TE Tony Gonzalez - Atlanta Falcons
|6-4, 244||Born: 2-27-1976||College: California||Drafted: Round 1, pick 13|
Week 21: vs New England Patriots
Mark and Joe say: Neutral matchup. First things first - Julio Jones (toe, foot) said on Wednesday, February 1 that he's ready to go and doesn't expect his foot injuries to limit him in the Super Bowl. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Julio Jones (toe) 'looked great' in the Monday, January 30 practice. Jones averaged more than 100 receiving yards per game in 2016, and he is he first player in NFL history to average more than 100 receiving yards per game in four different seasons. He was a one-man wrecking crew against the Packers two weekends ago, with 12 targets for 9/180/2 receiving, playing through pain from his foot and toe injuries. How hot is the Atlanta passing offense entering Super Bowl LI? Well, Matt Ryan is the only quarterback in playoff history to throw for at least three touchdowns in four straight playoff games. So far this post-season, Ryan has thrown seven passing scores, with 26/37 for 338 yards passing, three TDs and zero interceptions thrown against the Seahawks two games ago (he took three sacks for -15 yards), and then a jaw-dropping 27/38 for 392 yards passing, four TDs and zero interceptions thrown, with zero sacks taken, during the 44-21 demolition of Green Bay two weekends ago. Beside Jones' outstanding performance, Mohamed Sanu (1/7/0 rushing with seven targets for 5/52/1 receiving) and Devonta Freeman (five for 4/42/1) also scored against the Packers. With 730 yards passing, seven TDs and zero interceptions thrown so far during the playoffs, Ryan and the Falcons enter the Super Bowl flying high in this phase of the game. Two games ago, Brock Osweiler struggled at Gillette Stadium, throwing 23/40 for 198 yards passing, one TD and three interceptions, while taking three sacks for -17 yards. Ben Roethlisberger fared a little better, with 31/47 for 314 yards passing, one TD and one interception thrown (with zero sacks taken), but his team still lost 17-36. During the post-season, New England has averaged 247 net passing yards allowed per game, with two TDs surrendered vs. four interceptions generated - during regular season the Patriots ranked 12th in the NFL averaging 237.9 net passing yards allowed per game, with 21 passing scores handed out vs. 13 interceptions (tied for 15th in the NFL) and 34 sacks (tie-16th) generated. Over the final three weeks of regular season, New England averaged a mere 11.6 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing quarterbacks (least in the NFL); 18.9 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing wide receivers (13th-least) and just 3.4 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing tight ends (sixth-least). As you can see, they have been close to their season average in passing yards allowed, but have generated more interceptions than usual this season during the post-season. Ryan is playing at an other-worldly level during the post-season, while the Patriots' pass defense has been adequate, but allowed 314 net yards passing to the Steelers most recently - this is a neutral matchup for the powerful Atlanta offense.