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The matchup for Super Bowl LI is set. There’s still over a week until kickoff, so before we analyze the matchup, let’s look back to see how the teams got here.


Patriots: How They Got Here

The Patriots were favoured to win the Super Bowl all season. They had to overcome a four-game suspension to quarterback Tom Brady to start the season, but that proved to be nothing more than a speedbump. The Pats went 3-1 in their four games without him and went on to win 11 of their final 12 games with him back. They finished the regular season with the best record in the NFL.

The Patriots had a bye week in the first round of the playoffs and beat their two opponents with relative ease. They topped the Houston Texans by 18 points in the Divisional Round before turning aside the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 in the AFC Championship Game.

Their Strength

Everyone knows what a Brady-led offense is capable of, but the Patriots’ defense deserves credit too, having been one of the best in the Bill Belichick era. They led the NFL in points-per-game allowed (15.6) and were third in fewest rushing yards per game allowed (88.6).

On offense, the Pats have averaged 30 points per game in regular-season contests that Brady started. They finished fourth in passing yards and seventh in rushing, so they’re quite balanced. They rarely make mistakes, as they were tied for a league-low 11 giveaways this season – tied with the Atlanta Falcons.


Falcons: How They Got Here

Not much was thought of the Falcons after they lost their home opener to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they made few mistakes after that. They went on to win 11 of their final 15 games and claimed the No. 2 seed in the NFC. While many bettors figured the experienced Seattle Seahawks, or red-hot Green Bay Packers would upset the Falcons in the playoffs, that prediction never came to fruition. The Falcons weren’t even threatened. They smoked Seattle 36-20 and then shredded the Packers 44-21 in back-to-back blowouts.


Their Strength

The Falcons rely on quarterback Matt Ryan and their offense to get the job done. They averaged 33.8 points per game in the regular season; no other team even reached 30. While Ryan is in the running for MVP this season, the Falcons have also benefited from a balanced attack. They finished third in passing yards per game and fifth in rushing, while averaging an incredible 7.4 yards on first downs. Like the Patriots, the Falcons aren’t self-destructive; they averaged the eighth-fewest penalties in the regular season.

The Falcons’ defense struggled at times this season, allowing 25.4 points per game (27th in NFL), but they’re young and improving. They’ve allowed just 20.5 points per contest since their bye week, which would rank them 11th. Not much has been needed of the defense, though, especially with the Falcons scoring an average of 39 points per game in their last six contests.


*Odds as of January 25, 2017