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Ballerific Sports: Are You Ready for Super Bowl LI?

– blogged by @LoveRubyWoo

We are officially just two days away from Super Bowl LI in Houston. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited. Predicted by many experts to be one of the most epic games in recent NFL history, the  New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons are sure to put on a good show for the millions of viewers that will be tuned in on Sunday. With Tom Brady on one end of the field and the Falcons offense, led by the likely NFL MVP Matt Ryan, on the other end of the field, these two teams are going to fight until the very end for the chance to bring the Lombardi Trophy back home and be crowned Super Bowl Champions. With such coveted prizes at stake, let’s take a closer look at the two teams who are in it to win it.

Coming out of the AFC, the mighty New England Patriots are gunning for their fifth Super Bowl win in the franchise’s history. Tom Brady, who is arguably the best quarterback in NFL history, has led the team to all four of their previous wins. Since drafting Tom Brady in 2000, the same year that the Pats hired Bill Belichick, this quarterback-coach duo has been nearly unstoppable. And though they’ve had their fair share of controversies – Deflategate, Spygate, possibly Backpack-gate (Falcons’ offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s backpack, which contained his game plans, mysteriously went missing for thirty minutes during a media session this week) – it doesn’t take away from the fact that this team is good. They’ve been good for a very long time, and they’re not slowing down anytime soon.

The Patriots boast the number one defense in the NFL. While their defense, which consists of standout players like Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan, and Trey Flowers, is sitting pretty at the top, the real star of the show in New England is and has always been Tom Brady. Tom Brady is known for being able to get the ball down the field, he is known for making defenses pay when they come for him, and he is known for finding a way to win games. Coming off of a four-game suspension after the Deflategate scandal, Brady returned to the field like he never left. He led his team to 11 wins through 12 regular season games, and then beat the Texans and Steelers soundly at home during the playoffs, making him another strong candidate for NFL MVP. As for the rest of the Pats offense, though they are missing star tight end Rob Gronkowski due to injury, wide receivers Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan have more than made up for his absence in the form of receiving yards. Then there is the very versatile Dion Lewis, adding to the strength of the Pats offense. In order to keep pace with the Falcons’ high scoring offense on Sunday, these guys need to be ready to give it their all.

On the other side of the ball, you have the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons, who are the complete opposites of the Patriots on the football spectrum. The Falcons haven’t had a very rich history in terms of big wins, having only made it to the Super Bowl once before this, in 1999. In fact, before quarterback Matt Ryan was drafted in 2008, the Falcons hadn’t even experienced consecutive winning seasons. Though the Falcons have achieved their highest level of success with Ryan at the helm, their dreams were crushed in the 2012 postseason when the Falcons lost to the 49ers in the NFC Championship game by a measly 10 yards. The couple of years following that loss were equally as devastating, which led to the firing of former head coach Mike Smith and the hiring of Dan Quinn. Still, when the Falcons started out 5-0 and ended 8-8 last season, fans assumed the worst – that the Falcons would never break out of the cycle of mediocrity. Patriots fans have had much to celebrate throughout the past couple of decades, but as for Falcons fans, they have been waiting 51 long years for the Lombardi Trophy to arrive in Atlanta.

While the Pats have the number one defense, the Falcons have the league’s number one offense. And it isn’t even close. The Falcons broke all kinds of records on offense this year, and Matt Ryan (known affectionately as Matty Ice) will probably win the NFL’s MVP award. Throughout the course of the season, the Falcons were good, but not always consistent. However, as many great teams do, they got hot just at the right time, stunning the Seahawks and the Packers in the playoffs to make just their second trip to the Super Bowl in history. We already know the offense is a force to be reckoned with. With stars like Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Taylor Gabriel making up the receiving core and the talented running back duo of Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman in the backfield, Ryan has a seemingly unlimited number of targets where he can place the ball. The biggest doubt with the Falcons, however, lies with their young defense, which consists of four rookie starters – Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, and Brian Poole – as well as a number of other young players. Though they have made vast improvements over the course of this year (linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. ended the season as the NFL’s sack leader), there is still much room for improvement. Stopping Tom Brady is a big task, but it is not impossible. If Beasley and the rest of the young defense can get pressure on Brady, they have a chance.

It’s the story of the underdog vs. the great. The number one offense vs. the number one defense. The greatest player right now vs. the greatest player ever. And you absolutely do not want to miss it. Who will you be rooting for on Sunday?

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