NFL ratings are way down this year.  Thursday night games diluted any sort of exclusivity that the NFL has, and the Monday night games provided zero value.  Here in Atlanta, all that seems to be forgotten as our beloved Falcons won the NFC in spectacular fashion, and are heading to Houston to play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51.

Game: Super Bowl 51
Time: 6:30PM ET on FOX
Place: NRG Stadium, in Houston, TX
Odds: Patriots -3, O/U 58

Atlanta is a great sports town, but we only have one Championship to show for it (1995 Braves).  The Falcons win over Green Bay ranks high in terms of Atlanta sports moments, only behind the famous Sid Bream slide in 1992.  A Falcons win on Sunday would solidify Atlanta as a tier one sports town.  A Lombardi trophy would look nice in Arthur Blank’s new stadium.

To the game: The Patriots are making their seventh appearance in the Super Bowl since the Brady/Bilichick began 16 years ago.  They are favored to win, and by the sound of all the pundits, a win against the Falcons is just a formality.  However, the Falcons shouldn’t be overlooked.  Dan Quinn will be making his third Super Bowl appearance in four years, and he boasts one of the most dynamic offenses in history, with more tools than a Swiss Army knife.  This game should be great.

The quarterbacks are the most interesting storyline in this game.  Tom Brady vs. Matt Ryan.  Both are the preverbal faces of their respective franchises, and both got the Super Bowl via distinctly different paths.  Matt Ryan was squeaky clean, and managed a high-powered offense in as good a way as could be scripted.  Brady, on the other hand, missed the first four games of the season due to the deflate-gate suspension.  He never admitted fault, but took the four games to make it go away.  Since that suspension, he’s been playing like a man on a mission.  He REALLY wants to win the Super Bowl, and have Roger Goodell hand him the trophy.  

On the field, The Falcons offense is the story.  It all starts with the running game, featuring Freeman and Coleman who seem to get 6+ yards every time the touch the ball.  It’s usually a 2nd and 4, which allows Matt Ryan to pick apart the defense.  He loves to spread the ball around: if you put on a Falcons jersey and ran on the field, you’d catch a ball.  The New England offense is the usual machine, with Edelman seeming to catch almost everything that leaves Brady’s arm.  The Patriots don’t make mistakes, but they haven’t played a defense like the Falcons’.  

The Falcons’ defense is the game changer.  They know how to get stops.  Their pass rush is going to force Brady into hurried situations.  Now, he is Tom Brady, and he’s as good as there is, but getting chased around isn’t necessarily the best situation to execute a game plan.  Expect a timely pick, and a couple momentum-killing sacks by the Falcons, which will allow their offense to stay on the field.  Expect the Falcons to play the Super Bowl exactly like they played their last few games: get up early and fast, and let their defense wreak havoc.   The Patriots will put up a fight, but they won’t be able to answer.

Game Predictions:
MVP: Julio Jones.  He has 150+ yards and 2+ TD.  
Gronk plays, but is largely ineffective.  50 yards receiving.
Deion Jones wins defensive player of the game.  10+ tackles and a couple sacks.
Halftime Show: The Puppy Bowl will get more viewers than Lady Gaga.  Who cares.
Style MVP: Bilichick.  ‘Fashion Dad’ worst case scenario.

Final Score: Falcons 37 Patriots 27