A New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl showdown. We all picked this game to happen back in the preseason, right?
The Falcons, led by MVP favorite Matt Ryan, have scorched defenses all season long. But perhaps the two most impressive performances from Ryan and his teammates came once the postseason came around and their league-leading offense during the regular season didn't matter anymore.
After all, the Falcons haven't done well in the playoffs since Ryan took over the offense. But this time around, something just clicked.
After beating the Seattle Seahawks 36-20 followed by an incredible showcase of offensive superiority against the Green Bay Packers in a 44-21 beatdown, there were no more question marks surrounding this team.
Atlanta is the real deal, and they'll be looking to prove it one final time on Sunday, Feb. 5, in Houston.
But facing the Falcons is an all-too-familiar opponent. Not so much a familiar foe for the Falcons, but the Patriots have been in this same position so many times that it's almost a routine for them to make it to the Super Bowl each season.
The Patriots, like the Falcons, are coming off two dominant displays against the Houston Texans and the Pittsburgh Steelers. But what might be more impressive about the Patriots' playoff run than the Falcons' is that New England dismantled the Steelers and their high-octane offense.
Sure, it can be argued that the game might not have been so one-sided if Le'Veon Bell didn't get injured, but the reality is that Pittsburgh has so many weapons on offense, including Antonio Brown, that losing one player shouldn't matter that much. Besides, there aren't many backups in the NFL who are as good as DeAngelo Williams.
The 36-17 drubbing of the Steelers was the exclamation point for the Patriots this season. Even without Rob Gronkowski, New England is a well-oiled machine that truly believes in the next-man-up mentality.
However, no one doubts that Tom Brady and his offense can put up points against the Falcons. The real question surrounding this game is if the Patriots can stop the Falcons and the No. 1 offense in the NFL when it matters most.
While OddsShark has the Patriots opening as three-point favorites heading into Super Bowl Sunday, there are some pundits out there who are picking the Falcons to upset the Patriots, including ESPN's Scott Van Pelt.
But Van Pelt is wrong.
The Patriots have one advantage that Van Pelt alluded to but undervalued, and that is experience. Ryan may have proved that he can win a couple of playoff games, but can he win a Super Bowl?
We all know that Brady can win when it matters most, and as much as the Falcons have silenced their critics throughout the season, they still have to prove themselves against the toughest opponent possible.
Maybe next year they will be ready to take on a team like New England in a game of this magnitude, but it's too fast, too much for Ryan and the Falcons.
It's impossible to tell how Ryan will react when he enters NRG Stadium, with half the crowd cheering for him while the other half of the stadium curses his name. The Falcons beat two good teams en route to the Super Bowl, but both games were at home. Can this team really handle the pressure yet?
Ryan should be the MVP this year and the Falcons deserve all the recognition and credit they've received thus far. They should use this experience as a learning curve to improve themselves for another run next year and they'll be better for it. But they won't beat the Patriots in a Super Bowl. New England is too experienced, too dynamic and too smart to lose this game.
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Since Brady's return from suspension, the Patriots have only lost one game and that was against a very hot Seattle Seahawks team that was healthy and in the middle of a playoff push.
Don't expect Brady to lose his third Super Bowl. He's getting ring No. 5 and cementing himself as the best quarterback in the league's history all while smirking at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as Goodell hands him the Lombardi Trophy.