Sunday Night Football should be a treat this week as the New England Patriots head to the Georgia Dome to take on the Atlanta Falcons. The Patriots have gone a quiet 3-0 so far while the Falcons are already bordering on must-win territory at 1-2. The duel features two of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady, and the outcome will likely depend on which of the two has a better game. Similarly, the outcome of many Fantasy matchups could hinge on the same thing this week. Here are the Fantasy outlooks for both signal-callers:
Ryan has been pretty solid so far, throwing for 909 yards and six touchdowns through the first three weeks. He has a 100.4 QB rating on the season and he’s completed 68.1 percent of his passes. His numbers are decent but they would be better if he was getting good pass-protection. He’s been sacked five times and he’s facing pressure in the pocket far more often than not. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is at least drawing up plays designed to get the ball out of Ryan’s hands as quickly as possible, but it would still be nice if he had some more time to work with in the pocket.
Julio Jones has been Ryan’s favorite target and rightfully so. Jones seems to have taken that magical third-year leap that wideouts are known to do and he currently leads the league in receptions and receiving yards. Ryan obviously trusts him but he also has no choice; the rest of the offense isn’t exactly picking up any slack. Roddy White has been hobbling along on a bad ankle, unable to make a significant impact aside from being a terrific decoy to take some of the coverage away from Jones. For whatever reason, Tony Gonzalez also hasn’t been producing. Gonzalez was crucial to Atlanta’s success last season but he hasn’t been involved much in the game plan. So again, Ryan has no choice but to keep going to Jones.
The run game isn’t too much of a threat without the injured Steven Jackson and New England is very adept at stopping the run anyway, so the Falcons will likely have to find success through the air. The Patriots have also been good against the pass but to be fair they’ve faced E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith and Josh Freeman so far — not too scary. Ryan and Jones will be the best QB and WR they’ve faced this season by a massive landslide, so there’s hope for the two of them.
With the game likely to be close and their running backs probably ineffective, the Falcons will have to throw the ball in this one. Playing at home in a game his team badly needs to win, expect Ryan to show up. His floor for this game is right on par with what he’s been producing so far but if White and Gonzalez can somehow get more involved, we may see a vintage Matty Ice performance with some sexy stats.
Brady has been a victim of circumstance this season. The Patriots’ brass opted for a major personnel overhaul in the offseason and the offense has suffered because of it. The team is still 3-0 but it definitely hasn’t come easy. Brady has thrown for only 698 yards and five touchdowns — not exactly his usual MVP-caliber numbers. He’s hardly to blame, though, since he’s been throwing to two rookies who are trying to grow up quickly. Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, the aforementioned rooks, are making strides from week to week but there have still been lots of growing pains to deal with. Brady’s often been on a different page from them and drops have been an issue as well. Julian Edelman has been a bright spot, becoming Brady’s go-to since they have some history together, but the total effort from the three receivers hasn’t been enough to produce the typical numbers we’ve come to expect from Brady.
The two guys he would most like to throw to, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski, have been sitting out with injuries and there have been conflicting reports about their availability for this week. The return of at least one of them would do wonders for Brady, especially considering the Falcons’ defense is far from formidable.
If one of his injured pals returns, Brady and the Patriots’ offense will have a chance to pick up steam. Otherwise the same numbers can be expected and Ryan will come out on top.