PFT’s Super Bowl picks

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The Super Bowl arrives Sunday. Which means it’s time for me to quit going back and forth about who I think will win the game and finally make a pick and stick to it.

Whether MDS or I agree on the outcome of the Patriots-Falcons game doesn’t matter; he already has clinched the postseason contest, which is a nice bookend to his regular-season victory in our picks competition.

Still, everyone wants to get the last game of the season right, and either we both will — or we both won’t.

MDS’s take: The oddsmakers in Vegas are expecting this to be a high-scoring game, with the over-under set at 58.5, the highest ever for a Super Bowl. And I think it may be an even higher-scoring game than that.

Tom Brady and Matt Ryan aren’t just the media darlings during Super Bowl hype week, they’re the two best players in the NFL right now. Brady shook off his four-game Deflategate suspension to turn in what may have been his most impressive individual performance ever, while Ryan is expected to collect his first ever regular-season MVP award on Saturday night.

So how does this shootout play out? I see the Patriots and Falcons going back and forth in an exciting game, but the Patriots’ defense making a late fourth-quarter stop that turns out to make the difference. After a postseason full of dull games, I like the Patriots to win a classic at Super Bowl LI.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 35, Falcons 31.

Florio’s take: Patriots coach Bill Belichick has a history of concocting a defensive game plan that takes away what the opposing offense does best. It’s widely believed that, as it relates to the Falcons, Belichick will try to eliminate receiver Julio Jones.

Beyond Super Bowl XXXVI, where Belichick dared the Rams to run the ball and coach Mike Martz stubbornly didn’t, the template for this one possibly comes from Super Bowl XXV, when Belichick convinced the Giants defensive players that the way to outscore the Bills would be to let them run the ball.

“You guys have to believe me,” Belichick told his players, via David Halberstam’s The Education of a Coach. “If [Thurman] Thomas runs for a hundred yards, we win this game.”

It was hard sell, given that the team’s defense had been premised on shutting down the run. But Belichick got his players to embrace the strategy, and the Giants won the game by a single point.

While Belichick may not have spent the last two weeks lobbying the Patriots to let Devonta Freeman and/or Tevin Coleman to rush for more than 100 yards, Belichick is likely to ensure that the Atlanta passing game and running game won’t generate yardage in big chunks, forcing the Falcons to patiently work their way down the field and sustain drives and set up showdowns in the red zone, where New England’s defense has improved dramatically throughout the course of the season.

So it’s about more than taking away Jones. It’s about taking away quick-strike touchdown drives and shortening the game.

That’s why the New England offensive game plan will be critical, too. Running plays and short passes that simulate runs should be the preference, with Tom Brady showing the kind of patience that Belichick will try to force the Falcons to display. By keeping Matt Ryan and company on the sidelines for as long as possible, they’ll have fewer chances to wreak havoc or to get in the kind of a rhythm that has seen them rack up big leads in both playoff wins.

Ultimately, the goal will be to keep the game close and trust Brady and/or the defense to deliver with the championship on the line. That’s how the six prior Brady-and-Belichick Super Bowls have gone, with four of them going the way of the Patriots and the other two resulting in defeat only when Eli Manning managed two of the most impressive clutch throws the NFL has ever seen.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Falcons 24.

58 responses to “PFT’s Super Bowl picks

  1. The average win/loss margin for the Patriots’ six Super Bowl (SB) appearances during the Belichick era is 3 1/3 points. I think SB LI’s final score will buck that trend. I’m expecting the unexpected—a blowout (17 points) by one of the two teams. This game marks Brady’s seventh SB appearance. And if there’s some truth to the phrase “Lucky 7,” then maybe that’s a good omen. Bottom line: The Pats’ “D” must really step up and “bring the lumber.” If they don’t, then sadly I think it might be a very long Sunday night back here in New England.

  2. Eli’s clutch throws? I’ll give you the 2nd of those games the Giants were just better, not just Eli. But the 1st was thanks to a ridiculous helmet catch.

    That helmet catch, Tyree’s team-mates said, was thanks to stickem! – probably a jest by them but if that had been the Pats after an unexpected win there would have been howls of cheater, a $10M Wells frame job, Kurt Whiner or Marshall Falk crying on 60 Minutes and Bill Nye spreading glue on gloves…

  3. jchipwood says:
    Feb 4, 2017 8:06 PM
    Chipwoods superbowl prediction: patriot fans will continue to be clowns

    ____________________________________
    My prediction for 2017, Chipster will still be trolling Pats stories with the same old tired cliches.
    And the phins will still $uck.

  4. Hey Rhode Island
    I couldn’t agree with more. I’m very nervous about this game, so much is dependent on if our D can bring it! against 1 of the most dynamic offense the NFLs ever seen. Atl is being way to underrated. God I’m hoping tb12 gets this 1 more ring, the king of the North has been through a lot this season👊Enjoy the game

  5. My prediction is that for 23rd straight year, the Dolphins will score 0 points in the Super Bowl.

  6. The only other year Brady/Belichick Patriots have played this well in the playoffs leading up to the super bowl was 2004. They are healthy, especially their defense and O-line. If they take care of the ball, they should win.

  7. weepingjebus says:
    Feb 4, 2017 8:50 PM
    My prediction is that for 23rd straight year, the Dolphins will score 0 points in the Super Bowl.
    ====================

    It’s actually been 32 years and 2 quarters since they last scored in the SB. Shut out in the 2nd half of a blowout loss, imagine having that as your most recent SB accomplishment. It’s almost enough to drive some poor unhinged soul to create dozens of id’s to troll the team in their division that has done what they can only dream about.

  8. ” when Eli Manning managed two of the most impressive clutch throws the NFL has ever seen.”

    Please. Two stoopid catches. He throws it up in the general vicinity and prays. 2x the prayers were answered.

  9. Not trolling, not trying to antagonize with this statement. I hate the Falcons with a passion. But based strictly on their play and ignoring the mystique surrounding the Pats/Brady/Belichick, I think the Falcons will shock the Patriots and win by 3 scores. Set aside Brady’s revenge. It’s pick your poison with the Falcons this year – either you stop Julio or Sanu or you stop the run and the backs on screens and dumps. Ryan and Shanahan have finally figured out that you take what the defense gives you and you don’t try to blindly impose your will when it’s not working. Atlanta’s defense is a lot better than their stats imply. But maybe Ryan chokes. Here’s hoping that he does and that I’m wrong about the rest.

  10. Didn’t the Falcons lose 5 games this year? You’d swear they went 17-0 so far.

    One more day until the yapping stops.

    Patriots 38-21

  11. contra74 says:
    Feb 4, 2017 8:24 PM

    Wait. Why aren’t the packers in the super bowl? I was assured by their fans that they would be.
    ————————————————————
    The Vikings already won the Super Bowl in October @ 5-0……silly Queens fans!!!

  12. Why are Patriots fans always so obsessed with Shula and the irrelevant Dolphins?
    I guess that wannabe perfect season they choked away in 2007 still eats them alive.lolol

  13. If you are not biased (major reveal: I am), you can see many ways that the Patriots win this game, but only one way that the Falcons can: via the turnover.

    The Patriots don’t give up the home run ball. They don’t implode. Belichick lets your “star” get his yards. He doesn’t let them matter when it counts. The Patriots make better half time adjustments than you. They have Tom Brady (I know, Chippy, I know–he stinks. BTW, Wapner is on at 11…)

    The Falcons have major problems scoring in the red zone against REGULAR teams.

    The Patriots limit scoring in the red zone against EVERYONE.

    Bottom line: The Patriots have been here before. Brady is as singularly focused as you will ever see another human being in his historic quest for a 5th ring. If you blitz him, you lose big. If you can’t get pressure with your front 4 (Atlanta can’t), he will carve you up too.

    If the Pats protect the ball, it’s simple–they win.

    Patriots 34
    Falcons 24

  14. jchipwood says:
    Feb 4, 2017 8:06 PM
    Chipwoods superbowl prediction: patriot fans will continue to be clowns

    ————
    Poor Chippy….even if the Falcons do win….what will it mean to you? Your team is out of contention as usual. But your hate is so intense that somehow you see any team beating the Patriots as a personal victory! It is a sad and pathetic thing Chippy….

  15. Patriots 31 Falcons 24 this will be a tight game with a lot of offensive fireworks as neither defense will be able to keep up for most of the game. I think a combination of quick passing to Edelman and Mitchell as well as some deep routes by Hogan and Bennett, and finally a turnover late in the game by the Falcons will seal the game for the Pats however it would not shock me if the Falcons win as Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Freeman are not to be taken lightly.

  16. New England just puts so much pressure on the opponent in all three phases of the game. They are relentless and methodical all at once. Eventually, the other team cracks under that pressure and commits a big mistake. A turnover, a missed assignment on D (and be certain that 12 will make them pay), a bad blitz pick-up, and before you know it, the game gets away. It’s how New England routinely wins games by 17+ points that really seem a lot closer for much of the contest. The Falcons are good, but they are stepping up in class tomorrow. Their youth, combined with the stifling execution of the Patriots, points to a New England win, probably double digits.

  17. Neither team will score as much as expected, and neither team will perform as well as they did a couple weeks ago.

    How good are the Falcons when forced into plan B? Because the Pats will force them into whatever their backup plan is. Is that plan better than the Pats, and what the Falcons D can force them into?

  18. Two additional points:

    1) The Eagles held the Falcons to 15 points earlier this year.

    2) To those who say “the Pats haven’t played anyone legitimate this season”, please recall that this is the 6th consecutive AFC championship appearance for the Pats.

  19. 31 – 21 Patriots. I won’t watch the game but I will check out the highlights. The event is a spectacle by nature and this year it promises to be political as well. Leave politics out of football or a lot of people will quit watching it.

  20. The only thing that I’m sure of is that the Patriots will win and take the under. Everyone keeps repeating that Belichick will take away Jones. Besides that being impossible anyway, actually the Falcons have struggled when the other pieces on the team have struggled. Something tells me Belichick will have all of those bases covered, and in the meantime, the Falcons won’t be able to stop the Patriots.

  21. OldDurtyBird says:
    Feb 4, 2017 10:00 PM
    Why are Patriots fans always so obsessed with Shula and the irrelevant Dolphins?
    I guess that wannabe perfect season they choked away in 2007 still eats them alive.lolol
    =======================

    Dang chipster, now you’re posting under a Falcons id?
    No one but you brings up the Giants victory in relation to the fish.

  22. fuhq says:
    Feb 4, 2017 9:54 PM
    contra74 says:
    Feb 4, 2017 8:24 PM

    Wait. Why aren’t the packers in the super bowl? I was assured by their fans that they would be.
    ————————————————————
    The Vikings already won the Super Bowl in October @ 5-0……silly Queens fans!!!

    not talking about the vikings. rodgers said they would run the table.he just couldnt get it done again. packers were 4-1 to win super bowl. vikings were 75-1. packers were favs going away. what happened genius?

  23. I have NO IDEA why everyone seems to think this will be a close game. The Patriots will slow things waaay down and still be able to score at will on Atlanta. I just cannot see Atlanta doing the same to New England’s #1 Defense. People, stop overthinking this game.. Its simple, Patriots 34 Atlanta 17 Now it is written, Now it is said!!!!

  24. Sorry Patriots fans but this one won’t be pretty. This game will be looked back on as the start of the New England empire downfall.

    Atlanta will not only win but will completely dominate the game. Brady will look dazed and confused, much like he did against Seattle this year. Look for Falcons OC Kyle Shanahan to go out with a bang. Atlanta’s offense will be nearly unstoppable.

    Falcon 41
    Patriots 16
    MVP: Mohammed Sanu (12/133/2)

    And you heard this here first: Brady will realize he’s about to be 40 and after discussing it with Gisele will decide to retire in April. Bilichik, not wanting to rebuild, will retire 2 weeks after Brady and will be replaced by Josh McDaniels.

  25. I predict a high scoring game that will be decided by a field goal. Both teams are worthy. Both teams deserve to be there.

    But watching Goodell forced to hand the MVP trophy to Brady is the outcome all NFL fans deserve. So I shall root for the Patriots.

  26. No idea who wins this one. But may it be the Patriots!

    Its going to be one heck of a Super Bowl.

    Pats fan.
    ——————————————-
    Ditto that!

    One heck of a Super Bowl. If we don’t win, I hope y’all do 😉

    Falcons fan.

  27. I had the number 48-17 jump into my mind. Madame Cleo I am not but I expect The Pats to carve them up and for Hogan to have a monster game, as well as Blount. Boy… I sure wish that the people who come around here had an objective mindset. I guess that is too much to ask. I want you to picture me jumping out of my chair, every time Number 12 makes the connection on his way into the record books where he already is… all over the place. I really wish so many of you did not have the depth of 12 year olds.

    Today is the day my friends! This is going to be epic. Watch Lewis hit the Trifecta yet again. Watch Butler rise to the occasion. Imagine me with tears streaming down my face as the greatest quarterback of all time brings it home for all time. I’ll be singing and dancing all over my living room come around 10:00 PM tonight. For all you Pats fans out there, I will be metaphorically kissing you on both cheeks like I was from France. I’d love for any and all of you to be at my house today with all those smoked oysters and really excellent chef worthy treats. If you are anywhere around Ocean City, New Jersey… never mind, I don’t have the Samsung curved screen yet but, I got the fireplace and a pretty big screen. Bring it!!!

  28. That Falcons’ offense is pretty beastly. The Pats D is really going to have to step up. I think they can, but a couple small mistakes and Ryan and Freemand and Jones and Co can throw points at the board like nobodies business and next thing you know they have 30.

    I think that the Falcons D though is susceptible to long drives. The kind the Pats thrive on. And the Pats D is good at taking the long plays away, the kind the Falcons O thrives on, which gives me hope.

    In the end, I think the Pats can pull it off, but Quinn and Dimitroff have a beast being built in Atlanta and I can totally see them becoming a SB contender for the next several years.

    And if the Pats do end up losing? Well, Falcons have some of my favorite non-Pats players, so I’ll be ok with it.

    Plus, Goodell has taken a lot of the fanatic out of my fandom over the last few years. I simply don’t care as much as I used to lol.

  29. Bet the farm on the Falcons!
    Here is my logic: The Patriots are 3 point favorites. In their past 3 Super Bowl appearances they lost twice to the Giants and only beat the Seahawks because they were gifted the win by the Seahawks inexplicable decision to pass on 2nd and goal from the 1 resulting in a game ending interception.
    In the Belichick/Brady era the Patriots have never won a Super Bowl by more than 4 points. They beat the Rams and Panthers by 3 and the Eagles and Seahawks by 4 so they are not some powerhouse that usually wins by 20 points.
    The Patriot defense held the hapless Brock Osweiler to 16 points and the at least equally hapless Big Ben to 17 …. 9 when it actually mattered. But now they will be going against the #1 offense in the NFL. My opinion is you won’t see Matty “Ice” Ryan making the same bad throws and misreads and not seeing wide open receivers that you saw with Osweiler and Big Ben. Conversely the loss of Gronkowski will finally catch up with the Patriot offense.
    So just sit back, relax, and enjoy watching Belichick run off the field without shaking hands after the Patriots get their butts handed to them!

  30. I am loving how no one….I mean NO ONE give the Falcons a chance in this game. With that being said….GO FALCONS!

  31. Tough game to forecast, but my take on the teams is that the Falcons are the most dynamic offense in the NFL, but their defense is still one year away from gelling. I have a hunch on two key players – I think Matt Ryan will throw two INTs at inopportune times, trying to force the issue. I also see Mitchell (WR) of the Patriots having a few very important receptions late in the game, and being MVP.

    I respect both teams and am very glad they both reached the SB. I would not be shocked to see the Falcons dominate, nor would it surprise me to see the Patriots run away with it. A key sign to watch will be if either team has a strong running game in the first half. If one team shows great balance while the other is forced to be more 1-dimensional, look for the balanced team to eventually win. Legarette Blount could take control of this game. That’s the guy I will carefully watch on his first several carries. If he consistently sees daylight, look out.

    The Pats backfield is diverse while many experts are anticipating an aerial war, I think Bellicheck will instead use all three RBs to control the ball, playing keep-away from Matty Ice and Co. Dion Lewis and James White are being overlooked and underrated by many in the media, it seems.

  32. mclennon99 says:
    Feb 5, 2017 4:15 AM
    Sorry Patriots fans but this one won’t be pretty. This game will be looked back on as the start of the New England empire downfall.

    Atlanta will not only win but will completely dominate the game. Brady will look dazed and confused, much like he did against Seattle this year. Look for Falcons OC Kyle Shanahan to go out with a bang. Atlanta’s offense will be nearly unstoppable.

    Falcon 41
    Patriots 16
    MVP: Mohammed Sanu (12/133/2)
    —————–
    No way the 26th ranked pass D holds the pats to 16

  33. OldDurtyBird says:
    Feb 4, 2017 10:00 PM
    Why are Patriots fans always so obsessed with Shula and the irrelevant Dolphins?
    I guess that wannabe perfect season they choked away in 2007 still eats them alive
    ———————-
    That was 10 years ago and the patriots are back in it….again. How’s your team doing 10 years later?

  34. You’re right, it has been so long since the Dolphins mattered that I don’t even remember what decade it was that they last played in. Super Bowl. I know it was sometime in a prior century, but beyond that who knows? Thanks for the correction.

  35. Quick question for people. When has the #1 defensive points against team ever lost a Super Bowl? I know the answer to this, but I’ll let people who think it’s going to be different this time tell me.

  36. Guess I was wrong.

    Go ahead and gloat Pats fans…this one was well earned!!

    And I used to think Joe Montana was the greatest QB ever…not any more. Maybe they should name a state after Brady like they did Joe…lol.

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