NFL Atlanta FalconsNew England Patriots

5 Keys For New England Patriots Victory vs. Atlanta Falcons

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Patriots vs Falcons: Five Keys

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Week four is finally here, and the game of the week just happens to be the nationally televised Sunday Night game. The 3-0 New England Patriots will travel to Atlanta where they will face the 1-2 Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons are coming off a loss in Miami where Ryan Tannehill threw a late touchdown to give the Dolphins the win. The Patriots, on the other hand, hosted a winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers and rolled to a 23-3 win. With the Patriots coming in undefeated and the Falcons at 1-2, many people think the Patriots record does not reflect the struggles of the team, while many people think that the Falcons are better than their 1-2 record.

There are plenty of things that are going to be storylines in this game. One thing that has already come out is a story about Thomas Dimitroff calling his former boss Bill Belichick and asking his opinion on trading picks to move up and draft Julio Jones. Belichick said that he would not do it and that they should stand pat and draft Jonathan Baldwin. Now in his third season, Julio Jones was the right move, as he is establishing himself as one of the best WRs in the NFL. Not only is it a good story line, but you know it sticks with Belichick and he is going to want to shut Jones down just to prove a point. There are plenty of other things to watch in this game. It should not disappoint and will tell everyone a lot about if the Patriots are real or not.

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Patriots' Defensive Line

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots’ defensive line is going to be key in this game. If there is one big weakness on the Falcons offense, it is the offensive line. Chandler Jones has been very good this year getting to the QB and disrupting things in the backfield. Tommy Kelly has come in and had an impact as well. Vince Wilfork has not played at his best, but he is proven and will come around. The whole defensive line will have to be effective and get pressure on Matt Ryan and not give him time to use his weapons to pick apart the Patriots’ defense.

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Julio Jones

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

If the Patriots have trouble getting pressure on Matt Ryan, they will have to do everything they can to stop Julio Jones. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft out of Alabama. Jones is a big physical receiver at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, but he also has 4.3 speed and will run away from defenders. Jones is tied for the league lead in catches, as well as leads the league in yards and yards after catch. Aqib Talib will have his hands full all day, and if the Patriots are smart, they will shadow Devin McCourty over the top all game and keep Jones as limited as possible.

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Establish The Run

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The Patriots had a great running week against the Bucs week three. They finished the day with 156 yards as a committee on the ground. With young receivers and an offense who has not been as good in years past, the Patriots will have to establish the run once again in order to open up things in the passing game. The Falcons are missing two key players, Kroy Biermann and Sean Witherspoon, in their front seven. This will open up lanes for the Patriots RBs. Regardless if Ridley, Blount or Bolden get the majority of carries, they will have to find a way to have success against the Falcons defense, or the Patriots could be forced into a passing shootout, and that is not the game they want to be getting in against the Falcons.

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Pass Catchers

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Gronkowski looks like he will be a game-time decision for the Patriots, and this will be key for the young offense. If Gronk comes back, he will take a lot of pressure off of the young receivers and be a big red-zone target. If the Patriots do not get Gronk back, it will again be Julian Edelman and rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson who will have to carry the offense. If the Patriots can’t establish a run game, it will put even more pressure on these young pass catchers and the game could come down to their ability to be successful.

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Brady vs Falcons Crowd

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

I touched on this earlier this week, but the Falcons play in a dome and the crowd can have a big impact on games. It will be loud in that building come Sunday, and if the Patriots cannot contain the Falcons, the crowd is going to get in the game and make it very difficult to hear. This will be key for Tom Brady when calling plays and audibles. The Patriots run a lot of no-huddle as well as make a lot of audible and blitz calls at the line of scrimmage. If the building is rocking and the fans are into the game, it will be difficult for everyone to hear the calls at the line, which could lead to mistakes by the Patriots.