The biggest sporting event on the planet has arrived. Make no mistake, no game catches the imagination in the same way as the Super Bowl.
The narrative is ideal – the wily veteran against the young pretenders. Super Bowls are so often a disappointment due to nerves, but I can feel it – this one is going to be one for the ages.
Some things in life are certainties: death, taxes and Bill Belichick finding a way to win. Hampered by his general’s four-game suspension, the Foxboro franchise went 3-1 in that spell under the guidance of the inexperienced Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett – a third round rookie fresh out of NC State.
Maybe I need to explain. The NFL isn’t like English football.
There’s a salary cap in place that should make it next to impossible to dominate the league for a sustained period of time. If you draft really talented players, they will want more money.
Over the course of time, you need to lose at least some of your talent, unless your front office is remarkably good at picking up unheralded talent for less money, or your head coach can turn average players into superstars.
New England have the latter, and a front office that go along with his aggressive approach. In my eyes, he’s the best coach in the history of sport.
This is his legacy and this is his seventh Super Bowl in seventeen years. He’s won four of his previous six – only falling to the New York Giants.
Alongside him, Tom Brady. A sixth round head-scratcher that will go down as the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. It makes no sense, but these are the New England Patriots.
They will scheme ways to win. They don’t have anywhere near the talent levels of their Georgia counterparts, but they’ve something you can’t buy – football intelligence.
The Atlanta Falcons are the polar opposite. They’ve been in the doldrums for years now.
Their only Super Bowl appearance was in 1999, Super Bowl XXXIII, against the Green Bay Packers. They’ve flashed moments of brilliance but could never bring it all together.
Enter the new generation of ‘Dirty Birds’.
Very few NFL teams have a one-two punch at running back. It’s a skill position and can be hard enough to keep one healthy, let alone have two as good as each other. Freeman and Coleman are very different running backs – allowing fluidity and more scope in different situations.
An offensive line anchored by impressive center Alex Mack powers the way for this tandem, while maintaining enough leverage to protect ‘Matty Ice’ – this year’s MVP in my eyes.
Julio Jones is the major key to the game. There’s a glorious storyline running through this match-up, too.
It was recently revealed that Bill Belichick advised the Patriots against trading up to get Julio Jones back in his draft year – instead claiming that someone like Jon Baldwin could do everything Jones could.
Baldwin hasn’t been in the NFL since 2014 due to never living up to the hype. Belichick is also renowned for removing primary threats in key games. Whether he’d like to admit it or not, this means Julio.
New England get things done, but they’ve never faced an offense like this. Super Bowl LI is a clash of mastermind and talent.
For me, this goes beyond the game itself. It asks a very important question – do we take tactical application too seriously?
Is it possible to completely scheme that much talent out of a game? If Belichick does, he cements his legacy.
I’m fighting my senses and one of life’s certainties, but I simply cannot deny what’s in front of me.