The Super Bowl rematch headlines Week 7 as the Atlanta Falcons fly north to take on the New England Patriots under the Sunday Night lights. No football fan, hardcore or fair weather, will ever forget Super Bowl 51 – The Greatest Super Bowl Ever Played – as a resilient Patriots team, down 28-3 with 2:08 left in the 3rd Quarter, came storming back and completed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl History stunning the Falcons 34-28 minutes into overtime.
While Patriots fans will relish in that victory for years to come, the Falcons have had eight months to stew in their juices on how they blew a 25 point lead with 17 minutes remaining in the Super Bowl.
Both teams enter Week 7’s match up looking to get their respective seasons on track. For New England (4-2), historically bad defensive play has overshadowed a high power passing offense led by Tom Brady while Atlanta (3-2) tries to shake off back to back losses to the perennially rebuilding Buffalo Bills and the bottom feeding Miami Dolphins.
These teams have met just 14 times with New England holding the all-time series lead at 8-6 including 5 straight wins against Atlanta. A lot of bad feelings will be brewing around on Sunday Night so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to victory.
Quarterback – Patriots: Whether it is the Super Bowl hangover or the change in Offensive Coordinator, Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan looks nothing like he did during his 2016 NFL MVP campaign. The Patriots Tom Brady is off to another strong season and is leading the NFL in passing yards and is 2nd in QB Rating.
Running Backs – Push: Both teams have a group of running backs that capable of being effective in both the running game and passing game.
Wide Receivers – Push: Yeah Yeah Yeah….Julio Jones. Well check this out: All world Julio Jones isn’t even putting up Brandin Cooks like numbers this year. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
Tight Ends – Patriots: The Falcons’ Austin Hooper has had a nice start to the season with 17 catches 242 yards and a touchdown but the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski is still putting up Pro Bowl type numbers even though his body is being held together by chewing gum and piano wire.
Offensive Line – Falcons: While both offensive lines are similar statistically, the Falcons have protected their QB a little better and have netted a slightly higher yards per rush as well.
Defensive Front Seven – Push: Shockingly, the Patriots have tallied a more sacks than Atlanta while the run defense has been very similar between the squads.
Secondary – Falcons: While the Falcons secondary has been predictable and middle of the pack efficiency wise, it’s a significantly better than the hot garbage the Patriots have been throwing out on the field.
Special Teams – Patriots: Though numbers for returns and kicking have been similar, having the game outdoors vs. a dome gives the kicking edge to the Patriots.
Coaching – Patriots: Now in his third season as the Falcons’ Head Coach, Dan Quinn has the weight of expectations heaped on his shoulders after guiding Atlanta to their first Super Bowl bid since 1998. Unfortunately for Quinn, the last two times he has been on the NFL’s largest stage, last year as the Falcons Head coach and two years ago as Seattle’s defensive coordinator, his teams have allowed the two biggest comebacks in Super Bowl History…..Both, by the way, against Bill Belichick.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Key’s to a Patriots Victory:
1) Get Off to a Fast Start: Last week New England spotted the Jets a 14 point lead before they decided to start playing offense. Though the Patriots have comeback from large deficits against very good defenses, this is not something they need to get into a habit of.
2) Will the Defense Please Show Up: The Patriots Defense has made even the most die-hard homer fans absolutely sick to their stomachs week after week this season. Clearly the lack of talent in the front seven has exposed communication problems in the secondary. The Patriots need to keep things simple on defense and, if needed, apply timely pressure to slow down the Falcons’ offense.
3) Heavy Dose of James White and Dion Lewis: Clearly Atlanta had problems matching up with the Patriots running backs in their previous meeting. There is no reason to think the New England can’t create some mismatches that they can take advantage of to keep the chains moving and keep Atlanta’s Offense on the sideline.
While both teams have downplayed the Super Bowl rematch factor, there is no way that it can’t be on the minds of both teams. Atlanta has had eight months to think about this game and the 2nd half defensive collapse that has become an albatross around their necks since February.
Having this game outdoors certainly doesn’t help the Falcons but the Patriots need to take advantage of their home field which they have not done a great job of this year. Look for an offensive track meet that will make any fan of defense football want to tear out their eyeballs with a fork.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 37 – Falcons 34