Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots
Chase Irle: Ah, the moment we are all waiting for as Falcons fans. The rematch of last year’s Super Bowl that the Falcons undoubtedly blew against a lesser Patriots squad. Yes, I said it, and now they get their chance at revenge in Foxbourough, where Tom Brady has been nearly unbeatable over his career.
The two teams will both look different than they did in the Super Bowl. The Patriots will have Rob Gronkowski back, and the Falcons will feature Desmond Trufant this time on defense. Beyond that, both teams had terrific offseasons adding several key pieces. New England brought in Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore among others, while the Falcons brought in tons of help across the defensive line like Takkarist McKinley and Dontari Poe.
Unless the Patriots offensive line improves light years from their Super Bowl performance, they could still be in big trouble in this one. The Falcons accumulated five sacks in the Super Bowl against Brady, one of the hardest quarterbacks to sack. That was with a mediocre, at best, pass rush. This season, the Falcons should feature one of the most fierce pass rushes in the league behind last year’s sack leader Vic Beasley Jr. and this year’s first-round pick Takkarist McKinley. Brady does not get hit often, but I see him getting hit a lot in this one, especially in a revenge game.
Despite an improved defense, this is still Tom Brady and the Patriots, and Brady will have a lot more weapons to work with this time around. Gronkowski was not in the Super Bowl last year and is arguably the best offensive weapon in the entire NFL. His presence will be a nightmare, but the Falcons will likely gameplan around him. The problem with that is Brady now has not just one but two speedy receivers on the outside with the addition of Brandin Cooks. Cooks and Edelman can roast one-on-one coverage against the best of secondaries. Not too mention, Dwayne Allen can also line up with Gronkowski in the Patriots infamous two tight-end sets. The Falcons pass rush better be up to the challenge, or we could end up watching a replay of the second half of the Super Bowl.
Unless Matt Ryan and Steve Sarkisian are not on the same page, this offense should still be the best in the league next season. The Patriots, even with additions like Stephen Gilmore will have no chance of stopping it for sixty minutes. It took multiple injuries to the offensive line for the Patriots defense to begin having success, so providing both teams are healthy at this point, I expect a pretty high scoring affair, even with two improved defenses.
I would like to say the Falcons win this one, but on a possibly cold Boston night, I do not see Ryan being able to go score for score with Brady. The Falcons defense struggles to deal with the Patriots weapons, and the team as a whole does not play up to the standard of the brotherhood. The Falcons have revenge on their mind’s, but the only thing that is going to put that to rest is a Lombardi Trophy, not a regular season win against the Patriots. They come up short in this one, but it will be a loss that pays off down the road.
Falcons 32, Patriots 35
Falcons season record: 5-1
Michael Arkin: Everyone will be watching this game. The Super Bowl rematch on Sunday Night. The Falcons will head to Foxbourough in hopes of not avenging such a painful loss, but to make a mark on the NFL by going up to New England and beating them.
Dan Quinn will need to make sure his troops are fired up, but to not be too emotional heading in. The true leaders of Atlanta will step up in this game, led by 2016 MVP Matt Ryan. Ryan will face an atmosphere he rarely has been apart of, as Tom Brady and his Patriots are an unbelievable team at home. Ryan and Sark must have a gameplan to weather the storm and ease into the swing of things.
Playing too aggressive sometimes will come back to bite you in the butt (Kyle Shanahan), but it can also get you to a point where you can still continue playing hard-nosed while also using diligence. Ryan does not need to force the issue if nothing is open, and hit check-downs to Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman, as they can catch well out of the backfield. Freeman played well the few times he got the ball the last time he played the Patriots, and he should be getting the ball much more come this day.
Tom Brady will tell you that the Falcons defense gave him fits the last time they played, but obviously he found a weakness in the defense. This time around, Atlanta will (hopefully) have Desmond Trufant back from injury, as he is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. The Patriots will also get superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski back from injury, and he must be dealt with at all times whenever he is on the field. Atlanta added some signings in the offseason and used early draft selections on the defense in hopes to not only help continue to build that side of the ball, but to have depth.
Now Chase and I have had our discussions about the Super Bowl, and we have talked much about this game in Week 7. We both agree the Falcons roster is absolutely loaded, but we debate how this team will perform in Foxbourough. I just have that feeling that this game has been circled since February 5, and the team obviously will never forget what happened the last time these teams have met. I think special teams will play an important role in being able to put the offense in good field position. Brady will put up points, but I see Ryan leading the charge at the end of the night. The Falcons will squeeze out a narrow victory, and make a statement to the NFL that if there is a Super Bowl hangover, they breezed right through it.
Prediction: Falcons 31, Patriots 27
Falcons season record: 5-1