February 3, 2017

The Patriots will rise above the Falcons

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

I’ve been trying for two weeks to make a case for the Atlanta Falcons – it’s that hard.

It seems that everything that the amazing Falcons are good at, the Patriots have a solid counter for it. And in some areas where the NFC champs struggle, the Pats excel.

It all starts at the top for the Patriots, with the genius that is Bill Belichick running the show. He has put on a masterclass this season with his defence, posting league-best number while trading away starting linebacker Jamie Collins mid-season.

His defence is the league’s best at taking away big plays, which are a key part of the Falcons offence. The Pats have the secondary and the schemes to take away the big play without sacrificing much in run defence. Also, New England defenders are solid tacklers, taking away potential for big yards-after-catch plays – another staple of the Falcons offence.

Belichick’s defence may not give up many points, but it is OK with allowing yardage – in small pieces. He’ll let you dink and dunk between the 20s, then stiffen up when it really matters in the red zone. His challenge will be to stop a team that excels in close.

We would also be remiss to mention that the Pats haven’t faced an offence this good all season. The closest would’ve been the Steelers in the AFC title game, but they lost their best player, LeVeon Bell, very early on.

Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has done some amazing work building the league’s top offence, but this will be his biggest test yet – until he’s pacing the sidelines as the 49ers new head coach.

On the other side of the ball, we don’t have to tell you that Tom Brady is pretty good at carving up an opposing defence.

When Dan Quinn was in charge of the Seahawks two years ago against the Pats, he used the front four to create pressure while dropping seven back in coverage. He knows that Brady is even better when you blitz him and he shouldn’t play into that strength. Whether the Falcons’ pass rush can disrupt Brady without sending extra men is the big question.

Around Brady, the Pats have assembled a wide array of playmakers that all fill different roles. No matter what the gameplan calls for, Brady has that tool in his shed to use. We should see a bunch of LeGarrette Blount on the ground, Dion Lewis catching the ball out of the backfield, Julian Edelman coming out of the slot and New England’s latest hero, Chris Hogan, taking the top off the Falcons defence. The Pats offence is about as similar to a Swiss Army knife as there is in the game today.

Of course, the Super Bowl rarely turns out to be very cut and dry, and we should expect a few surprises, but this whole season has been leading up to seeing commissioner Roger Goodell hand over the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Robert Kraft, Belichick and Brady.

Unless the Falcons can pull off the upset, that will be a sight for the ages.

Pick: New England 34, Atlanta 24

MVP: LeGarrette Blount, NE

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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