The Super Bowl continues to extend its global reach as the NFL expands internationally, and live-streaming services now broadcast the game to more people than ever before.
This worldwide outreach will allow millions of fans to witness a proverbial chess match between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons.
A national anthem belted by Luke Bryan, unpredictable halftime show headlined by Lady Gaga and endless Hollywood-esque commercials will help to improve the spectacle. But Atlanta facing one of its toughest defensive matchups of the year and Bill Belichick tasked with shutting down the league's best offense is the definition of championship material.
Indeed, it's a global event worth catching. Here is a look at the necessary info and some deeper-dive material to help pass the wait.
|Date||Location||Time||TV||Live Stream||Point Spread||ML||Over/Under|
|Feb. 5||NRG Stadium, Houston||6:30 p.m. ET||Fox||Fox Sports Go||NE -3||NE (-120), ATL (+100)||58.5|
|Odds via OddsShark|
Storylines to Watch
YAC, YAC and YAC
It sounds like an oversimplification, but the Super Bowl victor will be the team that exercises the better fundamentals.
The Atlanta offense was the best attack in the NFL this year. MVP candidate Matt Ryan threw 38 scores in the regular season, and he added seven more with no interceptions over two playoff games. Plenty of stats can show this well enough, but just know the Falcons dropped 36 on the Seattle Seahawks in a playoff encounter.
But the Ryan-orchestrated offense leans on big plays after the catch to move the way it does. According to ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure and Mike Reiss, Atlanta finished second in the league in yards after the catch at 6.18.
It's important to contextualize this. If Devonta Freeman (1,079 yards, 11 touchdowns) runs for three or more yards on a first down, one of the receiving targets stands a good chance of extending the drive before even reaching third down.
Of course, this comes back to fundamentals—New England sits first in the NFL by only allowing 4.05 yards after the catch.
It shouldn't come as a shock that a team coached by Belichick is incredible at tackling. But if there was ever a team to take advantage of mistakes in this area, it's Atlanta.
New England's key player isn't Rob Gronkowski or Julian Edelman or even Chris Hogan, but running back LeGarrette Blount.
Blount, one of the most criminally underrated players in the league, ran for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns in the regular season and was a major reason the Patriots won three of their first four games while Tom Brady served his suspension.
Sunday will need to be one of Blount's best games of the season thanks to a little thing called game flow.
If Blount picks up chunks of yardage at a time against an Atlanta defense that allowed 104.5 (17th) rushing yards per game, it keeps Ryan, Julio Jones and others off the field, and Belichick's defense doesn't even have to worry about sound tackling.
A strong game from Blount also lures in the Atlanta defense and gives Brady more chances to go up over the top for big plays.
If Atlanta can't meet and shut down Blount—and the defense wasn't exactly tested by Seattle or Green Bay backs this postseason—then the firepower of the Ryan-led offense won't matter as much as it should.
When the Falcons aren't dealing with Blount, a defense featuring four rookie starters has to find a way to slow Brady.
Pressure is the main key.
Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux spoke with the media about this in the week leading up to the game, according to Stats LLC (via ESPN.com).
"We know in this league that the ball comes out 2.4, 2.5 (seconds) 90 percent of the time, so any way we can affect him by getting our hands up, or getting a hit and getting him rattled, anything we can do to disrupt him is going to be great for us," Babineaux said.
One problem—it is quite easier said than done.
Atlanta only tallied 34 sacks on the year, with Vic Beasley quietly grabbing 15.5 on his own. Even coaches not boasting the last name Belichick would draw up ways to eliminate him from applying pressure.
Brady himself helps. As Babineaux hinted, he gets the ball out so fast the pass rush doesn't often matter, hence his only taking 15 sacks over 12 regular season games.
If Beasley and other rushers aren't hitting home at a consistent clip, it places more stress on a shaky secondary. It will also have Brady not just getting his hands on a Lombardi Trophy, but probably another MVP award, too.