Super Bowl LI could be a high-scoring affair.
The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons feature two of the NFL’s most-balanced, high-powered offenses. While the offensive edge might go to the Falcons, the Patriots are more balanced overall.
Here’s how the teams match up as they prepare to travel to Houston and face off in two weeks.
PATRIOTS’ PASSING ATTACK VS. FALCONS’ PASS DEFENSE
Patriots passing: 4th, 269.2 yards per game, 109.5 rating, 4.18 sack percentage
Falcons’ pass defense: 28th, 266.7 yards per game, 92.5 rating against, 4.93 sack percentage
The Falcons have relied heavily on their offense to keep them in games all season. Their pass defense certainly was not a strength despite having some young potential future stars in linebacker Vic Beasley, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and cornerback Jalen Collins. Losing cornerback Desmond Trufant midway through the season certainly didn’t help matters.
The Patriots, meanwhile, have one of the NFL’s best passing attacks with quarterback Tom Brady throwing to wide receivers Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola and Michael Floyd, tight end Martellus Bennett, and running backs James White and Dion Lewis. New England lost tight end Rob Gronkowski midway through the season but kept chugging along and had one of its strongest performances of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.
PATRIOTS’ RUSHING GAME VS. FALCONS’ RUN DEFENSE
Patriots rushing: 7th, 117 yards per game, 3.9 yards per carry
Falcons’ run defense: 17th, 104.5 yards per game, 4.5 yards per carry
Despite having a top passing attack, the Patriots relied heavily upon LeGarrette Blount to score on the ground this season. He piled up 18 touchdowns in the regular season and added another in the playoffs. He was kept fresh at the tail end of the season when Lewis came back from a knee injury.
The Falcons allowed the sixth-most yards per carry in the NFL this regular season. Most of their front-seven defenders are better against the pass than they are against the run.
PATRIOTS’ PASS DEFENSE VS. FALCONS’ PASSING ATTACK
Patriots’ pass defense: 12th, 237.9 yards per game, 84.4 rating against, 5.4 sack percentage
Falcons passing: 3rd, 295.3 yards per game, 116.8 rating, 6.5 sack percentage
The Patriots’ pass defense improved as the season progressed, but this game likely will be a shootout with the way Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has played this season. Atlanta led the NFL in passer rating and in passing plays of 40 yards or more.
Preventing big plays will be key for the Patriots, who let up the second-least passing plays of 40 yards or more during the regular season. Wide receiver Julio Jones is one of the NFL’s best, and half of the Patriots’ secondary knows Falcons wideout Mohamed Sanu well from their days at Rutgers.
PATRIOTS’ RUN DEFENSE VS. FALCONS RUSHING GAME
Patriots’ run defense: 3rd, 88.6 yards per game, 3.9 yards per carry
Falcons rushing: 5th, 120.5 yards per game, 4.6 yards per carry
The Falcons’ two-headed rushing attack is versatile and tough to stop. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 345 carries for 1,599 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground and another 883 yards and five touchdowns on 105 catches through the air.
The Patriots’ run defense has been consistent throughout the season, however, with Alan Branch and Malcom Brown up front, Dont’a Hightower at linebacker and Rob Ninkovich, Trey Flowers, Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard on the edge.
Something will have to give in this matchup, and right now it’s too close to call.
Thumbnail photo via Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports Images
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