Super Bowl LI is nearly upon us, and it’s a highly compelling matchup for a multitude of reasons. You have the New England Patriots going for their fifth Super Bowl win this century, while the Atlanta Falcons are trying to win their first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history. In an NFL postseason that has been just a gigantic wave of blowouts, this should be a game that bucks the trend and closes out the 2016-17 season in style.
Now comes the difficult question:
Is a hot dog a sandwich? Which team should I root for? Well I’m glad I asked on your behalf, because to help determine your final decision, I’ve carved out some reasons for both sides.
Root for the Patriots
Michael and Martellus Bennett are the greatest set of brothers in NFL history. If you suggest to me Ronde and Tiki Barber, or Eli and Peyton Manning, you are incorrect. This video and this feature article end the argument. Two years removed from a 90-catch season on a 5-11 Bears team, Martellus (and a sixth-round draft pick) was traded to the Patriots for a 2016 fourth-round draft pick. The Bears are really bad at this. This is Martellus’ first Super Bowl appearance, and with Rob Gronkowski on IR, he’ll have a chance to shine and double the number of rings in the Bennett household.
I’m reaching here, but it’s probably something that will irk at least a small portion of the Niners and Steelers fanbases. A Patriots win would mean Tom Brady breaks the tie with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw atop the list of quarterbacks with the most Super Bowl rings. Steelers fans would be peeved at the thought of the Pats being one title away from equaling Pittsburgh’s total (six), despite the Steelers winning four before New England even won their first. Niners fans would not only have to cope with New England having as many Super Bowls as their team, but they would lose their final bragging rights regarding Brady not having more rings than Montana.
Ideally, it reduces the number of Super Bowl XLIX mentions
Under Bill Belichick/Tom Brady, the Patriots have played in nothing but close Super Bowls. The margin of victory has been either three points or four, so you may hate them, but you know you’re getting a pretty good, if not great game. Assuming this year is no different, at least a New England thriller over Atlanta will bury the repeated mentions of Super Bowl XLIX for awhile. Maybe Stephen Gostkowski channels his inner Adam Vinatieri and hits a game-winning field goal, or Ricky Proehl randomly comes out of retirement to catch a game-tying touchdown for the Falcons. If Malcolm Butler picks off Matt Ryan at the one-yard line, though? Worst case scenario.
Roger Goodell might melt on live television
Tom Brady missed the first four games of the season due to the “Deflategate” scandal, which I couldn’t give less of a damn about. New England still went 3-1 without him, and now with one more win, Commissioner Goodell may have to present the trophy to the quarterback his league punished. No one likes Roger Goodell, so watching him squirm while being loudly booed will certainly provide some entertainment.
Root for the Falcons
Quinn was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks for two seasons, and they made the Super Bowl both times. The 2013 defense will go down as one of the greatest in NFL history. Gus Bradley left Seattle to coach the Jacksonville Jaguars, and that opened the door for Quinn to return to the coaching staff. He’s certainly not made it to this year’s Super Bowl through the back of his defense, but that shouldn’t take away from his accomplishments in just two seasons as a first-time head coach. It’s been awesome to see Quinn succeed, and it’d be great if he got revenge on the Patriots after what happened in SB49.
Seahawks fans may remember Jordan Babineaux as “Big Play Babs.” He intercepted Drew Bledsoe and turned that into a game-winning FG for the Seahawks in 2006. The Tony Romo botched hold would’ve turned into a backbreaking touchdown if not for Big Play Babs’ heroic tackle. Jon Ryan’s first career punt as a Seahawk was blocked, but Babineaux scooped it up and ran for a first down. Big Play Babs is no longer in the league, but his brother Jonathan still is. He’s the longest-tenured Falcon on the roster and is tied for the third-oldest player on the team. It’s not often you have 35-year-old defensive tackles, let alone one who has never made a Pro Bowl. Big Play Babs was denied a ring in 2005, but Big Babs has his chance on Sunday to bring home some jewelry for the Babineaux family.
Post-publish edit: Desmond Trufant
As was pointed out to me in the comments, Desmond Trufant is the younger brother of Marcus Trufant, so that’s extra Seahawks sibling reason to root for Atlanta. It probably slipped my mind because Desmond is injured and out for the year.
The Panthers would be the only team in the NFC South without a Super Bowl
Seattle and Carolina have essentially developed into rivals since 2012. The Seahawks took the first four matchups, Carolina won the next two, and then Seattle laid the 40-7 beatdown this season. Even before that, the Seahawks’ first Super Bowl appearance was clinched when they smashed the Panthers 34-14 in the NFC Championship Game. An Atlanta victory on Sunday would leave Carolina as the only team in the NFC South without a Super Bowl in its trophy case. Ha ha ha.
Atlanta’s sports teams have been in a slump
The only major sports championship the city of Atlanta can boast are the 1995 World Series champion Braves. The Falcons have never won anything. The Dream have made it to three WNBA Finals, only to be swept every single time (including by the Seattle Storm!). They’ve had not one, but TWO NHL teams relocated to Canada — the Atlanta Flames became the Calgary Flames, while the Atlanta Thrashers are now the Winnipeg Jets.
The city of Boston has celebrated an NBA championship (Celtics), a Stanley Cup (Bruins), three World Series (Red Sox), and four Super Bowls (Patriots) just this century. Let them stop hogging all of the glory and let some other cities join in on the fun. Seattle broke out of its slump in 2013, as did Cleveland in 2016, so why not have Atlanta join the list to start 2017?
IT’S THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD
Come on! Do I even need to explain myself here? It’s also way more fun when Boston sports fans experience defeat than when they’re actually happy. The referee conspiracy theories will be in full-swing if the game is even remotely close. Patriots radio analyst Scott Zolak said prior to the 2012 game against the Seahawks that Russell Wilson was the worst starting QB in the NFL. I can assure you that Enemy Reaction would be a lot more entertaining if the Patriots lose.
I’ve stated my cases for both teams. I’m pulling for the Falcons all the way, but what about you?