Super Bowl LI Predictions: Falcons Running Back Devonta Freeman Wins MVP Award

Super Bowl LI is just days away, and all eyes should be on Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman as he looks to carve up the New England Patriots defense. If he can, he’ll be our pick for the game’s MVP award.

With quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Tom Brady under center for both the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, respectively, it wouldn’t be too hard to assume one of those two guys winds up taking home MVP hardware once the game is over in Houston.

That would be a safe pick. But it’s not the one we’re going to make here at Niner Noise.

No, our predicted MVP pick is Falcons running back Devonta Freeman.

This would, of course, mean Atlanta upsets New England in Super Bowl LI. Currently, Odds Shark has the Pats listed as three-point favorites, but that’s not a major spread.

Yet if the Falcons come away with the victory, Freeman will be why.

One can only wish Niner Noise’s Rich Madrid had put together his second installment — focusing on the running game — on Falcons offensive coordinator, and presumed Niners head coach, Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Instead, we’re left with just the passing game.

That would have lent some insight on Atlanta’s rushing offense, but we can still get a good idea on Freeman’s prowess.

Devonta Freeman Accolades

Freeman averaged 4.8 yards per carry during the regular season and 1,079 yards total — the second time in as many years he’s crested the 1,000-yard mark.

But what makes Freeman even more dangerous is his ability as a pass catcher.

Sep 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) carries the ball to score a touchdown during the second quarter of a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) carries the ball to score a touchdown during the second quarter of a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to his running game, Freeman managed to haul in 54 catches for 462 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers are impressive. And to put things into perspective, San Francisco 49ers leading receiver Jeremy Kerley managed 667 yards.

Freeman as a pass catcher in the Super Bowl matters, because the Patriots gave up a total of 801 receiving yards to running backs during the regular season — third most in the NFL.

Super Bowl Mismatch?

Shanahan’s offense runs an outside-zone scheme which, in a nutshell, basically means offensive linemen are trying to create a gap between the defender and the sideline, thus opening up a lane for runners to exploit if it’s there.

NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell joined San Francisco’s KNBR 680 Thursday morning to discuss this, and he noted how the Patriots, personnel-wise, might not be totally equipped to handle this kind of attack.

So that opens up the possibility for a big game out of Freeman.

Additionally, we all know how New England head coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia do an excellent job of taking away an opponents’ No. 1 offensive threat.

In this case, that would be wide receiver Julio Jones. And although the Falcons passing attack is good enough to overcome Jones potentially being a non-factor, it’s simple to understand how Freeman could be a primary beneficiary.

Simply put, the Falcons win Super Bowl LI if they get a great performance out of Freeman. And if that happens, he’ll be receiving MVP accolades for the game.

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