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10 storylines to watch for when Super Bowl LI kicks off

Tom Brady has a lot to play for. Can the Falcons slow him down?
Everyone knows what this year's Super Bowl is really about.Getty Images

Another new year, another Super Bowl. Every year there a bevy of on- and off-field storylines that encapsulate the enormous audience viewing the biggest game of the year around the globe.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 things we'll be thinking about when the AFC and NFC champions do battle for the 51st time Sunday:

1. Tom Brady's revenge tour

Tom Brady's year: He lost an appeal for his four-game Deflategatesuspension. He sat out for four games. He led the Patriots to an 11-1 mark and threw 28 touchdowns and just two interceptions and played with a vengeance — at 39 years old — previously unseen in the NFL. Only one hurdle remains for Brady to proclaim victory over all of his naysayers, a fourth Super Bowl title.

2. Goodell vs. Craft

Roger Goodell is the man who suspended Brady. He's the commissioner who took New England's 2016 first round pick away and fined the team $1 million. After years of friendship with Patriots' owner Robert Craft, the NFL's CEO has yet to attend a Pats home game in the wake of Deflategate souring the relationship between the two. If New England wins Sunday night, Goodell will have to give the Lombardi trophy to Craft in front of millions of viewers. Reality TV at its finest.

3. Hotlanta history

Lest we forget New England's opposition, the Falcons have statistically put together one of the best offenses in NFL history and are looking for their first Super Bowl title. The Atlanta Braves' 1995 World Series win is the only championship the city has ever celebrated, and they have one Super Bowl loss to their record (1998 to the Broncos). A starved fanbase will be hanging onto every play in Super Bowl LI.

4. Matty-ice's ultimate test

Many expect Atlanta QB Matt Ryan to be the NFL's MVP (it will be announced Saturday) and regardless of whether he takes home the hardware, he's pieced together an incredible season wherehe fell just 54 yards shy of 5,000 yards passing with a TD-INT ratio of 39-to-7. How will he handle the spotlight?

5. The offenses

Sunday night's game has the highest over-under ever, handicapped at 58 points. This is due to the Falcons, who led the NFL in the regular season with 33.8 points per game and were second in yards with 415, also sporting what would be the worst rated defense ever to win the Super Bowl. New England's offense is third in points and fourth in yardage.

6. Halting Julio

If Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones catches a 9-yard slant with room to move this weekend, watch out. The speedy wideout has incredible hands and compiled1,409 yards during the regular season.His running back teammate Devonta Freeman is also a huge offensive threat, having put together1,079 rushing yards, 11 TD and462 receiving yards in 2016.

7. Overcoming inexperience

The Patriots have been to six Super Bowls since 2001 and have won four. The Falcons have been to one — and lost — before most of the 2017 team's roster finished elementary school. Will the bright lights of the Super Bowl be a distraction?

8. Shanahan's focus

Speaking of distractions, Atlanta's offensive coordinator lost (and later found) his playbook. Is he putting the cart before the horse? The talented coach will call the shots himself in San Francisco next season and is assembling a staff at the same time he is preparing for the Super Bowl.

9.Trump card

The new president has been unable to stay out of the news for two consecutive hours since he took office. His Bill O'Reilly interview will air on Fox before the Super Bowl and he'll also be, reportedly, part of the pregame. Will he pick the Patriots? Will he say something offensive or outlandish?

10. The legacy

If Tom Brady wins his fifth Super Bowl pass tie Joe Montana for the most ever by an NFL QB. Will he and Belichickcement their names atop the GOAT (greatest of all time) discussion with a win in SB LI?

 

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