The Falcons, who dominated the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, are making their second Super Bowl appearance in team history, and the Patriots are headed back to the Big Game for the ninth time, an NFL record. Atlanta's lone appearance came in Super Bowl XXXIII, where they lost to the Broncos, 34-19.
New England, meanwhile, is 4-4 in Super Bowl games:
- Super Bowl XX, lost to the Bears 46-10;
- Super Bowl XXXI, lost to the Packers 35-21;
- Super Bowl XXXVI, beat the St. Louis Rams 20-17;
- Super Bowl XXXVIII, beat the Panthers 32-29;
- Super Bowl XXXIX, beat the Eagles 24-21;
- Super Bowl XLII, lost to Giants 17-14;
- Super Bowl XLVI, lost to Giants 21-17;
- Super Bowl XLIX, beat Seahawks 28-24.
How to watch
- What: New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons
- When: Sunday, Feb. 5, 6:30 p.m. ET
- Where: NRG Stadium, Houston
- Announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews
- Halftime show: Lady Gaga
- TV: Fox
- Streaming: Fox Sports GO. Viewers can use iOS, Android, Windows, and Amazon tablets or through connected devices, including Apple TV, Roku, Android TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire and Xbox One. NFL Game Pass (available to watch online after midnight)
What we can expect ...
... From the Falcons
Atlanta has the league's most potent offense, according to Football Outsiders. Though anyone with just one good eye could confirm as much after watching what they did to the Seahawks and Packers on their way to Houston. The conversation starts with quarterback Matt Ryan, who should have been handed the league MVP award seconds after the NFC Championship Game ended. During the regular season he threw for 4,944 yards, with 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Ryan completed 70 percent of his passes with a passer rating of 117.1. In two playoff games he's been even better, completing 71 percent of his throws with seven touchdowns, no turnovers and a passer rating of 132.6.
Then there's Kyle Shanahan, the 37-year-old offensive coordinator. He joined the Falcons in 2015, and in less than two seasons, he's transformed an inconsistent squad into the NFL's most explosive unit.
Here's Ryan, mic'd up during the '15 season, talking to Shanahan: "I can't wait until I know the offense inside and out though, bro, because we are going to kill people with it."
And here's Ryan on Tuesday: "I felt like once I would get to that point, we would do really, really good things. And we have," he told 680 The Fan, via MercuryNews.com. "I feel like it's been a good relationship between Kyle and myself. ... He does a great job of putting people in position to be successful and giving a defense a lot of different things they have to defend."
And that brings us to the Patriots
Bill Belichick will take away the Falcons' best player. This isn't news, and in fact, it's almost become a cliche at this point. But it's also true. Which means that the Patriots' defense will focus on stopping Julio Jones, and then the Falcons' potent running game. Those are tall tasks, even for a defense fresh off demoralizing a very good Steelers' offense, though you could argue that Tom Brady and Chris Hogan (!) were the reasons the Pats cruised to an easy win in the AFC Championship Game.
Either way, the Falcons ain't the Steelers on either side of the ball.
"We saw [Jones] a couple years ago and studied him; he's one of the most dynamic players in the league," defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said, via ESPN.com. "He can run underneath routes, has great speed, great hands, body control and is very, very strong. He gives you a lot of problems."
"I'd say the stamp on the team, the thing that I would notice the most is just the speed, the team speed that the Falcons have," Belichick said during a conference call with reporters. "They have a lot of fast guys. Defensively they close up space very quickly. Their linebackers run well. Their defensive line, although they have a couple of big, strong, physical guys in there, overall they have usually nine or 10 players on the field that I would say are fast. They're either as fast or faster than probably what the average speed of their position is in the league. I'd say that's a big stamp that he has put on the team."
Of course, the Pats have Brady, who spearheaded the league's No. 2 offense, not to mention a defense that has shown steady improvement as the season has progressed. The biggest reason? Belichick had a simple explanation.
"Preparation, practice, execution," he said. "There's no magic wand. You've just got to go out there and, look, there are five eligible receivers. Usually we get at least four of them out [running pass patterns]. In man-to-man coverage you've got to cover them. We've got to rush the passer, contain the quarterback, stop the run."
Prisco's pick, betting line
"[Taking away Julio Jones] would normally slow an offense, but not this Falcons offense, which is why I think they win this game. They averaged more than 40 points in two games without Jones this year. Matt Ryan also threw touchdown passes to 13 different players, a league record. In a battle of the top-ranked scoring offense and the top-ranked scoring defense, I think the offense will get the best of it here. Ryan has too many weapons."
-- Pete Prisco on why he thinks the Falcons will take down the Patriots
According SportsLine, the Patriots are three-point favorites over the Falcons. The over-under is 58.5, the highest ever for a Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, five of the eight CBSSports.com experts are picking the Falcons to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
It's the Super Bowl, which means prop bets are all the rage. One of the most popular: Over-under on the length of the national anthem. Country star Luke Bryan will sing the anthem at Super Bowl LI and depending on which sportsbook you consult, he will take anywhere from 2 minutes to 2 minutes, 15 seconds. Bryan, who has sung the anthem at previous public events, has been clocked as fast at 1:59 and as slow as 2:29. So place your bets accordingly.
There are also the cross-sport prop bets. Here are some of the more interesting ones, courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook (by way of ESPN.com):
- Tiger Woods' 18-hole score in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic or Brady's gross passing yards (Brady is favored by 18.5).
- LeBron James' total points in the Cavs-Knicks game on Feb. 4 or Matt Ryan's Super Bowl completions. (This is a pick 'em).
- Total goals in Leicester City-Manchester United match or the total touchdowns for the Patriots and Falcons (The line is pick'em and both sides are -110).
More fun (and not so fun) facts
- If the Patriots lose, they're all-time Super Bowl record will drop to 4-5, tying them with the Broncos (3-5) for most losses in Super Bowl history.
- If the Pats win, they'd move into a tie for second place (with the Cowboys and 49ers) for Super Bowl victories behind only the Steelers.
- Since division realignment in 2002, only the NFC South has sent every team to the Super Bowl.
- The Falcons have scored a touchdown on their opening drive in eight straight games.
- Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown at least three touchdown passes in four straight postseason games -- that's an NFL record.
In case you're wondering ...
... About the home team:
... And about the NRG roof situation come game time: