As best I can tell, Carroll County is a collection of Ravens, Redskins and Steelers fans. Beyond being the biggest football game of the year and for the commercials, it's going to be hard for any of these fan bases to get amped for tonight's 51st big game. To help you decide who to root for (the correct answer is Atlanta, by the way) I've decided to put together this guide of interesting facts about the teams that might help our local fan bases decide.

The head coaches of both teams have Maryland ties. New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick grew up in Annapolis, where his father was an assistant coach at the U.S. Naval Academy from 1956 to 1989. He played football and lacrosse at Annapolis High School, where he graduated in 1970. Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is a native of New Jersey, but played football collegiately at Salisbury State University (Go Seagulls!) on the Eastern Shore, where he was a four-year starter from 1990 to 1993, and set records in the hammer throw in track and field, representing Salisbury at the NCAA Championships in '94. He was inducted into the college's Hall of Fame in 2005.


If you're a fan of awkward moments, seeing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have to give the Lombardi Trophy to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady after suspending him for the first four games of the season for his alleged involvement in deflating footballs a few years ago — and hearing whatever chants the Patriots faithful in attendance (and there will be plenty) rain down upon Rog — should be quite pleasing to you. But if you're among the group that thinks Brady got exactly what he deserved for his role in "Deflategate" (this is one thing most Ravens and Steelers fans actually agree on) then him winning a fifth Super Bowl is just going to add to the villainous persona that cheaters do win. And a lot, apparently.

Atlanta's Julio Jones might be the best — and most likable — wide receiver in the NFL. Jones, now in his sixth year in the NFL, had 83 catches for 1,409 yards and 6 touchdowns. And that's a bit of a down year for him, considering he hauled in 136 passes for 1,871 yards – league-leading totals in both categories – in 2015 and more than 100 catches and nearly 1,600 yards the year before that. In a week 4 outing against Carolina, Jones became just the sixth player in NFL history to have at least 300 yards receiving in a single game. Yes, 300 yards receiving, not all-purpose.

With numbers like that, considering the position he plays, you would expect this guy to be a total headcase. Nope. No excessive celebration penalties, live streaming his coach's post-game comments or fist-fights with kicking nets on the sidelines here. Just a team-first football player focused on winning (despite being a five-start receiving recruit out of high school, he went to run-first Alabama to play college ball) who isn't worried about his numbers — on the field or social media followers — as long as his team is winning. It's hard not to root for a guy like this.

And Jones is part of a diversified offense that was the best in the NFL this year, and is among the most prolific in league history, averaging 33.8 points per game in 2016. The Patriots bring a defense that ranked No. 1 in points allowed, just 15.6 per game. So depending on whether you like high-scoring or grind-it-out football, this might determine which team you root for. (For the record, New England was third in points per game on offense, while Atlanta was 23rd on defense.)

This is the eighth time in NFL history that teams sporting the top two scoring units on either side of the ball will face off for the championship — the team with the best defense has won all but one of those seven Super Bowls. (Joe Montana and Jerry Rice led San Francisco's No. 1 offense over the Denver Broncos' No. 1 defense, 55-10, in Super Bowl XXIV.)

Finally, if Atlanta wins the Super Bowl, it will be the Falcons' first and just the city's second professional sports championship (the Braves won the World Series in 1995). If New England wins, it will be the franchise's fifth Super Bowl win, the 36th championship overall for Boston-area teams in the four major leagues, and 10th for those teams since the Patriots' first Super Bowl victory in 2002.

Like I said earlier, the answer is obvious: Go Falcons!

Wayne Carter is the editor of the Carroll County Times. Reach him at wayne.carter@carrollcountytimes.com.