Number one defense vs. number one offense — will history repeat itself?

Photo by Vavel

Nathalie Jones, 23 Sports

Sunday, February 5—

On seven occasions the Super Bowl has come down to the NFL’s top offense and top defense, and Super Bowl LI is no exception. The odds, however, do not seem to be in the Atlanta Falcons’ favor, as the NFL’s top ranked defense has won every matchup but one — Super Bowl XXIV, when San Francisco beat Denver. Will history repeat itself once again?

Considering that the New England Patriots have the top defense and the Atlanta Falcons have the top offense, it is obvious who has the edge. However, there are some interesting exceptions within their top rankings.

The quarterback matchup pits experience against the season’s breakout star. Although many would choose the experienced quarterback in Tom Brady, you can’t count out Matt Ryan just yet. This year’s MVP, Ryan thrusted himself into the conversation by having the best season of his career. He showed that he was one of the league’s elite by completing 69.9 percent of his passes for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns. In the end, no matter how many stats are attributed to Ryan’s name, Brady has two things he doesn’t — four Super Bowl rings and three Super Bowl MVP awards. With Brady’s experience and numbers, the edge at quarterback goes to the Patriots.

On the other hand, when it comes to wide receivers, the Falcons have the Patriots beat. Atlanta superstar Julio Jones has become an unstoppable force this season, becoming the first NFL receiver to average more than 100 yards per game for four straight seasons. Not only do the Falcons have Jones, they also have Mohammed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel. Sanu is a major asset on the outside, while Gabriel’s explosiveness makes for a dangerous weapon in the open field.

However, as we all know, the Patriots offense is no joke. With a strong quarterback in Brady and a healthy offense coming off two weeks of rest, the Patriots have a great chance for victory. In the pass game, Brady has a vast arsenal of playmakers at his disposal. Wide receiver Julian Edelman caught 28.7 percent of Brady’s targets. Chris Hogan has also been an asset for the Patriots offense, averaging 17.9 yards per catch. However, Hogan is limited for the Super Bowl due to a thigh injury.

The key to victory for the Patriots will be to shut out the Falcons pass game. New England does have a strong cornerback in Malcolm Butler. Butler needs to be used to slow down the human highlight reel that is Julio Jones. If the Patriots can shut down Jones and put pressure on Ryan while upholding their offensive play, they have a shot. On the other hand, the Falcons need to put pressure on Brady — the only way to stop the Patriots. The offense needs to perform and protect the duo of Ryan and Jones.

It is bound to be a high scoring affair, with two powerhouse offenses and strong defenses in the mix.