Super Bowl cheat sheet for football dilettantes

What you need to know about the Patriots and the Falcons ahead of the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl parties are exhilarating for some, but intimidating for others. For partygoers who dread watching the game with their football-addicted friends, you don’t have to go in empty-handed. Here’s a cheat sheet for the biggest sports event of the year.



Falcons: Atlanta, Georgia

Patriots: Foxborough, Massachusetts



Falcons: Atlanta played their first NFL season in 1966, but remained in obscurity for two decades until they drafted Deion “Prime Time” Sanders in 1989. They lost in their only Super Bowl appearance to the Denver Broncos in 1999, but were taken to new heights in the early-2000s by Michael Vick, whose electric speed and athleticism made for a weekly highlight reel, but ultimately ended in controversy and disgrace. Since then, the Falcons have consistently been competitive with quarterback Matt Ryan, reaching the playoffs five times since 2008.

Patriots: No team has been as dominant over a 15-year period as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have since winning their first Super Bowl together in 2002. New England joined the NFL in 1970 after a decade in the defunct American Football League as the Boston Patriots, but failed to reach the postseason until 1976. They lost to the famous “Super Bowl Shuffle” Bears in Super Bowl XX in 1986 and Brett Favre’s Green Bay Packers 11 years later in Super Bowl XXXI. Nevertheless, the Patriots have reached the big game seven times and won four championships since Brady took over as quarterback in 2001. Infamous scandals like Spygate and Deflategate have made them more polarizing, but all controversy aside, the Patriots are making their record ninth Super Bowl appearance.



Falcons: Quarterback and MVP candidate Matt Ryan has finally reached the Super Bowl after numerous meltdowns in years past. Ryan torched the Packers’ defense in this year’s NFC Championship Game, finishing with four touchdowns. Since 2011, his key weapon has been wide receiver Julio Jones. Together, they’ve formed one of the more prolific quarterback-receiver combinations in recent years. Jones provided Ryan with an easy target against the Packers, finishing with two touchdowns.

Patriots: With another championship, Tom Brady will have five under his belt, one more than legends Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw. Brady dominated the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game in his quest to become the greatest QB of all time. Brady has numerous weapons at his disposal and has the ability to create new ones along the way. Receivers Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan combined for three touchdowns against the Steelers, and running back LeGarrette Blount is always capable of a dominant, pummeling performance on the ground.



Falcons: Like the Carolina Panthers last year, the Falcons have never won a Super Bowl. Many good teams under Matt Ryan have failed to reach the big game, so the Falcons would be wise to jump on this opportunity. The team’s home for decades, the Georgia Dome, is closing this year, providing a potentially fitting conclusion to a stadium that has been in use for almost a quarter century.

Patriots: Loathed by some while revered by others, Tom Brady’s dominance with Bill Belichick at the helm is unparalleled in league history. With no other similarly dominant team on the horizon, this level of success will be difficult to recreate. Brady is 39, so it’s tough to tell how much longer this run will last. For those who love unmitigated success, another Patriots Super Bowl would be an additional feather in Brady and Belichick’s cap.



Las Vegas is siding with the experience of Brady and the Patriots, favoring them by a narrow margin.

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