Last team stand­ing

Happy with a win­ning mark for the sea­son, here’s the Su­per Bowl pick

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY BARRY WILNER THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS HOCKEY

Any sea­son when Pro Picks fin­ishes above .500 against the spread is a good one. We’re not look­ing to be Su­per Bowl cham­pi­ons here, so we’re happy with our 2016-17 tally.

The Fal­cons and Pa­tri­ots cer­tainly are seek­ing the NFL crown, how­ever, and on Sun­day at the home of the Tex­ans, At­lanta (13-5) squares off with New Eng­land (16-2).

At first glance, it seemed the 3-point spread favour­ing Tom Brady and Co. was kind of low. The Pa­tri­ots are in their sev­enth Su­per Bowl since Brady be­came the starter in 2001, win­ning four so far, though all were tight con­tests.

Per­haps that was on the minds of odd­s­mak­ers. So, for sure, must be those 540 points the Fal­cons put up dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son. As were their romps past Seat­tle and Green Bay, both of which are prob­a­bly su­pe­rior to Houston and Pitts­burgh, which were New Eng­land’s post-sea­son vic­tims.

Brady is im­pressed by the NFC champs.

“That’s a very good and well­coached team that scores a lot of points,” Brady says. “If you make a mis­take against them, the next thing they have the ball for five min­utes and you’re down an­other seven points. This is go­ing to be a great chal­lenge for us.”

Still, isn’t the big­ger task perched on the shoul­ders of the Fal­cons? They have never won a Su­per Bowl, are play­ing in only their se­cond - and first since 1999 - and have rel­a­tively in­ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers at a bunch of po­si­tions.

Here they are, up against the fran­chise that has dom­i­nated the post-sea­son for most of the past 16 sea­sons. At this point, All-Pro re­ceiver Julio Jones says none of that mat­ters.

“Ev­ery­body just has to come to play,” he says. “At the end of the day, those are stats, but you just have to go to work, you have to come to work, you have to pre­pare. If one team takes a week off or a day off or what­ever and you don’t come ready to go, you’re go­ing to lose the game.

“So for us, it’s just fo­cus­ing on us of­fen­sively, de­fen­sively and on (spe­cial) teams. Just do what you do. Just do what we do. We don’t have to go out and make up things. We’re very tal­ented. We just have to be on point and be on top of our ma­te­rial.”

Pro Picks has been on point for the play­offs, go­ing 9-1 straight up. Against the spread, we’re 5-5. Like we said, we’ll take stay­ing above break even.

Su­per Bowl teams shouldn’t feel that way, though. At­lanta won’t, nor will New Eng­land.

Sun­day’s matchup can be sim­pli­fied by the fol­low­ing:

-Will the Fal­cons be ag­gres­sive all game on de­fence? Re­mem­ber, coach Dan Quinn was the de­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor for Seat­tle when it won the 2014 Su­per Bowl, then lost in 2015 when the D wore down in the fourth quar­ter.

If At­lanta doesn’t get pres­sure on Brady, it has lit­tle shot of win­ning.

-Will New Eng­land’s de­fence re­main stingy against the best at­tack in pro foot­ball? The feel­ing is ... PA­TRI­OTS, 30-23

——— Last Week: Against spread (11). Straight up: (2-0)

Sea­son To­tals: Against spread (129-126-8). Straight up: (165-99-2)

Best Bet: 12-7 against spread, 14-5 straight up.

Up­set spe­cial: 7-11-1 against spread, 7-12 straight up

AP PHOTO

New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots quar­ter­back Tom Brady stretches dur­ing a prac­tice Thurs­day in Houston. The Pa­tri­ots will face the At­lanta Fal­cons in the Su­per Bowl Sun­day.

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