And finally, we’re onto Houston and the Atlanta Falcons will be waiting for us. No offense to the Falcons, who are genuinely an impressive team (especially offensively), but they’re not the ones getting a rise out of us Patriot fans. This one is for Goodell, Vincent, Kensil, Grigson, Mortenson. This one is for Irsay, Mara, Harbaugh. It’s for Cris Carter. Rob Parker. Ray Lewis. Bart Hubbuch. Shannon Sharpe. Marshall Faulk. This one is for every single anti-Pats hack on ESPN, NFL Network or Fox Sports and every aversive writer that speaks/writes vindictively, nonsensically, and biased after years of embarrassment and/or jealousy at the hands of Brady/Belichick. It’s for the “tuck-rule”, “spygate”, and “deflategate” truthers, as they struggle to hang on.
This one isn’t for the thumb; it’s for the fingah.
Let’s take it around the table one last time this season, and see what the BBS Staff thinks will happen in Super Bowl 51…
Tom Brady: Over/Under 309 passing yards?
Niko: Brady isn’t back just to be back. After struggling against Houston’s talented defense, #12 took the Steelers into the surgery room. 32/42 for 384, not to mention (but yeah, to mention) a handful of drops and a spike. The Falcons unit is fast…and that’s about it. With ATL ranked 28th in pass D and 17th in run D, look for TB to bring it, and bring it big. OVER.
Pete: Its hard to pick against Brady here. As you have probably heard by now, the Falcons play a soft zone defense that is similar to the Pittsburgh Steelers. If the Patriots are smart, they will line Brady up in shotgun and let him sling it all over the field. OVER.
Jordan: To be honest, I see numerous records Brady can break heading into Super Bowl Sunday. One of those being the total passing yards record set by Kurt Warner back in Super Bowl XXXIV (414). Considering the guys Atlanta has back there in the secondary, I'll take OVER on the 309, and really come close to setting that passing record.
LeGarrette Blount: Over/Under 59 yards rushing?
Niko: Just UNDER for Blount. He ran his tail off against Pitt and could only muster 47 yards to show for it. He’ll be effective, but, as usual, will split carries with Lewis and snaps with White.
Pete: Again, as you have probably heard from now, the Falcons are one of the worst tackling teams in the NFL. This season, the Falcons missed 136 tackles, which was tied for second most in the NFL. The Patriots could use LeGarrette Blount to literally run over this soft defense, if they choose. I would not be surprised if Blount has a very effective day come Sunday. OVER.
Jordan: UNDER. I know the Falcons have a pretty weak tackling defense, but the Pats are going to need to play to their strengths, and not Atlanta's weaknesses, in order to gain an advantage early. I see them using Blount from time to time on 3rd & short, but ultimately I go with UNDER.
Dion Lewis: Over/Under 59 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: Just UNDER for Dion, for the same reasons as Blount. The three-headed monster should be in full effect, which is great news for the Pats, but bad news for each player’s respective stat-line. Not that any of them give a damn.
Pete: I will go UNDER as well, but I think Lewis may be more utilized in the passing game. Screens and maybe even some funky stuff behind the line of scrimmage.
Jordan: OVER here. Of the three-headed monster, I say Dion has a monster game in both the running and passing games. Similar to that of the Texans game, where I think he and Brady will link up often, and he'll be able to make some plays against a bad tackling Falcons defense.
Julian Edelman: Over/Under 7.5 receptions, 89 receiving yards?
Niko: Edelman has strung together as impressive of a stretch as we’ve seen from a Pats’ receiver since Randy Moss, piling up 118,137, and 151 respectfully in the last three games. Talk about stepping up when it matters. OVER on both here for Jules.
Pete: OVER on both for Jules. He has been Brady's most reliable receiver and is very fired up to help his best friend win a fifth Super Bowl.
Jordan: OVER on both. Come on, it's Julian Edelman in the playoffs, he's not shy.
Chris Hogan: Over/Under 4.5 receptions, 59 receiving yards?
Niko: Hoges has answered the call. With 13 receptions and 275 yards in two playoff games, it’s pretty clear he’s earned Brady’s trust and more. Let’s go for the encore. OVER on both.
Pete: OVER on both. Aside from Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan has been the best receiver on the Patriots' staff. Like Niko said, it looks as if Hogan has gained Brady's trust and hopefully he can play a massive role in this team's potential victory.
Jordan: OVER on both. Chris Hogan 7/11 should have a pretty easy going game, however I believe the Falcons will actually try to contain him. But he and Brady are just in sync right now. Hoges is my dark horse MVP of this game.
Martellus Bennett: Over/Under 3.5 receptions, 39 receiving yards?
Niko: As admirable as he’s played this season (fighting through multiple injuries, blocking extremely well), Bennett hasn’t collected over 40 receiving yards in a game since Baltimore (Dec. 12) and before that since Seattle (Nov.13). Let’s go just UNDER here for yards, OVER on receptions.
Pete: UNDER on both for me. I think Bennett will have a solid game, but I think the Patriots will also try to use him in the run blocking game, as well. Look for a relatively quiet game from Marty, especially because I still don't think he is 100% healthy.
Jordan: UNDER/OVER. Marty is a beast in the red area, so I believe he finds the end zone. But in potentially his final game as a Patriot, I think we see Bill use him in a variety of ways to see just how much he means to this team down the road.
Matt Ryan: Over/Under 309 passing yards?
Niko: Matty Ice has been good this season. Like really, really good. So good that in all likelihood, he’ll get the “Brady was wrongly suspended for 4 games so another guy has to win the MVP trophy” this season. Although I see the Pats’ secondary making life a bit harder than he’s used to on Sunday, I’ll go just OVER here for the BC grad.
Pete: Just OVER for Matty Ice. Like Niko said, he has been phenomenal this season, but this is the playoffs we are talking about. Everything he has done in the past doesn't matter. Truthfully, I think Ryan will have a less than stellar game. He will get his yards, but I wouldn't be surprised if he struggled from a completion percentage standpoint compared to the rest of his season.
Jordan: OVER here as well. Matty Ice has been balling out, especially here in the Playoffs. But like Pete said, it'll be a less than stellar performance from the BC product. I even see him potentially throwing as many picks as TDs.
DeVonta Freeman: Over/Under 95 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: UNDER. I see Patricia’s unit making this team one dimensional (pass). A week after deeming Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams insignificant in the run game, I expect a similar effort vs. Freeman and Coleman. Plus, this kid acted like a total punk all media week. Too bad. Super talented.
Pete: UNDER. I hate this douchebag. He has been talking all week about the Falcons being unstoppable and his stupid contract. Screw him. You're crazy if you think Belichick isn't listening.
Jordan: UNDER. The Pats are just too good defending these dual threat backs that I actually see Freeman struggling. And like Pete said, he's pissing off the wrong people right now.
Tevin Coleman: Over/Under 72 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: UNDER, but he’ll make it close through the air. Coleman can play, and Belichick knows it. Stopping Coleman and his aforementioned counterpart will be a priority for the defense.
Pete: I think the Patriots will be daring the Falcons to run the ball and limit the amount of time Ryan has the ball in his hands. I believe that means Coleman may be OVER, but I just don't think it will hurt the Patriots all that much.
Jordan: OVER, but mostly as a receiver. I think if ATL puts 2 backs out there with Matt Ryan, they can actually sustain some success moving the ball.
Julio Jones: Over/Under 6.5 receptions, 99 receiving yards?
Niko: OVER on catches, UNDER on yards. Jones is at his best when he turns 7-yard slants into 70-yard catch and runs. The Patriots’ D is among the best in league in limited YAC (yards after catch). Ryan will look to Jones early and often, but whatever combination of defensive backs that is thrown at him (Butler? Probably. Ryan+McCourty? Maybe. gulp…Rowe+McCourty? Unlikely, but given Rowe’s length can’t be ruled out…) will be equipped to at least slow him down. In Belichick we trust.
Pete: OVER on receptions, UNDER on yards. The Patriots have a lot of different options on who will be covering Jones, and it will be fascinating to watch.
Jordan: This is the only matchup that frightens me at all. Whoever takes this matchup is going to have a tough time on their hands. Jones wins SB MVP if the Falcons manage to win. I'll go just OVER on receptions, and OVER on yards, plus at least 1 TD. Come on, it's Julio Jones.
Mohammed Sanu: Over/Under 4.5 receptions, 49 receiving yards?
Niko: Ultimately, my best bet is that Sanu’s college teammate at Rutgers, Logan Ryan, gets the assignment of checking him. Ryan has really come on strong the last half of the season and during the playoffs, and matches up well physically with Sanu. I’ll go just UNDER on receptions and just OVER on yards.
Pete: Sanu is probably the second best receiver on the Falcons. It truly depends on what the Patriots decide to do to limit him. Truthfully, I could see the Patriots letting Sanu get his own if they ultimately want to limit Julio Jones' damage. I will say UNDER on receptions, OVER on yards.
Jordan: With a lot of the talk being either Rowe or Ryan with help covering Julio, I'll take whoever isn't on him for this matchup Butler will likely take Taylor Gabriel. Any way, as for this matchup, I'll go UNDER on both, but close for sure. This is a high powered offense and I think Ryan will try hard to spread the wealth.
Taylor Gabriel: Over/Under 3.5 receptions, 45 receiving yards?
Niko: The 5’8 speedster out of Albilene has had a career year this season for Atlanta after being a yes, Cleveland Brown cast-off. Gabriel has racked up 579 yards and 6 touchdowns on 35 catches in 13 games. I’ll say he goes just OVER on both here.
Pete: Don't know much about Gabriel, to be honest. From the information that Niko gathered,
Jordan: This is Malcolm's guy, unless he takes Jones. But if it's Butler, UNDER on both. No way Malcolm is letting this guy go off.
Austin Hooper: Over/Under 2.5 receptions, 29 receiving yards?
Niko: OVER on both. Hooper will be the beneficiary of resources allocated in every direction but his.
Pete: Agree with Niko. OVER.
Niko: Pats win; elect to receive.
Pete: Whoever wins is getting the ball first. It is crucial for both of these teams to come out and make a statement on the opening drive. I'll say the Falcons win and take the ball first. (Three and Out, obviously)
Jordan: Pats win and receive.
Niko: Alex Mack/Atlanta interior O-line vs. Alan Branch and New England interior D-line. Although it rarely shows up in the stat sheets, Alan Branch has been a freakin’ beast this season. He’s been absolutely immovable, and was a catalyst in holding the Bell/Williams combo at bay. Slowing this offense starts with making it one-dimensional, similarly to Pitt last weekend. I’m looking at the big dogs up front to set the tone once again.
Pete: The Patriots need to put pressure on Matt Ryan, plain and simple. If the Pats give Matt Ryan all day to throw, then they are going to lose this game. The Patriots need to put some pressure on Matt Ryan and need more effort from their edge rushers. Look for Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard and Rob Ninkovich to have big games.
Jordan: The Pats DBs on the secondary Falcons receivers. We all know Jones is going to get his, so the Pats HAVE to assure they keep the other guys (Gabriel, Sanu) from having good games as well.
Niko: Chris Long, who came to the Pats for this very reason, steps up with a massive sack and forced fumble. Not many deserve it more than C-Long. A true Patriot throughout the year, starting with the pay-cut to come on board.
Pete: I'm not sure if this is a bold prediction anymore, but Tom Brady is going to GO OFF. I am talking 400+ yards, 4 touchdowns, ~120 passer rating. LETS GO!
Jordan: Dion Lewis wins Super Bowl MVP with a receiving, rushing, and return TD. Add 75 yards in the air and another 50 on the ground for Dion Lewis.
Game Total: Over/Under 59 points?
Niko: A ridiculously high number, but real tough to take anything but the OVER with these two squads. It’ll be tight though.
Pete: JUST UNDER. Its going to be really close, though.
Jordan: UNDER, but just barely.
Final Prediction (New England -3):
Niko: Pats cover. 36-27. Leave no doubt. One more.
Pete: 34-24 Patriots. I think the Patriots just have too much talent on both sides of the football to lose this game. Furthermore, the Patriots have a significant edge in the coaching department.
Jordan: Been saying this since halftime at the Steelers game, 34-21 Patriots. LETS GOOO!
Pete: Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, fuckers.
Jordan: I'd say his name, but I'm not worthy enough (*hint: he wears number 12 for New England).