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Super Bowl LI – Patriots vs. Falcons Money Line Pick

Atlanta Falcons(13-5) @ New England Patriots(16-2)

  • Where: NRG Stadium. Houston, TX
  • When: February 5, 2017 6:30 pm EST
  • Spread: Atlanta +3 (-105) vs New England -3 (-115)
  • Moneyline: Atlanta (+125) vs New England (-145)
  • Over / Under: Over 59.5 (+100) vs Under 59.5 (-120)

Super Bowl LI Betting LinesThe Atlanta Falcons have been red-hot throughout the winter months of the NFL slate and postseason. But the Super Bowl has a funny way of dousing the flames.

In 2009, the Arizona Cardinals found manna in January with Kurt Warner at quarterback, demolishing a tough Carolina team before besting Donovan McNabb’s Eagles in the NFC Championship. But the Steelers broke their hearts in Super Bowl XLIII with touchdowns at the end of the 1st and 2nd half in a 27-23 Pittsburgh win.

Last season, Carolina nearly reached the pinnacle again with an innovative offense led by powerful dual-threat QB Cam Newton. But Von Miller and the Orange Crush leveled them off 24-10 to claim the Lombardi Trophy.

QB Matt Ryan has been bred and groomed for 31 years for this moment, finally clicking on all cylinders with Julio Jones leading a dangerous pack of Falcon receivers. But as Atlanta prepares to meet possibly the most complete New England Patriots team of the decade in Super Bowl LI, an icy reality-check may await in warm Houston.

Atlanta is only a 3-point underdog at the Bovada Sportsbook going into Sunday. But can anyone really take down a fanatical Tom Brady, hell-bent on revenge with Roger Goodell watching in horror?

Boston balance

Patriots vs Falcons PicksThe Patriots were once a lunch-bucket, defense-oriented winner under Bill Belichick. But when NFL rules-changes all but outlawed physical play by DBs, Belichick used a combination of Brady-to-Randy Moss and later Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski to dominate the league with pass-first tactics.

When Gronkowski went down with a season-ending injury in 2016, The Hoodie was happy to adjust again. RB LeGarrette Blount has become an unlikely star in the Pats’ newly balanced attack, and rushed for a crucial TD in the AFC Championship despite a case of the “flu,” which in New England could mean anything from a minor toe-sprain to advanced lupus.

But overall, as the postseason has progressed the Patriots have begun to look like a one-dimensional offense again. Dion Lewis led the team with 41 rushing yards against the Texans in the Divisional Round, and Blount again failed to rush for 50+ yards against the Steelers.

Not that it mattered much. Brady is playing like a man possessed, rifling 32 completions for almost 400 yards and 3 touchdowns against the proud Steel Curtain. WR Julian Edelman has risen to prominence yet again as a deadly go-to receiver, with almost 100 catches on the year.

Belichick’s task is two-fold in Houston. The celebrated HC has to keep his legendary signal-caller from getting too aggressive, looking for the big night in an attempt to rub Goodell’s nose in the mud. He must also game plan some type of improved running game, since the best way to keep the Falcons from scoring is to keep the football out of Matt Ryan’s hands.

Atlanta – Ground and air transportation

If there’s one thing the ‘Birds can hang their hats on against the Pats, it’s the flawless blocking of their offensive line. You don’t need a physically dominant OL to run HC Dan Quinn’s preferred West Coast offense, but it helps. Dominant pass-rusher Julius Peppers recorded zero sacks against Ryan in the NFC Championship, and Seattle were unable to stop unheralded RB Tevin Coleman the game prior.

Ryan has been comfortable in the pocket, passing for seven TDs and zero interceptions in the postseason. But like Brady, he could benefit from sober decision-making in the big game. Analytically, a punt is a negative play against New England – Brady’s offense is a threat to score from anywhere. Matty Ice should concentrate on making first downs above all else, as long risky throws will help give the Patriots’ offense more opportunities.

Can either defense step up?

The O/U line has risen to 59.5 points at Bovada, though the casino is trying to encourage plays on the over with plus-payout odds. As opposed to last year’s defensive battle, this Super Bowl is looking like a bona-fide QB’s duel.

But if either ‘D happens to steal the show, a championship is sure to follow. Young OLB Vic Beasley Jr. has recorded a prodigious 15.5 sacks for the Falcons in 2016-17, putting added pressure on NE to rediscover their running game or risk a 2nd-half blocking collapse. Talented DE Adrian Clayborn was hurt in the first playoff win, however, leaving few other options for a pass rush if Beasley is neutralized on the edge.

Meanwhile, the Pats’ defense is playing tough, smart football despite being overshadowed by Brady as usual. The unit is extremely stingy against the run, allowing only 87.6 yards per game over 18 games (though that’s a tad deceiving – teams are constantly passing trying to catch up on the scoreboard).

Despite only snagging 13 interceptions, New England is also blessed with an improved pass rush in ’16-17, with at least four players who will finish with four-plus sacks. That just might come in handy against Atlanta’s nuclear-hot passing game.

2017 NFL Super Bowl free money line prediction

Wager on the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl LI at the Bovada Sportsbook.

Belichick and Brady are about to cement their legacy as one of the greatest coach-QB duos of all time. Beasley will go crazy trying to find the slow-footed Pats’ gun-slinger, but Belichick will counter with waggle-passes and a moving pocket.

Brady is slow but quick, and gets rid of the ball faster than almost any passer in history. That will spell doom for the Falcons, who don’t have the horses in the secondary to slow down a deep WR corps. Good luck, Mr. Goodell…you’ll be handing the trophy to a vengeful group of professional athletes.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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