No one can say that The Universe doesn't have a sense of humor. And beyond that it also has an endearing sense of balance.
Last year's Super Bowl featured a matchup of two of the best NFL defenses of the past century. The Panthers and Broncos played a grinder, with the offenses (two touchdowns) barely outscoring the defenses (one touchdown). And now, one year later, The Big Game features two of the best offenses in the sport setting up for what could be a historic shootout.
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New England and Atlanta will meet and duel at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday to decide the winner of Super Bowl LI. The game will take place at NRG Stadium in Houston, and the total is the highest in Super Bowl history at 58.5 . The previous high total was 57.0 between the Colts-Saints in Super Bowl XLIV (2010).
The Falcons enter Super Sunday packing the No. 7-ranked scoring offense with an average of 33.8 points per game. Oh, sorry, I didn't mean the No. 7 offense this season - I meant the No. 7 scoring offense of all-time. The Matt Ryan-Julio Jones tandem is one of the best in the game and is complimented by a Top 5 rushing attack.
The most impressive thing about the Falcons offense is not just the historic numbers that it amassed - shattering almost all significant franchise records along the way. The most impressive thing about Atlanta's attack is that it has actually gotten significantly better as the season has worn on.
Since their Week 11 bye, Atlanta has averaged 37.5 points per game. That includes an absurd 40 points per game in their two postseason efforts. It is not as if the Falcons have been walking through a bunch of cream puffs either. Three of the teams they faced during that stretch - Arizona, Los Angeles and Seattle - boasted Top 10 total defenses and a fourth, Kansas City, was in the Top 10 in scoring defense. They averaged 36 points in those four games.
The Falcons have played 'over' in eight straight games and the 'over' is 15-5 in their last 20 games overall.
Not lost in all the to-do regarding Atlanta's offense is the fact that the Patriots carry a pretty stacked offense in their own right. New England's attack was No. 4 in total offense and No. 3 in scoring at 27.6 points per game. Tom Brady was again ruthlessly efficient while triggering the Pats' purposefully amorphous offense; if there is no go-to guy there is no one for teams to key on to stop.
The 'over' is 6-1 in New England's last seven playoff games and the 'over' is 45-22 in their last 67 games against teams with a wining record.
The marquee matchup in this one pits Atlanta's No. 1 scoring offense against New England's No. 1 scoring defense. This is actually the second time in four years we've had a No. 1 vs. No. 1 matchup. In Super Bowl XLVIII Seattle's top-ranked defense devastated Denver's record-setting offense in a 43-8 rout.
This year's Falcons-Patriots clash is actually the eighth time in 51 Super Bowls in which the best scoring offense faced the best scoring defense. But this is only the second time in the past 25 years we've been graced with such a matchup. The team with the top defense won six of the first seven occurrences.
While the proverbial "great defense beats great offense" theme has played out more often than not, five of the first seven No. 1 vs. No. 1 matchups went 'over' the posted total, including the Seahawks-Broncos.
Further, according to Football Perspective, the disparity between Atlanta's scoring offense and New England's scoring defense - 18.2 points per game - represents the fifth-greatest disparity in Super Bowl history. There have been 10 instances with a disparity of 14.5 points or greater; six of those 10 games have gone 'over'.
But while the Patriots' top defense against Atlanta's top offense is getting a lot of play this week, the total will go 'over' or 'under' based more on how the Falcons defense handles that guy named Brady.
The Falcons defense is ranked No. 25 overall, No. 28 against the pass, and No. 27 in points allowed this year, yielding an average of 25.4 points per game. The Falcons defense played out of its mind in the NFC Championship Game, shutting down Aaron Rodgers and holding the Packers to just 21 points. Atlanta has given up just 20.5 points per game in its last eight games after surrendering 28.4 per game in their first 11.
Brady's offenses have been classic underachievers in his previous six Super Bowls, averaging just 22.5 points per game. His highest output (32) came in Super Bowl XXXVII against Carolina. But even in that game the score was 0-0 with four minutes left in the first half and needed 37 fourth quarter points to get 'over' the total.
There hasn't been a consistent trend regarding the Super Bowl since the incredible 20-year 'over' run from 1985-2004 (14-6). Since then the teams have gone 5-7 against the total.
Finally, the 'over' has dominated in the playoffs this year. Both conference championship games sailed the total, the 'over' is 5-1 in the last two weeks, and the 'over' is 7-3 so far this postseason.
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Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
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