The New England Patriots are the most enigmatic 3-0 NFL team in recent memory. As Bill Parcells once said, you are what your record says you are. Unless, of course, your three wins have been against three of the worst teams in the league and your offense is a shell of its former self.
This week, the Patriots take on their first real challenge when they face off against the Atlanta Falcons and their high-flying offense on Sunday night. Well, their supposedly high-flying offense.
Instead of being the dominant team they were in the past, the Falcons have looked very mortal so far this season. They barely held off a hard-charging St. Louis Rams team in Week 2 and somehow found ways to lose to the Miami Dolphins last week.
The offense isn’t anywhere near what we thought they would be this year. Their top two receivers, Julio Jones and Roddy White, are hobbled with injuries. Jones has still been productive, but White has been virtually absent while trying to play through an ankle injury. In the first two weeks, the offense relied on the legs of veteran running back Steven Jackson, but he was predictably sidelined heading into the game against Miami.
That lack of a running game, combined with a passing game that isn’t as explosive as it was the last couple of seasons, has the Falcons limping into Sunday night’s contest ripe for the upset. This was the game that New England fans had circled on the schedule as the first time the underachieving team was going to be challenged, but it looks like they’re going to get lucky and find themselves facing a Falcons team that isn’t at full strength.
So far, the Patriots haven’t really faced a team that had the ability to exploit their supposed weaknesses. Those weaknesses may or may not really be there, but the Falcons aren’t going to be the team to take advantage of them.