Last updated December 22nd, 2013
The (3-0) New England Patriots travel to the fierce and home-team friendly Georgia Dome to take on the (1-2) Atlanta Falcons (Sunday, 8.30pm ET, on NBC).
Despite losing last week to the Miami Dolphins, the Falcons are actually 2.5pt favorites on the sportsbooks’ spread in this contest, having jumped to that mark after opening up as underdogs. The total points over/under is set at a lofty 49.5pts.
Second in the NFC South, the Falcons have actually looked the more complete team this year despite the fact that their record is 1-2. They have been on the wrong side of close games and have also had the unfortunate occurrence of having to face two undefeated teams.
The Patriots meanwhile are first in the AFC East, tied atop the standings with the Dolphins. New England has been on the right side of those close games, beating divisional rivals, the Buffalo Bills by two and the New York Jets by three before earning a dominating win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Overall, both of these teams have not played to expectations and in the case of the Falcons, this has resulted in a losing record. But back home in Atlanta, which in the Matt Ryan-Mike Smith era, has been very good to the home team, the Falcons will look to outscore the Patriots, a team they haven’t beaten since 1998.
Tom Brady and His Weapons?
When the 2013 season began, everyone knew the Patriots had to replace a very big part of their offense. That man was Wes Welker and over his career with the Patriots, he was responsible for catching nearly 30% of Tom Brady’s completed passes. That is a huge weapon to have and a huge weapon to lose.
But to compensate for the lack of Welker, New England brought in Danny Amendola in the offseason. His role was simple but not easy: fill the shoes of Welker in the slot.
The expectation was that Amendola would fill a nice role alongside the already established pass catchers in Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Shane Vereen out of the backfield. Ultimately, it looked like Brady would still have his weapons.
But it wasn’t to work out that way and instead of Gronkowski, Amendola and Hernandez, Brady has been surviving throwing to Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. It has not been the most enviable situation, but Brady is Brady and he has made it work.
Against Atlanta, Brady will once again be heavily relying on his B-team but on the plus side, he might not be in the woods for long. Both Amendola and Gronkowski are coming along in their injury rehab and at least one might be expected back in time for Sunday’s matchup.
For the Falcons and their 25th ranked pass defense, if Brady gets even one of his so-called weapons back, it won’t be good for Atlanta. However on the plus side, this is a defense with strong corners and a that did hold Drew Brees and his fourth ranked passing offense to just 23 points.
Long story short, the Patriots are going to be a real test but luckily enough for the Falcons, this won’t be the first tough opponent they have faced.
Can the Patriots Stop Julio Jones?
Just like the Patriots, Atlanta was expected to have a high octane and explosive offense. But then Roddy White, one of Matt Ryan’s top options, started the season hampered with a bad injury. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Falcons then lost powerful runningback and redzone threat, Steven Jackson, to an injury in week two. That really leaves Ryan with just Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez in the passing game.
In no way has Jones been a disappointment this year having caught 27 passes for 373 yards and two TDs. The only problem is, without the rest of the top options, defenses have been able to gameplan more effectively against the high powered Atlanta offense.
The New England defense is certainly no pushover, but they have benefited early this season from facing two inexperienced rookie quarterbacks. In the course of New England’s recent history, this is a defense that has really preyed on rookie quarterbacks to the tune of great success.
Unfortunately for New England, the newly-minted $100 million man in Atlanta, is the farthest thing from being a rookie. Ryan has led his team to the postseason, has played well as one of the young, elite quarterbacks in the game and has beaten top teams in the league including the Saints en route to winning the NFC South title.
Many are saying this game is a test for the Patriots, but Ryan has something to prove as well. With close calls in two of the last three games, the Falcons are primed to make that statement, especially since they are at home, a place they are 34-5 at during Ryan’s career.
New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons Betting Picks
Both of these teams have been hit by injuries and in the worst possible way. Brady is without his two top pass catching weapons in his tight ends and Ryan has lost White, a huge part of that offense. Both teams have also lost their runningbacks and have been forced to rely on a backfield split to compensate.
New England goes into this game as the underdog for only the fifth time since 2010. They have covered four times and have won three of those games outright. So essentially, it is never a good bet to count out the Patriots.
- At the same time, 34-5 at home is just simply something that cannot be ignored. So with that being said, take the Falcons @ odds of -110 with BetOnline to get the win and to do so by covering the margin of that sportsbook’s -2.5pt spread.
- As for the total points betting market, the Patriots offense has been quiet as of late and without its weapons, should stay that way for at least another week. So take the under at 49.5 points with BetOnline at odds of -110.
RESULT UPDATE: Patriots won 30-23.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.