NFL Super Bowl 51, Monday, February 6, NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas, 10:30 am AEST.
Perennial powerhouse New England goes to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years against the Atlanta Falcons – a team which has not made it to the big dance in almost a decade.
The NFL decider puts the league’s best offense across the post-season, the Falcons, against the fourth best defence in the playoffs, the Patriots.
This year’s Super Bowl will be incredibly intriguing for a myriad of factors – none more so interesting than Tom Brady potentially being awarded the Lombardi Trophy and the Super Bowl MVP by the very commission that tried to tarnish his name over the last 12 months.
Oh, and the probable regular season MVP, Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan will be playing in his first ever Super Bowl in his nine-year career.
For the first time in recent memory, the subplots could be just as interesting as the game itself.
Business as usual for Brady
Coming into the 2016/17 NFL season there was no man under greater pressure to perform than Patriots QB Tom Brady.
The man who was already considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time took a hefty blow to his usually squeaky-clean reputation after the NFL commission banned the superstar from the opening month of football for his role in the ‘deflate-gate’ scandal.
Not only did Brady overcome that maelstrom to elevate his team to yet another Super Bowl, but he did it without arguably the team’s and potentially the league’s greatest offensive player in tight end Rob Gronkowski for his side’s entire playoff run.
The year has not been a redemption story for Brady however.
The three-time Super Bowl MVP said the 2017 post-season has never been about sticking it to the man or clearing his name – it is the passion for the game that still drives the 39-year-old.
“I don’t think anything about a personal legacy,” Brady said.
“Those things have never been important to me. I never thought I’d be at this point in my life. I never thought I would play professional football. I didn’t think I’d play any professional sports. Of course I had dreams and hopes like a lot of kids, but could never imagine after 17 years I’d be doing this.”
Brady, who enters the match as the -109.89 favourite to win a fourth Super Bowl MVP is already widely considered the best quarterback to ever grace the gridiron, but pundits agree the Pats number 12 will be the unanimous best-ever if he can win a fifth SB title.
The man himself said he just wants to win, and the rest will take care of itself.
“I really don’t [think about it],” Brady said of his overall standing in the game.
“That was never the reason I played this game — to be the best. I did it because I love football. It wasn’t ever to be on some conversation about where I rank compared to someone else.”
Falcon’s Julio Jones declares himself good to go
The big question for the Falcons was the availability of superstar wide receiver Julio Jones.
Jones, who sat out of the first week of practise to rest his injured toe which kept him out of two match in December looks set to go after taking part in full training in the week leading into Houston.
The man who is considered one of the best offensive weapons in the game said he ‘feel(s) great’ heading into the most important game of his career.
Julio Jones – who is the +800 favourite to score the first touchdown at Sportsbet.com.au – is training at full capacity and the 27-year-old said he is not pushing himself too hard in the lead up to Super Bowl 51.
“I don’t go the extra mile,” Jones said.
“I don’t want to make anything up. I just stay consistent. I practice like I’m playing the game so the game can be easy for me.”
Super Bowl 51 game predictions
It is defence against offensive as one of the best attacking teams we have ever seen in the form of the Falcons come up against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Much of the focus leading into the Super Bowl has been on the New England QB and his team, which suits us perfectly as we have been on the Atlanta bandwagon since the opening week.
Few teams in NFL history have boasted the offensive threats that the Falcons have across the board, but the o-line’s ability to give the probable MVP Matt Ryan plenty of time to find his plethora of targets.
The man they call “Matty Ice” has the best running back combination in the league in the form of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman at his disposal as well as the inarguable best WR in the NFL today in Julio Jones and the more than capable Mohamed Sanu.
Getting scared yet Patriots fans?
Unless New England puts together a next-level defensive rushing display which startles the normally unflappable Ryan, how exactly do you shut down this offense?
We are backing the powerful Atlanta Falcons to ruin Tom Brady’s redemption story en route to their first ever NFL Championship.
Match winner: Atlanta Falcons – +131 at Sportsbet.com.au