Falcons Present Very Similar Challenge For Patriots As Steelers – Prediction:
I've been trying to figure out the Superbowl match-ups ever since the teams were decided two weeks ago. I am well aware of the Atlanta Falcons nucleus of players, their stars and important role players etc. I've seen the highlights all year. QB Matt Ryan (Boston College) is enjoying his best year and has been named league MVP. WR Julio Jones is a top 3 receiver in the league. Freeman and Coleman are a great running back duo. The defense isn't the best but can put together a good game more nights than not.
And also, give it up to the Falcons head coach Dan Quinn who, like Belichick is bringing his team to the Superbowl in just his second year.
What I stumbled on tonight during a commercial break of "The Vikings" series, was that, 1) I can't wait for the game and apparently can't take my mind off of it for long, but
2) The Atlanta Falcons are almost the same exact challenge as the Pittsburgh Steelers. Think about it. Good QB, somewhat mobile. Who is better, two-time Superbowl champion Ben Roethlisburger or Matt Ryan? It's pretty close. Good WR tandem too. Falcons have Julio Jones and Mohammed Sanu. Pittsburgh has Antonio Brown and Sammy Coates. The Falcons running backs aren't better, in my humble opinion than the Steeler's. Donte Freeman and Tavin Coleman had very good years but honestly, I'd rather have LeVeon Bell and DeAngelo Williams in my backfield.
The Patriots could not have asked for a better sparring partner to prepare for the Falcons than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Atlanta is playing their best ball but lost 5 games in the regular season (TB, PHi, SD, Sea and KC) and played two basically maimed playoff contenders in Seattle and Green Bay.
As much as I like to defend Tom Brady over Aaron Rodgers in the best QB debate, if we're being honest, the Falcons knew Green Bay had no running game and threw themselves in the Packer backfield all game. Not even the white hot Aaron Rodgers could keep up with the Falcons who enjoyed good field position and enjoyed airing out the ball against the very worst secondary I've seen in the playoffs in a long time.
Atlanta's defense was less than average this year and some of that is only due to the fact that the offense scored a lot and gave the ball back to the opponents offense a lot. But they have serious flaws too. The defense allowed 25.7 points per game and gave up 30 or more points 5 times this year. Opponents averaged 370 yards on offense per game.
The Patriots stingy defense gave up an average 15.6 points per game, good for league best and only one opponent went over 30 (31 to Seattle Nov 13). Opponents moved the ball 326 yards per game, but fad a much easier time between the 30 yard lines only to struggleto get much further. Belichick forced teams to throw underneath his talented secondary.
After Brady returned from suspension, the Patriots had the second highest scoring offense in the league, Atlanta came in first.
If anything, I believe Pittsburgh's defense is better, the offense is pretty close in talent and so, here is my prediction:
Patriots 36 Atlanta 23
Ken Pittman is a talk show host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9am-Noon. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.