Why the New England Patriots Can Win Super Bowl LI
By Charles Jay
Well, one thing the Atlanta Falcons will have to overcome in Super Bowl LI is a disadvantage in terms of experience. The New England Patriots‘ combination of head coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, the star quarterback who is still setting NFL records, has been to six super Bowls previous to this one, and they have emerged victorious in four of them. They obviously have a unique challenge in front of them, since the Atlanta Falcons might be bringing the best defensive team ever to face New England in the Big Game. So obviously Belichick, who is considered by many to be a master of defensive tactics, may have to come up with something extra special in order to counter that.
This game kicks off at 6:30 PM ET at NRG Stadium in Houston, and America’s Bookie customers will have the opportunity to place wagers even after the opening kickoff, when they take advantage of the Live Betting options available in the sportsbook interface.
One thing we know that Atlanta likes to do is get off to a lead and then force the other team into throwing situations, so they continue off on the quarterback. And their main guy in that regard is Vic Beasley, who led the NFL in sacks with 15.5. This strategy is not so dissimilar to what the Indianapolis Colts used to like doing when they had Peyton Manning at quarterback. And they were sometimes in trouble when facing a team like New England, which was able to get off to a fast start more often than not. So can the Patriots get off quickly?
Well, let’s put it this way – there is no team in the league that was all that close to being as proficient in the first quarter as the Pats were. There margin during first-quarter play was 6.7 points per game, as they scored more and allowed fewer than any other team in the NFL. There is a key to the action right there, because if they can make Atlanta play from behind, they’ll have a big leg up on both sides of the ball.
In the Super Bowl LI betting odds posted on this game, New England is the favorite:
New England Patriots -3 (-105)
Atlanta Falcons +3 (-115)
Over 58.5 points -110
Under 58.5 points -110
Patriots to win straight-up -155
Falcons to win straight-up +135
How good is Atlanta on defense? We know that they really took care of business against both Seattle and Green Bay in the post-season, but with two weeks to prepare, you know that New England will have a few wrinkles for them to figure out. Let’s remember one thing about Beasley – he has gaudy stats as a sack-master, but at the same time, we know that 8.5 of those 15.5 sacks came against rookie quarterbacks, who had that “deer in the headlights” look about them. So he is not necessarily to be confused with someone like, say, Von Miller, who simply took things over in last year’s Super Bowl. When you come to think of it, Atlanta’s pass rush is kind of ordinary, to the point where coach Dan Quinn, who incidentally had to prepare a game plan against Brady and the Patriots when he was Seattle’s defensive coordinator couple of years ago, has had to blitz twice as many times as he did during the regular season in the games against the Seahawks and the Packers. Well, Seattle has a pretty awful offensive line, and Green Bay’s line was hampered by injuries, and aside from that, Aaron Rodgers holds the ball a heck of a lot longer than Brady, who has gotten rid of the ball in an average of 2.32 seconds over the past three seasons. If you really want to look at Brady’s numbers against the blitz, they are pretty staggering – an 8.4-yard average, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions, and he’s been sacked only twice. Needless to say, he has the highest passer rating in the league against the blitz. But Atlanta is going to have to do it anyway, as they really don’t have another choice.
You can also bet that Belichick and his staff have concluded that running the football up the gut on first down is going to be a way to go. Atlanta, from Weeks 10-17, gave up 5.4 yards per carry on first down, and if they don’t improve greatly in that area, it is going to make it much easier for the Patriots to convert and move the chains. Even under average circumstances, Atlanta was a little bit “soft” against opposing ground games (allowing 4.5 yards per attempt), so New England should be able to have some success, regardless of the situation, using someone like LaGarrete Blount, who scored 18 touchdowns on the ground, tops among all NFL running backs.
Brady should have success throwing to his running backs as well, as the Falcons yielded more yards per game to players at that position than anyone in the NFL. And let’s talk about the difference between these two teams as far as red zone proficiency is concerned. Atlanta, including playoff action, is the worst team in the NFL when it comes to allowing opponents to convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns, at 72%. No team that has won the Super Bowl, at least in the last 15 seasons, has even been remotely close to that. You can obviously attribute this to the fact that the Falcons are often leading by a lot of points and relaxed a bit more on defense, but when you look at the respective schedules, they won nine games by 13 points or more, while New England had ten wins by 13 or more, and the Pats only allowed 50% touchdowns in the red zone. Let’s face it – performance inside the 20 yard line can be a real difference-maker in a game, and we expect that might be the case on Super Bowl Sunday.
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