Brian Allee-Walsh

The Shadow knows! Punxsutawney Phil likes Falcons in Super Bowl LI

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throws a pass as backup Matt Schaub looks on during a workout at the team’s practice facility in Flowery Branch, Ga., on Jan. 25.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throws a pass as backup Matt Schaub looks on during a workout at the team’s practice facility in Flowery Branch, Ga., on Jan. 25. AP

While the sporting world may have its collective eyes on Houston, home this week to Super Bowl LI, the New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan, I’ll be watching closely what’s going on Thursday morning in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

Feb. 2 marks Groundhog Day, the annual U.S. tradition when a toothy Punxsutawney Phil emerges from its burrow and determines if the start of the spring season is close at hand or still a distant dream.

According to folklore, if it is cloudy when PP shows itself in the early morn on Feb. 2, then spring will arrive early. If it is sunny, and assuming PP sees its shadow, it will retreat back into its den, meaning six more weeks of winter.

I’m going to take great liberties here and extend the outcome of Groundhog Day to impact Super Bowl Sunday.

If the sun appears Thursday morning and Punxsutawney Phil sees its shadow, the Patriots will win their fifth Super Bowl under the joint forces of coach Bill Belichick and their ageless quarterback named Brady.

If clouds win out Thursday morning and Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see its shadow, then the Falcons — coached by Dan Quinn and quarterbacked by the NFL’s presumptive-MVP (Ryan) — will claim their first league championship.

I like the Falcons on Sunday at NRG Stadium (Fox at 5:30 p.m.).

I also checked out Thursday’s forecast for Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to my online meteorological sources, Groundhog Day will be cloudy with a high of 25 and winds out of the west at 14 mph. No need for PP to be out in that weather. He could catch his death of cold!

Even if I hadn’t cheated and shaped the story to fit my viewpoint, I still like the Falcons in Sunday’s game. Let me rephrase that: I want the Falcons to win! I need the Falcons to win! (”A Few Good Men.”) I am way tired of the Patriots Way, the New England dynasty, Belichick, Brady, their ongoing feud with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Deflategate, etc., etc.

I want new blood at the top of the National Football League.

Fans of the New Orleans Saints might feel differently, and that’s OK. But a Falcons victory reflects well on the NFC South and gives hope for all teams that aspire to win a Lombardi Trophy.

The Falcons have plenty of offensive firepower and are good enough on defense to get the job done against a well-equipped, well-coached opponent that is making its seventh Super Bowl appearance during the Belichick-Brady era.

I say enough is enough.

Atlanta 30-24.

Only the shadow knows for sure.

Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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