Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl LI: And the winner is…

Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl LI: And the winner is…

Plenty of prognostications to be had around things like Super Bowls. SBLI is no exception, and for this long-time observer, the pick isn't really that difficult.

New England Patriots. More on the score later.

Nothing overly scientific here; too many hyper-analyses just become so much stat-spinning, and as often as not, the games are decided by someone or some play that didn't factor in the figurings (Malcolm Butler, David Tyree, that kind of thing).

No, the Patriots win in part because they are NOT the NFL's highest-scoring team. The Atlanta Falcons are, and an interesting piece of fact-checking by ESPN notes that of the other top nine scoring teams in NFL history, only one – the 1999 "Greatest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams – won a Super Bowl. And that team saved its win with a last-play tackle one yard short of a tying Tennessee Titans touchdown.

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The Patriots were two of those losers, their 2007 and 2012 teams, so they know how unsettling a creative defense can be to a supposedly unstoppable offense.

Both teams are top five in turnover ratio, and the Falcons and Patriots tied with an NFL-best 11 giveaways. Matt Ryan threw seven interceptions; the Patriots lost nine fumbles. A tipping point for this observer lies in the Patriots allowing Tom Brady to be sacked just 15 times, while Ryan was sacked 37 times.

Meaning: In a well-balanced, effective-run offense, Ryan was sacked once every 10.8 drop-backs, Brady once every 29.8. Given that the key to defeating the Patriots is pressure on Brady, the 2016 Patriots have been among the best at protecting their quarterback. The Giants gave Brady in his only two Super Bowl losses with a pass rush (seven combined sacks, 17 combined hits) and a spectacular late-game completion by Eli Manning in each.

Atlanta has sack-leader (15.5) Vic Beasley (taken by the Falcons immediately after being passed over by the Bears in favor of Kevin White in the 2015 draft). New England and Atlanta each had 34 combined sacks. That won’t be good enough to beat Brady.

But it will be difficult for the Patriots.

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None of New England’s previous six Super Bowls were decided by more than four points, win or lose. While the investment caveat applies – “Past performance is no guarantee of future results” – only one team has scored more than 24 points on the Belichick Patriots, that being John Fox’s 2003 Carolina Panthers (29).

Atlanta obviously has the firepower to turn this into a track meet. So does New England. It’s just hard to see that happening, and it’s even harder to see the Falcons stopping the Patriots when it matters most in the fourth quarter.

New England 24, Atlanta 20

View from the moon '16-'17 record: 9-7

Mitch Trubisky becomes first Bears QB named to the Pro Bowl since 1986

Mitch Trubisky becomes first Bears QB named to the Pro Bowl since 1986

Mitch Trubisky is going to the Pro Bowl, with the Bears' quarterback replacing Jared Goff on the NFC roster with the Rams advancing to the Super Bowl.

Trubisky was previously named a Pro Bowl alternate after throwing for 3,223 yards with 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 95.4. Trubisky's passer rating ranked 10th in the NFC, behind Drew Brees, Russell Wilson (who replaced Aaron Rodgers on the NFC roster), Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz (who's injured), Goff, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kirk Cousins, Rodgers and Dad Prescott. Trubisky's 3,223 yards rank 11th in the conference, while only three NFC quarterbacks threw more interceptions than Trubisky (Jameis Winston, Josh Rosen and Cam Newton). 

Still, the Bears will take Trubisky's invite to the Pro Bowl as a positive marker in his development even if his production wasn't in the top half of quarterbacks in his own conference. He's the first Bears quarterback to be named to a Pro Bowl since Jim McMahon in 1986. 

In the aftermath of the Bears' first-round playoff exit, coach Matt Nagy, general manager Ryan Pace and Trubisky's teammates said they were pleased with the growth Trubisky made in 2018

“We're lucky to have him," Nagy said. "I'm looking forward to the future. I really am, with him, because the city of Chicago is lucky to have that kid at quarterback.”

Trubisky will join defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, cornerback Kyle Fuller, safety Eddie Jackson and returner Tarik Cohen at the Pro Bowl, with linebacker Khalil Mack dropping out after tweaking his knee against the Philadelphia Eagles. Jackson's inclusion in the Bears' press release about Trubisky would seem to indicate he'll be going to Orlando after missing the Bears' final three games of the season with a sprained ankle. 

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The Bears are headed to London next year to play the Raiders

USA Today

The Bears are headed to London next year to play the Raiders

Time to readjust that 2019 Bears' games budget. 

On Monday morning, the Bears announced that they'll be headed to London next season: 

It'll be the first time the Bears have played in London since October 2011, when they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-18. 

It's one of 5 international games next season, all of which were announced this morning: 

Get ready for some 9am Bears football!