Follow the author: Callum Ferguson
Coming in to the season, the New England Patriots were the favourite to win the Super Bowl at 6/1 odds, while the Falcons had the fifth-worst odds in the NFL at 80/1. Those odds were so low, that even the Jacksonville Jaguars had better odds (seriously, THE JAGS).
So with one team who was expected to be here taking on another that is defying the odds, here are five (okay, maybe six) other things you absolutely need to know heading into Sunday’s big game:
1. A lot of history on the line
Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots franchise all have a shot at making history during Super Bowl LI.
While the Patriots are playing in their NFL record ninth Super Bowl, they need to pick up their fifth Super Bowl win on Sunday to tie the Cowboys and 49ers for second on the all-time list, just behind the Steelers for first (who have six Super Bowl wins in just eight games).
Belichick, who already made history with Brady two weeks ago by advancing to their seventh Super Bowl together, needs a win to pass the great Chuck Noll and become the winningest Super Bowl coach in NFL history with five wins.
Brady will also be attempting to pick up his fifth Super Bowl win, which would tie him with the legendary Bart Starr for the most NFL titles of all-time (Starr won three before the Super Bowl-era began).
Oh, and the Falcons will be looking for their first win in two tries, since losing to the Broncos back in 1999 at Super Bowl XXXIII.
2. New England, surprisingly, has the most efficient defence in the league
New England allowed just 15.6 points per game in the regular season, which was the fewest allowed by any team in the NFL, but just how have they done it? Is Belichick really just that good of a coach?
I mean, the Patriots traded linebacker Jamie Collins (arguably their best defender at the time) to the Browns for a draft pick, and somehow their defence looked better than it did before he left.
I can’t quite wrap my head around it, but, you heard it right, the Pats defence is the most efficient in the league. If you’re a pessimist like me and are looking for someone to blame for this, blame the NFL schedule makers. New England was handed the easiest schedule in the league, and also didn’t really see an elite quarterback outside of Russell Wilson until last Sunday, when they took down Big Ben.
3. Atlanta, unsurprisingly, has the most efficient offence in the league
All season long, Matty Ice and company torn opposing defences apart, averaging 33.8 points per game, which is best in the NFL. Add that to the fact they scored a total of 540 points this season (eighth most in NFL history) and you have a very scary looking offence.
The Falcons haven’t missed a beat in the playoffs either, soaring to back-to-back blowout wins against some of the NFL’s elite in the Seahawks and Packers, while scoring a mind-boggling 80 total points in the process.
So, on Sunday, something’s gotta give, it’ll either have to be the Falcons elite offence, or the Patriots elite (elite?) defence.
4. Brady might be playing with a chip on his shoulder
Both Ryan and Brady are seemingly the favourites for NFL MVP this year, however, it would seem the Matty Ice has the award all but locked up, leading the league in quarterback rating (117.1), while sitting second in passing touchdowns (38) and in passing yards (4,944).
However, Brady must feel that he has seemingly been robbed of his third MVP award, as he would have had a pretty good shot to challenge Ryan had he not have to serve that four game suspension earlier this season for that whole Deflategate thing.
Brady will be out to prove something on Sunday (as if he really needs added motivation) and will leave it all out on the field in an attempt stand up on the podium and passive-aggressively accept the Vince Lombardi Trophy from his arch nemesis, Roger Goodell.
5. Take the over
Coming in to Monday, the Patriots were three-point favourites over the Falcons, while the over/under was set at a Super Bowl record of 59.
While it’s tough to pick and choose between these two teams (although I’m probably taking the Falcons to cover), I’m most definitely taking the over on the scoreboard.
Despite how obnoxiously high it may seem, this game has all the makings of a shootout, so expect both teams to possibly be coming up with 30-or-more points.
Bonus: Watch out for elite receiving threats Julio Jones and… Chris Hogan?
Two weeks ago, both the Falcons and Patriots were led by receivers with identical, awesome stat lines of nine catches, 180 yards and two touchdowns.
Those players were, of course, superstar Julio Jones and, Chris Hogan?
That’s right, folks. Look out for this unlikely star, and former lax bro, in the Super Bowl.