By: Derek Havens
The New England Patriots go on the road to face the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome Sunday night.
The 2013 season has not started the way many in Atlanta thought. At 1-2, one could make the case this is a must win for the Falcons. Losing at home, nevertheless in primetime, could be a big blow to a team with SuperBowl aspirations.
On the flip side, the Patriots are 3-0. New England has overcome early injury woes and mental hurdles with young players getting involved offensively. This is the first of a challenging three game stretch for the Patriots, who travel to visit the Cincinnati Bengals in week five and return home to host the New Orleans Saints in week six. How they play over the next three games, will tell us a lot about this team.
Here’s a look at how both teams can come away with a victory Sunday. —
How The Falcons Win:
– Force The Patriots To Score: New England is not the same juggernaut offensively they have been for the past five seasons. There are a lot of new faces for the Patriots and they are not totally up to speed. The Falcons have the ability to put up a lot of points, but have not been as efficient as last season. If Atlanta can put the Patriots in a position where they need to score, it will be much tougher than years past. In addition, Atlanta’s defense can pin their ears back and rush the passer.
Patriots rookie receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins must play their best game this season to upset the Falcons.
(USA TODAY Images)
– Get After Tom Brady: The Falcons cannot let Tom Brady sit back and pick their secondary apart. As previously mentioned, this is not the same offense for New England. The Pats have not had the same success this season with the timing or precision routes. That being said, getting after Brady quickly is key. If the Falcons can get after Brady and force him to make quick passes, it could give New England a big problem getting into a rhythm.
– Eliminate Turnovers: The Patriots defense has proven to be an opportunistic unit. Not only does the defense have the ability to take the ball away, the offense has done a good job capitalizing on mistakes this season. Atlanta needs to make sure they eliminate turnovers in this game and not give the Patriots extra opportunities. If the Falcons do not commit a turnover, the Patriots will have a hard time winning the game.
How The Patriots Win:
– Punch Them In The Mouth: This is the Patriots toughest test this season. For New England, this is a heavyweight fight. Atlanta’s toughness is questionable, especially in the trenches. Their offensive and defensive line is struggling this season, party because of injuries, and the Pats have the edge on both sides of the ball.
In a Sunday Night Football primetime event, the Georgia Dome will be rocking. It will be key for New England to make a statement early and show they are going to put up a fight. If the Patriots play a tough, physical game, the Falcons may back down.
– Rattle Matt Ryan: Some question him, but Matt Ryan is a very good quarterback. He is far-and-away the best quarterback the Patriots have faced this season. While he’s talented, the Patriots defensive line could be able to rattle him and throw him off early. Their ability to consistently hit him and make him uncomfortable in the pocket could pay big dividends as the game progresses.
– Play 60 Minutes: The Falcons are very talented, no question, but they seem to lack the “killer instinct” to finish games. As my colleague Steve Balestrieri pointed out earlier this week, Atlanta has outscored opponents 91-40 in the first half, but have been outscored 90-34 in the second half of the past five games.
Along those lines, the Patriots have yet to allow their opponent score a point in the fourth quarter this year. If New England plays 60 minutes, they could come out of Atlanta with a big win.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Falcons 23
Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!