettier stats, but Brady will end up having the better game.

Nov 27, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) celebrates the touchdown with wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (18) in the second quarter of their game against the Arizona Cardinals at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) celebrates the touchdown with wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (18) in the second quarter of their game against the Arizona Cardinals at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Philip Robinson: It’s a no brainer, Tom Brady no question. The New England Patriots will not win Super Bowl LI without a dominant game from Brady. Atlanta has too many options to limit to just Ryan’s game.

Shane Davies: It’s a tough call, but I’m going to side with Matt Ryan. He’s been simply incredible this entire season, and I don’t see him struggling too much in this game. It could easily be Brady, but I expect New England to have the more balanced offense between the two teams.

What player could you see having a big game that isn’t being talked about enough?

Justin Ekstrom: In order for the Falcons to pull the upset, fullback, Patrick DiMarco has to have a big day paving the way against the stout front of New England. He may not factor in the stat sheet but there are different ways to have a big day without recording a single catch or rush.

Jacob Infante: Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel has been an underrated asset in Atlanta’s aerial assault. I can easily see the deep threat burning New England’s secondary a few times.

Philip Robinson: Tevin Coleman, while everybody has made waves in the Atlanta offense unsung hero Coleman has been there to bail out the team when everyone else is stymied.

Shane Davies: Dion Lewis. He is a match-up nightmare and is really dangerous in the open field. He’s been playing better as of late and I could see him having a big contribution via the passing game.

What are the keys to victory for both teams?

Justin Ekstrom: As broken record as this may be, both teams need to run the ball effectively and stop the run. Both teams have great passing attacks yet they all key off being able to gain positive yards on quick runs. Something tells me the team with the most rushing yards, wins this game by controlling the clock and keeping the other high-powered offense off the field.

Jacob Infante: New England is going to need to be able to have a dominant all-around performance in coverage. Their secondary could show up and shut down Julio Jones and Gabriel, but the Falcons have plenty of receiving weapons in the backfield. Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and Patrick DiMarco could all step up in case one of their receivers gets shut down.

Atlanta is going to have to put pressure on Tom Brady. Outside of Vic Beasley, Atlanta’s pass rush is lacking. The likes of Tyson Jackson and Brooks Reed are going to have to step up. If the Falcons fail to have a productive pass rush, then Brady will have plenty of time to work the pocket and find the open man. As we’ve come to know, nobody in the NFL is more dangerous with time to throw than Tom Brady.

Philip Robinson: The Patriots need only do what they have been doing for the majority of the year. Let Brady do his thing early and batter the Falcons with Blount late. Should the Patriots defense continue it’s frugality worst case scenario is Brady can eek out a close one.

Sep 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) breaks away for a long touchdown in the second half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Patriots won 30-23. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) breaks away for a long touchdown in the second half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Patriots won 30-23. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta is going to need to need to come out guns blazing and put pressure on the Patriots to win a shootout. While they have been better as of late, the defense was still a middle of the pack unit during the regular season. The offense is what got the Falcons here and the offense is what will win them the title.

From start to finish, how do you see this game playing out?

Justin Ekstrom: As easy as it would be to pick a high-scoring affair, beginning to end, this one may be about the underrated defenses causing more disruption than most would assume. Many years, top offenses have played in the Super Bowl and the first quarter ends up being 10-3 or 7-0. The fact that Atlanta gives up more yards after the catch than any other team in the NFL should concern Falcons’ fans everywhere. After trading a few offensive barbs for the first half, Tom Brady opens things up by using his quick passes to his fleet-footed receivers; creating a lead that even the Falcons are not accustomed to coming back from. The Patriots will then hold off a late charge and recover the onside kick at the end to give them a 34-28 victory. Tom Brady will then solidify his place in Super Bowl immortality by being named Super Bowl LI MVP.

Jacob Infante: The Falcons will kick things off with a touchdown on their opening drive. Both teams will have very productive offensive drives, but most of them will end up in field goals. Both Matt Ryan and Tom Brady will have solid first-half performances. Atlanta will enter halftime with a slight lead. New England will start to come back late in the game thanks to a Tom Brady touchdown pass to Chris Hogan. The Pats will have a slight lead to start the fourth quarter, and will hold onto that throughout the final minutes of the game. A last-second sack will seal the deal for the Falcons.

Shane Davies: It sounds cliche’, but both teams will be gunning for an early lead. New England is historically dominant when scoring first, while Atlanta will not want to fall behind given New England’s experience in Super Bowls. Regardless, I see the Patriots jumping out to a double-digit lead heading into half-time and ultimately winning by seven points. I could see Atlanta with a late comeback but I don’t think they will win in the end.

Philip Robinson: I see the game being 7-3 after both teams first possessions, with the Patriots having the touchdown. The score at the half should be something like 17-10 as both teams will move the ball and score. The defenses will alternate making timely stops while yielding yards. Coming out of the break the Falcons will put up two touchdowns in the third. The Patriots will put up 7-10 points bringing the score to 24-24 heading into the fourth. From this point it gets a little dicey, as I don’t know who will have the football entering into the fourth quarter. I’m personally hoping for an old showdown at the O.K. Corrall. It should come down to the last possession, the last play, like it always does for the Patriots. In true schoolyard fashion Tom Brady will throw the game winning touchdown cementing his legacy as the greatest quarterback ever. Patriots win Super Bowl LI  31-27, Tom Brady gets handed the MVP and Lombardi trophy by Roger Goodell who’s staring at his feet.

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