The 267th game of the NFL season is the only one that matters now as it’s Super Bowl 51. The contest is scheduled for Sunday, February 5th at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas and will feature the AFC Champion New England Patriots and the NFC champs the Atlanta Falcons. The Patriots are hunting for a fifth Super Bowl title in their league-record ninth appearance and the Falcons are hoping to hoist the silverware for the first time in franchise history in their second attempt.
Falcons vs Patriots: 5Dimes NFL Betting Line:
- Point Spread: 5Dimes currently lists the Patriots at -3 points at -110 with the Falcons +3 points at -110
- Over/Under: the Game Total is set at 58.5 points at -110
- Money Line: the Patriots are -155 to win the game with the Falcons +135
Super Bowl 51 – Falcons vs Patriots Preview
When it comes to scoring, Atlanta’s 58 offensive touchdowns were tops in the NFL this season with New England third-best at 51. Atlanta may find it tough though considering the Patriots’ defense conceded a league-low 250 points this year. And even though Atlanta’s defense has improved lately, it still allowed the eighth-most yards against during the regular season at 371.2 per game and conceded 24 points an outing. In addition, the defense allowed at least 30 points against on six occasions. The Falcons may have a more efficient offense, but special teams and defense are in New England’s favor.
New England finished the season with a plus 11.9 scoring-margin differential per contest to lead the league while the Falcons were second at 8.38. Seven of the Patriots’ 14 victories were by at least two touchdowns. So far in the playoffs, Atlanta has outscored their opposition by 39 points and the Patriots outscored theirs by 37. Atlanta downed Seattle 36-20 and Green Bay 44-21, both at home. New England knocked off Houston 34-16 and Pittsburgh 36-17, also both at home. As far as quarterbacks go, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan could possibly win the MVP award for his performances, but New England’s Tom Brady should also get some consideration.
Brady played just 12 games due to his four-game suspension for ‘Deflategate.’ He tossed 28 touchdown passes and 3,554 yards. He was the best in throwing for distance by completing 58.8 per cent of his pass attempts of over 11 yards. It’s not that easy going deep against Atlanta though as they were seventh-lowest in the league at passes allowed over 11 yards. Brady isn’t as mobile now as he nears the age of 40 since, but his average time from snap to pass of 2.39 seconds is quite good. The Falcons don’t put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks as they ranked the league’s sixth-lowest by pressuring them just 25 per cent of the time.
The Patriots aren’t too strong at carrying the ball as they were ranked 25th for yards per rush. However, LeGarrette Blount’s 18 rushing touchdowns led the league and Dion Lewis is now healthy and could cause some damage. The Falcons’ rush defense conceded a seventh-highest 4.52 yards against per carry. Turnovers are quite rare for New England as the team was picked off a league-low twice all season. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan had a pass completion rate of 69.9 this year with 18 touchdown passes without being picked off over the past six outings. Sixty nine of his passes were for at least 20 yards, which was second-best in the league. In addition, he led the NFL at 7.5 yards per pass attempt and was picked off seven times this season.
Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman of Atlanta combined for 19 touchdowns, but New England’s run defense conceded just three rushes of 20 or more yards all year along with only half a dozen rushing touchdowns in close to 400 attempts. Both were ranked best in the league. Other key players will be Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones and Patriots’ cornerback Malcolm Butler. Jones gained 180 yards against Green Bay last week and appears to be healthy. He missed a pair of games with foot problems in December, but averaged 100.6 yards a game this year to lead the league. Meanwhile, Butler had four interceptions this year and his matchup against Jones will be interesting.
New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski is expected to play even though he’s slightly injured. He missed three extra-point kicks this year while Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant blew just one and went 15 for on kicks measuring 40 yards and more. On punt returns, the Falcons average was a fifth-best 11.38 yards on 24 punts, with Eric Weems returning all of them. New England conceded the second-lowest 4.96 punt returns against. Their own punt returns averaged a 25th-ranked 6.9 yards and kickoff returns were a 27th-ranked 18.7 yards.
We should also look at team discipline. The Patriots were second-best on defense, but led the league in offensive holding penalties with 29. Atlanta ranked top-10 in defense and offensive discipline. There’s a lot of information to digest, but the winner of the Super Bowl is going to be decided on how they play on Sunday, not what has happened in the past. But what the past has shown, is that these teams have been evenly matched over the years as they’ve faced off 13 times with New England winning seven and Atlanta taking the other six.
By Ian S. Palmer