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Super Bowl LI Patriots vs Falcons: Number one scoring offense against number one scoring defense in the NFL

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For the first time since 2013, the league’s top scoring offense will play the top scoring defense in the Super Bowl.

The Atlanta Falcons enter Super Bowl LI with the #1 ranked offense in the NFL by points scored per game, while the New England Patriots hold the #1 ranked defense. This is the eighth Super Bowl in NFL History where the #1 offense and #1 defense will square off with the title on the line, and the sixth game since the merger.

They say that defense wins championships and history favors the Patriots.

The team ranked #1 on defense has won 4 of the 5 post-merger Super Bowl match-ups, with the lone exception being the 1989 San Francisco 49ers, where QB Joe Montana led a 55-10 victory over the #1 defensive ranked Denver Broncos. The 49ers held the 3rd ranked defense, though, so it’s not like they were heavily skewed on offense.

Year #1 Offense #1 Defense Result
2013 Broncos Seahawks Seahawks, 43-8
1990 Bills Giants Giants, 20-19
1989 49ers Broncos 49ers, 55-10
1984 Dolphins 49ers 49ers, 38-16
1978 Cowboys Steelers Steelers, 35-31

The pre-merger games (1966 and 1969) don’t really help the tally because the representatives ranked #1 in their respective leagues.

23 Super Bowl champions have ranked #1 or #2 on defense, compared to 17 champions that ranked #1 or #2 on offense. Fortunately for the Patriots, they rank #1 on defense and #3 on offense- and jump up to #2 when only looking at games under QB Tom Brady.

So the Patriots are extremely balanced on offense and defense, while the Falcons bring a #1 offense and a #27 defense. History points towards the Patriots holding the advantage in the Super Bowl. It’s up to New England to capitalize.