Jazz: The conference championships represented my last grasp at victory in the post-season. I came into that Sunday at 5-3, two game behind Ed, and for a fleeting moment I thought I might be able to pull off the shutout (having picked both games differently) and pull into a tie coming into the final showdown. Sadly it was not meant to be because the Packers weren’t able to summon up enough magic to close the deal over the Falcons. Still, I went one and one for a post-season total of 6-4. I won’t be catching Ed for the final bragging rights, but so be it. Last season I managed to win the post-season after getting trounced in the regular season so this is just a mirror image. With the Jets long since retired, now I’m left with nothing but my unending hatred of New England to keep me warm on a cold winter’s day. Congratulations, Ed. Well played.
Ed: Thanks, Jazz, and congrats again on your regular-season win in 2016’s Hot Air Prediction Bowl. We’ve actually flipped positions from 2015, and that means we’re going to have a fun 2017 season for sure. I also went 1-1 last week to take my post-season record to 8-2. The Steelers disappointed me last week, but they’ll be back next year. In the meantime, I get to have some friends and family over today for a Super Bowl party that won’t feature me shouting at the TV with every play. Maybe at a few of the commercials, but not every play.
Jazz: So it comes down to this. Ever since the Jets fell off the honey wagon well before the end of the regular season I’ve been pretty much on the Anybody But The Patriots team. All my hopes were dashed week after week and now they rest squarely on the shoulders of the Atlanta Falcons. Can they do it? New England is a three point favorite in what most of the experts seem to be predicting will be a high scoring, exciting shootout. That’s probably bad news for Atlanta because the only way to beat the Patriots is usually to keep Tom Brady off the field. We have the highest scoring offense lining up against, improbably, the highest scoring defense. The Patriots’ defense is number one for a reason, but they’re running into a combination which includes Julio Jones. (He simply smoked the Packers last week.) New England’s offense has a way of leaving anybody’s defense looking silly with the versatility they demonstrate. Both their ground game and air attack are powerful and the offensive coaching staff has proven they can be nimble in switching back and forth between them as the game unfolds.
With all that in mind, my brain tells me that darkness will prevail and the Patriots will win it. But the heart wants what the heart wants and I continue to feel that Atlanta will find some way to save us from the evil empire. I’m taking Atlanta in an upset, 31-28.
Ed: I’ll preface this by noting that I’m rooting for the Falcons in this game. Matt Ryan beat out the Pats’ Tom Brady for MVP this year by running the NFL’s most potent point-scoring offense — outscoring #2 New Orleans by 4.5 points per game. Earlier this year, I called Ryan the best NFL QB who had never been to a Super Bowl, which is a moot point now. He’s been on the cusp of greatness for years, and now Matty Ice has an opportunity to win it all.
However, defenses still win championships, and while Atlanta’s has been impressive in the postseason so far, the Pats play nearly lights-out D. In average points allowed per game, New England led the league in the regular season at 15.6 — and that was with four games where Brady wasn’t on the field to control the ball on offense. Atlanta gave up almost ten points per game more on average at 25.4 even with Ryan chewing up the clock on offense. The Pats’ D hasn’t given up more than 23 points in a game in almost three months. Add to that New England’s regular season ranking on offense — #3 in points scored, six behind Atlanta with Brady out four games — and this starts looking like a slight mismatch.
As much as I’d love to see the Falcons win their first championship under Matty Ice, this looks like a 31-21 Patriots win. I’m just hoping that it stays interesting all the way to the fourth quarter, and with these two teams, that at least seems a safe bet. Enjoy!
By the way, how do we know everyone’s watching? This is how:
— Raymond Arroyo (@RaymondArroyo) February 5, 2017