Today we hear from Cover 32 lead Falcons columnist Mike Byers as we get set for the Sunday night game in Atlanta.
Byers gives us his insight into the Falcons and the upcoming game against the Patriots.
1. Roddy White has been dealing with an ankle injury this season that kept him limited against the Miami Dolphins last Sunday. How is the ankle coming along and will he be ready for this Sunday’s game?
The report out of Flowery Branch is that Roddy has not had a setback with his ankle; however, he did not practice Wednesday (He was limited today). He is expected to play, but his role will still be limited. I do not see Roddy White returning to full strength until after the bye.
2. CB Asante Samuel missed the first game of the season and was limited against the Rams due to a thigh injury but he played a lot of snaps against the Dolphins. How did he look in the Dolphins game?
Asante was not 100% last week but he is progressing along quite nicely. He matches up well against Tom Brady; I believe Brady was quoted this week stating, “I’ve thrown more interceptions to Asante than probably anybody”. Asante was not a hindrance last week, but he needs to be impactful on Sunday night.
3. I believe once Atlanta is back healthy they will be a dangerous team but how are the fans reacting to their 1 – 2 start for this team?
Not well, and understandably so. Atlanta is a premier NFC title threat, and they came out of the gate slow. That was due to the amount of injuries suffered. Atlanta is desperate for a win this week. They have blown leads in the last 5 games played, I believe that is the reason behind the fans’ concerns.
4. How has CB Desmond Trufant looked so far this year?
He is exactly what he had hoped he would be. Fellow rookie Robert Alford is also exceeding expectations. They both play great in press situations, and have top end speed to take gambles. Trufant looks eerily similar to a young Asante Samuel.
5. What area on both sides of the ball are strengths and weakness for the Falcons?
Atlanta has two of the premier wide outs in pro football, along with Matt Ryan at the helm, they have transcended into a potent passing attack. Their weakness on offense is the Steven Jackson injury, Atlanta will use Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers to fill in for his role.
Defensively, we are starting two rookie corners; Tom Brady loves rookie corners… A positive note on this defense is that they recorded 5 sacks last week. Osi Umenyiora has found the fountain of youth in Atlanta.
6. How does the Falcons defensive game plan change if Rob Gronkowski is able to play this Sunday?
They expect to see Gronk. William Moore is the guy who will see a lot of one on one matchups, but if Gronkowski is playing at a high level he will be hard to contain.
7. Who will be the Falcons X – Factor?
The Georgia Dome. Matt Ryan has a 34 – 7 record playing at home. That mark is the best in the NFC since 2008. It is hard to beat Atlanta at home; it is one of the few stadiums where atmosphere really gives an edge to the home team.
8. Outside of Tom Brady, who do you worry about most going against the Falcons?
Stevan Ridley. He is a talented running back, and along with ongoing threat of Tom Brady, Atlanta will have to be careful stacking the box.
9. What has been the Falcons biggest issues in the redzone this season?
Play calling. Atlanta has not been aggressive enough, Dirk Koetter is to blame in most fans’ minds, but Coach Smith said this week that he is to blame. I look for Atlanta to be very aggressive this week.
10. Over the past 5 games Atlanta has outscored opponents 91 – 40 but in the 2nd half teams have outscored the Falcons 90 – 34. Can you explain why Atlanta seems to struggle in the 2nd half of games?
The lack of a consistent running game really hurts Atlanta’s chances to run down the clock. I am a big proponent of finishing off opponents, but this team rarely seems to do so. Atlanta needs to get some “nasty” in them or the same thing could happen this week.
11. Care to give a prediction?
I have Atlanta handing New England their first loss of the season for a couple of reasons.
Danny Amendola is hurt; Gronk is coming off an injury, and should not be at full strength for a few weeks. The Pats have looked sluggish this season, this is not the same passing attack, but they are 3 – 0. A hell of a testament to the resiliency of Tom Brady, but that will not help them this week. They have faced two rookie quarterbacks and one that just got benched. Matt Ryan is an elite quarterback and will put enough points on the board that will face an unproven Patriots receiving core to make plays on the road that I do not see them making.
This will be a great game, Brady vs Ryan on SNF. Atlanta will hold off a great second half comeback by Brady 34 – 30.
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