The wait for the most epic sporting event of the year is finally over, with the New England Patriots set to take on the Atlanta Falcons at Super Bowl 51 in Houston, Texas on Sunday. In the words of Nate Burleson, this Super Bowl is already said to potentially be “the best Super Bowl game of all time”, with this year marking the 50th anniversary of the very first 1967 Super Bowl.
This year’s NFL season that has lead up to the big game has been an entertaining one to say the least. Last year’s champions, the Denver Broncos, surprised the league with a mid-table finish that that all started with the loss of their Future Hall of Famer and star veteran, Peyton Manning along with their season-long struggle to find a settled QB to take charge of the team.
The Dallas Cowboys dominated the NFC division, finishing with the number one seed coming into the playoffs. Their season-long domination surprisingly came from their rookie duo of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, who came together to get 13 regular season wins for the Cowboys, along with both making Pro Bowl appearances in their rookie year. Prescott even went on to tie “Big” Ben Roethlisberger’s record of most regular season wins by a rookie QB (most in NFL history).
The Oakland Raiders stunned the league with an emphatic attempt to make a push for the playoffs, with their now injured star QB Derek Carr leading them all the way to a playoff wildcard game for the first time since 2002.
However, the biggest surprise came from the Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan and the Falcons had a phenomenal season, finishing second in the NFC division, smashing their way through the playoffs to make their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, with hopes of winning their first ever Super Bowl.
The Falcons finished the 2016 season with an 11-5 record along with leading the league in scoring with 540 points, earning them the second seed in the NFC playoffs, which really is a big deal for them considering they have failed to make the playoffs in the last three season.
Atlanta definitely seem to be the favourites amongst the fans, being the underdog team that at the start of the season were predicted to have the same chances as the Cleveland Browns (who only won one game this season) to go on an reach the Super Bowl. Nevertheless, with a winning attitude, strong chemistry and a true drive to succeed, the Falcons have found themselves facing the top team in the league in their most important game ever.
Although they are the underdogs, they have become a household name across the league due to the talent and drive their players possess, starting with nine-year veteran QB and captain Matt “Ice” Ryan. Ryan, one of the favourites to be crowned this seasons MVP, had a career-high of a season with 4944 passing yards and 38 touchdown passes, being ranked second in the NFL and leading the league in passer rating (117.1), giving him his fourth career Pro Bowl selection.
It is not just Ryan or leading by example. Atlanta’s top target WR Julio Brown is coming into the Super Bowl off one hell of a season. Jones caught a staggering 83 passes for 1409 yards (second in the NFL) and six touchdowns. Julio Jones poses a real threat to the Patriots with his arsenal of abilities. His ability to see a run, catch the ball and drive to the end zone is something that he does best in the league, with little able to deal with him defensively.
The New England Patriots are making their ninth Super Bowl appearance on Sunday, the most appearances of any NFL franchise. Head Coach Bill Belichick and five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady are no strangers to the big game making seven of the teams nine appearances, with two of them coming within just three years, but the Falcons pose a serious threat offensively and are the highest-scoring offense Bill Belichick has faced in a Super Bowl with 33.8point per game.
It is to no one’s amazement that the Patriots are clear favourites for the match-up with their 4-4 record in their previous Super Bowl appearances and 4-2 under the leadership of Belichick and Brady. In addition to this, New England have recorded at least 12 wins in every year since 2010, with this season being no different.
But even though the Patriots have had a fantastic season and are clear favourites to win this match-up, I feel that Atlanta have a real chance of surprising us and going all the way to beat the Pats and to win their first Super Bowl ever. This really would be the perfect end to a brilliant season that has surprised and entertained fans of all teams, and I feel that with players like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Vic Beasley and Devonta Freeman, the Falcons really do have a chance to make history, so you don’t want to miss it.
Be sure to check it out on campus at The Stannary at 23:30 on Sunday.