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Sunday, 5 February 2017

Super Bowl LI Picks 2017- New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons (February 5th)

We are finally down to the final game of the American Football season before a six month wait before any official action is played on the field. The Super Bowl is going to be watched by a huge audience around the globe and it certainly looks an interesting one as the New England Patriots take on the Atlanta Falcons in Houston.

My Play Off picks have not been that good if I am being honest, but this is going to be a winning record regardless of how my final pick does. Hopefully it will be one that brings in one final winner for the season.

New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Pick: Playing in the Super Bowl has been a regular occurrence for the New England Patriots with Tom Brady at Quarter Back and Bill Belichick as Head Coach. The experience those two men have built up has to play a large part in factoring in the favourite for the Super Bowl this weekend, although the oddsmakers are not finding it easy to separate them from the Atlanta Falcons who have been very strong Offensively all season.

It is easy to think the Patriots are all about the Brady and Belichick connection, but there is a very good staff at New England with both Offensive Co-Ordinator Josh McDaniels and Defensive Co-Ordinator Matt Patricia tipped to becoming Head Coaches in their own right in the near future. McDaniels has previously done that with the Denver Broncos, but is expected to receive a second chance at some point, while Patricia could be the hot candidate once he decides he is going to move forward.

Patricia's Defensive unit have quietly gone about their business this season and become one of the better units in the NFL. No one will mistake this Defense for the one that helped the Seattle Seahawks or the Denver Broncos win the Super Bowl in recent season, but it is better than the sum of its parts although the big test will come in the Super Bowl when taking on Atlanta's Number 1 Ranked Offense.

One of the key battles is going to be at the line of scrimmage on this side of the ball as the Atlanta Falcons have two of the most dynamic Running Backs in the NFL and will be going up against a New England Defensive Line that has been stout up front. Alan Branch is a huge body right in the middle of that line, but they have some speed at the edges and from the Linebacker position which has been able to contain the run so both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman could have a challenge establishing the run.

However both have shown considerable speed and the Atlanta Offensive Line have improved through the course of the season to open holes for the Backs as well as protecting Quarter Back Matt Ryan. Ryan looks like being named the MVP of the regular season and has played very well in two Play Off games to help the Falcons move into the Super Bowl for the first time since 1999.

Ryan hasn't had a lot of Play Off success before this season but he hasn't let that get to him prior to the Super Bowl, although the big game can bring out the nerves. His big weapon Julio Jones looks like he is going to up to full speed for this one and Ryan has a number of weapons on the Offensive side of the ball who can all win the game for the Falcons. It will be interesting to see what kind of game plan New England put together as they have become known for being able to remove one or two key pieces of an Offense and force the other players to beat them, but Atlanta have plenty of players who can step up.

If Ryan has the time I expect him too, I do think he will have success throwing the ball against this Secondary who have made big plays, but also given up some big yards. Shutting down the run could make Atlanta one dimensional if New England remain as stout as they have been up front, but this is a Falcons team that will feel they can throw the ball effectively too.

Matt Ryan will have to try and out-duel Tom Brady in this one with the veteran Quarter Back showing little sign of slowing down. There are some aspects of his abilities that have regressed with age, but Brady is still playing smart football and can still make the deep throws to open up Defenses when he needs to. Even without the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Brady has made Chris Hogan and Martellus Bennett key parts of his Offense and that has seen the Patriots move the chains and score plenty of points.

Brady should enjoy a strong game against an Atlanta Secondary that have allowed some big yards but have been able to turn the ball over which has been a huge part of their success. Turnovers were an issue for Brady in the win over the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round, but he looked much better two weeks ago and I think he will look after the ball well enough to keep the New England Patriots moving in this one.

He gets the ball out of his hands quick enough to negate Vic Beasley and the pass rush and Brady has players like Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman who can be hard to find when they come away from the line of scrimmage. New England are also a smart team that may have seen the struggles Atlanta had on the Defensive Line and so look to use LeGarrette Blount to perhaps punish them up front even if the Patriots' Offensive Line has not opened the holes they would have liked in the Play Offs.

Dominating the line of scrimmage is important for New England as they will want to keep the Atlanta Falcons Offense on the sidelines for as long as possible. With the two weeks to prepare for this game, I do think the Patriots are going to be able to have success running the ball and I also am giving them a narrow advantage on both sides of the ball going into the Super Bowl.

I think Bill Belichick is the master of taking away pieces of an Offense to give his Patriots a chance to win games and I do think this New England Defensive unit is perhaps a little under-rated. The Atlanta Falcons Defense has played well with the eye test, but there are holes in this unit that someone like Tom Brady can use all of his experience to exploit and I think the Patriots may come away with a win and cover, as much as that pains me to say.

However that won't be my pick from the Super Bowl- instead I am focusing on what is the biggest points total for the Super Bowl in history with everyone looking for both teams to score in the 30's.

I am not convinced that happens here though and history suggests it may be difficult too. The last four Super Bowl games with a 50 + total points line have all ended with the under mark coming in and I actually think the two Defensive units will be looking to prove themselves here and had a 28-24 scoreline in favour of the Patriots before I looked at the total points mark.

The 'over' has been a good play in recent years with 4 of the last 6 Super Bowls surpassing the number, while the underdog has been the play against the spread with an 8-1 record in the last nine games. Another trend to point out is the underdog has covered in every Super Bowl New England have played in under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick but that might be changed this year if my feeling is correct.

I won't mind being wrong as long as the under hits as the main play from the Super Bowl. Going against the two Offenses on show is a dangerous play, but both teams might look to make more out of clock management to prevent the other having the opportunity to get into rhythm and making this a huge shoot out. Turnovers can quickly change the mindset of both teams, but I will look for a 28-24/31-24 kind of result in this one and also oppose the public who will be backing the 'over' like they are printing money.

SUPER BOWL LI PICK: Total Points Under 58.5 @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

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