Super Bowl LI: New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons

The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons meet on Sunday night in Houston for Super Bowl LI, and while the Patriots’ presence is no less than we’ve come to expect from the dynasty-defining Brady-Belichick combination, few would have predicted before the start of the season that the Falcons would be vying for the Lombardi Trophy this weekend. The Atlanta Falcons came into the 2016 regular season as an 80/1 shot to win the Super Bowl, but quarterback Matt Ryan’s MVP-calibre performances this season have given his team a tilt at the title.

Despite being absent for four games at the start of the Pats’ season owing to his ‘Deflategate’ suspension, 39-year-old Tom Brady has continued to cement his place at the centre of the ‘Greatest Of All Time’ debate, recording his 14th divisional title in 16 years with a 28:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, despite the absence of offensive lynchpin Rob Gronkowski. If the Patriots win it will be Brady’s record fifth victory in seven appearances in the big game. While the Falcons ranked 27th of the 32 NFL teams in terms of points allowed in 2016, they do have a major weapon in linebacker Vic Beasley, who has recorded 15.5 sacks this season and could prove valuable in containing Brady.

Lining up against him is Matt Ryan, whose QB rating of 117.1 for the season is the fifth best of all time, and who has benefited enormously from the devastating prowess of wide receiver Julio Jones. They and the rest of the Falcons offence put up 33.8 points per game in 2016, which rose to 39 points per game in their recent six-game winning streak. The Patriots have been exceptional on defence this season (they rank first in the league for points allowed at 15.6 points per game), but they’ve faced fairly few high-quality offences. New England’s standout cornerback Malcolm Butler may require extra support to contain Jones, which could allow fellow WR Mohamed Sanu to score early on, as he did against the Packers in the NFC Championship game – he’s 16/1 to score the first touchdown.

The Pats have gone 4-0 against the Falcons with Brady on the field, and it’s no surprise to see them open as narrow favourites. They’ve gone 7-0 against the spread in their last seven games with an average win margin of 19 points, which gives us more than enough evidence to back them against the spread. Elsewhere, this Super Bowl has opened with an all-time high total points line of 58.5. We think this is a huge total given that the Patriots have the best defence in the league and the Falcons’ defence has improved substantially as the season has progressed, allowing more than 28 points just twice in their last nine games. Given that Overs has prevailed only once in the last nine Super Bowls when the opening total is 50 or more, we’re backing Under 58.5 Points here.

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New England (-3) - 1pt @ 1.91
Under 58.5 - 1pt @ 1.95
Mohamed Sanu to score first touchdown - 1pt @ 17.0