In Review

What time does the Super Bowl start and will Brady or Ryan win?

The mighty New England Patriots take on the Atlanta Falcons in the most politically-charged NFL season finale for years

The New England Patriots will be taking on the Atlanta Falcons at Super Bowl LI in Houston on Sunday. Here's all you need to know about the biggest game of the NFL season:

What time does the Super Bowl start?

The game begins at 11.30pm GMT, but the hoopla starts well before as America celebrates Super Bowl Sunday. Lady Gaga will provide the half-time entertainment, and her performance could be quite something with rumours that she will appear on the roof of the NRG Stadium. 

Do not expect the game to finish before 3.30am GMT.

What TV channel is it on?

The game will be shown on both BBC1 and Sky Sports in the UK. The BBC coverage starts at 11.20pm, but if you want to soak up the atmosphere Sky will be broadcasting from 10pm. All this is nothing compared to the US programming. The game will be shown on Fox in the US and their Super Bowl Sunday coverage begins seven-and-a-half hours before kick off, and includes an interview with President Donald Trump.

Who are the big names?

Predictably the game is being billed as a showdown between the two quarterbacks, Matt Ryan of the Falcons and Tom Brady of the Patriots, one of whom is expected to be named player of the season this weekend.

The two QBs nicely reflect the fortunes of their two franchises. Ryan, 31, is a brilliant player but has never been to the Super Bowl before. His team have only made it there once before, in 1999 when they lost to the Denver Broncos.

Brady, on the other hand, has established himself as one of the sport's all-time greats and his partnership with head coach Bill Belichick has already gone down in history. This will be Brady's seventh appearance at the Super Bowl and he will be going for a record fifth win. Sky Sports has run the rule over the two men.

Other stars to watch out for are Falcons receivers Julio Jones, Ryan's go-to target man, and Mohamed Sanu, who has been centre of attention this week as the only practising Muslim in either team. Julian Edelman of the Patriots will be their key receiver.

Who will win?

With the best offence in the NFL the Falcons will take some stopping, but they are not used to the intense pressure of the Super Bowl. The Patriots on the other hand can win Super Bowls in their sleep.

Ken Elliott of the London Evening Standard is backing the Patriots. "The Patriots hold a slight form edge having won their last nine games including two play-off wins after finishing the regular season in the AFC East Division on 14-2," he says. "The Falcons have won seven of their last eight to get to the big game, topping their NFC South Division on 11-5."

Anything else to consider?

The political climate in the US. In the wake of Donald Trump's inauguration, Super Bowl LI is expected to be the most highly-charged in years. The event will take place against a backdrop of protests and demonstrations against the new president. 

Security will be high outside the stadium, while Lady Gaga, a fierce Trump critic, may use her performance to make a political point.

Tom Brady vs Matt Ryan in Super Bowl quarterback battle

23 January

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will face Matt Ryan's Atlanta Falcons next month after the NFL's two best quarterbacks guided their teams to the in Super Bowl LI.

Ryan, who is widely expected to be named the player of the season, put Aaron Rodgers in the shade as the Falcons overwhelmed the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC Championship game. Brady then led his Patriots team to a 36-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers to clinch the AFC title.

"If you like quarterback play, Super Bowl LI will be a treat," says Frank Schwab of Yahoo. "Ryan and Brady were the two best quarterbacks over the entirety of this season, and they'll meet in Houston on 5 February with a championship on the line."

While Ryan will be appearing in his first Super Bowl, this will be a record seventh appearance with the Patriots for his rival.

"Brady is one win from a fifth Super Bowl championship, and if he accomplishes that it would be tough to argue he's not the greatest quarterback ever. And he could add to his accomplishments for at least a couple more seasons. At an age in which almost every quarterback in NFL history has slowed down, the 39-year-old Brady looked as good as ever in dissecting the Steelers," says Schwab.

Ryan, on the other hand, has not enjoyed such success. He will be "one of the most credentialed quarterbacks in NFL history to make his first Super Bowl start", says Kevin Seifert of ESPN.

"For the first time since Super Bowl XXXVI, when he matched up with Warner, Brady is not the demonstrably better quarterback. Ryan has been every bit as good as Brady has this season, and his team's offense has been more explosive.

"This will be the best Super Bowl matchup of quarterbacks in at least six years, when Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger matched up in Super Bowl XLV."

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