This Sunday, February 5th, is Super Bowl LI (or 51 in everyday numbers). This football game is a pretty big deal, as you may have heard. How big a deal? During most sports events, the commercials and halftime are the moments that people use to get snacks or use the bathroom. Not during the Super Bowl.
For some people, seeing the brand new commercials is the reason why they watch the game! And with Lady Gaga scheduled to perform during halftime, you can bet that a ton of folks won't be going anywhere as the teams take their own mid-game break. But in the end, the Super Bowl is still a football game. With the NFL championship on the line, the stakes between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons are as high as ever.
Let's look at how these two super-charged teams match up.
Two very different histories
The two teams in this Super Bowl could not have much more different histories.
After Sunday, the New England Patriots will have appeared in more Super Bowls (9) than any other team. (So far they have won 4 and lost 4.) What's more, 7 of those Super Bowls have happened in the last 16 years. During all of those years, they have had the same head coach, Bill Belichick, and the same quarterback, Tom Brady. Belichick and Brady are the NFL's nearly unstoppable dynamic duo. Since 2001, they have never had a losing record, and they have won their division (the AFC East) 14 times. So, yes. This team is really, really good.
The Atlanta Falcons, on the other hand, have been to the Super Bowl only once before: in 1998, when they lost to the Denver Broncos. Overall, they've been a pretty mediocre team and have lost nearly 100 more games than they won. But. They have been a much better team overall since 2004. Not New England Patriots good. But they have won their own division (NFC South) four times, including this year. And they've come within one win of reaching the Super Bowl in 2004 and 2012. Now they're finally back in it for real.
Two very strong teams today
But you know what? Once these two teams walk on the field in Houston, their histories don't matter all that much. It's one game, winner take all. And this season, the Patriots and the Falcons have been pretty similar. Both have excellent quarterbacks (Brady and Atlanta's Matt Ryan are both strong MVP candidates). And their offenses have been excellent. New England scored 441 points this season, second best in the NFL. Atlanta, though, scored 540, one of the best totals of all time. Ryan and his wide receiver Julio Jones are scary good together—even a toe injury couldn't slow down the energetic Jones against Green Bay two weekends ago.
So if the team that scores the most points wins, then Falcons will win the Super Bowl, right? Well, hold on. Yes, the Falcons scored lots of points this year, but they also gave up a lot, too. Like, a lot. Their defense allowed 406 points this season, which was as bad as some of the worst teams in the league. The Patriots defense? It only allowed 250 points, the best in the league.
Who will win?
There's an old saying in team sports: defense wins championships. Both of these teams can really score. But in the end, it will be the team that can slow down their opponents the most that wins this game. We already know that the Patriots defense is strong. Can Atlanta's defense build off a strong last game against Green Bay (where they didn't allow a single point the whole first half) to stop one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time?
It's going to be a pretty exciting match! (And if not, there's always those commercials!)