Super Bowl 51 pits the AFC's perennial winner against an NFC organization making only its second Super Bowl appearance as the Patriots take on the Falcons on Feb. 5 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. This will be New England's seventh Super Bowl appearance in 16 years (4-4 all-time) and Atlanta's first since the 1998 season (0-1).
New England Patriots
1. Leading the way: The Patriots don't lose, and they are rarely ever losing. New England hasn't trailed in a game since their Week 12 win over the Jets. That's more than seven hours with a lead! New England has also held a fourth-quarter lead in 17 of their 18 games this season.
2. Tom Prolific: Tom Brady is considered the G.O.A.T. partly because he is so often on the big stage. This will be Brady's seventh Super Bowl appearance, the most by any player at any position in NFL history, breaking former Bills and Broncos DL Mike Lodish's record.
3. In their defense: Bill Belichick's Patriots teams tend to rely on offense to win games, but this year is a little different. The 2016 Pats led the league in scoring defense (15.6 PPG), a promising sign for Super Bowl Sunday. Every Patriots championship squad has had a Top 10 scoring defense.
QB Tom Brady: Brady is in the discussion for league MVP despite missing four games to start 2016. The Patriots legend set the NFL record for best TD-INT ratio in a single season (28-2) en route to reaching his seventh Super Bowl.
RB LeGarrette Blount: Blount had a career year in 2016. The tailback led the league with 18 rushing TDs and had his first career year with 1,000+ yards and 10+ TDs in 2016. Blount will be making his second Super Bowl appearance as a Patriot.
Coach Bill Belichick: Belichick is no stranger to Super Bowls. He has taken the Patriots to seven as head coach, the most of any head coach in NFL history. Belichick also holds the record for most postseason wins all-time by a head coach (25).
1. Hot starts: With the Falcons' opening drive touchdown against the Packers, Atlanta made it eight straight games in which they've scored a touchdown on the first possession. The Falcons thrive off fast starts, building leads early and pounding their opponents into submission with a mix of runs and passes with an array of targets at Matt Ryan's disposal.
2. On fire: Atlanta hasn't lost since Week 13, and just dethroned the hottest team in the NFL in Green Bay, which had an eight-game winning streak. During that stretch, Atlanta has averaged 39 points per game and posted a plus-12 turnover differential.
3. Second time's a charm?: The Falcons have won the NFC just twice in their 51-year existence, with their first and only appearance -- an eventual loss to Denver -- coming after a stunning upset of the Vikings in 1998. This one wasn't as surprising, but puts the Falcons on the game's biggest stage for the first time in Arthur Blank's tenure as owner.
QB Matt Ryan: The favorite to win the league's Most Valuable Player award, Ryan has been excellent from the season's outset. The quarterback known as "Matty Ice" set a career-high in yards (4,944) and touchdowns (38) as offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense peaked in the second half of the season. Super Bowl LI is Ryan's first appearance in the game.
WR Julio Jones: Jones was perhaps the brightest star of all in the Falcons' offense, posting a 300-yard game early in the season and putting on a dominant performance in the NFC title game romp over Green Bay. Jones is a big-bodied athletic freak of nature who strikes fear in the hearts of opposing defenses and will undoubtedly be a focal point of the Patriots' game plan in the Super Bowl.
DE Vic Beasley: The second-year pro shook off a quiet start to his career and to the first quarter of his second campaign by erupting for 8.5 sacks from Weeks 5-10. Beasley finished as the league leader in sacks (15.5) and was a key part of a Falcons defense that only improved as the season progressed.