After toiling over this decision long enough, it’s time to pick my Super Bowl winner. I’ll start off by saying that I’ve had an excellent postseason picking games. I’m 10-0 overall and 7-3 against the spread. I correctly said that the Patriots and Falcons would meet up in the Super Bowl and here we are. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that initially I was going to pick the Patriots. I’m changing my mind.
The Atlanta Falcons have exceeded my expectations. I had them going 12-4 at the beginning of the year and going to the playoffs. I had no idea they’d be THIS good. Dan Quinn has this defense playing lights out. Keanu Neal is an unreal young safety. Their pass rush has been effective and they play their assignments correctly. Atlanta dismantled two very good football teams to get here in Seattle and Green Bay. I know Aaron Rodgers didn’t have his full array of weapons at his disposal and his defense didn’t play great against the Falcons, but you have to admire what the Falcons did to one of the game’s best quarterbacks.
Tom Brady may be the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, but this is one of his least talented groups he’s had. The Patriots were fortunate enough to play the meager Houston Texans and then the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game where Le’Veon Bell was injured in the first quarter. Their defense, while very formidable, wasn’t really challenged in either of those games. They will face their greatest defensive challenge of the season in the Atlanta Falcons. When the Falcons struggled last year, they only had Julio Jones at wide receiver and Devonta Freeman at running back making continuous plays. Now, Tevon Coleman is healthy at running back. Mohammed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel are huge weapons at receiver. Even Tight Ends Austin Hooper and Levine Toilolo get in on the action. That’s because Matt Ryan spreads it around so efficiently, which brings me to my next point.
The biggest question in this game is which defense will be able to slow the other offense down, especially in the secondary? You know Brady and Ryan will try to get the ball out quick knowing that pressure will be heading their direction often. That means a lot will be asked from each team’s secondary. My gut tells me the Falcons secondary is a little bit better. Keanu Neal has been a great ballhawk at safety and so has Ricardo Allen. Vic Beasley led the league in sacks this year, but he can also cover. The Falcons also don’t have to worry about Rob Gronkowski, which is a major plus.
Malcolm Butler, Patrick Chung, Logan Ryan, and Devin McCourty are all great cover guys, but they simply haven’t faced an offense like the Falcons this year. The best team they faced this season (amidst a pretty easy schedule by NFL standards) was the Seattle Seahawks who hung 31 points on them in Foxborough. The Falcons proved how much more potent they were than Seattle. It’s a tough call, but I’m going to have to ride the Atlanta Falcons
My Pick: Atlanta Falcons (+3) 30-24
Super Bowl MVP: Matt Ryan