Super Bowl Week! A now 51 year tradition of over-eating many glorious chips and dips, meats and cheeses. A day for the fan girls, heavy-set men and lucky dogs (who get the dropped goodies left behind by welcomed guests donning officially licensed NFL gear). A day where even the advertisements are met with exuberance and merriment. Yes, Super Bowl Sunday; a grand day full of play. Super Bowl LI is looking like a matchup that is made for TV. The always Super Bowl ready Patriots versus the hottest thing going, Matty Ice and the Atlanta Falcons. Super Bowl LI is a matchup that could go either way, so here are some things that might tip the scales for either team. (Because after the big game those of us watching will all be tipping the scales thanks to those extra nachos.)

The Carpet

Atlanta plays in a dome, and a dome is where they shall play. We all know that if this game was played in the snow and cold the Pats would have an advantage. That won’t be so on Super Sunday as this game is played in a similar setting to Atlanta Falcons home games. Sometimes playing in a familiar setting makes for an easier transition. And playing indoors on carpet or anything else familiar to the Falcons is a huge help when they haven’t been there before. The Patriots, well they have been there before, playing Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston. That Sunday, Tom Brady’s MVP performance revealed continued greatness. Janet Jackson’s halftime performance revealed something else. That being said, only Tom Brady remains from that 2004 Patriots roster.

Playing in a Dome: Advantage Falcons (1 Star)

The Injuries

Yes, the great variable and equalizer in the NFL. Get to the playoffs healthy and any NFL team has a chance. It has been a long road to Super Bowl LT for both of these rosters, but for the most part they have made it through the playoffs without too many issues. The Atlanta Falcons all-world wide receiver Julio Jones has a minor foot injury. Also Falcons center (and partial reason for the rise of the Falcons offense) Alex Mack missed some practice with an injured left fibula. Other than that, the Falcons are flying clear of the injury bug.

The Patriots are not so lucky. Josh McDaniels, the Pats offensive offensive coordinator, usually has something chained up in his back yard that no one else has: A Gronk. Rob Gronkowski, that party-throwing, ball-spiking, rump-shaking, seam-catching monster in the middle is OUT. That is huge. Or at least we thought it was huge. Enter Chris Hogan. All 6-foot-1, 215 pounds of his Monmouth Lacrosse-playing magic landed right into the Patriots’ hands. Hogan has proved to be sneaky good, producing 180 yards on nine catches and for touchdowns versus the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. Seems like Brady found another pet on the side of the road and Belichick said as long as you feed him, you can keep him. Hogan and is a good find, but he isn’t the blocking machine Gronk was.

Gronkowski Out: Advantage Falcons (2 Stars)

Managing Distractions

Players are human, and so are owners and coaches. Often times we are our own worst enemy and sometimes (remember Eugene Robinson SB XXXIII?) players can get a little out of control. It is hard enough to win this game on Sunday, let alone win it with a problem hanging over the head of one of your players or coaches. Just about anything can derail a team, even talking.

Controversial topics, scandals, or bulletin board material can become an issue with just one slip of the tongue or controversial conversation. And it’s incredibly easy to have this occurrence with over 10,000 media members all holding microphones waiting in the shadows for that moment to happen. Both teams have done very well in managing players, personalities and distraction (so far).

Advantage: The NFL


The Big Game is special for even the most elite athletes. Players can get rattled and overwhelmed by all the commotion and nonsense that comes with this enormous event. Even the best and brightest of stars can lose composure and cool in the biggest of games (See: Cam Newton SB 50). Experience matters, and the Falcons have some. Dan Quinn, head coach of the Atlanta Falcons has been to three of the last four Super Bowls. He knows what it takes to beat a Hall of Fame QB and a high powered offense as his Seahawks defense held Peyton Manning and the Broncos to only eight points three years ago. He has also seen the Patriots firsthand in the Super Bowl as he watched Malcolm Butler intercept Russell Wilson in the final minute and take away all hopes and dreams in SB XLVIX.

Dan Quinn has more experience in the big game than just about anyone else in the NFL, but Bill Belichick isn’t just anyone. He is Belichick. Four Super Bowl Rings as a head coach and now seven Super Bowl appearances. Belichick has even been there as an assistant coach early in his career and his New York Giant defensive game plan from Super Bowl XXV, is in the Hall of Fame! (Yes, Belichick is already in the hall, kinda.)

Bill Belichick. Possibly the greatest NFL head coach of all time, has more Super Bowl rings then the Jets, Seahawks, Bears, and Chiefs combined. The Patriots are not new to Super Sunday, in fact it feels like they own it and other teams just rent it out from time to time.

Experience: Big Advantage Patriots (3 Stars)

In Conclusion

It’s Matt Ryan vs. Tom Brady. Kyle Shanahan vs. Bill Belichick. Dan Quinn vs. Josh McDaniels. The parts are in place for a great matchup, the teams are nearly ready. Let’s hope the game is close and the commercials are funny and the advantage goes to us, the fans.

Enjoy the game but above all, be safe!