Super Bowl prediction

Friday, February 3, 2017, Vol. 41, No. 5

Here we are, another football season coming to an end with the Super Bowl. One of the teams, the New England Patriots, is a perennial contender led by Coach Bill Belichick and future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.

The other, the Atlanta Falcons, are hardly familiar when it comes to football success.

The Falcons began their existence in 1966 – the same year that gave America and the world plenty of classic television shows. Batman, the Monkees and Star Trek all debuted that year – as did the Falcons, albeit in much more mediocre vein.

In their half century of existence, the Falcons are making just their second Super Bowl appearance. The first, following the 1998 season, resulted in a thrashing from John Elway and the Denver Broncos.

But as the Falcons arrive on football’s biggest stage this time around, they do so largely under the radar. During the regular season and even the playoffs, much of the focus in the NFC centered on the resurgence of the Dallas Cowboys, the mid-season turnaround of the Green Bay Packers or even the late-season bickering of the Seattle Seahawks.

But here are the Falcons as the last team standing between the Patriots and a fifth Super Bowl championship. As it is, New England’s presence in this Sunday’s game marks a record ninth appearance in the big game.

Atlanta’s hope of pulling off the upset lies in a strong offense that features the passing of Matt Ryan, eager to catapult himself into the conversation of elite quarterbacks if he can pull off the win, and receiver Julio Jones, who quietly (except for his fantasy owner) has arguably emerged as the best wide receiver in football.

Yes, you read that correctly. Not Odell Beckham, not Dez Bryant and not Antonio Brown, but Jones just might be the best weapon on the outside that the NFL has to offer.

It should be fun watching Belichick devise schemes to slow down the high-flying Falcons and to see how well they work. That game within the game alone should make for entertainment on Sunday.

We’ve said all that to say this: While lots of people will be pulling for the upstart Falcons to knock off the mighty Pats and win their first Super Bowl title, that will be easier said than done.

Belichick and Brady have a knack for getting things done when it counts the most. So without further adieu, here is our prediction. Ryan and Jones will keep the Falcons in it, but Brady finds a way in the end. Patriots 31, Falcons 27.

-- Terry McCormick