NFL Playoffs Review and Super Bowl LI Preview
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As the match-up has been finalized and the game is set, now is a good time to both preview Super Bowl LI and review the NFL playoffs. This year’s playoffs have been criticized for producing rather boring and uneventful games and action. That being said, there were still some exciting parts that reminded us why we love to watch football.
The Boring Parts
Not counting the upcoming Super Bowl, the margin of victory in this year’s playoffs has been a whopping 15.7 points. There were very few games that actually came down to the wire. The massive margins were on full display in the conference championship games on Sunday, Jan. 22. The Atlanta Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl as they beat the Green Bay Packers in a 44-21 blowout that many expected would actually go the other way. This included an excellent performance from quarterback Matt Ryan who had four passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. The New England Patriots followed suit and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17, giving quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick an NFL record seven Super Bowl appearances. Some other lackluster results earlier on in the postseason included the Seattle Seahawks win over the Detroit Lions 26-6, the Miami Dolphins 30-12 loss to the Steelers, and the Houston Texans win on the Oakland Raiders 27-14.
The Exciting Parts
Although there were not a lot of them, the truly exciting games of the 2017 playoffs still pulled us to the edge of our seat as time ticked down. Such examples of these games were the Pittsburgh Steelers-Kansas City Chiefs game, and the instant classic between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. These have been the only playoff games decided by less than ten points. The Steelers-Chiefs game was marked by excellent running by Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell who contributed 170 yards, as well as an NFL record six field goals for Chris Boswell, the Steelers kicker. A strong Chiefs team almost mounted a comeback effort, but a late game holding penalty sealed their fate, and the Steelers would advance to the AFC championship game on an 18-16 win.
The Packers-Cowboys game was an absolute battle that will be remembered for many years to come. Although the Packers had a 15-point lead going into the fourth quarter, the explosive Cowboys offense of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Dez Bryant fought back and tied the game up at 28. After that, however, Packers kicker Mason Crosby kicked a field goal that put the Packers up by three. Dallas kicker Dan Bailey was able to answer back with a field goal of his own to tie up the game yet again with only 35 seconds left. But the Cowboys made the fatal mistake of giving QB Aaron Rodgers time left on the clock. With 12 seconds left, Rodgers threw a 36-yard pass to receiver Jared Cook who barely managed to stay in bounds. This set up yet another Crosby field goal attempt that also sailed through the uprights, giving Green Bay the win 34-31 and a spot in the NFC championship.
Super Bowl Preview
While the rest of the playoffs may not have been all that exciting, the Super Bowl does look like it will be a good one as we are going to be seeing the league’s two best offenses face off. The Falcons were an unexpected face to see in the Super Bowl. However, their high-octane offense of MVP-candidate Ryan, receiver Julio Jones, and running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have more than proven themselves, as they led the NFL in touchdowns this season. However, they’ll be facing a stingy Patriots’ defense who allowed the fewest amount of touchdowns this season. The Falcons will also have to be careful with the ball as they have 11 turnovers this year compared to the Patriots’ two. Tom Brady’s abilities are well-known, and the 39-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down. That being said, this game appears like it will come down to who can execute better and not make costly mistakes. That means we should have an exciting game on our hands to watch.
In my opinion, I think the strong defense of New England combined with Tom Brady’s incredible offense capabilities should be enough to give them the Super Bowl win over the Falcons. This should be a high-scoring game, and I predict the final score will be 34-24 favoring the Patriots.