The Big Game: The Thunderbeat sports section makes its picks

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Jacob Kunes

AJ Forbes--Sports Editor, Gabe Smith--Reporter, and Nathan Hawkins--Reporter

Gabe’s Take:

The highflying offense of the Atlanta Falcons will spoil Tom Brady and the Patriots’ quest for redemption Super Bowl Sunday. The Falcons offense tore through Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom, and took care of business against Clay Matthews and the respectable Packers defense on their way to the team’s second Super Bowl appearance.

While Matt Ryan and the offense are getting all the attention, it has been Deion Jones and the defense who put a halt to the hot streak of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The defense has been on a roll in the postseason, recording five sacks in only two games. Speaking of sacks, the Falcons have the man who lead the NFL in Vic Beasley. If anyone will be able to disrupt Tom Brady it will be the Falcons.

While their defense is on the rise, it has been their offense that has propelled them to the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan had been solid through his career, but this year has been his best by far. Ryan is a legitimate MVP candidate, and with wide receivers like Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu at his disposal he has been nearly unstoppable. While Ryan has been a star, the two-headed monster of Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman have been the Robin to Ryan’s Batman, recording 1,599 yards combined over the regular season.

It will take more than a decent defense and a hot offense to slay the dragon that is the New England Patriots. The Falcons will need to come out Sunday and play their hearts out and more. They need to not only force turnovers, but they need to capitalize off the turnovers with more than just a field goal. The Patriots showed against the Texans that they were vulnerable, Houston might have won if they had a half decent quarterback. The Patriots may have gotten past Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game, but Le’Veon Bell left the game early in the first half.

The Falcons will be able to pull off the upset with a solid performance by Matt Ryan, and a great game by the hot Atlanta defense. As long as Atlanta makes little to no mistakes they will be able to control the tempo, and the momentum of the game. The Atlanta Falcons, led by the best offense in the league, will soar past the aging New England Patriots.

 

AJ’s Take:

Before you start rolling your eyes and saying “bandwagon,” hear me out.

First and foremost, the New England Patriots arguably have the greatest quarterback to ever play the game in Tom Brady. At the ripe age of 39, Brady threw for over 3,500 yards, 28 touchdowns, and only 2 interceptions in just 12 games of the regular season–an NFL record for touchdown-interception ratio. This man does not make mistakes. All he does is throw touchdowns and win Super Bowls.

He’s been to six of them and won four, just so you know.

The other obvious factor in the inevitable Patriots victory is Bill Belichick. Name another coach who can start the season 3-1 with the second and third string quarterback while the future Hall of Famer served a questionable suspension. Name another coach who has coached in more Super Bowls–oh wait! Belichick has that record with 10 (two with New York and eight with New England). Also, he is tied with former Steelers coach Chuck Noll with the most Super Bowl wins as a head coach with four.

These two are a better duo than the Obama-Biden memes.

What makes the Patriots great, besides their refusal to make mistakes, is the fact that they are the best at finding a team’s weakness and exploiting it, as well as find their strength and shut it down. This is evident in the New England’s first-rated scoring defense.

The Atlanta Falcons may have the first ranked offense in the National Football League, but any offense that becomes one-dimensional will not succeed for very long. Especially in the Super Bowl.

New England has become notorious for taking away the opposing team’s best player or players and forcing them to turn to their less-established teammates. Making sure Atlanta’s top receiver Julio Jones becomes a non factor is more than possible. The Patriot’s best cover cornerback Malcolm Butler (four interceptions in the regular season) and starting safety Devin McCourty (third on the team in tackles with 83) will be the duo responsible for covering Jones.

The Falcon’s 23rd ranked total defense is young and susceptible to giving up yards both through the air and on the ground. Tom Brady and the Patriots’ air attack can do a whole lot against a defense giving up 280 passing yards a game.

Don’t be surprised if Edelman has another big Super Bowl performance after a season where he recorded a career high in receiving yards with 1,106 yards. Fellow receiver Chris Hogan is also someone to keep an eye on after breaking out for 180 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the AFC Championship game  

Giving up 100 rushing yards a game certainly doesn’t bode well for a Falcons defense facing the league’s leading touchdown scorer in Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (18 rushing touchdowns).

The Patriot dynasty roared during the early 2000’s with three Super Bowl wins in four years. After their 28-24 victory in Super Bowl XLIX and yet another AFC Championship appearance in 2016, the dynasty will rise again. And it begins the night of Feb. 5.

 

Nathan’s Take:

Championship Sunday was a good day for the bandwagons. Not only did the Deflatriots win convincingly over the Pittsburgh Steelers to give Brady and his boys a chance at his 5th Super Bowl, but the new NFC powerhouse, the Atlanta Falcons, routed the Green Bay Packers to get a shot at their second Super Bowl ever.

Like most Super Bowls, this year will have a lot of storylines that make this all that more interesting: will the Falcons win their first Super Bowl, will Brady win his 5th, and if so, will he force archnemesis Roger Goodell to kiss his ring? All jokes aside, this game will be entertaining. So who has the edge?

That would be Brady and the Patriots.

I am no Patriots fan. Trust me. When writing this, I looked for as many reasons as I could to NOT pick the Patriots, because quite frankly I am tired of their success. But it’s hard to pick against Tom Brady’s arm in the Super Bowl.

The key to the game won’t be Brady though. With MVP caliber quarterback Matt Ryan as his opposition, their isn’t an obvious edge at the quarterback position.

The Patriots will make it or break it on defense. They won’t have an easy task, as they will be on their heels trying to stop the No.1 offense in football. Not only has Matt Ryan thrown for 4,944 yards, but they have a solid running game with the duo of Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, the latter of which has ran for over 1,000 yards this year. The toughest task won’t be the running game, however. It will be to guard the best wide receiver in football, Julio Jones.

It doesn’t take a genius to be able to see Jones’ dominance. Looking at stats, there aren’t many players better. But watching the game is where you can truly see his dominance. Jones is a 6’3 wide receiver who runs a 4.39 40. When he gets the ball, anything seems possible.

The problem will be getting him the ball. The Patriots have one of the better cornerbacks in the league in Malcolm Butler. No rookie to Super Bowl heroics, his ability (or lack thereof) to guard Julio Jones will be what determines the game. If he can slow him down, Atlanta might not be able to get their offense moving.

The defense as a whole has allowed less points than any other team this season. The Falcons have scored more than any other team. The matchup between the No.1 offense and the No.1 defense has only happened six times in Super Bowl history.

The team with the No.1 defense is 5-1. The one time that team lost was in 1990, when the 49ers beat the Broncos behind Joe Montana; Matt Ryan is no Joe Montana.

Not to mention the team with the No.1 defense this year has Tom Brady at quarterback, who has as many titles as Joe Montana.

He will leave the game with more.