The biggest sporting event in America is quickly approaching: Super Bowl LI kicks off on Sunday with a 3:30 PM (Pacific Standard Time) kickoff. Many Milken students, both avid football fans or not, will gather around TVs to watch the extravaganza, which will take place at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. This year’s event will have all the regular components of a usual Super Bowl: 100+ million viewers, a flashy halftime show by Lady Gaga, a handful of hilarious commercials, and of course, the most anticipated football game of the year. But with the explosive offenses of this year’s competing teams (the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots), this year’s contest is poised to be a little different. Here’s a preview of what is bound to be a Super Bowl to remember:
The Patriots casually march into Houston with a sense of normalcy. After all, this is a team that has been in seven of the last 17 Super Bowls, dating back to 2001, when young star, Tom Brady, and recently-hired head coach, Bill Belichick, won New England their first Super Bowl. Sixteen years later, Brady and Belichick both have four Super Bowl rings and are still the star and coach of the Patriots. After serving a four-game suspension earlier in the season for the infamous “Deflategate” scandal, Brady has had a stellar season, ranking second in the league with a Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) of 83.
Of course, on the other end of the field is the only quarterback who has statistically outplayed Brady: the Falcons quarterback, Matt Ryan, leads the league with a QBR of 83.3. Joining forces with Ryan to form a juggernaut of an offense are wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman. Jones, who has the second-most receiving yards in the league this year, is a must-watch target who is a threat to score every time he catches a pass. Freeman, who scored 11 rushing touchdowns while only fumbling once, has made the Falcons a multi-dimensional team offensively, leading them to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1998.
With two threatening offenses, this game will come down to which team can play better defense. While the Patriots had much more success on defense in the regular season, allowing 5223 total yards to opposing offenses (as opposed to the Falcons, who allowed 5939 total yards), the Falcons have shown a much stronger defensive presence in the playoffs.
This game will likely depend on the Falcons’ ability to contain Brady, similar to how they contained Green Bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, in the NFC Championship Game. If the Falcons can find a way to stop Brady late in the game, the Lombardi Trophy could be headed to Atlanta.