Not even nine months ago, the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI – one of the most dramatic and entertaining title games of all time. On Sunday, the two teams will meet again: The Patriots will host the Falcons at Foxboro's Gillette Stadium for a prime time rematch of the game ended 34-28 victory in New England's favor.
A lot has changed since that Sunday in February, though. While both teams are still among the best in the NFL and it would not be a surprise to see them return to the Super Bowl this season, their respective rosters have seen quite the turnover since the final game of the 2016 season. Be it because of offseason acquisitions or losses, retirement or injury, both teams look a lot different today.
Let's find out how different.
New England Patriots
The Patriots have had the standard 53 players on their active roster on the day of Super Bowl LI. Of those 53, the following 17 are either no longer with the club or on an injury-related reserve list:
QB Jacoby Brissett, RB LeGarrette Blount, RB D.J. Foster, WR Julian Edelman (IR), WR Michael Floyd, WR Malcolm Mitchell (IR), TE Martellus Bennett, TE Matt Lengel, DE Chris Long, DE Rob Ninkovich, DE Jabaal Sheard, DT Vincent Valentine (IR), LB Shea McClellin, LB Barkevious Mingo, CB Justin Coleman, CB Cyrus Jones (IR), CB Logan Ryan
Not all of the players listed above have had big roles in Super Bowl LI. In fact, five of them were not even active on game day. However, the rest does include some big names in all three phases of the game: Julian Edelman, Martellus Bennett, Rob Ninkovich and Logan Ryan all played more than half of the Patriots' snaps at their respective positions, while Barkevious Mingo and Shea McClellin played more than 50% of kicking game snaps.
While New England has lost some noticeable talent, the team has been able to adequately replace at least some of the players listed above – a look at the Patriots not on the team for the Super Bowl shows that:
RB Rex Burkhead, RB Mike Gillislee, WR Brandin Cooks , WR Phillip Dorsett, TE Dwayne Allen, TE Rob Gronkowski, TE Jacob Hollister, OT Cole Croston, DE Cassius Marsh, DE Deatrich Wise Jr., DT Adam Butler, DT Lawrence Guy, LB Marquis Flowers, LB David Harris, LB Harvey Langi, CB Johnson Bademosi, CB Stephon Gilmore
Be it through offseason acquisitions like Brandin Cooks or the recovery of previously injured players like Rob Gronkowski, New England has added some bonafide talent to their team the past nine months. And while some of the names above have yet to find their groove or role on the team, the Patriots do have a very deep team – just like they did in February.
Just like the Patriots, the Falcons have had to replace 17 players from their 53-man 2016 NFC championship squad. Those 17 players are as follows:
WR Aldrick Robinson, WR Eric Weems, TE Joshua Perkins, TE D.J. Taialavea, OT Tom Compton, OG Chris Chester, DE Dwight Freeney, DT Jonathan Babineaux, DT Ra'Shede Hageman, DT Tyson Jackson, LB Josh Keyes, LB LaRoy Reynolds, LB Philip Wheeler, LB Paul Worrilow, CB Jalen Collins, SS Dashon Goldson, CB Deji Olatoye
While the list might lack the star power of New England's, it still includes a lot of talent. Only three of the 17 names have not been active for Super Bowl LI. Of those that did appear in the game, six players played more than half of snaps: Chris Chester on offense, Dwight Freeney and Jalen Collins on defense, LaRoy Reynolds, Paul Warrilow and Eric Weems on special teams.
To replace the 17 names above, the Falcons brought back or aboard the following players:
FB Derrick Coleman, WR Marvin Hall, WR Andre Roberts, TE Eric Saubert, OT Austin Pasztor, OT Ty Sambrailo, OG Sean Harlow, DE Adrian Clayborn, DE Takkarist McKinley, DE Derrick Shelby, DT Ahtyba Rubin, LB Jermaine Grace, LB Kemal Ishmael, LB Duke Riley, LB Jordan Tripp, CB Desmond Trufant, FS Damontae Kazee
Not only did the Patriots get one of their biggest stars back from injury (Rob Gronkowski), the Falcons did as well: Adrian Clayborn and Desmond Trufant have both missed the Super Bowl. Rookie first round pick Takkarist McKinley heads the other additions made by the team since its loss in Super Bowl LI.