Let the oddsmakers in Las Vegas tell it, and the New England Patriots will just slip past the Atlanta Falcons in the 2017 Super Bowl.
Translation: Fans are in for an incredible game.
The odds only increase the notion that this game reads like a flip of the coin on paper. Before a full breakdown, here are the odds:
|Feb. 5||NRG Stadium, Houston||6:30 p.m. ET||Fox||NE -3||58.5||Patriots|
|Odds via OddsShark|
It only seems right a field goal would separate Brady and Ryan.
Fans know the deal with Brady, the guy who served a four-game ban due to his role in Deflategate, only to return and throw 28 touchdowns with just two interceptions—thrusting himself not only into the Super Bowl but the MVP conversation.
Ryan hasn't had as much publicity. He is one of those quarterbacks who has hovered around elite status but never had the team to match.
How times have changed.
Thanks to guys like Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel, Ryan put on an MVP-caliber season of his own with 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has seven more scores and zero picks through two playoff games.
To say Brady and Ryan are of the neck-and-neck variety would be an understatement. Look at these numbers from The Ringer's Michael Lombardi:
Michael Lombardi @mlombardiNFL
Tom Brady's QB rating, 1st Down, 108.4, 2nd, 100.4 and 3rd 122.0 Matt Ryan's QB rating 1st down 116.5, 2nd down 124.2 and 3rd down 110.8 WOW2017-1-27 18:51:20
Taking a close look at the players around them doesn't clear the clouds, either.
Running backs? Ryan has the versatile Devonta Freeman, who rushed for 1,079 yards and 11 scores with another 462 yards and two scores as a receiver. Brady has LeGarrette Blount, a bully of a back who rushed for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The same deal applies to the receivers. Ryan has the following array of weapons, with Sanu coming in as a big-name free agent and Gabriel representing one of the league's notable breakout players:
Brady can make a star out of anyone, which explains strong seasons from Martellus Bennett (701 yards, seven touchdowns) and Chris Hogan (680 yards, four touchdowns) despite the absence of Rob Gronkowski.
The divide and Las Vegas' decision to back the Pats might come down to defense. New England permitted just 15.6 points per game during the regular season, which is quite an impressive feat when one thinks about how often opposing teams took to the air in an effort to keep pace with Brady.
Atlanta, on the other hand, allowed 25.4. It sounds like a significant gap until one remembers the Falcons defense held Russell Wilson's Seattle Seahawks to 20 points before limiting Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to 21 this postseason.
This even matchup bleeds over to prop bets, where Brady barely leads Ryan in Super Bowl MVP odds, according to OddsShark. When the gaps between in-game prop bets are about as large as silly props such as performer hair colors and such, fans can expect a close affair that might be decided in the closing seconds.
Aside from defense, some might point to Falcons receiver Julio Jones' injury issues this season as something to consider. But keep in mind that Jones still posted the above numbers while missing two games.
Now he has two weeks off to get back to 100 percent.
"For sure, he was battling through it, and (in) typical Julio fashion, (he) came through in the biggest way," Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said, according to the Houston Chronicle's John McClain. "I thought he played awesome, was huge for us in critical situations and showed how great a player he is."
Jones, capable running backs and an array of weapons surrounding two of the game's best players have Las Vegas covering itself with an over-under floating in historic territory, as ESPN's RJ Bell noted.
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If anything, bettors can throw more weight behind the total than the actual outcome to cover themselves.
A borderline assurance that these teams will drop plenty of points helps bettors buy into either narrative when it comes to the outcome. The first narrative is Ryan finally breaking through and the Falcons becoming a new NFC powerhouse. The second, of course, is the tale of Brady's revenge and the continuation of a dynasty.
For now, the odds going into Super Bowl week haven't strayed from the second narrative. Given the narrow line, bettors can feel comfortable going either way.
The odds speak to the process working as intended. Though the first round of the playoffs was the football equivalent of hitting the snooze button in the morning, the Super Bowl has unearthed the two best teams, which has oddsmakers searching for a good way to protect the house.
Bettors, after a full season of tricky lines under their belts, are more than prepared to battle with Las Vegas one last time.