The Atlanta Falcons (13-5) are three-point underdogs to the New England Patriots (16-2) in Super Bowl LI. To many, that spread seems fairly generous to Atlanta, given how dominant New England has been all season.
Our Mile High Report staff’s average score prediction is the Falcons 33, Patriots 30, excluding those from staffers who clearly didn’t take this seriously. Here is how it broke down individually.
Patriots 37, Falcons 34
This will be a record seventh Super Bowl appearance for Tom Brady. In every single one of those seven games, the margin of victory was either three points or four points. The Patriots win these Super Bowls by the closest of margins and they lose by the closest of margins.
This game will be no different and I’ll take the quarterback who has been in more close, high pressure moments than any other quarterback in NFL history. - Tim Lynch
Patriots 27, Falcons 17
You know what elite offenses do in the Super Bowl? Mostly they have gotten destroyed by elite defenses - at least this century. The Falcons have an elite offense. Do the P*ts have an elite defense? Let's look at the rankings from the regular season: #1 scoring defense, #10 in YPP, #7 in NY/A, #8 in YPC, #8 in QB rating against, #14 in forced turnovers. We can debate if those numbers make them elite, but they at least make them one of the best in the league this year. Will they have enough to stop the Falcons offense with two weeks of planning and preparation? I think so. I think that this will be a low scoring affair during the first half as both defenses play well (10-3 NE at the half), but I think that the Belicheats will find a way to score some points in the second half and end up winning comfortably 27-17 with the Falcons having to score late to make it close. I hate that this will happen, but I have a hard time envisioning a Falcon's win. FYTB x 5. - Joe Mahoney
Falcons 31, Patriots 24
The Falcons have quietly slipped under the radar all season, which is crazy since they are hanging 30+ points on nearly every opponent. Since week 10, they are averaging 37.5 points per game.
Additionally, Ryan is performing better this postseason under pressure than Tom Brady. When under pressure, so far this post season, Matty Ice has a 95.7 QB Rating. Tommy Hilfiger has a 68.8 rating under pressure so far.
Is there any truth to the idea that the Patriots haven't faced many quality QBs? #SB51 pic.twitter.com/8FS5hITdNW— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 2, 2017
Combine this with the fact that the Patriots so called #1 scoring defense hasn't played any competent QBs all year (and when they did, they gave up 31 points), and I think the Falcons and Matt Ryan finally get a Super Bowl. - Jeff Essary
Falcons 31, Patriots 20
Someone in this Super Bowl is a fraud. Atlanta is the team of the year by far with a stellar offense that has been just shredding its way through the NFL with confidence and class. New England is the unconquerable NFL juggernaut of the AFC with one of the best QBs ever to play the game, best coaches to ever coach, and a defense that led the league in scoring allowed.
I've got my money on Atlanta this year and here is why: New England just hasn't faced any serious opposition. They never have a competent division to content with, Denver took a big step back, and no other team in the AFC can wear the label "great". Yes, New England is going to play good defense and score some points. But at the end of the day, I think Atlanta is all around more talented with better coaching than New England. - Sadaraine
Falcons 31, Patriots 27
Jameis Winston threw four TD's and had a QR of 125 against Atlanta. It was his best game all season. Why? Because Atlanta had no answer for the combo of Doug Martin and the eight catchers that day. They also didn't sack Winston. Plus, bad penalties at the wrong time doomed them to defeat.
Why do I bring this up? Because if Brady* can spread the ball around and Blount can run, Atlanta's defense may be powerless to stop him, especially if they don't hit him. The key to beating brady* is to beat him. Hit him and hit him, again and to do it in the fourth quarter, especially.
Here's the good news. Ryan has thrown TD's to 13 guys. 10 players had more than one TD. Brady* has thrown to nine guys for TD's, one of whom isn't playing. Only six had more than one TD (Gronkowski is excluded). This means theoretically, Atlanta defense has less targets to worry about. Also, they have Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman who also have receiving TD's.
Blount is the only one with rushing TD's all season. Atlanta has three. Both teams are close in rushing yards, but the difference is, defenses have to worry about Freeman and Coleman receiving, as well. Blount only has seven catches all season. That puts more pressure on NE's* defense, which as Jeff has shown, haven't really faced any offense close to what they're about to see.
If Atlanta's young back field can focus on the ball and not get sucked into what Brady* is doing, they could be the heroes. Atlanta should rip a page from Belichick and let NE* have the run, because Blount isn't the receiving weapon Freeman and Coleman are. That's how to beat NE* take away his four favorite receivers and harass him.
NE* doesn't have an answer for thirteen guys with hands and two dangerous running backs, so it'll be up to Atlanta to stop the pass. Ryan doesn't need as much time as most teams to score points, so letting Blount get the ball over brady* passing is the answer. - Julie Dixon
Falcons 33, Patriots 30
Did anyone catch what the Falcons offense did to the Broncos defense? And that was with Denver's pass defense shutting down the NFL's possible Most Valuable Player... Imagine what Atlanta will do to to the Patriots.
I expect that we will see a lot of the reasons why fans in Denver circled the wagons around the idea of Kyle Shanahan being hired as the head coach of the Broncos. Along with New England being reminded what happens when you take on a Dan Quinn defense in the Super Bowl, but this time without the added value of Russell Wilson calling the final goal line play. - Ian Henson
Falcons 63, Patriots 10
The recent history of No. 1 offenses against No. 1 defenses hasn't worked out all that well in the Super Bowl. In the five previous Super Bowls this occurred, one offense has come away victorious. The one time it happened? Sorry to bring this up, but it was 55-10. For all that is sacred, please allow the Atlanta Falcons to at least drop 56 on those Massholes and allow the Denver Broncos to get a win on Sunday. That, of course, would make it the most lopsided Super Bowl loss in history. Given what Atlanta did to the likes of the Seattle Seahawks and Broncos, I'm not just predicting this out of spite. Those two defenses are light years better than that team from the Northeast. It may not be the most lopsided Super Bowl loss in history, but one can hope. - Ian St. Clair
Cam Newton will be sacked six times, including 2.5 by Von Miller (two of which will be strip sacks that lead to touchdowns, pushing the Broncos to a 24-10 win over the Pant...Oh wait, are we not talking about Super Bowl 50 highlights that I'll be watching all weekend? Weird. I guess in that case, I'll say the team I don't care a whole lot about will beat the team I don't like at all, and the Budweiser commercial will be my favorite. - Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann
@MemphisMichael1 Absolutely. I'll be watching a carousel of XXXII, XXXII and 50 next weekend instead of "whatever other game" is on— L.Lattimore-Volkmann (@docllv) January 29, 2017
Falcons 48, Patriots 42
Picking this game should be hard. The number one defenses always beats the number one offense in the Super Bowl. Bronco fans know this all too well. But if you look deeper into Broncos history than 2013 then you know that the number one offense can win against the number one defense (not that either of those Super Bowls worked out for Denver). Sure, New England is statistically the number one defense in the NFL, but they aren't elite. The Falcons offense has been unbelievably good all year. They have proven all season that even great defenses will not hold them back. Denver was unable to stop them, and I don't see New England having any luck against them, either. Atlanta just has too many weapons. This could be one of the highest scoring games in Super Bowl history, but in the end it will be Atlanta sending Kyle Shanahan off to San Francisco with a shiny new ring to show his new team. - Adam Malnati
Falcons 34, Patriots 27
This is a game every football fan should be excited about. Super Bowl 51 has two teams with the ability to score at will. Powerhouse offenses headlined by top-tier quarterbacks who are efficient and always seem to get the job done.
I am expecting a fairly high scoring game with a lot of offensive production. Yet, I wouldn't be surprised to see the New England Patriots use a heavy dose of LaGarrett Blount and try to keep the potent Atlanta Falcons' offense off the field as much as possible.
I am rooting for the Falcons, since there is no way I could ever cheer for the Patriots. I think the game will be close, but late in the game the Falcons will make some big plays and earn their franchises first Lombardi Trophy.
Falcons in an underdog upset by the score of 34-27. - Christopher Hart