Super Bowl LI Picks
This year’s Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons is shaping up to be a good one. Not only are we going to see two high-powered offenses with big name star power on both sides of the ball this Sunday, we’re going to be watching a game that has the highest projected Over/Under Vegas line in Super Bowl history. We’re not sure if that’s Vegas sportsbooks’ way of taking a shot at these defenses, or them over-crediting the gunslingers in this game, yet nevertheless, the fans of Super Bowl LI should be happy.
Gridiron Experts asked eleven staff writers to make their pick along with offer their insight for this year’s Super Bowl game. Enjoy!
10 Year Super Bowl Recap
|Super Bowl||Matchup||Line (Total)||Final Score||ATS Result|
|LI||Atlanta vs. New England||Patriots -3 (59.9)||–||–|
|L||Carolina vs. Denver||Carolina -5 (43.5)||Denver 24-10||Underdog-Under|
|XLIX||Seattle vs. New England||Seahawks -2 (47.5)||New England 28-24||Underdog-Over|
|XLVIII||Seattle vs. Denver||Denver -2.5 (47.5)||Seattle 43-8||Underdog-Over|
|XLVII||San Francisco vs. Baltimore||San Francisco -4.5 (48)||Baltimore 34- 31||Underdog-Over|
|XLVI||N.Y. Giants vs. New England||New England -2.5 (53)||N.Y. Giants 21-17||Underdog-Under|
|XLV||Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh||Green Bay -3 (45)||Green Bay 31-25||Favorite-Over|
|XLIV||New Orleans vs. Indianapolis||Indianapolis -5 (57)||New Orleans 31-17||Underdog-Under|
|XLIII||Pittsburgh vs. Arizona||Pittsburgh -7 (46)||Pittsburgh 27-23||Underdog-Over|
|XLII||N.Y. Giants vs. New England||New England -12 (55)||N.Y. Giants 17-14||Underdog-Under|
|XLI||Indianapolis vs. Chicago||Indianapolis -7 (47)||Indianapolis 29-17||Favorite-Under|
|XL||Pittsburgh vs. Seattle||Pittsburgh -4 (47)||Pittsburgh 21-10||Favorite-Under|
Gridiron Experts Super Li Picks
For the record, I’ll easily be cheering for Atlanta in this game, but considering Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s records when “slighted” by Roger Goodell “Spygate, Deflategate”, I’m assuming that the Patriots will be prepared for Atlanta’s offense and find a weakness in what has been a really solid defense over the second half of the NFL season.
I don’t feel confident enough to drop too much of a wager either way on this game, but the under seems like the right play here as well. Jody Smith’s Pick: Patriots 27-22
Las Vegas oddsmakers are predicting this game to be very close, three points to be exact. New England is getting the edge as the favorite in this contest, as they should with the team with the most Super Bowl experience. But interestingly enough, the previous five Super Bowl winners have all been underdogs. That’s right, there is currently is a five-game losing streak for the Super Bowl favorite.
- The Panthers were 4.5 favorites last year and lost to the Broncos.
- The Seahawks were 1 point favorites over the Pats and lost in Super XLIX.
- The 2-point favored Broncos were rolled by the Seahawks at Super Bowl XLVIII.
- The 49ers were 4.5 point favorites and lost to the Ravens in Super XLVII
- The Patriots were 2.5 point favorites in Super Bowl XLVI only to lose to the Giants 21-17
Being the favorite in the Super Bowl hasn’t been very lucky as of late, which fits perfectly with my prediction of the Falcons continuing this streak and upsetting the Patriots. I think Matt Ryan is playing excellent football, and the Falcons offense has been nearly impossible to stop as everyone is targeted in the passing game. I also feel the Falcons defense has been getting better with every game and should be able to learn from the mistakes the Steelers made in relying too heavily on zone coverage and not getting enough pressure on Tom Brady. Mike’s Pick: Pick: Falcons 29-27
I am expecting a game a lot like the one we saw two years ago between Seahawks and Patriots, where it basically came down to the last play of the game. This match-up consists of two highly-efficient offenses with an endless list of weapons. The Patriots M.O. is taking away their opponents best weapon (in this case Julio), which is going to require a double team at the very minimum. Malcolm Butler is a great cornerback, but the list of players as physically imposing as Julio starts and ends with Julio.
What separates the Falcons from the rest of the Patriot casualties is their ability to disregard their best player and still be successful and more importantly, their offensive line. Matt Ryan took a leap when he stopped relying on Julio and started spreading the ball around to the rest of his offensive weapons. Mohamed Sanu was a great pickup for Atlanta as a huge target that has been excellent at moving the chains and in the red zone. Taylor Gabriel has big play ability that demands respect from opposing defenses. The tight ends can make plays as well. On top of all that the Falcons have an automatic kicker and two of the best running backs in the league keeping each other fresh at all times. The Steelers didn’t have an answer in the passing game beyond Antonio Brown and lost Le’Veon Bell early. The Falcons have depth at every position. I think their defense makes just enough plays and flusters Brady a little bit with its speed. I think their offense continues to run like a well-oiled machine. And I think the Falcons hoist the Lombardi trophy. Bob’s Pick: Falcons 34-31
I picked the Patriots to win it all at the beginning of the season and I’m not going to change that now. Matt Ryan has had an amazing year and seems like the frontrunner for the NFL MVP, but this has been the Tom Brady revenge tour ever since he came back from his four-game suspension to start the season. I don’t think New England’s defense can completely shut down the Falcons, but outside of the Georgia Dome, I think Atlanta will at least take a step back from their recent torrid pace. Meanwhile, the Falcons defense has been over performing in recent weeks and I expect Brady to find success earlier than the recent competition. I’m expecting an entertaining and close game, but one in which the Patriots ultimately come out on top. Jason Willan Pick: Patriots 27-24
On paper, this is a very interesting Super Bowl. The Falcons have been electric down the stretch, and the Patriots have been, well… the Patriots. Both offenses have exhibited greatness this year. Matt Ryan and company posted 540 points over the course of the season, churning out one of the all-time great campaigns for an offense. On the other side of the ball, the Patriots put together a very casual 14-2 record– a mark that becomes even more impressive when you consider that they were without the greatest QB of all time for the first four games. Brady returned in Week 5 and proceeded to go 13-1 with a workmanlike 28:2 TD:INT ratio… not bad for a 39-year-old. However, this game isn’t all about the signal callers. The Patriots defense has quietly put together a tremendous season, yielding the fewest points in the league with only 250 scored against them. This mark is also the lowest in the NFL since 2013 when Seattle allowed only 231 over the course of the year. On the other side of the ball, Atlanta allowed the 6th most points in the league this year. To their credit, they’ve improved in recent weeks, allowing their young talent to shine through. Overall, I think this game will be close, as Vegas has indicated. Halftime adjustments will be huge for both teams, so I immediately look to the coaches. With Bill Belichick calling the shots, and the mastermind of Matt Patricia scheming to slow down the high-octane Falcons offense, I feel comfortable that the Patriots will be ready to perform in every facet of the game. Finally, if there was ever a “revenge” narrative to lean on– this game provides it. The only thing on Tom Brady’s mind right now is Roger Goodell handing him that Lombardi Trophy– I’m not going to be the guy to bet against Angry Tom Brady– not today. Brad Castronovo Patriots 35-31
If New England ultimately ends up winning, expect to hear the name Logan Ryan A LOT next Sunday. Ryan will be the difference maker in the game. Often overshadowed by Devin McCourty and Malcolm Butler in New England’s secondary, Ryan is quietly on the rise. After a treacherous start to the year lining up on the outside, Ryan was moved to the slot mid-campaign and turned his season around. He finished 2016 ranked 12th amongst NFL cornerbacks with an 85.0 player grade according to Pro Football Focus.
Ryan will likely cover an old friend and current foe on the NFL’s grandest stage in the likes of Falcons wideout Mohamed Sanu — they were teammates at Rutgers during their collegiate days. If Ryan can handle Sanu in single coverage and hold him to minimal production, it would allow for the Patriots to send safety help over to Butler’s side with the hopes of containing the elite Julio Jones.
As the Falcons’ offense owns a surplus of weapons, New England must contain Matt Ryan and his talented receivers and let Atlanta beat them on the ground. If New England’s defense can force Atlanta’s offense to become one-dimensional favoring the run, the Patriots will be on their way to a fifth Super Bowl Championship and Tom Brady will go down as the greatest quarterback in NFL history — putting an end to the Brady v. Joe Montana debate once and for all. Anthony Cervino’s Pick Patriots 27-23
I’m as sick of the Patriots being successful as the next guy (they’re even easier to root against with all the “Gates”), but I’m not just choosing the Falcons because I don’t want New England to win. Atlanta has so many weapons on offense, and, as I’ve said before, the key to beating the Patriots is to keep Tom Brady and company off the gridiron. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are just what the doctor ordered for those ailing from Patriots, not to mention unheralded receivers Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan really knows how to best utilize these playmakers, particularly the running backs. The Falcons’ offense can’t stay on the field indefinitely, obviously, so when Brady is on the field, put some pressure on him like the Broncos did last year in the AFC Championship. It might also be a good idea to cover the receivers like the Steelers refused to do last week. Of course, that’s easier said than done with the plethora of offensive weapons the Pats have, too. Nonetheless, we remember how earth-shattering Von Miller was in last year’s Super Bowl win. I’m not saying Vic Beasley can do what Miller did, but Beasley led the NFL in sacks this season (15.5.) and Brady has made some costly mistakes in Super Bowls and other big games when under pressure. These two teams could easily score into the 30s — after all, they are two of the three highest scoring teams this season — but I’ll give the defenses some credit, too, and keep my prediction in the upper 20s. Zach Greubel’s Pick Falcons 27-24
While Tom Brady won’t publicly admit it, it’s fair to assume that making Roger Goodell present him and his teammates with another Lombardi Trophy is all the motivation he needs going into his 7th Super Bowl. However, let’s put that narrative aside and look at this matchup from a strictly football perspective. Both teams are peaking on offense at the perfect time. Over the last 6 games the Patriots have scored an impressive 32 points per game, while the Falcons have averaged an eye-popping 39 points over that same stretch. The Patriots defense improved steadily as the year progressed, leading the NFL in scoring defense. The Falcons, while not as statistically dominant on defense as the Patriots, have rounded into shape – evidenced by their ability to hold the Green Bay Packers to just 21 points in the NFC Conference Championship.
Ultimately, the difference in this game will come down to somebody who won’t be wearing a helmet and pads: Bill Belichick. Belichick has made a career out of making high-powered offenses look pedestrian. He did it to the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV as the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants when he held the league’s highest-scoring offense a full touchdown below their season average. Then he did it in Super Bowl XXXVI against the St. Louis Rams when he again held the league’s top-scoring team well below their season average en route to an upset victory. I believe that Belichick will once again devise one of his patented game plans to slow down yet another #1 scoring offense. If he can, the Patriot’s fate will fall onto Tom Brady’s shoulders, leaving it up to him to give us the trophy presentation we’ll be talking about for years to come. Matt Russo Patriots 31-28
This will be the 6th time in Super Bowl history that the top scoring offense (Falcons) will play the top scoring defense (Patriots). The top scoring defense has won four of the five games. But the Falcons have been playing great football all season. The NFL MVP (Matt Ryan) the last six games has 1,861 passing yards, six touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Also, they scored 540 points in the regular season which has only been done by eight teams. However, none of those eight teams have won the Super Bowl. That trend will continue on February 5th.
The Patriots match up very well against the Falcons. For starters, the Falcons have surrendered the most receiving yards to running backs this season with 823, so expect the Patriots to take advantage of that miss match. The Patriots defense is very underrated, and they haven’t allowed a running back to rush for 100 yards all season which may make the Falcons one dimensional on offense. The two main reason I am picking the Patriots is simply Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the greatest player-coach combination in NFL history. The over-under for this Super Bowl is a record setting 58.5 and I will be taking the under. Mitchell Renz’s Pick Patriots 31-27
Recent history would suggest that the better defense, when a number one defense meets a number one offense meet in the Super Bowl, has the edge, there is something almost irresistible about the Falcons offense this season. Their ability to beat teams without force feeding Julio Jones makes them exceptionally dangerous, even to a defensive genius like Bill Belichick. The Falcons use of their running backs in the passing game could well be the key to this matchup, as the Patriots have given up a lot of receptions to running backs this season. Back in 1991, the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants told his defense that, if they were to win the Super Bowl, the Buffalo Bills star running back Thurman Thomas would have to rush for 100 yards. Flipping that to 2017, I think the Patriots best chance of winning comes if they force Matt Ryan to feed Julio Jones, shutting down all other offensive options. But I can’t see it happening. Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, the Giants defensive coordinator? Bill Belichick. Neil Dutton’s Pick Falcons 31-24
Matt Ryan has been playing with his hair on fire over the course of the season. The post season hasn’t been all that different as Ryan has thrown for 730 yards and seven touchdowns. On paper, the Patriots seem to be a tough matchup for the Falcon offense as they had allowed a league-best 15.6 points per game during the 2016 season. When you look beyond the ranking and see the level of quarterbacks in which the Patriots have played it becomes clear that the Patriots have faced anyone remotely comparable to Matt Ryan. If the Falcons can keep Brady uncomfortable in the pocket, they should be hoisting the Lombardi trophy. In 1994, Mike Shanahan coordinated the 49er offense to a Super Bowl win and went on to be head coach of the Broncos. I think we’ll see another Shanahan lead an offense to a Super Bowl victory before moving on. Michael Hauff’s Pick Falcons 31-20
Super Bowl LI Quick Picks
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