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Early preview of Super Bowl LI: Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots

One-minute scouting report of Super Bowl LI

A quick look at the Super Bowl 51 matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.
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A quick look at the Super Bowl 51 matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.

1. Here are the key facts about Super Bowl LI itself: the game is at NRG Stadium in Houston. Kickoff is at 5:30 p.m. on Fox (Ch. 4). BookMaker.eu opened the New England Patriots as 3-point favorites in Super Bowl LI. The over-under is at 57 1/2 points.

2. It’ll be No. 1 vs. No. 1 The Falcons scored 540 points in the regular season, tying the 2000 Rams for the eighth-most in NFL history with the 2000 Rams. That was 71 more than second-place New Orleans this year. The Patriots’ had the league’s top scoring defense, allowing 250 points in the regular season.

3. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was second in the NFL this season in passing yards (4,944 — behind the Saints’ Drew Brees) and passing touchdowns (38 — behind the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers). Ryan shredded the Packers secondary in the NFC Championship Game, throwing for 392 yards and four touchdowns without and interception.

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Football Outsiders noted that Atlanta had the top-ranked offense when passing on first down, with Ryan averaging 10.4 net yards per pass on first down.

4. Despite missing the first four games of the season while serving his “Deflategate” suspension, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was first in touchdown-to-interception ratio (28 to 2), second in the NFL in passer rating (112.2) and tied for fourth for completions of 25-plus yards (35). New England allowed just 24 sacks during the season.

5. Atlanta’s offense was versatile. During the regular season, they were second in the NFL in yards (415.8 per game), third in passing yards (295.3) and fifth in rushing yards (120.5). The Patriots were fourth in totals yards (386.2), fourth in passing yards (269.2) and seventh in rushing (117.0).

6. Falcons running back Devonta Freeman had 1,541 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns. Freeman lost just one fumble all season. New England running back led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns and had 1,161 rushing yards.

7. Falcons receiver Julio Jones has averaged 96.3 yards receiving per game, which is the most in NFL history. Odell Beckham Jr. is second (95.8), followed by Calvin Johnson (86). According to STATS, Inc., the Falcons had were the first team in NFL history to have 10 players with two or more touchdown receptions in a season. Ryan threw a touchdown pass to 13 different players, which is also an NFL record.

8. Yeah, you didn’t have Patriots receiver Chris Hogan in your fantasy league this year, but he had 9 catches 180 yards and two touchdowns in the AFC Championship Game. That came after a 95-yard receiving game in the AFC Divisional round. He’s become a solid target for Brady.

9. Atlanta defensive end Vic Beasley led the league with 15 1/2 sacks. Atlanta’s defense has at least one takeaway in 10 straight games. However, Pro Football Outsiders said that including their first playoff game, the Falcons since Week 10 have allowed 5.4 yards per carry on first downs.

10. New England defensive end Trey Flowers had seven sacks in 10 games heading into the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots’ rush defense was the third-best in the NFL, allowing 88.6 yards per game and just six touchdowns. At one point in Sunday’s game, the Steelers had 18 rushes and averaged 1.9 yards per carry when New England’s Alan Branch was on the field.

11. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski has made 19 consecutive postseason field-goal attempts, but he missed an extra-point attempt on Sunday. Falcons kicker Matt Bryant won the NFL scoring title with 158 points. Bryant made 34 of his 37 field-goal attempts and was 56-for-57 on extra points, but he missed one Sunday.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

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