This Sunday night we will see the New England Patriots travel to the Georgia Dome to face the struggling Atlanta Falcons in the most anticipated Sunday Night Football matchup of the year thus far. Recently we saw the Patriots hand it to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-3, as the Falcons actually lost to fellow AFC East rival, the Miami Dolphins 27-23 in the dying seconds of their game. The Patriots are being treated as the underdog in this game, and with good reason. The Falcons have been the cream of the NFC crop for the past few years now, even with their well documented playoff struggles. The Falcons have stumbled out of the gates so far, and are 1-2 at the moment. But with players like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, many people will taking the Falcons, but I’m here to give you what Patriots need to do give the Falcons a third loss on the season.
1. A Consistent Pass Rush
The New England Patriots have done very well getting pressure on quarterbacks this year, with the likes of Chandler Jones and Tommy Kelly being the two best at the moment. Right now, the Falcons don’t have a top notch offensive line, so this is something that needs to be taken advantage of. The last thing the Patriots want to do, is give Matt Ryan enough time to sit back and pick them apart. The Falcons are right now the 7th best passing team in the league, and while Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard, more on them in a bit, will have to be very good, it all starts in the Falcons backfield. Force Matt Ryan into being uncomfortable, hit him a few times early, and hope that you can throw off his timing just enough.
2. Time for Talib and Dennard to Earn Their Keep
The second biggest focus to me after Matt Ryan, has to be to Julio Jones and Roddy White, the Falcons two superstar wide receivers. Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas will have an impact, but everything hinges on what Jones and White can produce. Right now, both receivers are listed as “questionable” for the game, which doesn’t give us or the Patriots much to work off of. I would have to imagine Jones will play, which leaves Roddy White who has been suffering from a nagging injury for the entire season so far. But no matter what their statuses are, cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard will have their hands full. So far this season, we’ve seen both play at a very high level, especially Talib who managed to shut down Vincent Jackson last week. Talib has also shown a new side of his game, that he didn’t show in his short time with the team last year, a ballhawking presence. I would imagine that Talib will get Jones duty, and Dennard will get White duty, and if he doesn’t play, the next logical conclusion is Douglas. If Talib wants to prove himself worthy of the label, Shutdown Corner, then going against a top 3-5 wide receiver in Julio Jones will be a fantastic test.
3. Taking Advantage of Big Injuries
The Falcons come into this game, pretty much hobbled. So far they have major injuries to RB Steven Jackson, DE Kroy Biermann, LB Sean Weatherspoon are officially out, and WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White along with Asante Samuel are currently questionable. These are some major blows to this team, who now have to go up against a very good defense, and an offense that’s getting clicking, and will be getting Rob Gronkowksi back. Losing Steven Jackson was big two weeks ago, as now the Falcons, who are already the 22nd ranked run offense, will have to go with undersized scat back Jacquizz Rogers and bruiser Jason Snelling. This should give the Patriots great hope, after they’ve faced two incredibly talented backs in CJ Spiller and Doug Martin in recent weeks. Sean Weatherspoon is an incredibly talented linebacker on a rather weak linebacking unit, who was placed on the IR/Designated to Return List. Hopefully this means we can see both Rob Gronkowski and Zach Sudfeld take advantage of the middle of the field, and same with Julian Edelman. The final notable injury is Roddy White. As already stated in an earlier paragraph, Roddy White is quite key to the Falcons attack, as well as keeping teams from focusing solely on Julio Jones. White might be Ryan’s most trusted target, and with only Julio Jones, it makes things a little easier to predict where Ryan will want to go to. These are some massive injuries, as if the Falcons weren’t vulnerable enough, and need to be pinpointed in order to see a Patriots win, and as we all know, the Bill Belichick led New England Patriots are notorious for picking out little weaknesses and taking great advantage of them.
4. Use of Newfound Success with the Wide Receivers
Last week we saw the New England Patriots have great success using Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, for the first time this year. Brady connected with Thompkins for two touchdowns, and should’ve had another to Dobson, had he not brutally underthrown him. The Falcons have a rather weak secondary, despite a very good player in Thomas Decoud, which means the Patriots need to take advantage of this with their two very dynamic receivers. With Brady starting to trust these guys more, I would imagine we start to see more deep balls, something we hardly saw last season. We’ve had some evidence of the deep ball being used this season already, most notably versus the Jets, and now that Brady and these two have had success, my guess is he’ll take advantage of their great athletic ability to move the ball downfield. Something else I would like to note, is that I would like to see Josh Boyce get some use in the offense, as I believe his great speed could add a great deal to this offense, but it seems as if he’s not ready to be playing big time just yet.
So there you guys have it, those are my five keys to the New England Patriots winning the Sunday night showdown versus a very good Falcons team. What do you guys think the Patriots need to do in order to win this game? What do you think the outcome will be? Leave a comment in the comment section down below.
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