Ryan and friends don't boast Pats' pedigree

Ryan and friends don't boast Pats' pedigree

For the Patriots, their upcoming trip to Houston for Super Bowl LI will, in some ways, seem like old hat. The Falcons, though, truly understand the uniqueness of such an opportunity.

Atlanta’s back in the big game for the first time since 1998. Meanwhile, New England returns to football’s grandest stage for the seventh time during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. The two squads square off at NRG Stadium on Feb. 5.

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In just his second season at the helm of the Dirty Birds, coach Dan Quinn has lifted the organization to rarified heights. Yet the Falcons’ playoff history isn’t exactly littered with accomplishments. They’re one of 13 teams never to win a Super Bowl. Of course, such a fact almost seems inconsequential in light of the manner in which Matt Ryan & Co. cut a swath through Seattle and Green Bay in recent weeks.

Clearly, Atlanta’s 2016 roster bears very few similarities to the group that fell short against Denver almost 18 years ago. Tailback Jamal Anderson powered Dan Reeves’ offensive attack then, with support from signal-caller Chris Chandler and No. 1 wideout Terance Mathis. Ryan’s current cast gets vertical first and mixes in chunk gains on the ground accordingly. The incomparable Julio Jones heads a deep receiving corps, while Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman tend to split carries.

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We’ll soon discover if the Falcons’ lack of experience in such a setting serves as a major hindrance. Interestingly, though, 30 of the Pats’ 53 contributors were not a part of the 2014 crew that edged the Seahawks in Arizona. Keep checking in throughout the run-up to SB LI as we take stock of the main principals and track the latest line movement.

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