As I was driving into work the other morning, I was listening to a sports talk radio show broadcasted out of Philadelphia. Instead of talking Philly sports as usual, they were discussing the upcoming Super Bowl match up between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots. I was hardly paying attention, mostly because I was dreading going into work (a cold and lack of sleep will do that to you) and daydreaming about going back to bed. I pulled into my parking spot and was just about to turn off my car when one of the hosts said “Do you think the Patriots are preparing to play the Falcons or are they playing Goodell? I mean, the whole year it’s been ‘Brady vs Goodell’. Are we finally gonna see this play out?”
Had I not been running late for work, I would have listened to what the other commentators had to say. That idea really stuck in my mind all day: Are the Pats playing the Falcons on February 5th or are they playing to get back at Roger Goodell?
After Patriots QB Tom Brady served his four game suspension for the whole Deflategate saga, it seemed as though The Tom Brady Revenge Tour started. Really, with one of the easiest schedules in the NFL and with the future Hall-of-Famer QB at the helm, it is easy to see how some might think Brady and Co. went on a “revenge tour”. In reality, they just played like they usually do. The whole time, though, you knew they were playing with a little extra fire in hopes of giving Goodell the ultimate middle finger: a Super Bowl championship. The whole media world is waiting for that awkward moment when Goodell has the hand the Super Bowl MVP trophy to Tom Brady. It’s every New Englander’s wet dream.
It all sounds well and good, but we are forgetting about something and that something is the Atlanta Falcons.
In all of the “Brady vs Goodell” hubbub, the poor Falcons are not getting a whole lot of love, which is a darn shame. The Falcons have had one of the best offenses, if not THE best offense, in the NFL. And their defense, mind you, is nothing to scoff at. Matt Ryan has had an MVP-caliber season and should be the MVP this year. I’m sorry, but as good as Brady has been, he missed four games. Matt Ryan did not miss four games and he has played lights-out football all year. With Ryan at the helm, Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu at WR, and Devonte Freeman at RB, the Falcons offense has been nearly unstoppable this season.
The Falcons have passed every test this year. Unlike last year, they stayed hot all season. They did not collapse like everyone thought they would. Everyone was waiting for a collapse similar to what we saw in 2015, but it never happened. In the playoffs alone, they tore through the “Legion of Boom” and blew out the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round. Not only that, but they throttled the hottest team in football (the Packers) and the hottest quarterback in football (Aaron Rodgers) in the NFC Championship game. The way they picked apart the red-hot Green Bay Packers left little doubt that the Falcons are a force to be reckoned with.
And yet no one is talking about them.
Look, I understand why everyone is talking about Brady vs Goodell. Deflategate was a big deal (whether it should have been or not) and people want to see the big, bad Commissioner brought to his knees by the handsome, talented Tom Brady. People want to see the man with the ultimate power submit to the man he unjustly punished. They want to see “The Man” lose.
But New England isn’t playing against Roger Goodell. They are playing a damn good Falcons squad who would love nothing more than to end The Tom Brady Revenge Tour in a spectacular fashion. It would be foolish for the media, fans of the Patriots, Pats owner Robert Kraft (who, after the AFC Championship game, delivered a seemingly inebriated speech that subtilely egged on the Brady vs Goodell narrative), and even the Patriots themselves to forget who they are ACTUALLY playing.
If the Patriots are distracted, even for a moment, you better believe this Falcons squad will tear them apart.
It’s going to be up to Tom Brady to stop the Falcons. In a way, it will be a final test for him after two tumultuous years, but he can’t let the distractions of sticking it to Roger Goodell damage his focus. If the match up between the Patriots and Goodell creates even a minor distraction to the Patriots players, they will lose and they will lose in an embarrassing manor. All year the Patriots have been assumed the winners of the fifty-first Super Bowl, but people are forgetting that they will have to prove themselves against a very good Atlanta Falcons team.
This isn’t the Patriots vs Roger Goodell. This is the Patriots vs the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons will be ready, but will the Patriots be ready for the Falcons?