Week Three Preview: Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots

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Week Three Preview: Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

When the 2009 NFL schedule came out, you can bet Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff marked this Sundays game on his calendar. This weekend, the Falcons begin a two game road trip. The first stop, Gillette stadium and the New England Patriots. In a recent interview with Jeff Howe, Patriots coach Bill Belichick discussed his former pupil and his progress with the red hot Falcons team.

“He’s gone down to Atlanta and done a great job down there in a pretty short amount of time. [I am] very, very impressed with the team he’s built, put together, the way they play and the way they do things.”

“He did a really good job running our scouting department and adjusted some of the things that we were doing grading-wise—evaluations and things like that we may have overhauled a little bit as the game has changed over the last 10, 15, 20 years, the players and the systems that they play in and the type of things that they’re asked to do. He played a big part in that.”

Make no mistake, all pleasantries will be left behind come kickoff on Sunday. Both bosses mean business and neither expects to come away the loser of their first meeting in a regular season game.

Last weekend, the Patriots were exposed in New York by Rex Ryans Jets team and will be seeking redemption at home.

 

INTERESTING STATS

  • The Falcons defense has allowed opponents to convert on almost 50 percent of their 3rd down conversions. The Patriots offense averages around 50 percent in conversions. Not a good sign for the Falcons.
  • The Patriots defense has allowed a very low 265 yards per game average. The Falcons offense is averaging 326 with over 100 yards rushing per game.
  • Tom Brady is the only quarterback in the NFL with more than 100 passing attempts. Not even Drew Brees (nine TD passes) has eclipsed that mark in two games.
  • Falcons defensive end John Abraham is no stranger to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. He has five career sacks in seven meetings against the future Hall of Famer.
  • New England has yet to intercept a pass this season and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown only one.
  • The Falcons lead the all-time series 6-5 but lost their last meeting with now Texans quarterback Matt Schaub behind center. Schaub almost brought the team back but made a last minute mistake giving the Patriots the victory.The spot he was given on his run looked questionable, killing the Falcons chance to score.
  • The Patriots are 15-0 in their last 15 meetings against NFC opponents.

 

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

WR Wes Welker vs. DBs Chevis Jackson, Chris Owens & Brent Grimes

Hard to say who will line up in the slot on Sunday. Welker is still questionable. But with the speed and agility of Welker the Falcons may slide equally athletic cornerback Brent Grimes into coverage. Tom Brady looks to him as his security blanket and 3rd down option. Whoever draws Welker will have their work cut out for them.

LT Matt Light vs. DE John Abraham

This will be a very interesting battle to watch. Abraham was held sackless last week and will be looking for his 6th sack against Brady. Matt Light is a Pro-Bowl tackle and will look to keep that from happening. This could answer the question of which will prevail: The immovable object or the unstoppable force.

DB Leigh Bodden vs. WR Roddy White

White has yet to put up a 100 yard receiving game and this week could be his best chance. Bodden is a solid veteran but no real match against the budding star White. If Ryan has time to follow his reads, expect to see White have a big game.

 

NOT THEM AGAIN

Patriots receiver Joey Galloway left the NFC South only to face the Falcons once again. These two are very familiar with one another. With the possibility of limited play from Welker expect to see him targeted quite often. He's not quite as fast as he once was but he's still a very viable deep threat for Tom Brady and his run and gun offense. He will draw newly aquired corner Brian Williams.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT: PATRIOTS OFFENSE

New England will be looking to move the ball through the air. Brady is shaking off the rust from spending last season having babies with models and going through rehab. Hopefully he doesn't hit stride against the Falcons questionable secondary.

New England loves to screen the ball. The Falcons have the linebacking core to counter this directive. With the zone defense used by the Falcons the quick slants will likely dominate the passing. Expect a heavy dose of RB Kevin Faulk and TE Benjamin Watson.

I also wouldn't be surprised to see Brady challenging 3rd year corner Chris Houston. He will be matched up against one of the best receivers in the league, Randy Moss. That means the Falcons defensive line must pressure the pocket and force slant passes. That will leave safeties Erik Coleman and Thomas DeCoud to limit big gains. Another week of bend, but don't break game planning.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT: PATRIOTS DEFENSE

The Falcons will do what they always do... follow the process. That process is a heavy dose of the run mixed with play-action passing. Mike Smith is a firm believer in ball control.

Matt Ryan has taken very few shots downfield this season. He has mainly kept to slant and hook patterns. He chews up yards 10-15 yards down the field. He's very astute on finding the one on one coverage. Much like Brady, Ryan will have his read targeted before the snap of the ball.

Look for New England to send the house on run blitzes. They will try and rattle the 2nd year quarterback early and often. Linebackers Adalius Thomas and Tully Banta-Cain will be zone blitzing quite yo try and force future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez to stay in and block. It's up to the Falcons offensive line to make sure Ryan can finish his read. With time, he is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league.

 

QUESTION OF THE WEEK 

What happened to the no-huddle offense for Atlanta. Last season, Ryan looked like the second coming of Jim Kelly moving his troops down the field. This season, they have yet to turn to it. We saw it in the pre-season but in the regular season it's been non-existent. I asked Sirius radios Rich Gannon about it today and he felt like the Falcons would unleash it this weekend. We will see.

 

SO WHO WILL WIN

This is a really tough game to call. It should be one of the best games of the week. The Falcons catch a break playing New England so early. They are known to be strong finishers in November and December. It's also preferable to playing in the harsh, winter conditions.

The Falcons are working a two game winning streak and will be going into their bye week. I expect them to let it all hang out this weekend and bring one home for Dimitroff and Ryan in their Boston returns.

 

ATLANTA 31

NEW ENGLAND 27

 

This would be a good week to start Michael Jenkins in Fantasy Football. I like his matchup against the Patriots secondary. They will be forced to account for both Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White. With the losses of Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel and Teddy Bruschi the Patriots are retooling that defense.

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