The time is almost open us. Tomorrow night will bring a matchup of two teams that, before the season started, were considered among the favorites to win the Super Bowl. These teams are the New England Patriots (3-0) and the Atlanta Falcons (1-2).Which squad will be victorious in this much-anticipated game?
Let’s start with the Patriots. This team is 3-0, first collecting two unconvincing wins against the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets. Those were two wins by a combined five points against two teams in rebuilding mode. Quarterback Tom Brady was clearly suffering from the loss of some of his best weapons in wide receiver Wes Welker and tight end Aaron Hernandez. It didn’t help that Brady’s top remaining weapons, tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receiver Danny Amendola and running back Shane Vereen, have all been injured. It was clear that Brady struggled to move the ball with no go-to tight end and two rookie wide receivers (Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins).
But then, the Patriots came out and squashed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 23-3. This time, Brady moved the ball effectively, hooking up with his two rookies wide receivers and veteran wide receiver Julian Edelman. Brady even left a touchdown or so on the table, and this was all against a Tampa Bay defense that effectively shut down New Orleans Saints‘ quarterback Drew Brees. That’s not too shabby.
What has been a consistent trend is the New England defense. It has gotten better with each game, allowing point totals of 14, 10, then three. The pass rush has been there, lead by defensive end Chandler Jones and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. Cornerback Aqib Talib has been playing like a shutdown corner so far. However, these performances might best be taken with a grain of salt, considering the opposing offenses.
The Falcons have had a much more efficient offense than the three teams that the Patriots faced. Quarterback Matt Ryan has established a connection with wide receiver Julio Jones that has been amazing to watch. However, injuries to other core players like running back Steven Jackson (hamstring; out for game) and Roddy White (high ankle sprain; though he’s still playing) have limited the offense’s production. Still, the Falcons have averaged over 21 points per game, with Ryan accounting for six touchdown passes.
Once again, the Atlanta defense has been pretty average this season. It has allowed some points, but not too many long touchdown drives. This squad won’t win the game, but it will keep the Atlanta offense in the game. The safety tandem of Thomas DeCoud and William Moore is one of the more solid ones in the NFL. There’s good depth at defensive tackle with Peria Jerry, Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux. Let’s not forget about former Patriots’ cornerback Asante Samuel either; he’s still a good cornerback.
So which team wins? Well, neither offense is projected to make many mistakes. Neither defense will probably win the game either. So let’s give the slight edge to the Falcons at home, mostly due to the fact that Ryan has some healthy weapons, while Brady waits for his. It should be a close one though, something in the 24-20 range.
Philip Alexander is a New England Patriots writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @steely0906, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.