The NFL season has finally coming to a close in Houston this Sunday with Super Bowl LI. The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons have battled through their respective division playoff matches, and each team is currently riding a high with their eyes on the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Both New England and Atlanta dominated their previous opponents in the conference championships in mid-January. The only question that remains is what each team must do to lift the coveted trophy after the game.

The case for the Patriots: The greatest advantage the Patriots have heading into the Super Bowl is experience. Quarterback Tom Brady has played in a record seven Super Bowls and has been victorious four times, giving him a league championship resume which is only comparable to that of the great Joe Montana. Behind Brady, the troop of four New England running backs will provide balance to the Patriots’ heavy and forceful air game. Bolden, Blount, White, and Lewis are arguably the most productive no-name backs in the league today, and their team’s success depends on them being able to take some of the pressure off of Brady from the ravenous Atlanta pass rush. Also on the offensive side of the pigskin, the explosive and elusive wide-receiver duo of Edelman and Hogan will need to find the gap in the Atlanta secondary if the Patriots want any success in the passing game. Martellus Bennett has played the entire 2017 postseason with a chipped bone in his ankle and will have a vital role in the Patriots’ passing game with the usual number one tight-end, Rob Gronkowski, out with an injury. Defensively, New England is consistently one of the best in the league, as Head Coach Bill Belichick is constantly praised for taking away the opponent’s best players on offense. This task might prove to be more difficult, however, with Atlanta’s multi-faceted attack. New England defensive players who will need to have a big game to win the Super Bowl include Defensive End Alan Branch and Cornerbacks Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler, who is best known for his game-sealing interception in Super Bowl 49. Ultimately, New England has a very good chance at walking away from NRG stadium with their fifth Lombardi Trophy.

The case for the Falcons: The Falcons are a complete football team and will pose a serious threat to the Patriots’ hopes of lifting the trophy again. As the number one offense in the league, they have the power and efficiency on the offensive end, to dismantle their opponent’s defense and a dangerous pass-rush defensively which could hamper the rhythm of star quarterback Tom Brady and the New England offensive. Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan has had a remarkable season, which has put him on the shortlist for the league MVP award. Behind Ryan, one of the most explosive and entertaining running backs in the league, Devonta Freeman, could possibly pose numerous problems for the New England defensive front. A great performance from Freeman could easily power Atlanta to the franchise’s first ever Lombardi Trophy. However, even if Freeman is wrapped up by the New England defense, the Matt Ryan-Julio Jones connection will place challenging stress on the Patriots’ secondary. With Jones out on the field, it is very possible that we will see many game-changing catches. The one downfall the Atlanta Falcons possess is the lack of experience. Only three players on the roster have ever played in a Super Bowl before; thus, it remains to be seen if they will rise to the challenge, or choke with the pressure of the occasion. Despite his players’ lack of experience, Head Coach Dan Quinn has recent Super Bowl experience as an assistant for the Seattle Seahawks during their two playoff runs. Defensively, the Falcons pass rushers and linebackers, Vic Beasley and Deion Jones, wreaked havoc against the Green Bay Packers, throwing Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay running backs to the ground often with little or no gain. Finally, the recent NFC Championship game is a perfect manifestation of how Atlanta can completely take over a game. They stopped what was arguably the hottest team in football dead in their tracks and churned out an impressive 44 points, spreading the workload widely throughout the entire team. Although the Falcons enter the game as the three-point underdogs they absolutely have the capability of outperforming and outworking the New England Patriots to secure the Lombardi Trophy.

Jordan’s Prediction: Patriots 24, Falcons 21
Adam’s Prediction: Falcons 31, Patriots 27
Mr. Packer’s Prediction: Patriots 35, Falcons 32
James Mazer’s Prediction: Falcons 36, Patriots 31
Stella Asmerom’s Prediction: Patriots 37, Falcons 15
Alix Hamon’s Prediction: Falcons 36, Patriots 28

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