First and foremost, if the Patriots don’t get to Matt Ryan, it is going to be a long night. Ryan has been brilliant against the blitz with a passer rating of over 116 when blitzed. He does at times throw errant passes if defenses can get inside pressure and get in his face. This is what I had hoped the Packers would be able to do, no dice. The Patriots will look to take Julio Jones out of the equation but with so many weapons around him, just taking Julio away (a questionable prospect to begin with) will not be enough. Sanu and the Falcons two backs out of the backfield are more of a headache than the defensive resources of most teams can bear. The Patriots are no different.
Tom Brady always plays big in big games and I would expect the same tonight. Even without Gronk, the Patriots were 3rd in the league in scoring during the regular season. Does the word shootout come to anyone’s mind?
The Patriots’ defense is not loaded with high dollar talent but they play very fundamentally sound football and the stage is a regular one for them. Will they have enough to outscore Ryan and the Atlanta offense? One big factor in this game is the Atlanta defense. Like the Patriots, they are not a team that is known for their defense but the Falcons defense really came alive in the playoffs. They don’t get enough credit and their ability to get to Tom Brady I think gives them one extra set of downs in this game. That could be all the difference Ryan and company need.
I think Tom Brady throws one interception that is the lone turnover in the game. The Patriots try to eat up clock but get forced into a shootout by a Falcons offense that methodically scores from the outset of the game. I am tempted to say the last team with the ball wins this game but I think Brady turns it over once and the Falcons finish up with a field goal already sporting a 7 point lead. This is likely not a Vegas friendly prediction but I think the Falcons prove they are the best team in the league. Both teams lost to the Seahawks at least once this year and so the play of the defense will be critical. I expect both teams to score regularly so stops will be at a premium and the one turnover (third quarter) puts the Falcons in the lead to stay. Packers fans will go to sleep tonight knowing they were knocked out of the Super Bowl by the winner in the end.
Falcons 38 Patriots 28