Houston, prepare for launch. On Sunday, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will face off against the Atlanta Falcons and their historically great offense in Super Bowl LI.
If the Patriots win, they’ll secure their fifth championship in the Bill Belichick era and Brady will further entrench his spot atop the all-time quarterback leaderboard. Furthermore, the Patriots will have the benefit of receiving the trophy from commissioner Roger Goodell, who once docked them a million bucks, a first-round pick and suspended Brady four games because the Patriots allegedly used under-inflated footballs in a 45-7 victory.
If the Falcons win, they’ll secure their first championship. Matt Ryan ‘s entire 2016 season will have to go down as one of the greatest single seasons ever. Dan Quinn will forever have the job security that comes with a Super Bowl ring. And Arthur Blank will undoubtedly dance (again).
The following list is intended to get you primed for Super Bowl LI. So, without further delay, here are 51 things to know about Super Bowl LI.
51. Brady can become the second-oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl
Peyton Manning became the oldest QB to win a Super Bowl a year ago when he did it at 39 — just about six weeks shy of his 40th birthday. Brady is 39 now, but he won’t turn 40 until Aug. 3, so Manning will still own this record even if the Patriots win.
50. Brady can win a record fifth Super Bowl as a quarterback
On the other hand, Brady has Manning beat in a more important category: He’s currently tied at four Super Bowl wins with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw.
49. Brady can snag a record fourth Super Bowl MVP
Montana also has three.
48. Dan Quinn has coached in three of the past four Super Bowls
He served as the defensive coordinator when the Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII and lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. He took the Falcons’ job before the 2015 season and he’s already back in the Super Bowl.
That’s not bad.
47. The Patriots will wear white
It’s a super lucky color:
The Falcons will wear red, by the way.
46. Ryan has started two games against the Patriots
In two career starts against a Bill Belichick-coached defense, Ryan is 51 of 82 (62.2 percent) for 620 yards (7.56 YPA), two touchdowns, one interception and an 88.5 passer rating. The Falcons lost both games.
45. Brady has started four games against the Falcons
In four career starts against the Falcons, Brady is 88 of 131 (67.2 percent) for 1,193 yards (9.11 YPA), nine touchdowns, one pick and a 115.7 passer rating. The Patriots won all four games.
44. Julio Jones is amazing in the postseason
This shouldn’t come as a shock: Arguably the game’s best receiver is awesome in the playoffs.
In five career playoff starts, Jones has averaged 110.4 yards and a touchdown. With his 180-yard, two-touchdown outing in the Falcons’ win over the Green Bay Packers , he set a playoff record.
Julio Jones is the first receiver in history with multiple playoff games of 150+ yards and 2+ touchdowns. #GBvsATL
— The Ringer (@ringer) January 22, 2017
43. Belichick against top WRs
Then again, Belichick has a pretty decent track record against receivers like Jones. Via NESN (their methodology is explained in the link):
The Patriots have only allowed one playoff touchdown to any first-team All-Pro receiver standing 6 foot or taller. The Patriots have only allowed two 100-yard games to such players. Muhammad caught four passes on 10 targets for 140 yards with a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVIII, and Owens caught nine passes on 14 targets for 122 yards in Super Bowl XXXIX. The Patriots held Harrison, Wayne, Holt, Brown and Rice to games under 50 yards.
The Patriots are 10-2 in those contests.
Give Belichick two weeks to take away a team’s best weapon and that’s exactly what he’ll do.
42. The Patriots’ record with the Super Bowl referee is decent
The Patriots are 7-2 in games refereed by Carl Cheffers in the past 10 years, according to Christopher Price.
41. Brady has more Super Bowl experience than the entire Falcons’ roster
40. More people bet on the Cleveland Browns to win the Super Bowl than the Falcons
According to ESPN, only the Tennessee Titans had fewer Super Bowl bets than the Falcons in the preseason.
39. The game will be played at NRG Stadium in Houston at 6:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 5
38. Lady Gaga will perform at halftime
We ranked all of the Super Bowl halftime performances here if you wanna jump from one listicle to another.
37. Luke Bryan will sing the national anthem
Last year, that honor went to Lady Gaga. This year, it belongs to Bryan, a country star (I’m told).
36. Belichick will face his former employees
They meet again: Bill Belichick vs his GM disciples, Atlanta’s Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 23, 2017
Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons’ general manager, worked for the Patriots as a scout in 2002 and as the director of college scouting from 2003-07.
Scott Pioli, the Falcons’ assistant general manager, worked for the Patriots from 2000-2008. For the majority of his time in New England, he served as vice president of player personnel.
35. The Browns will be there in more than just spirit
Whenever you think you’ve found the most Browns thing ever, you find a better example of their ineptitude.
A photo posted by CBS Sports (@cbssports) on Jan 24, 2017 at 8:05am PST
34. Our preseason Super Bowl ‘Madden’ simulation might’ve nailed it
Before the season, my colleague Will Brinson ran a “Madden” sim of the 2016 season. The sim predicted that the Falcons would win the Super Bowl:
Falcons beat Pittsburgh Steelers 41-35
This is the beauty of fake football. Anything can happen? I’m not saying I will literally eat one of my shoes if the four teams in the championship games are the Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars , Falcons and New Orleans Saints but, actually eff it, I’ll eat a shoe if that happens. Screenshot it and hold me to it.
As far as I know, Brinson has not eaten a shoe … yet.
33. Alabama and Rutgers are equals
After the Falcons and Patriots clinched their spots in the Super Bowl, Tom Fornelli took a look at the college programs that are the most represented in the Super Bowl. This won’t come as a shock, but Alabama is tied for the lead with five players split between the Patriots and Falcons. This will come as a shock: Rutgers is tied with Alabama.
Here’s the top-3:
- Alabama: 5
- Rutgers: 5
- LSU and Stanford: 4 each
32. No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense
The Falcons finished first in the NFL by averaging 33.8 points. The Patriots finished first in the NFL by allowing 15.6 points per game.
Still, this game shouldn’t be viewed as a top offense vs. top defense sort of game, namely because the Patriots’ defense is overrated (it ranked 16th in DVOA, which factors in their weak schedule) and because the Patriots’ offense (27.6 points per game) is the undeniable strength of the team.
31. The Falcons offense is historically great
But the Falcons have the edge in offense. They didn’t just lead the league in points scored, they finished as the seventh-highest scoring offense (tied with the 2000 Los Angeles Rams ) in NFL history. For what it’s worth, the 2007 Patriots are rank second on that list.
30. Ryan’s amazing YPA stat
Ryan averaged an incredible 9.3 yards per pass this season. For context:
Matt Ryan: 7.9 YPA in all 18 games this season.
Sam Bradford has 13 such games in his whole career. Derek Carr has 11. Tannehill has 20.
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) January 25, 2017
29. Tom Brady set an NFL record this season
He posted the best TD-INT ratio in NFL history, throwing 28 touchdowns and two interceptions. Sorry, Nick Foles .
28. This is Dan Quinn’s first game against Bill Belichick as a head coach
And that might not be a good thing.
This is Quinn’s 1st career game against Belichick as a head coach. Since 2010, coaches are 3-22 in their first career game against Belichick
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) January 26, 2017
27. Our Super Bowl ‘Madden 17’ sim picked the Patriots.
They won by 10 points and Brady took home MVP honors. For a complete recap of that fake game, click here.
26. Brady and Ryan text each other
“We’ve kind of kept in touch over the years,” Brady said Monday morning during his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI. “I’m always sending him texts over the course of the season and vice versa. I have a lot of respect for Matt. I like him a lot as a person, as a player, as a leader.”
25. The Falcons defense has been awesome since Week 11
Since a Week 11 bye, the Falcons have allowed 20.5 points per game — that’s including postseason play, which means the sample size is eight games. Before the Week 11 bye, this unit allowed 28.3 points.
24. Vic Beasley has been a beast
Beasley, the Falcons’ second-year pass rusher, led the NFL with 15.5 sacks. That’s important, because getting pressure on Brady is important.
23. Brady under pressure
With that being said, Brady is still pretty awesome when under duress. According to Pro Football Focus, Brady posted the fifth-highest passer rating under pressure (84.9) in the regular season.
22. Ryan under pressure
But Ryan was better than Brady. He recorded an 87.2 passer rating when pressured, per PFF, which ranked third.
21. Brady’s deep passing
Much has been made of Brady’s diminishing deep accuracy. But this season, he finished second in the NFL with a 124.4 passer rating on throws that traveled at least 20 yards downfield (per PFF).
20. Ryan’s deep passing
But, again, Ryan one-upped Brady. He led the NFL with a 136.1 passer rating on deep passes (via PFF, again).
19. Two good DVOA teams
According to Football Outsiders, the Patriots finished the regular season first in overall DVOA while the Falcons placed third. The Dallas Cowboys , may they rest in peace, were second.
18. Nearly identical in turnover ratio
The Patriots went plus-12 in turnovers this season (third in the NFL) while the Falcons finished tied for fourth with a plus-11. Translation: Both teams take care of the ball.
17. ‘Hamilton’ is coming to the Super Bowl
Three former actresses from Broadway’s “Hamilton” — Phillipa Soo, Renee Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones (who played Eliza, Angelica and Peggy Schuyler) — will perform “America the Beautiful” during the pregame show.
16. Belichick advised the Falcons to not trade up to draft Julio Jones
He was wrong — for once.
15. Previously in Texas …
This is the first Super Bowl in Texas since the Packers beat the Steelers in February 2011. That game was played at Cowboys Stadium.
And the last time Houston hosted a Super Bowl was in 2004 at Reliant Stadium, where the Patriots edged the Carolina Panthers .
14. You can bet on how many times Donald Trump will be mentioned on the broadcast
The over/under is set at 1.5. You can check out a list of all the crazy prop bets here.
13. Martellus Bennett is reportedly playing through a horrible injury
With Gronk out, the Patriots are lucky to have one of the game’s best and toughest tight ends to fill his role in the offense.
#Patriots love Martellus Bennett’s toughness. Example: He plays with a cracked bone & bone chips in his ankle. Surgery likely this spring
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 22, 2017
12. Ryan has been incredible this postseason
In his first two playoff games, Ryan has thrown seven touchdowns and zero interceptions.
11. Ryan’s interception-less streak
The last time Ryan threw a pick? Dec. 4. So, he has gone six full games without one.
10. Tom Brady and interceptions
Brady threw only two picks in the regular season, setting the NFL record for TD-INT ratio with 28 touchdowns and two interceptions. But in this postseason, he has already thrown two interceptions, matching his regular-season total.
With that being said, both occurred in the divisional-round win over the Houston Texans , a game in which the entire team struggled. Brady didn’t throw a pick in the win over the Steelers in the AFC title game.
9. Falcons owner Arthur Blank is taking the entire organization to Houston
Falcons owner Arthur Blank plans to take every employee in organization to Super Bowl. We’re talking hundreds.
— Jeff Schultz (@JeffSchultzAJC) January 23, 2017
8. Tom Brady’s Super Bowl records
Brady already owns the following Super Bowl records:
- Appearances: 7 (counting this year)
- Pass attempts: 247
- Completions: 164
- Passing yards: 1,605
- Passing touchdowns: 13
- Consecutive completions: 16 in 2011
- Tied for first in quarterback wins: 4
- Tied for first in Super Bowl MVPs: 2001, ’03, ’14
So, if the Patriots win, he’ll have won the most Super Bowls by a quarterback and likely the most MVP awards.
7. The Brady-Belichick combination is unstoppable
As SBNation’s Geoff Schwartz pointed out, “14 percent of all Super Bowls have seen Brady start and have been coached by Belichick.”
6. Matt Ryan has defeated 29 of 32 NFL teams
The only teams left to beat for Ryan?
- The Falcons (duh)
- The Steelers
- The Patriots (because of course)
5. The Patriots are undefeated with Dion Lewis
Dion Lewis has played 16 games in 2 seasons with the Patriots (including postseason) and New England has won them all.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 29, 2017
4. Since losing Gronk, the Patriots are unbeaten
This team is incredible.
3. Brady needed to use a map to find Foxborough when the Patriots drafted him
Check out what Brady said last week on the 17th anniversary of Belichick’s hiring:
“When they picked me I had to look on a map to see where the New England Patriots played, because I had never been this far east,” Brady said at a press conference. “It was a magical day in my life. … He’s been a great coach, a great leader for our team. We’ve had a good run, we’ve got to keep it going.”
And now he’s starting his seventh Super Bowl for them.
2. Tickets are expensive
Exactly one week before the game, the cheapest Super Bowl ticket on StubHub was listed at $2,200. The most expensive? $1 million.
1. Who’s expected to win?
The Patriots are favored by three points.
Bonus: Who do I think will win?
The Patriots, because you never ever bet against Bill Belichick.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / 2017 Super Bowl: Here’s 51 things to know about the Patriots vs. Falcons matchup