All during the NFL season, I have been picking games that were too risky to bet on either side for whatever reason. For Super Bowl LI between New England and Atlanta, I'm going to tell you why it's not wise to back the favored Patriots.
Yes, Defense Usually Beats Offense
The Falcons led the NFL in scoring offense during the regular season at 33.75 points per game, tied for the eighth-most points (540) in league history. The Patriots allowed just 15.6 points during the season, also leading the league.
I am well aware that this is the seventh time in Super Bowl history that the league's top-rated scoring offense faces its No. 1 defense and that defensive leader has won five of the past six meetings. The Falcons are the 22nd team to reach the Super Bowl with the league's No. 1 scoring offense. The previous 21 teams went just 10-11. The team with the No. 1 scoring defense reached the Super Bowl 18 times prior to this season and went 13-5.
That's all fine and good, and the Patriots are 3-point favorites on NFL odds. However, I believe that New England defense is vastly overrated.
Patriots Haven't Faced Top QBs
Here are the NFL's top-rated quarterbacks from the regular season in descending order: Atlanta's Matt Ryan (117.1 -- part of reason why he will win the NFL MVP award), New England's Tom Brady (112.2), Dallas' Dak Prescott (104.9), Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (104.2), New Orleans' Drew Brees (101.7), Detroit's Matthew Stafford (99.3), Washington's Kirk Cousins (97.2), Oakland's Derek Carr (96.7), Indianapolis' Andrew Luck (94.6) and Tennessee's Marcus Mariota (95.6).
Atlanta's No. 27 scoring defense had four games against those quarterbacks and a fifth if you count the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. How many of those QBs did New England face? None, the only team in the NFL not to see a Top-10 quarterback.
Think of the middling QBs in New England's AFC East alone: Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore of the Dolphins (faced each once), Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty of the Jets, and Tyrod Taylor of the Bills. The Jets and Bills don't even want Fitzpatrick or Taylor any longer. Moore is a journeyman backup and Petty is simply overmatched in the NFL.
The Pats also played the likes of Houston's Brock Osweiler (regular season and playoffs), Cleveland's Charlie Whitehurst and Cody Kessler, Pittsburgh backup Landry Jones, San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, the Rams' Jared Goff and Denver's Trevor Siemian. Let's just say none of those guys were close to receiving a Pro Bowl berth. The Pats did face a very good QB in Seattle's Russell Wilson and lost that game at home to the Seahawks.
That lineup of questionable signal-callers was a big reason why New England's defense finished the year just 16th in Football Outsiders' DVOA, which partly weighs its rating based on opponent quality. Sure, the Patriots faced Ben Roethlisberger in the AFC Championship Game and he's a future Hall of Famer. Then again, Big Ben's road splits were significantly worse this season than at home and he lost arguably the NFL's best running back, Le'Veon Bell, to a first-quarter groin injury.
Now that New England defense faces the red-hot Ryan, who has 18 TDs and no interceptions in Atlanta's six-game winning streak. He led an offense that averaged 3.06 points per drive during the season. Over the past 20 years, the only offense to top that mark was the record-setting 2007 Patriots of Brady and Randy Moss that went unbeaten in the regular season. Ryan also set an NFL record by throwing touchdown passes to 13 different receivers. He is currently given a total of 316.5 passing yards on NFL picks for Super Bowl LI. Ryan threw for 421 yards in 2013 vs. New England.