To preview Super Bowl LI, a conversation with FOX NFL writers Peter Schrager and Chris Chase, moderated by SI.com NFL editor Melissa Jacobs
SI: This postseason has mostly been a conveyer belt of routs. Hopefully New England--Atlanta will bring intrigue beyond a possible Tom Brady--Roger Goodell reunion on a confetti-strewn stage. What are the story lines that should be grabbing our attention?
Peter Schrager: There are behind-the-scenes story lines for geeks like me—Falcons execs Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli squaring off against their old boss and team; all the Greg Schiano--coached Rutgers guys in this one; former Browns Taylor Gabriel, Alex Mack, Dion Lewis, Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard playing in a Super Bowl—but I think Brady vs. Montana and the "best ever" label will make some good (or awful) fodder.
SI: What about the dominance of both these teams?
Chris Chase: The Falcons were the NFL's greatest front-runners in 2016. They barely trailed in any of their 13 victories this season and only needed to overcome one fourth-quarter deficit to win. The Patriots are perhaps the NFL's greatest front-runners ever. They're 104--1 at home when getting out to an eight-point lead. But in New England's two recent Super Bowl losses it blew fourth-quarter leads in the final minute, and it needed a miracle to avoid another final-minute collapse in Super Bowl XLIX. Can the Falcons get up after an early knockdown? Will the Pats avoid their recent trouble holding a Super Bowl lead?
SI: Is New England's No. 1 defense stacked enough to neutralize the NFL's No. 1 offense?
PS: No one's been able to shut this offense down or solve Kyle Shanahan yet, but I saw Belichick and Romeo Crennel shut down the 2001 Rams in a Super Bowl. Chess match. Video game. This is what we watch for.
SI: Who is the biggest x-factor from each side?
CC: Falcons rookie linebacker Deion Jones is in the shadow of NFL sack leader Vic Beasley Jr., but Jones's speed and ball hawking skills make him a perfect candidate to be Super Bowl LI's breakout star.
PS: Watch out for LeGarrette Blount (above)—the entire game changes if he's controlling the ground and the Patriots are controlling the clock. All eyes are on Brady, sure, but it's this guy who'll control the tempo.
Watch Super Bowl LI on FOX on Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. EST.