Super Bowl LI betting preview: Falcons to soar over Pats to first championship

Updated: February 2, 2017

After delivering almost 25 per cent profit across the NFL regular season and playoffs, James Potter returns to preview the 2016-17 finale as the Atlanta Falcons take on the New England Patriots in Houston for Super Bowl LI; overall record: 210-7-164, +92.13 units


Game: New England Patriots (16-2) v Atlanta Falcons (13-5)
Where: NRG Stadium, One NRG Park, Houston, TX
When: Monday, February 5, 10.30am (AEDT)
Line: New England -3, O/U 58.5
Predicted score: New England 20, Atlanta 31

Confirmed bets: New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons WIN (three units @ $2.35); New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons -58.5 (one unit @ $1.95)


New England Patriots

Tom Brady makes his seventh appearance on the league’s grandest stage, on which earned three Super Bowl MVP awards while leading New England to four championships. The Patriots yielded a league-low 15.6 points per game, setting up the sixth match-up since the NFL merger in which the top-scoring offense opposes the team that permitted the fewest points (the defense has prevailed in four of the first five meetings). But they not viewed in the same light as the dominant unit that carried Denver to last year’s Super Bowl win despite limiting eight of their past nine opponents to 17 points or fewer. The Patriots rank in the middle of the pack in sacks (34) and interceptions (13), but they are no. 3 against the run, allowing 83.9 yards per contest, and eighth overall with 308.9 yards per game surrendered. While New England scored six fewer points per game than Atlanta for the season, they’ve averaged 30 since the return of Brady.


Why they can win: I get sick of saying it but when you have the best coach in football, arguably the greatest QB in American Football history and an amazing culture it’s easy to see why success has followed the Patriots around for the past two decades. On offense, they are well rounded with LeGarrette Blount’s running game relieved pressure from Brady and a receiving corps minus Rob Gronkowski. The Pats’ use of Chris Hogan (nine catches for 180 yards and two scores) last week against the Steelers underpins the ability of this organisation to devise a game plan and stick to it. Hogan was probably the last person Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin expected to blow his team out of the water. On defense, they are a star unit devoid of big names. They just get the job done and work to a well-orchestrated plan. They have the experience and Brady is still carrying a big chip around on his shoulder that won’t be lifted until he wins another Super Bowl.

Why they can be beaten: Much has been made of the Bill Belichick method of “not letting their best player beat us”. This worked well against the Steelers as they shut out Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell was limited due to injury. Against the Falcons this methodology isn’t going to be as easy to implement. Atlanta have too many offensive weapons and Belichick can’t simply shut down one part of this offense and expect it to break. The only thing that the Pats could do is to cut the head off the snake. That would mean getting to Matt Ryan. I love this idea but Atlanta are the only team to have started their five offensive linemen in every game this year and, outside of the Cowboys, are probably the best unit in football. Good luck trying to stop the Falcons on offense! The Pats’ pass rush is good, but it’s far from scary.


Atlanta Falcons

Quarterback Matt Ryan is expected to be named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player following a brilliant season in which the Falcons averaged 33.8 points. Ryan rebounded from a pedestrian 2015 campaign with a spectacular season, setting career highs in passer rating (117.1), yards (4944), completion percentage (69.9) and touchdowns (38) while tossing only seven interceptions. Ryan was superb in playoff routs of Seattle and Green Bay (730 yards, seven TDs, zero INTs) and has a near-unstoppable weapon in wideout Julio Jones who, despite battling injuries, still racked up 1409 yards in receiving as he carved through the Packers secondary with nine catches for 180 yards and two scores in the NFC Championship Game. The Falcons also feature a strong 1-2 punch in the backfield, with the tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combining for 19 rushing touchdowns while adding 85 catches and five scores through the air. Linebacker Vic Beasley registered 15.5 sacks to lead an improved defense have held six of their past eight opponents to 21 points or fewer.


Julio Jones with Atlanta QB Matt Ryan

Why they can win: I loved the interview Ryan gave after his side’s win over Green Bay. You got the feeling that Ryan understood that his team’s mission was far from complete. You also got the feeling that Ryan knows he can pile on points against any opponent. If you want to have a look at a team high on confidence and self-belief just have a look at how these Dirty Birds are playing. The Atlanta defence really stood up against the Packers. They need to take in the same mentality against the Patriots that they did against Green Bay. Disrupt and limit, don’t try and shut down. And I think the Falcons will win. I have never seen an offense so well rounded. From the snap, on the ground, in the air short, in the air deep – this offense is mind boggling. I think that the Falcons are a horrible match-up for the Patriots because they have the ability to force Belichick and Brady into playing an Atlanta brand of hi-octane football.

Why they can be beaten: Well, they are playing the Pats. That means a considered game plan delivered to perfection. That is always hard to beat. Green Bay’s insipid coaching on all levels made Atlanta look unbeatable in the NFC Conference final. The Birds aren’t going to get the luxury of that bumbling moron Mike McCarthy stuffing up on the sidelines this week. Lack of big game experience is always a huge minus when it comes to a Super Bowl and that is a cross for the Falcons or, more to the point a big tick, for the Pats. The Falcons will try and replace that with belief and enthusiasm. The problem with that is that isn’t going to help you in a nail-biter late in the fourth quarter. If the Atlanta offense underperforms for some reason, things look a lot brighter for the Patriots as the Falcons don’t really have a plan B. If the game is really close late, then the pendulum swings back towards the Patriots due to experience and a few key quality individuals.


Championship week results update: 1-0-3, -4.05 units

Three-unit bets: 44-1-23, +57.15 units
Two-unit bets: 87-2-68, +30.22 units
One-unit bets: 84-4-77, +3.56 units
Overall record: 210-7-164, +92.13 units

Green Bay Packers +6 @ Atlanta Falcons (two units @ $1.93) LOSE (21-44)
Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons -60 (one unit @ $1.98) LOSE (21-44)
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots -51 (three units @ $1.91) LOSE (17-36)
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots -6 (one unit @ $1.95) WIN (17-36)



• Selections are listed in three categories – 1) Suggested (likely bet but yet to be finalised); 2) Confirmed (locked in at the price listed); and 3) Leans (tips, but not recommended bets); all times quoted are Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT); prices with thanks to Bet365 (except where markets are not available), correct at time of publication. Results/comments on today’s games/races will follow in the next post.

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