After a weekend featuring a couple of shellackings in the over-hyped NFL Championship rounds, we are primed for a collision between perhaps the most dominate offense in NFL history and the best playoff quarterback of all time, Tom Brady.
The Atlanta Falcons closed down the Georgia Dome in fashion, with a 44-21 victory over the Green Bay Packers last weekend. After 25 years of service, the Georgia Dome will shut its doors a month after the Falcons head to the Super Bowl.
What world do we live in?
Probable MVP Matt Ryan gathered 392 yards, four passing touchdowns and an additional touchdown on the ground. Although Ryan’s performance was admirable, I think even I could have had a couple hundred passing yards with a target like Julio Jones. Jones caught nine passes from Ryan, totaling a whopping 180 yards and 2 touchdowns. I imagine the Georgia Dome’s final words will be something like, “This totally makes up for the ‘piping in the sound’ thing, right?”
On the other side of the league, Brady is one step closer to presenting Roger Goodell with the biggest middle finger imaginable. Imagine Goodell presenting him with the Lombardi Trophy following the great Deflategate witch hunt (I saw Bill Belichick and Goody Osburn with the Devil).
The Patriots, fueled by one of the most dominant performances Brady has ever had in the playoffs, dismantled the Steelers 36-17. Brady posted 384 yards through the air — mostly to a receiver who played three years of college lacrosse and had been cut by several NFL teams.
As Bill Simmons, sports analyst and CEO of the TheRinger.com, pointed out, there isn’t another quarterback in the league that could lose the best pass-catching tight end in NFL history to a season-ending injury and still lead his team into February.
After posting 540 regular season points, placing them tied for seventh place (with the 2000 St. Louis Rams) in NFL history for one of the most potent offenses ever, the Falcons and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan only have one defense left to plan for.
Unfortunately for the probable next head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Shanahan and company have to get through the Patriots front seven. The Patriots have only allowed three rushes of more than 20 yards during the entire season. The Falcons are tasked with getting their passing game going with likely little run support.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers’ dynamic backfield duo of Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams could only muster 54 yards against the Patriots, things look bleak for Falcons running back Devonta Freeman and Atlanta’s run game.
While the run game could struggle, Atlanta still has Jones. This season Jones collected 1,409 receiving yards, second to only Indianapolis Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton (1,448). The only difference between the two is that Jones played two entire games fewer than Hilton, while also dealing with an ongoing turf toe injury. The only knock on Jones’ regular season stat line is that he only hauled in six touchdowns, but he already has three in the playoffs alone. A case can be made that Jones is the best vertical threat-style wide receiver in the entire league. With Jones’ sheer awesome power, paired with the speed-one-cut style running of Devonta Freeman and a confident gunslinging quarterback, there may not be a team in the league that could stop them.
In this game, Atlanta’s offense will not fail. Meaning that if the Patriots have more than one turnover in the game, it’s all over but the crying.
Not to say that there isn’t a world in which the Patriots win, in fact they are the odds-on favorite. We are moving towards an incredible 51st Super Bowl.
Whether you are rooting for the only quarterback to ever make it seven Super Bowls, Tom Brady and the Patriots, or the seventh-best offense of all time, we all win as football fans. Now we just have to survive the dumpster fire that is the Pro Bowl.