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4 storylines to watch ahead of Super Bowl LI: New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots are meeting for Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5 in Houston. Here's what to pay attention to ahead of that contest:

David and Goliath

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski celebrates the team's 2015 Super Bowl win. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Patriots – much to the chagrin of anyone who is not from New England – are a perennial playoff team with four championships in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era. Then you've got the Falcons – a team whose franchise record is below .500 and have gone to just one Super Bowl before, which they lost. Despite how evenly matched these two teams appear to be, this one will almost certainly be framed as a showdown between David and Goliath – and probably a high-scoring one at that.

Tom Brady looks to cement his G.O.A.T. status

Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Tom Brady is a dopey, sorta-maybe Trump-supporting probable deflator of footballs. But he is also a three-time Super Bowl MVP, a two-time regular season MVP, a 12-time Pro Bowler and a four-time Super Bowl champion. With one more Super Bowl win, he'll surpass quarterback greats Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw. He's already likely the greatest quarterback in the history of the game – a win Feb. 5 would make it extremely tough to argue otherwise.

Roger Goodell and Tom Brady post-Deflategate

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The NFL botched its handling of Deflategate. Now, league commissioner Roger Goodell might have to share a stage with the quarterback he suspended for four games at the beginning of the season, forcing the two to smile awkwardly as they pose with the championship trophy. This would be the silver lining of a Pats victory.

Matt Ryan gets his shot at glory

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has put up solid numbers over the course of his nine-year career, but he's so far had nothing to show for it. Before this year's campaign, his Falcons had won just one playoff game. Now, as the MVP favorite, Matty Ice has a shot to lift his team to its first ever Super Bowl win and potentially earn him recognition as one of the best players of his era.

Related: Relive every Super Bowl in history:

51 PHOTOS
Each Super Bowl champion in history
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Each Super Bowl champion in history

Super Bowl I

Green Bay Packers 35, Kansas City Chiefs 10

(Photo by James Flores/Getty Images)

Super Bowl II

Green Bay Packers 33, Oakland Raiders 14

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl III

New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7

(Photo by Fred Roe/Getty Images)

Super Bowl IV

Kansas City Chiefs 23, Minnesota Vikings 7

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl V

Baltimore Colts 16, Dallas Cowboys 13

(Photo via Getty Images)

Super Bowl VI

Dallas Cowboys 24, Miami Dolphins 3

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl VII

Miami Dolphins 14, Washington Redskins 7

(Photo by Nate Fine/Getty Images)

Super Bowl VIII

Miami Dolphins 24, Minnesota Vikings 7

(Photo by Focus On Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl IX

Pittsburgh Steelers 16, Minnesota Vikings 6

(Photo by Sylvia Allen/Getty Images)

Super Bowl X

Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XI

Oakland Raiders 32, Minnesota Vikings 14

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XII

Dallas Cowboys 27, Denver Broncos 10

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XIII

Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XIV

Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Los Angeles Rams 19

(Photo by Focus On Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XV

Oakland Raiders 27, Philadelphia Eagles 10

(Photo by Sylvia Allen/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XVI

San Francisco 49ers 26, Cincinnati Bengals 21

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XVII

Washington Redskins 21, Miami Dolphins 17

(Photo by Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Super Bowl XVIII

Los Angeles Raiders 38, Washington Redskins 9

(Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XIX

San Francisco 49ers 38, Miami Dolphins 16

(Photo by Icon Sportswire)

Super Bowl XX

Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XXI

New York Giants 39, Denver Broncos 20

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XXII

Washington Redskins 42, Denver Broncos 10

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XXIII

San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16

(Photo by Rich Pilling/Sporting News via Getty Images)

Super Bowl XXIV

San Francisco 49ers 55, Denver Broncos 10

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XXV

New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XXVI

Washington Redskins 37, Buffalo Bills 24

(Photo by Rogers Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XXVII

Dallas Cowboys 52, Buffalo Bills 17

(Photo by Rogers Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XXVIII

Dallas Cowboys 30, Buffalo Bills 13

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XXIX

San Francisco 49ers 49, San Diego Chargers 26

(Photo by Colin Braley / Reuters)

Super Bowl XXX

Dallas Cowboys 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 17

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XXXI

Green Bay Packers 35, New England Patriots 21

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XXXII 

Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XXXIII

Denver Broncos 34, Atlanta Falcons 19

(Photo By Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Super Bowl XXXIV

St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16

(Photo via Reuters)

Super Bowl XXXV

Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7

(Photo credit PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images)

Super Bowl XXXVI

New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17

(Photo via REUTERS/Adrees Latiff GAC/HB)

Super Bowl XXXVII

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48, Oakland Raiders 21

(Photo via REUTERS/Pierre DuCharme GAC/HB)

Super Bowl XXXVIII

New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29

(Photo via REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

Super Bowl XXXIX

New England Patriots 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21

(Photo via REUTERS/Mike Segar MR/SV)

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter kisses the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in the NFL's Super Bowl XL in Detroit, Michigan February 5, 2006.

(Photo via REUTERS/Shaun Best)

Super Bowl XLI

Indianapolis Colts 29, Chicago Bears 17

(Photo via REUTERS/Mike Blake)

Super Bowl XLII

New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14

(Photo via REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)

Super Bowl XLIII

Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23

(Photo via REUTERS/Shaun Best)

Super Bowl XLIV

New Orleans Saints 31, Indianapolis Colts 17

(Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Super Bowl XLV

Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25

(Photo via REUTERS/Mike Stone)

Super Bowl XLVI

New York Giants 21, New England Patriots 17

(Photo via REUTERS/Brent Smith)

Super Bowl XLVII

Baltimore Ravens 34, San Francisco 49ers 31

(Photo via REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)

Super Bowl XLVIII

Seattle Seahawks 43, Denver Broncos 8

(Photo via REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

Super Bowl XLIX

New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24

(Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

Super Bowl 50

Denver Broncos 24, Carolina Panthers 10

(Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

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