NFL fans (and casual commercial observers) have witnessed some brilliant Super Bowls over the past decade after an era that was populated by blowouts. Broncos-Panthers in Super Bowl 50 last February didn’t feel close but Carolina trailed by only 6 late in the game. Patriots-Seahawks in XLIX was an all-time classic, there was the Ravens-49ers “Blackout Bowl” spectacle in XLVII, the Steelers-Cardinals thriller in XLIII and of course both Giants-Patriots battles.
The return to roman numerals should deliver another awesome championship contest. The first overtime in Super Bowl history? Probably not but it remains a popular prop bet every year. Scroll down for a five pack of reasons why the Patriots vs. Falcons in Super Bowl LI should be stellar and perhaps the most exciting yet.
1 Points, points and more points
If you like a defensive slog and punting, this isn’t your Super Bowl. If you prefer big plays, completions and drives up and down the field, you will probably be quite pleased with this game. Per Vegas sports books, the over/under is currently hovering around 58.5 and should close right about there, which would make it the highest total in Super Bowl history.
That’s no surprise considering the Falcons have the most efficient offense in football and the Patriots are right behind, per Football Outsiders. Tom Brady and Matt Ryan were the two highest-rated QBs in the league and both have a cornucopia of offensive threats and solid offensive lines to allow them time to find their targets. Meanwhile the Falcons’ defensive is below-average and the Patriots is a few shades better but still vulnerable.
2 The Patriots have historically played close games in the Super Bowl
The collective margin of victory (with the Patriots as winners or losers) in the previous six New England Super Bowls in the Brady-Bill Belichick era is just 20 — combined. The first four were decided by exactly three apiece and the most recent two saw them fall by four then win by four. The spread for this game is Patriots by 3. History and Atlanta’s ability to rack up points tells us the game should come down to the wire.
3 Lack of R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Like late, great comedian Rodney Dangerfield, the Falcons are getting somewhere between no respect and little respect. Longtime Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote a column titled “It’s hard to get pumped up about a Super Bowl against … Atlanta.”
As if New England’s fans deserve a more exciting adversary, because being in the Super Bowl is not reward enough. “When it comes to Atlanta and its sports fans, we feel nothing” he writes. “Maybe a little pity.”
Atlanta has heard from many sides that it’s a bad sports town. Meanwhile FOX Sports’ own Skip Bayless argued that the Super Bowl would be better with Dallas in it. “The truth is, the Atlanta Falcons are pretty boring as a football team” he said. “All told, they’re boring. They’re not Jerry Jones and the Cowboys.
“Problem” is that despite these laments, the Falcons were the NFC’s best team. The Falcons can thus take the ‘ol “us against the world” mentality, channel that disrespect and try to pummel the Patriots’ somewhat susceptible, pass-rush lacking defense with it. And the individual matchup of Julio Jones and Malcolm Butler? Butler openly wished for a shot at Julio four years ago when he was still playing at West Alabama and working at Popeye’s, writing: “I wanna check julio jones … lo l… real talk doe..”
4 Brady and Belichick can plant their flags as the best
Subjectively, they might already be there but in terms of total rings as a pair, they can eclipse Steelers legend Terry Bradshaw and head coach Chuck Noll, who won four apiece with the Pittsburgh from 1975-1980.
Joe Montana also has four wins as a starting QB (different coaches) and Charles Haley has the most rings as a player (two with San Francisco, three with Dallas), meanwhile Belichick actually has six rings total thanks to the pair he won with the Giants as a defensive coordinator in XXI and XXV). But with a win, Brady-Belichick tandem`will stand alone as the winningest QB-coach combo of all time.
5 Lady Gaga at halftime
Love or hate her — and there’s a lot in both camps — the queen of the meat dress has some incredible pipes and will put on a good show. Can she crack the list of greatest halftime show performances of all time with Michael Jackson, Prince and Katy Perry’s “Left Shark?” I wouldn’t bet against it.