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Skinny Post: Countdown is Almost on to Super Bowl LII

The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons are just days away from squaring off in Super Bowl LI.

The football world will then turn its attention to Minnesota, as Super Bowl LII will be played at U.S. Bank Stadium.

While there's some time to go before Feb. 4, 2018, the countdown is almost officially on.

Before that though, let's take a look at Sunday's matchup: 

Best of the best 

Super Bowl LI will feature the league's high-scoring offense against the NFL's top defense.

Atlanta's high-octane offense averaged 33.8 points per game, while New England's stingy defense allowed just 15.6 points per game.

The league's top offense and defense have met five times in the Super Bowl since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.

If history holds true, the advantage might favor New England. The No. 1 defense has won the battle against the No. 1 offense four of the five meetings.


Key Matchups

The quarterbacks will draw the headlines here.

Atlanta's Matt Ryan put up a potential MVP season a she threw for 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He hasn't thrown an interception in his last 212 attempts and will make his first Super Bowl appearance.

New England's Tom Brady will appear in his seventh Super Bowl, setting an NFL record. He is looking for his fifth title. Brady threw for 3,554 yards with 28 touchdowns and two interceptions, the lowest amount in the league, in 12 games.

Another area to watch could be Atlanta's running game against New England's defense.

The Falcons averaged 120.5 rushing yards per game, the fifth best total in the league. New England will counter with the NFL's third-best rushing that allowed 88.6 yards per game on the ground.

Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones, and linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. will be names to watch, as will Patriots running back Dion Lewis and cornerback Malcolm Butler.


How they got here

The Falcons started 4-1 before finding themselves at 6-4 entering the home stretch of the season. Atlanta won five of its last six games to gain the No. 2 seed in the NFC and win the NFC South before the Falcons got past Seattle and Green Bay to advance to Super Bowl LI.

Atlanta's deep playoff run could give the Vikings hope for 2017. The Falcons started 5-0 in 2015 before finishing 8-8, the same scenario the Vikings experienced this season. 

New England, meanwhile, cruised to the league's best record at 14-2. Despite not having Brady for the first four games, the Patriots started 3-1. Brady returned as New England went 11-1 the rest of the way. 

The Patriots defeated Houston and Pittsburgh in the postseason as they look to win their second Super Bowl in three seasons.


Local flavor

Reserve tackle Tom Compton, who is in his first season with Atlanta, attended Rosemount High School, where he started on the offensive line for two seasons.

Minnesota native Carter Bykowski, who spent the 2016 training camp with the Vikings, is on Atlanta's practice squad.

Atlanta rookie linebacker De'Vondre Campbell and defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman played for the University of Minnesota. Hageman starred at Washburn High prior to his time with the Gophers.

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