The Vince Lombardi trophy for Super Bowl LI with helmets from the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
The New England Patriots will face the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston. Expect a lot of fast action with two talented quarterbacks putting the ball in the air very often.
How to watch
If you've got cash burning a hole in your pocket or credit cards prepared to burn a hole in your future, you can head to Houston and score tickets to the game, which were selling Friday afternoon from $4,000 to $28,600 each with fees (those alone start at $800 a pop), according to SeatGeek's listings.
Or you can stay home and do the wave on your own couch for the low, low cost of relatively free. Restroom line is much shorter.
Time: 6:30 p.m. Eastern
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston
TV announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews
Halftime show: Lady Gaga
TV Network: Fox
Online, live: Fox Sports GO on iOS, Android, Windows and Amazon tablets or using Apple TV, Roku, Android TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire and Xbox One.
Online replay: NFL Game Pass will have Super Bowl LI available at 12:01 a.m. Monday.
What to expect
PRE-GAME: That's at your place, right? Lots of salty snacks, cold beverage consumption, avoidance of political talk and relaxation while ignoring the hours of pregame talking heads and player features on mute in the background. Perfect.
THE NATIONAL ANTHEM will be performed by country singer Luke Bryan, whose No. 1 hits include "Drunk on You," "Drink a Beer," "Crash My Party" and "Kick the Dust Up." Bring your boot-cuts.
THE GAME: Oh, right, the GAME.
–– SPOILER ALERT –– Just about every historical measure tells us the New England Patriots will beat the Atlanta Falcons and Tom Brady will become the first quarterback to win five Super Bowl championships.
There is no question the Patriots' defense is better than the Falcons' defense. New England allowed the fewest points and the eighth fewest yards. Atlanta was 27th based on points allowed and 25th based on yards allowed.
New England allowed more than 30 points just once and held 11 of 16 opponents under 20. Atlanta gave up more than 30 points six times and held just five of 16 opponents under 20.
Of course, the Patriots have not faced an offense as dynamic as the Falcons. But what happens when the Atlanta offense faces a terrific defense, or when the New England defense faces a terrific offense?
During the season, the Falcons played three games against teams who ranked among the top 10 in fewest points allowed -- Seattle (3rd), Denver (4th) and Minnesota (6th). Atlanta, which averaged 36.1 points in its other 13 games, did not score more than 24 in any of those three.
The Patriots played three games against teams that ranked among the top 10 in most points scored -- Arizona (6th) and Buffalo (two games, tied 10th). New England, which allowed an average of 14.5 points in its other 13 games, allowed an average of 20.7 in those three.
Atlanta's Matt Ryan is the league's likely MVP and its top-rated passer. But it's not exactly like Brady had a miserable year. He finished second to Ryan in passer rating, threw only two interceptions the entire regular season and was within 13 yards per game of Ryan's passing yardage total.
We know that numbers can be twisted any combination of ways to achieved a desired result -- at least until the game is actually played -- so we must remember the outcome of the Super Bowl is not a foregone conclusion.
Yet, it is hard, very hard, to find a flaw in Brady's big game performance, especially since there is so much evidence in his favor.
Joe Montana always has been considered the gold standard of Super Bowl quarterbacks since he went 4-0 in the game, won three Super Bowl MVP awards and did not throw a single interception in any of those four. His Super Bowl passer rating, 127.8, also is a record.
Brady also has won three Super Bowl MVP awards, and while he threw four interceptions in his six previous appearances (with a 4-2 record), he has thrown more than twice as many Super Bowl passes than Montana did (247 to 122).
Further, Brady rallied the Patriots from a tie or from behind to win in the fourth quarter in each of his four victories, and in the two Super Bowl games he lost, he had his team ahead with two minutes remaining only to have New England's defense allow the game-deciding touchdown.
Read more of this analysis from Ira Miller at UPI Sports
POSTGAME: If the Falcons win, the trophy scene will be standard fare. If, however, the favored Patriots win ... stick around for the show. NFL Commissioner Roger "Deflategate" Goodell will award the giant Super Bowl trophy, and will be close enough to shake hands or hug the winning team's owner, coach and top players – say, like Tom Brady, whom Goodell suspended for four games over allegedly deflated game balls preferred by the star quarterback. Goodell said this week any interaction "not awkward at all for me." Maybe not on the surface, but they're certainly not all BFFs.
Like a lot of other things connected to the game, you can actually make a bet on how the interaction goes. I predict a standard business handshake before Goodell shrinks into the background.