Falcons +3 over Patriots
On paper, I really think the wrong team is favored in this game. I had this spread as Falcons -1 or a PK at worst, and this Falcons team just continues to get absolutely no respect.
The Patriots are overrated this year. Everyone is blinded by Tom Brady and Belicheck’s legacy (which don’t get me wrong they are both arguably the best of all time) but this is the weakest Patriots team that has ever been in the Super Bowl. They lack a true #1 receiver, Edelman is not a #1 receiver and Hogan isn’t going to have almost 200 yards again. Blount and Lewis are good but nothing special. They don’t have that go to guy on offense any more, and mark my words this is going to be the game where they are really going to miss Gronk.
They have scored a lot of points this season but they have played very weak competition and especially really bad QB’s. These QB’s would continually go 3 and out and punt from their own 20 and give NE great field position on their own 30, 35 or 40. Obviously it makes life so much easier when you only need to get two first downs to be in field goal range. But how often to do you see the Falcons go 3 and out? Not that often. Worst case scenario they will get one or two first downs then punt which is going to pin New England back deep and it’s going to force them to earn their points going 80+ yards instead of the normal 60 they are used to.
All you heard about if you turned on the media this week was about Brady and Belicheck and how they are the best of all time and they pretty much already crowned them champions giving the Falcons next to no chance. Brady and Belicheck probably will go down as their respective best of all times, but in this game none of that matters as it still comes down to 60 minutes of football and I truly believe the Falcons are the better team.
All of the talk is about the #1 defense vs. the #1 offense and how the #1 defense has beaten the top offense each time those teams faced off in the Super Bowl.
I’m a firm believer that defense wins championships and that’s why I loved Denver so much in last year’s Super Bowl. But this year, there is no dominant shut-down defense in the league this year so for the first time in a long time, it opens the door for the team with the best offense in the league to win it all
Let’s take a look at the Pat’s “number one ranked defense” which is a very skewed stat.
The Pats strength of schedule of opposing offenses was #32nd this season, they played the single easiest schedule in the entire league. The second best QB they faced in the regular season was Ryan Tannehill. Russell Wilson was the only other top QB who they faced and he beat them in Foxboro. Then they faced Big Ben in the AFC Championship game and he moved the ball easily between the 20’s they just couldn’t score in the redzone after losing Bell in the 1st quarter.
The Falcons have a very underrated defense who has been on the rise, have the top offense in the league and lead the league in yards per play which is the most predictive stat for predicted success there is.
So with all of the signs pointing to Falcons, why are the Pats favored then? It all comes down to reputation. It’s Brady and Belicheck’s 7th Super Bowl together. This is the best franchise in the league and they have been here before and won many times and they have the experience factor. That is all true but look at the Pats recent SB history: they are 0-4 ATS if you throw out the Seattle game which they should have lost. The Pats have never covered as a favorite in the Super Bowl.
How can the Patriots who have won 4 Super Bowl’s be so mediocre ATS in the SB? It’s because in my opinion Belicheck is best known for two things: exploiting a teams weakness and taking away a team’s best offensive player and forcing them to beat you with your left hand. He did it with the Steelers last week where he exploited that awful zone defense they run and took away Antonio Brown once Bell went out of the game. The problem is in the Super Bowl, typically teams who get there are good enough where they don’t have many weaknesses to exploit and I don’t think Atlanta really does.
Another big talking point for the Patriots is how deadly Belicheck is with extra time to prepare.
But if you look at the three times in the season when he had extra time to prepare (first game of the regular season, regular season bye, and post-season bye) Belicheck in his career with the Pats isn’t better than 50% ATS in any of those categories. This doesn’t mean that Belicheck isn’t good with extra time but he’s not as good as the betting market thinks he is which is why Vegas can post inflated spread, hence why his ATS record isn’t great.
All of those factors plus the fact that the Pats are 7-0 ATS on their past 7 and went a historic 15-3 ATS this season is the reason I think this spread is -3 for the Pats despite stats and a lot of other factors pointing toward Atlanta… now let’s get into those:
Everyone is talking about Belicheck having all of this experience, but what about Dan Quinn? He has been in 3 of the past 4 Super Bowls and has faced Brady before in the Super Bowl. What he has done with that defense with first and second year players has been incredible and the guy is a defensive genius in his own right, so he is going to have a great gameplan in this one. Now I know the last time Quinn faced Brady in the Super Bowl Brady threw for 330 yards and 4 TD’s but that was with Gronk accounting for over 20% of those yards. Like I said earlier, no Gronk and trading away Jamie Collins who was their best covereage linebacker is really going to hurt the Pats today.
Why the Falcons will beat the Patriots:
Like I said, Belichick is probably best known for taking away a team’s best offensive weapon and forcing the opponent to beat them with their left hand. The problem in this game is Atlanta simply has far too many left hands to stop. If he decides to eliminate Julio and double team him, Ryan’s only challenge will be deciding what single-covered receiver to throw to instead. The Falcons have so many weapons outside of Julio in Gabriel, Sanu, Freeman, Coleman, Hooper, Robinson, and DiMarco it’s pick your poison.
Getting back to the Patriots skewed #1 defense, Football Outsiders who break down teams based on their on field performance alone outside of actual stats has the Pats ranked as the #11 defense which is a lot more in line with reality and a big difference than #1. But let’s not forget that it’s not like the Falcons have been beating up on weak defenses all season, they beat the #2, #4, and #5 ranked defenses this year, so there really is no stopping this offense no matter how good your defense is.
If you look at the Patriots two playoff games, their defense didn’t play that well. We know how bad the Steelers are on the road and if the Texans had anyone other than Brock Osweiler they could have easily put up 35+ and won that game. Both teams kept stalling out and settling for field goals or turning the ball over in the red zone but Atlanta is a different animal. They don’t turn the ball over (had the fewest turnovers in the league this year tied with New England) and when they get in the redzone, they convert touchdowns.
Speaking of defense, everyone likes to bash the Falcons defense saying how much they suck, and that was definitely true at the beginning of the season. Through the first ten weeks of the season, this defense was getting torched giving up almost 28 points per game. But since their bye week in week 11, the Falcons have only given up 20 points per game. And it wasn’t a by product of a weak schedule as they still played some solid offenses, it was because the Falcons defense is loaded with a lot of first year and second year players who took time to acclimate to the speed and adapt to the NFL. And now in the playoffs, they are only giving up 17 points per game. This is a young defense but it is a very fast defense. All week Belicheck was talking about how fast that defense is and that is how you stop the Pats. They love to dink and dunk you to death on short passes and a quick defense can defend that.
The major key is a fast defense who can getting up the interior is how you get to Brady. The Falcons have a great rush and they are going to be able to get after Brady and knock him down in this game. Vic Beasley led the NFL in sacks this year and is a ferocious pass rusher and he is going to be able to get to Brady. That’s how you get to Brady is to hit him, he absolutely hates getting touched. Even if the Falcons won’t be able to sack him much, they are definitely going to get hits on him. After Brady gets hit a lot, he turns into a different player. I think we see at least one turnover out of him which could easily make the difference in this game.
I am guilty of doubting this Falcons team for the majority of the year but all they have done is play great football. Outside of their two bad losses (Week 1 at home against TB and when they lost at Philly, all the rest of their games have been extremely close or they won. They by two points at Seattle on a questionable call, in overtime to San Diego, and by one point to Kansas City on a two-point conversion interception return.
This is a team (with very few exceptions) who rarely loses and when they do, it’s extremely competitive. The Falcons are 5-1 ATS in their last six overall, with their sole ATS blemish being that miraculous garbage time backdoor cover the Saints had against them in week 17, so they have been almost as hot as the Pats over the past 7 weeks of the season ATS wise.
I love the Falcons in this game and the only hesitation I have is over the status of Alex Mack. He is the cog that makes that offense go, and if his fibula gives out and he has to leave the game, that would be extremely bad for the Falcons. That being said, I have a hard time believing that report and it feels like Quinn is trying to “Belicheck Belicheck” with that. Mack played the rest of the Green Bay game after suffering the injury and has had two weeks off and has looked fine in practice, so I think this could easily be a smoke screen, especially since it was released the morning of the game and the line didn’t move at all.
Atlanta’s offensive line is the only unit to start every game together this NFL season. Alex Mack’s presence has been absolutely huge as he’s been hands down the most valuable free agency pickup this year.
The Falcons have the MVP in Matt Ryan and the most dominant receiver in the league in Julio. They are playing in a dome yet again which is their comfort zone.
The Falcons are the more balanced offense. They have the #2 passing offense and #5 rushing offense. They can kill you either way.
If it comes down to field goal kicking, the Falcons have the edge. Matt Bryant was the NFC Pro Bowl kicker and anything within 55 yards for him, he is money. Stephen Gostowski despite his reputation had a very mediocre year.
Pats slow LB core a major liability. Falcons tight ends will have the big advantage on the slow New England linebackers and the Pats are ranked 31st at defending running backs out of the backfield (again because they lack speed at the LB position). This is why I love the prop for Devonta Freeman to be MVP. We’ve seen it in each of the first two playoff games where he has taken a screen pass for 50+ yards and he will definitely have the chance to do that again today. Then there is Tevin Coleman who is the other aspect of the two-headed monster Atlanta has at running back who is equally as dangerous. These guys combined for over 200 yards against Seattle who had the top rushing defense and great team speed at linebacker. We have seen it all year that the combo of Coleman and Freeman has been deadly and we likely see them do some serious damage again today against a very slow Pats LB core.
Patriots have not faced a single good QB all year other than Wilson and Big Ben who was atrocious all year on the road. Ryan is by far the best QB they will face all year.
This will be the first playoff game where Gronk is truly missed.
Both of these teams have high-powered offenses which is what the casual fan loves. More people come out of the woodwork to bet the Super Bowl than any other sport and the casual fan loves to bet the over and the favorite.
Add to that the Falcons lead the league in scoring, while the Pats are 3rd and both of these teams are known for their high powered offense where both teams can throw the ball all over the field and both can ground it out as well.
But the Super Bowl is a high pressure game and I look for a bit more running in this game, especially early on. The Patriots have never scored a single point in the first quarter of any of their Super Bowls, they always play very conservative to start the game, and I look for the Falcons to focus on running the ball a lot as well. This is the highest total in SB history and it’s very inflated. It’s really hard to get to a total this high and the teams are going to have to score touchdowns on the majority of their scoring drives and I just don’t see that happening.
Because of the two offenses that are on the field, the defenses have been overlooked and I feel that is a mistake. The Falcons have allowed just 20.5 points per game in their last eight games, while the Pats have allowed just 15.6 points per game all year and they have allowed just 33 points in the postseason.
In a game this big both teams are going to be conservative and try to keep the other high powered offense off the field. Also the fact that both of these teams are tops in the league for the fewest turnovers means there shouldn’t be many short fields resulting in easy points, and both of these defenses have what it takes to keep this one under the total. It’s going to be close but I like this to stay under the 58.
Falcons +3 (10 units)
Falcons ML / Under 58 Parlay (5 units)
Super Bowl Props
Since not everyone can get these props and every books odds are slightly different, I don’t include units or count them toward the final season unit count, but these are the props that I took. I took them all for 1 unit with the exception of the 1st Q prop which I took for 3 units.
1Q Spread Falcons +.5 (-150)
Team To Score First In Game? Falcons -110
Total Receiving Yards By Austin Hooper o15½ -130
Total Receptions By Dion Lewis o3½-115
First Offensive Play NE/ATL Pass Play +120
Shortest Touchdown Made in Game? u1½ -145
Super Bowl LI MVP Devonta Freeman +1200