By Parth Parikh,
Sports Business Writer
In an NFL season filled with ups and downs and shocks and controversies, this year’s Super Bowl, Super Bowl LI, has come down to the New England Patriots of the AFC and the Atlanta Falcons of the NFC. Both teams have showed a tremendous amount of skill and talent as they both clinched first round byes in the playoffs. Although both the Patriots and Falcons made it to the big game and will have an equal chance at the Vince Lombardi trophy, the path to Houston, Texas- home of Super Bowl LI- could not have been different.
The Patriots started their year on an unfortunate note, as their star quarterback and possibly one of the greatest players in NFL history, Tom Brady, had to sit out the first four games of the season as part of the Deflategate scandal. Many fans were shocked that Brady would have to face this punishment and analysts were expecting the Patriots to lose two of the four games in blowouts. The backup quarterback for New England, Jimmy Garoppolo, did not seem much playing time before this incident and team insiders feared the worst.
No one could have imagined what was to come, as Garoppolo led the Pats to a shocking 2-0 start to the season, until his injury that second game, which meant New England’s third-string quarterback, rookie Jacoby Brissett, would have to start Weeks 3 and 4.
Brissett followed Garappolo’s shoes, as Jacoby also stunned spectators with a solid 1-1 record. Before anyone noticed, Tom Brady was back in uniform for New England with his fellow quarterbacks leading the Pats to a 3-1 record and control of the AFC.
With Brady at the helm and coach Bill Belichek calling the plays, the Patriots went 11-1 the rest of the way, with Tom throwing for 3,554 yards, 28 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The playoffs did not faze New England either, as they cruised their way to the Super Bowl with wins over Miami and Pittsburgh.
The Falcons had a story of their own, with a disappointing 8-8 season the year before and expectations mounting. Head coach Dan Quinn used to be the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator, so many were expecting the Falcons to have a stellar defense. In the offseason, Atlanta added Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal and Devin Fuller to bring youth to the team and Coach Quinn worked with his team to achieve some level of success.
The work Coach Quinn put in was priceless, as Atlanta’s offense became a juggernaut that defenses could not figure out. With newly-crowned league MVP quarterback Matt Ryan, receivers Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel, and running backs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, the Falcons surprised teams with a new arsenal of talent and scored as much as they possibly could. 11 wins and 516 total points later, the Falcons have stormed their way into the playoffs and into their first Super Bowl since 1998.
This game is going to be high scoring, as Tom Brady can score 30 points with ease and Atlanta has averaged 32 points per game this season. The key will be defense and whose defense can last longer until the final play of the game. Depending on that, we will see who will Super Bowl LI.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 7th print edition.
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