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Cardinals Weigh In On Super Bowl

Bruce Arians, Larry Fitzgerald preview title game after playing Patriots, Falcons this year


Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald thinks the Patriots will win the Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl has been analyzed ad nauseum as the clash between the Patriots and Falcons draws near.

Larry Fitzgerald doesn't need to dig too deep when it comes to his prediction.

"I like the Patriots," the Cardinals wide receiver said. "I don't bet too often against Tom Brady, man. The guy is the best to ever lace them up."

While defense led the way in the Broncos' title over the Panthers a year ago, Sunday's matchup in Houston should be defined by quarterback play.

On one side is the aforementioned Brady, who is zeroing in on a fifth title as he makes his claim as the best player in NFL history. On the other is Matt Ryan, who may have been slightly better than Brady this season and could win the MVP.

Atlanta was one of the most prolific offensive teams ever in the regular season when it averaged 33.8 points per game. It's gotten even hotter in the playoffs, scoring 36 on the Seahawks and 44 on the Packers.

The Patriots averaged 27.6 points per contest in the regular season despite Brady missing a quarter of it, and have scored 34 and 36 points in their two playoff games.

The Cardinals played both teams this season, although New England looked much different without Brady, who was serving the first of his four-game suspension. The Patriots won a squeaker in the opener, and the Falcons pulled away from the Cardinals for a 38-19 win in Week 12.

"I think it should be a great game," coach Bruce Arians said. "If Atlanta can handle their nerves early in the game and not get behind, I really like their offense and their defense. New England's not going to be nervous at all."

Jimmy Garoppolo played well in place of Brady against the Cardinals, finishing 24-of-33 for 264 yards and a touchdown in the 23-21 win. But Brady has been in another stratosphere. He finished the regular season with 3,554 passing yards and a 67.4 completion percentage while throwing 28 touchdowns against only two interceptions.

The Falcons' defense has improved considerably since the Cardinals saw it in late November, but stopping Brady will be a tough task.

The matchup between Atlanta's offense and New England's defense will be the most intriguing. The Falcons ran roughshod over everyone this season as Ryan expertly got the ball to his bevy of playmakers. Julio Jones is arguably the best receiver in the NFL, but when teams game-planned to stop him, others stepped up.

The Cardinals got a dose of Atlanta's balance in this year's matchup. Taylor Gabriel had four catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns, and Atlanta punted only two times despite Patrick Peterson holding Jones in check. The Falcons only improved to 7-4 after that win, but the offense left quite the impression on Cardinals linebacker Kevin Minter.

"I don't give a damn what the record or maybe even the stats show, that's the best offense in the league," he said after the game. "Call it what it is."

The Patriots allowed the fewest points per game in the regular season and shut down the Steelers in the AFC Championship game. However, they have yet to face an offense as well-oiled as this one.

Can they be the ones to slow the high-flying Falcons, or will Atlanta roll all the way to a championship? Fitzgerald likes the Falcons a lot – just not as much as New England.

"They can definitely score points, and they're surprisingly talented on defense," Fitzgerald said. "They can rush the passer and the back end has really improved.

"It's just, the way the Patriots are able to scheme for people – what they were able to do against Le'Veon (Bell) and Ben (Roethlisberger) and Antonio (Brown) a couple weeks ago. They're probably the most talented trio in the game and they rendered them pretty much helpless. They're capable of doing that and taking away the strengths Atlanta has. And Tom is going to play like Tom usually plays in big games."

A look back at regular season matchups between the Cardinals and Sunday's Super Bowl participants, the Falcons and Patriots

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