Aside from the Superstars, Who will Step Up Under the Lights in Houston?
Chris Hogan, Wide Receiver, New England Patriots
Bill Belichick somehow does it again. He takes a player, who for one reason or another, brings him onto his team and gets the most out of him. Chris Hogan has been on four different teams from 2011-2015, before finding a home in New England at the start of this season.
Hogan in not a target like Randy Moss that Brady had back in their 2007-2008 season, but since Rob Gronkowski went down, he has been giving Brady a reason to look his way.
Hogan had the best game of his career last week in the AFC Conference game verses the Pittsburgh Steelers when he had nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns. One thing to keep in mind, his success in that game might have been a nice plan to get the Falcons to worry about him, only to have the Super Bowl be coming out party for Michael Floyd as a Patriot.
The last time Tom Brady won a Super Bowl, he had four touchdowns passes to four different receivers, so don’t expect Brady to be locked in on one player.
Dion Lewis, Running Back, New England Patriots
I know what you’re thinking. He’s a backup running back, with Tom Brady as the quarterback no less. But Dion Lewis has proven himself to be a guy Brady looks to on crucial downs. Not so much to hand the ball off to, but to look for in the passing game.
In the Patriots first playoff game verses the Texans a few weeks ago, Lewis had a touchdown pass thrown to him. He isn’t known as much for running the ball down the middle like his teammate LeGarrette Blount, but when defenses see him on the field, he has to be to accounted for. Look for Brady to look for Lewis on screen plays, which could result in big plays.
Malcolm Butler, Cornerback, New England Patriots
Malcolm Butler has one job and that is to shut down Julio Jones. Butler will have some help from the Patriot secondary with Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon and Devin McCourty giving him a hand. All eyes, especially Matt Ryan’s, will be on Bulter to see if he can contain the play-making ability of Jones.
Butler was the hero in the last Super Bowl victory for the Pats, interception Seattle Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson with the ‘Hawks close to pulling ahead of the Patriots with little time left.
Bulter did a good job locking Antonio Brown down in the AFC Championship game, but this and Julio Jones and the Super Bowl. Butler will have to be physical with the much larger receiver. Jones in much bigger and will have a better chance on winning the 50/50 balls.
Vic Beasley, Linebacker, Atlanta Falcons
If the Falcons have a chance at winning this game, it will be because they did a good job containing Brady. In order to do so, they need to put pressure on Brady. Look for Beasley to be moving all over the defensive line pre-snap to give Brady different looks and confuse him. He will be coming off the left side, giving the Patriots offensive line, primarily right tackle Marcus Cannon, a challenge Sunday night.
Beasley had 15.5 sacks on the year but has yet to record any during the post season. In both post season games, the Falcons pulled ahead early, so the Falcons defense were dropping back a lot to cover the receivers downfield.
Mohamed Sanu, Wide Receiver, Atlanta Falcons
The Patriots main focus on defense will be to stop Julio Jones. He will likely be double teamed all night, which will leave Mohamed Sanu plenty of opportunities to try and expose the Patriot defense. Logan Ryan will most likely be guarding Sanu and will have to shut him down knowing he won’t have as much help as Butler will have on the other side of the field covering Jones.
Sanu has caught two touchdown passes in this year’s post season Ryan’s confidence is growing in Sanu with each game. Sanu has established himself as a legitimate number two receiver in the league and can really make his name known with a big game in the Super Bowl.