By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots are back in action on Sunday Night to face the Atlanta Falcons on the road in the Georgia Dome. Here are Five Things for you to look for in this match-up.
1. Can defensive end Chandler Jones take advantage of a suspect offensive line, and get after quarterback Matt Ryan? Jones has started the season off strong, as he already has three sacks with a combined 14 tackles. When you are going against an explosive passing attack, a consistent pass rusher can be the solution to this problem.
The Patriots have been moving Jones around somewhat, so you could see him at either end or tackle, and this is an offensive line that he could have the upper hand on. The last thing the Patriots want on Sunday Night is Ryan to be comfortable in the pocket. Jones could be the pass rush answer in this game.
2. Can cornerback Aqib Talib limit the receptions for wide receiver Julio Jones? Talib last week did a nice job on Vincent Jackson, as he limited him to three receptions, and he also had an interception.
Jones has already started the season strong, as he has 27 receptions for 373 yards, and two touchdowns. Talib has his work cut out for him against Jones, and trying to contain him as much as possible is a must on Sunday Night.
3. Can the Patriots defense contain tight end Tony Gonzalez? Gonzalez is not the player he once was, but he still can get the job done on passing downs. He still has 11 receptions so far this season for 116 yards, and one touchdown.
The Patriots for several years have struggled covering tight ends, and this could be a mismatch advantage for the Falcons. The Patriots could have Steve Gregory cover him which I feel could be an issue.
4. Can the Patriots offensive line protect quarterback Tom Brady? The Falcons can get after the quarterback, and one player that scares me in this game is defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who already has two sacks this season. The Patriots I feel have done a poor job overall of protecting Brady so far this season, and will need to do a better job on Sunday. The Falcons have seven sacks already this season.
5. On offense, can the Patriots vastly improve their red zone conversion rate for touchdowns? Right now the Patriots are dead last in the NFL in this category at a 30% conversion rate.
The Patriots are playing an explosive offense so they will need to be scoring touchdowns instead of settling for field goals when entering the red zone. The Patriots in recent history have been one of the best in the red zone so it is hard to watch these struggles early on this season.
The offense showed signs of life against the Bucs, so hopefully we will see an improvement in the red zone. If their touchdown efficiency rate stays the same or worse in this game, I have a strong feeling the Pats will lose.
This is a very tough game for the Pats which by far should be their strongest test so far. However, I think we will see the Patriots win this by a field goal, and I have feeling that might five things will have an impact on the end result.
If you are looking for more of an extensive preview of this game, please take a listen below to Patriots Fourth And Two.