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Ryan can spring Falcons Superbowl surprise

Ryan can spring Falcons Superbowl surprise

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NFL fans will undoubtedly be relishing Sunday’s Super Bowl showdown as the New England Patriots lock horns with the Atlanta Falcons in what could easily turn into a shootout.

Sunday’s mouth-watering offering has the feel of a David versus Goliath contest to a degree, with the Falcons reaching the Super Bowl for only the second time in their history while seasoned campaigners, the Patriots, should be more than ready for the occasion as it will be the ninth time they have made it to the last two.

Experience can often be a decisive factor in the big games and that is reflected in the betting with New England installed as the 20/31 favourites on the money line, with Atlanta available at 13/10.

The old adage is that Defense wins Championships and that may again be the case, but only in terms of which team is able to cope better with the other’s explosive Offense as it looks like it could be a high-scoring affair.

Matt Ryan finished the regular season ranked the second best quarterback behind only Drew Brees, but had the highest official rating of all starting QBs, leading a Falcons’ attack which averaged the most points per game.

Dan Quinn’s men have continued in the same vein in the playoffs, averaging 40 points in their two post-season matches so far as they took care of Seattle and an in-form Green Bay.

New England have also been impressive with convincing wins over Houston and Pittsburgh, and there is a cohesive line of thought that their defence is better than their younger and more inexperienced opponents.

However, what could swing things in the underdogs’ favour is the sheer wealth of options that Ryan can go to, particularly if New England – as has often been the case in the past – find a way of shutting down the biggest threat to them, in this case Julio Jones.

Such is his talent that Jones – 18/1 to be named Super Bowl LI MVP – could still be the biggest influence on proceedings in Houston, even if he is double-teamed but Ryan knows that he has more prongs to his attack and could turn to others should his star wide receiver be snuffed out.

Double coverage often means other areas are more exposed and Ryan, 33/20 to win the MVP award, has a quality receiving core, coupled with the dangerous rushing duo of Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman.

Tom Brady has been there and done it more than once, has a multitude of T-shirts and videos, and has an excellent attack of his own, and if he does lead the Patriots to success he would most likely win the MVP award – he is currently the favourite to do so at 4/5.

Julian Edelman could be set for a big game and is often Brady’s go-to-guy, particularly in the absence of tight-end Rob Gronkowski – a massive miss for the Patriots – while running-back LeGarrette Blount has enjoyed a fantastic campaign and is joint third-favourite at 18/1 to win the MVP, alongside Edelman and Jones.

Even though the Pats have experience on their side, they do not always deliver on the big stage with four wins and four losses in the Super Bowl, with the New York Giants twice upsetting the odds over Brady’s men, ruining an unblemished record in 2007 to boot – and the Falcons have the tools to come away with the win.

The Falcons’ defense has proved they can keep even the best quiet with their hammering of the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, and will now be confident of claiming their first Super Bowl.

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Warren Ashurst Warren has been a sports journalist for over 25 years, both written and broadcast. Having worked as a radio commentator, he has a wealth of experience of seeing top-level sport first hand and specialises in football, golf and cricket.