Jan. 15, 2019
Super Bowl LI: The Death of Patriotism
'Twas the night before the Bowl, and all through the nation
the analysts were stirring with great anticipation.
The banners were hung from the rafters with care,
some Falcon, some Patriot, but none were left bare.
Gotta put those poetry skills of mine to good use, and what better way than injecting some football into a Christmas classic?
The Super Bowl is very nearly upon us, and it's been analyzed halfway to death by everybody on Earth by now. Anyone who has ever touched a football in their life has weighed in. "Is Matt Ryan ready for the big stage?" "Can Tom Brady work his Super Bowl magic once again?" "Is the Falcons offense for real?" "Will the Patriots be able to stop the explosive Atlanta offense?" Half of the time, it's hard to tell whether these sorts of questions are rhetorical or not. They must be, because who's going to know those answers? That was a rhetorical question, don't answer that.
A game of football can go any number of different ways. We all think that we can map out exactly what's going to happen, but it truly is impossible to accurately predict what will go down. With that said, I've still got to earn this hefty, non-existent paycheck of mine, so I'm going to give it a whack. Here goes:
100% Accurate Prediction of Exactly What's Going to Happen in Super Bowl LI
For as long as I have been regularly watching football, the New England Patriots have consistently been one of the top 5 teams in the NFL. They've had a stranglehold on their status as an elite ball club ever since Bill Belichick came to town. It's no wonder that people dislike the Patriots so much. When you see somebody achieving so much more success than you've ever even thought that you might, accomplishing basically anything that they please, you can't help but see them as the snotty Harvard grad that thinks he's better than you.
Despite all of this, I actually do really admire what New England has been able to accomplish over the years. To be able to be as great as they have, as consistently as they have been, is incredibly impressive. Particularly in the playoffs, the Patriots are very much the alpha dogs of the league. Since Bill Belichick began his tenure, there have only been two seasons in which his team made the postseason and did not win a playoff game. That's consistency the likes of which you rarely see in the NFL.
What does this mean for the Super Bowl? The Brady-Belichick Connection is 4-2 in the Super Bowl as a duo, with the only two losses coming against Eli Manning's New York Giants. Is there any other team that can stop them on the true Grandest Stage of 'Em All?
Yes: the 2016-17 Atlanta Falcons.
I have never, in all my years as a football fan, seen an offense run so smoothly and effectively as this season's Atlanta Falcons offense. It's not even the fact that this team scores so frequently that impresses me. It amazes me just watching their offense accumulate first downs with such ease, and run the ball down the field like it's nothing. Guys like Devonta Freeman, Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Tevin Coleman, and Justin Hardy all flourish in this system in such a way that it's difficult to tell whether they are all untapped talents that everybody missed out on or they simply play at a higher level because of the system that they are in. Either way, the Falcons are surely glad to have them.
But, as you may have noticed, I did omit two very important names from that list of players. First, there's Julio Jones, who has a very strong case to make that he is the best receiver that the NFL has seen in quite some time. When it comes to the other utility players on Atlanta's offense, as I said, it's hard to tell just how much they benefit from the system that they are playing in. There's no way for us to know how purely talented those players are when they are working in such a well-oiled machine. This is not the case with Julio Jones. There is not a team in the league that could coach an offense badly enough that Julio Jones would be anything less than a great receiver. And in this particular setup, Jones is in the perfect position to give us the goods every single week.
And who is the other name that I omitted from the list? Well, Josephine, I'm so glad you asked. It's Matt Ryan, otherwise known as the league MVP. As of the time I am writing this, that title does not yet officially belong to Mr. Ryan. But it will. Or if it won't, it should. Matt Ryan is the best quarterback in the NFL right now, and that's amongst stiff competition. There's a reason that this offense functions as well as it does, and it's thanks in large part to the maestro behind center. I would go out on a limb to say that there is not a better on-field offensive coordinator than Matt Ryan. For all its moving pieces, the Atlanta offense manages to run like clockwork, and that is Matt Ryan's doing.
So how do all these pieces come together for the game on Sunday? Here's what I expect:
Atlanta, as has become their natural habit, will get off to a hot start. There's some stat going around about how the Belichick-Brady Patriots have never scored in the first quarter of a Super Bowl, but if you'll pardon mt French, that's completely irrelevant. New England will not match the quick-fire, explosiveness of the Falcons early on, but they will methodically keep pace and manage the clock. By the end of the first quarter, it will be 7-7, with a long New England drive culminating in points at the end of the quarter.
In the second quarter, Matt Ryan's offense will have 2, possibly 3, drives to work with, and I expect the Falcons to come away with 14 points in either scenario. It's very possible that the Patriots will have cracked the code by this point and that they will begin to slow Atlanta down, but I don't think that slowing them down is enough to keep them off the board. Once again, the Patriots offense will be keeping up with the opposition, but not quite at exactly the same pace. Bill Belichick knows what he's doing, and he'll know to treat this as a game of attrition. Halftime score: 21-17.
The third quarter will be more of a slugfest, with each team's defenses coming out of the locker room hungry to make something happen. By this point, I do expect that New England's defense will be able to finally stop the Falcons on a couple of drives. Having developed a lead, I expect Atlanta to rely a little bit more on their ground game, which is a good match-up for the Patriots. Tom Brady will continue to keep the Pats offense running like clockwork, and New England will come away with a lead going into the final quarter. 27-21 Patriots.
This is where it's going to get real good. Matty Ice will have a fire lit beneath him, and he'll lead his team down field to score and take the lead back. Then Tom Brady will do what Tom Brady does, responding in kind and leading his boys right back down the field to kick what appears to be the game-winning field goal. But then, when all hope seems lost, Matt Ryan will earn that MVP trophy and turn it right back around, bringing the Falcons within field goal range to kick the winner at the buzzer. 31-30 Falcons.
That's exactly what's going to happen. Carve it in stone, use a Sharpie, save it in the Cloud, whatever you need to do.
But you'll all be coming back to this article on Monday and thinking to yourself, "Wow, Troy Hates Flags really was the #UltimatePredictorian all along."
Have a good Sunday,