By Alex Norman

It’s hard to believe, but there was a time in the world of American sports when the Super Bowl not only failed to be at the top in terms of interest from the public, but it didn’t even exist.

This marks the 51st year that the Super Bowl has been a thing.  It originally was called the AFL-NFL World Championship for the first 4 games before officially taking on the Super Bowl moniker when the merger was complete in 1970.

Today it has become an unofficial holiday in this great land of ours.  Parties are held, friends are welcomed, and way too much dip is consumed.

So to get you ready for those gatherings, here is some information that you’ll need to wow that annoying acquaintance that you somehow got stuck talking to while your spouse looked at the host’s new screened in porch.  They got a great deal!

This year the big game matches the evil empire known as the New England Patriots against the relative upstart Atlanta Falcons.  For the Patriots, this is old hat.  On Sunday they’ll play in the Super Bowl for the 8th time in team history, and hope to win their 5th Lombardi Trophy.  The Falcons are only making their second Super Bowl appearance, and have yet to win a Lombardi Trophy.

The Patriots feature arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, Tom Brady.  With a win on Sunday he will have five Super Bowl trophies on his mantle.  No quarterback has ever won more than four, a mark he shares with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw.  He missed the first four games of the season while serving a suspension for his role in “Deflategate,” arguably the dumbest investigation in NFL history.

He got hammered for (possibly? maybe? kind of?) being involved in a sinister plot to reduce the inflation levels of footballs.  Of course, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wouldn’t have brought a sledge hammer to punish an ant had the NFL done its job properly during the famous “Spygate” controversy of the 2000s, when the Patriots were caught illegally taping their opponent’s signals.  Goodell famously destroyed the tapes, forever leaving conspiracy theorists to believe there was much more evidence that Goodell ignored to help his friend, Patriots owner Bob Kraft.

So now Goodell is Public Enemy #1 in Boston, and Patriots fans would like nothing better than to see Goodell hand the Lombardi Trophy to Kraft.

The Patriots have a good defense, which includes a former Tennessee Vol, cornerback Justin Coleman.  But they go as far as Brady will take them.  His receivers don’t look like anything special, but Julian Edelman and converted lacrosse player Chris Hogan have been solid this postseason.  Running backs Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount can be very effective.  The offense hasn’t missed a beat, even though “bro” Rob Gronkowski, perhaps the best tight end in football, is out for the season due to injury.

New England is a slight favorite in this game according to the people in Las Vegas in those pretty, tall buildings.

But don’t count out the Atlanta Falcons.  They have an offense that will be able to match the Patriots, thanks mostly to the emergence of quarterback Matt Ryan.  He’s had a very good career, but this has been his best season yet, which could lead to a league MVP award.

Ryan has thrown for 730 yards and 7 touchdowns in the Falcons two postseason wins, and Atlanta has averaged 40 points per contest.  Wide receiver Julio Jones has been almost unstoppable. Running backs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman are a solid one-two punch as well.  And the defense is aggressive.  If they can hit Tom Brady the way they did Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers in the NFC title game, Atlanta has a good shot at a victory.

With the exception of a fluky one point loss to Kansas City when former Vol Eric Berry scored on a late game INT return two point conversion, the Falcons haven’t dropped a game since mid-November.  This is a team playing with tremendous confidence.

This all said the way both offenses are playing; it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a lot of points scored in this one.  And no matter the result, try to enjoy the game, because it is the last “real” football any of us will see until August.