The 2016 NFL season wraps up on Sunday night in Houston, when the New England Patriots (16-2) face the Atlanta Falcons (13-5) in Super Bowl LI.
New England, which represents the AFC, is making its seventh Super Bowl appearance under the command of quarterback Tom Brady, and is looking to join the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers as the only teams to win five Super Bowl championships (Pittsburgh Steelers lead NFL with six). A fifth Lombardi trophy for Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick would also surpass Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll (T-4) for the most all-time.
Atlanta, representing the NFC, is making its second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. Their first appearance came during the 1998-99 season, but ended in a 34-19 loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII. A victory for the Falcons on Sunday would hand veteran quarterback Matt Ryan his first Lombardi Trophy. Ryan, the NFL’s Most Valuable Player whose unit is the top-rated offense in the league, will match up against the league’s top-rated defense in New England.
Here are some game predictions from our own WHIP’s Sports department.
MATT BEVENOUR: Patriots, 28-25 — Never doubt “the Hoodie” … unless they’re playing the Giants.
TOM HANSLIN: Patriots, 30-23 — Defense wins championships, and New England’s top-ranked unit should limit Atlanta’s offensive production.
GREG FRANK: Patriots, 27-23 — I’ve picked against the Falcons in their previous two playoff games and have been wrong, so I’m hoping that’s the case again.
VINCE COLL: Patriots, 31-20 — Pats’ D is sneaky good. No way Falcons’ D holds up against Brady. MVP: Brady.
JUSTIN THOMAS: Falcons, 31-27 — The Patriots are cheaters, their fans are trash and the world is better when they lose.
DALTON BALTHASER: Patriots, 30-26 — Short passing game will put a lot of pressure on Atlanta’s secondary. Along with that, Belichick will have a side of ‘Blount Force Trauma’. Atlanta is in the bottom half of the league in rushing defense, allowing 104 YPG, so I think the Pats take advantage of that.
ADDISON HUNSICKER: Patriots, 34-27 — There are three certainties in life: Death, Taxes and Tom Brady being the GOAT.
CHRISTOPHER JACKSON: Patriots 28-21 — Not betting against Tom Brady. He’s on a mission after the whole “Deflategate” scandal. Looking forward to a great game either way.
MELISSA PAYAVIS: Patriots, 35-27 — I don’t think Atlanta will be able to stop Tom Brady.
DAN WILSON: Patriots, 27-20 — Patriots are determined to stick it to Roger Goodell, and you just never bet against Belichick/Brady.
JONATHAN GILBERT: Falcons, 31-28 — Matty Ice and Julio Jones.
MARK DIGIOVANNI: Falcons, 34-33
DEMETRIUS MASON: Patriots, 27-23 — Number one defense > Number one offense.
ANDREW KENT: Falcons, 28-24 — Patriots have won too much. Time to give the Falcons their first Super Bowl title.
JAKE GALLI: Falcons, 31-24 — It’s about time the Pats lost to someone other than the Giants, isn’t it?
JON GINSBURG: Falcons, 34-31 — When I pick with my head, my heart wins. When I pick with my heart, my head wins. I haven’t picked correctly since 2013 (Ravens over 49ers), so don’t take my word for it.
JOHN COLE: Patriots, 27-24 — Although the story of the game is Tom Brady going for ring #5, the Pats defense has been excellent this season. It pains me to say it, but I’m taking New England.
SUPER BOWL LI, FEBRUARY 5, 2017
PATRIOTS (-3) vs. FALCONS
NRG STADIUM, HOUSTON, TX
TV: FOX, 6:30P