By: Chucky Colin
matt Ryan vs Tom Brady
Ryan leads the league’s top scoring offense as the Falcons scored 540 points, the 8th-most all-time. In addition to posting career highs in yards (4,944), Ryan also led the league in quarterback rating (117.1). This hot streak has continued in the postseason as Ryan as thrown at least three touchdowns in a record four straight playoff games.
Tom Brady set a new NFL record for touchdown to interception ratio (14:1) this season. The two-time NFL MVP will have the edge in experience Sunday as this will be his seventh super bowl appearance, which is the most in league history.
With both quarterbacks having historically great seasons, whoever is able to finish the job in the big game will truly have put the icing on top of the cake.
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman vs LeGarrette BlounT
Freeman has been selected to two pro bowls in three NFL seasons, finishing with 1,500+ yards from scrimmage in both. Atlanta’s running backs finished first in yards from scrimmage with 168.9 yards per game and second in total touchdowns (24).
LeGarrette Blount led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns and finished 8th in rushing yards with 1,161, just 82 yards more than Freeman.
Whichever team can control the tempo with their rushing attack may be able to give their team a significant edge.
Which receiving core has the edge
But both teams have a variety of weapons in the receiving core.
A record 13 different players caught a touchdown pass for the Falcons this season. Key free-agent signing Taylor Gabriel and Julio Jones tied for the team lead with six touchdown receptions apiece.
Another productive signing, Martellus Bennett, led the Patriots with seven receiving touchdowns. Rookie Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan have also made contributions in the passing game. Hogan had a career day in the AFC Championship game, hauling in nine receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
The Falcons and Patriots rank third and fourth respectively in passing yards per game this season.
The Patriots, led by pro-bowlers Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty bring in the league’s number one scoring defense at just 15.6 per game but faces the task of slowing the league’s number one scoring offense.
Some have called the Patriots stout defense a fluke because of the lack of good quarterbacks that they have faced.
In the last eight games leading up to the AFC Championship game, the Patriots have faced: Ryan Fitzpatrick (twice), Colin Kaepernick, Jared Goff, Joe Flacco, Trevor Siemian, Matt Moore and Brock Osweiler.
Head Coach Bill Belichick says the Falcon’s offense will be the toughest task his defensive unit has faced all season.
The Falcons rank 27th in that category, giving up over 25 points per game, however the defense has held its own against the previous super bowl winning quarterbacks they have faced this post-season: Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson.
The Falcons are led by 2nd year stud Vic Beasley, who led the NFL with 15.5 sacks. That pressure or lack thereof will be a key component of controlling the game.
The biggest x-factor may be the turnover margin. Each team is tied first for the fewest giveaways in the league with 11.
Falcons Coach Dan Quinn is in his 2nd year as a head coach and 1st super bowl as the head man, but he’s coached in three of the last four super bowls. He served as the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator in their previous two super bowl appeareances.
With so many intriguing player and personnel matchups Super Bowl 51 has the potential to be one of the best. Will it be the perennial powerhouse known as the New England Patriots or the newcomers on the block known as the Atlanta Falcons?