Should You Bet On A Defense Or Offense in Super Bowl 51?Are you aware that the Patriots led the NFL in scoring defense in the regular season? Matt Patricia is the coordinator for the Patriots’ league-best defense that held the Steelers’ potent offense to 17 points.
The Pats gave up the fewest points this season, allowing an average of only 15.6 ppg, were third in rushing yards allowed and eighth in total defense.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons look for their first NFL championship and they are led by QB Matt Ryan, who incidentally is still beloved by many New England fans from his days as a star at Boston College. Ryan is expected to win his first MVP Award when that’s announced on Super Bowl weekend, edging out Brady. The Falcons led the NFL in scoring offense by a wide margin during the season. Their 63 TDs were eight more than No. 2 New Orleans and their 540 points was the eighth-highest total in NFL history.
Ryan passed for four TDs and ran for one more in Atlanta’s 44-21 rout of the Packers in the NFC title game. In the last six games Ryan has passed for 18 TDs and no interceptions. Ryan has posted a 94.0 QBR through the conference championships, the best mark for any quarterback through the conference championship games going back to 2006. His 132.6 passer rating also paces all signal-callers over that time span in the playoff run before the Super Bowl. Under pressure, Ryan led the league in yards per attempt (7.5) and was sixth in completion rate (50.4 percent). That spells trouble for New England’s pass rush. Atlanta’s not just an air show, either — the Falcons finished fifth in the league in rushing.
The Falcons have averaged 40 points in two playoff games, while the Patriots averaged 35. They’ve racked up 150 combined points across four games, a whopping 37.5 points per game, more than any other pair of conference champions have averaged through that stretch since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
Atlanta’s defense has made big strides in the second half of the season and has played well in two playoff games. Falcons D, first 12 games: 27.6 points, 381.7 yards and 1.1 takeaways per game. Falcons D, last six games (including playoffs): 19.3 points, 339.2 yards and 2.2 takeaways per game. The speed on that side of the ball will be a factor against Brady.
In his career, Tom Brady is 4-0 against the Falcons and 2-0 against Ryan. In the regular season, the Falcons were shredded for 371.2 yards (eighth most in the NFL) and 25 points per game. They also gave up 30 — barely more than the Pats averaged — six times.
One disturbing trend for Falcons fans: history is not kind to matchups featuring the No. 1 scoring defense and the No. 1 scoring offense. Only once in NFL history has the No. 1 scoring offense beaten the No. 1 scoring defense, when the 49ers and Joe Montana managed to topple Dan Marino and the Dolphins in Super Bowl XXIV. The 49ers were also good on offense that year, though.
The Patriots and Falcons combined for just one loss after Week 10 while finishing first (plus-11.9) and second (8.38), respectively, in the NFL in scoring margin for the season (New England won seven of its regular season games by at least two TDs).
They say defense wins championships, but I believe this will be a shootout in the dome in Houston. That Patriots defense hasn’t faced a QB as good as Ryan yet this year.