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Patriots – Falcons Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
6 years ago at 8:00 am ET
Posted Under: 2017 Patriots Season

Patriots – Falcons Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s EdgeJohn David Mercer - USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots return home for a Sunday Night Football matchup against the Atlanta Falcons in a rematch of February’s Super Bowl.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC on Sunday, October 22 at 8:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on NBC Boston – 10. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work from the sidelines.The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (4-2) beat the New York Jets 24-17. The Jets led 14-0 after the first quarter before the Patriots scored 24 straight points but had to hold on in the end.

The Falcons (3-2) lost to the Miami Dolphins 20-17. The Falcons led 17-0 at the half and allowed Miami to steal one away from them in Atlanta’s new dome.

We here at are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Falcons are meeting for the 15th time overall and the first regular-season meeting since the Patriots traveled to Atlanta on Sept. 29, 2013, in a 30-23 win on Sunday Night Football from the Georgia Dome. And of course, the Super Bowl just ten months ago won by the Patriots in overtime.
The Patriots have won the last four times the teams have played in the regular season with wins in 2001, 2005 and 2013 at The Georgia Dome and in a 2009 win at Gillette Stadium.
Prior to those four wins, the Patriots had suffered four straight losses to the Falcons, dating back to 1989.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Falcons Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Atlanta

The Patriots running game showed some signs of life last week, by mixing in Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee the Patriots had good consistent running with the speedier Lewis and the power running of Gillislee. However, they only ran the ball 25 times. The coaches, mainly Josh McDaniels don’t have the faith in the running game to stick with it if things begin to slow down.

The Falcons run defense has been up and down. They are lighter and very fast and can flow to the ball extremely well. The slow developing stretch plays will not work against this unit. Dontari Poe inside will make life difficult to run. But Miami showed that running straight at the perimeters with the bigger back as Jay Ajayi can be very effective. Will the Patriots have the patience to stick with it? Judging by the play of the defense and the extra missing pieces this week? No.

Patriots WRs vs Falcons Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game, as we’ve said many times this season, even without Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell can throw the ball on anyone. The Falcons early in the SB flooded the middle of the field to take away the short/intermediate crossers the Pats love, forcing them to work outside. That was part of the reason that they got Brandin Cooks this year. He brings that element of speed on the outside that they must respect.

Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola will do the dirty work underneath. And in this one, the Patriots have Rob Gronkowski who was missing in February. James White (the Falcons will watch him closely) and Dion Lewis out of the backfield give Tom Brady plenty of weapons to target. It all depends on the time.

The Falcons secondary has been struggling to force turnovers, they have just two interceptions on the season, something no one foresaw this summer. Overall, the secondary play has been a bit of a disappointment. They have good edge rushers in Brooks Reed, Vic Beasley, and Takk McKinney, but where they were so effective in February was the interior push of the defensive line. That took away Brady’s ability to step up in the pocket and limited his effectiveness early. The Patriots offensive line hasn’t done a good job of protecting him although they did a much better job last week.

Next up the Falcons offense:

Falcons RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Atlanta

The Falcons have arguably the best running back duo in the league with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Can anyone forget the first play from scrimmage in the Super Bowl? Freeman ripped off a 37-yard gain and was very effective in the early going. With Kyle Shanahan gone this season, will Atlanta stick with the running game? If they had last week, they may have beaten Miami.

The Patriots have not been good against the run especially up the middle, although they’ve made strides the past two weeks. Moving Dont’a Hightower back to the inside linebacker spot helped. Malcom Brown and Alan Branch will have to step up their games, even more, this week as New England will have their hands full with Atlanta’s dynamic duo.

Falcons WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Atlanta

Matt Ryan has struggled thus far in 2017, tossing just six touchdowns against six interceptions thus far. But rest easy Matt, not only are the Patriots struggling against the pass, allowing journeyman QBs like Josh McCown to throw for over 350 yards but now they are banged up as well. New England will likely only have three healthy corners, Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones and Johnson Bademosi. The matchup against Julio Jones is a nightmarish one this week. Stephon Gilmore would be the logical choice but is out with a concussion. Butler is too small for the big Jones and Julio against Bademosi would be just unfair.

Mohamed Sanu should return this week and with Taylor Gabriel gives Ryan matchups galore. Gabriel had three catches for 76 yards in the Super Bowl. But where they Falcons can also pick them apart is underneath with the running backs, something the Patriots have struggled against. Coleman and Freeman can be just as effective in the passing game. The Patriots pass rush has been inconsistent at best. The safeties will have to cover a lot of ground in this one.300 yards? Nope. Ryan will probably throw for over 400 in this one. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski has had a solid season and the Patriots coverage units have been very good, and now that Matthew Slater has returned they promise to be even better. Danny Amendola gives the Patriots an edge here as he’s been coming on lately in the punt return game. The team could use Dion Lewis to break a kick return this week.

The Falcons special teams have been victimized by penalties but they have a superb kicker in Matt Bryant but his back has been an issue with him. He missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and if it stiffens up on him, it would be an issue for the STs. Atlanta has an electric returner in Andre Roberts. He can be an “X” factor in this one.

Next up, who wins and why…


This one will pit the two Super Bowl teams against one another. But in reality, although both teams have winning records, they’ve both dropped two games at home which isn’t the way it is done. Atlanta has struggled with finishing games and lost to both the Bills and Dolphins at home in successive games. The Patriots, on the other hand, have struggled defensively all season and have a tough time covering ordinary wide receivers. Enter Julio Jones. With a full complement of corners, I liked the Patriots to hold serve at home. With two out of their top three corners missing against this Atlanta team, the matchups for Matt Ryan will be plentiful. Tom Brady and the Patriots offense will keep things close, I expect Rob Gronkowski to have a big game but I think that Matt Ryan will absolutely torch this secondary with their two biggest corners in Gilmore and Rowe. Losing three at home? When was the last time that happened? Short answer… 2017.  Falcons 38-31

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Posted Under: 2017 Patriots Season
Tags: 2017 Patriots Season Atlanta Falcons Bill Belichick Chris Hogan Danny Amendola Devonta Freeman Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower James White Julio Jones Malcolm Butler Matt Ryan Mohamed Sanu New England Patriots NFL Patriots Rob Gronkowski Tevin Coleman Tom Brady Trey Flowers

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