The Patriots are rolling into the Georgia Dome with a 3 – 0 record but still looking for a big win that will shut up the doubters.
The Falcons are hosting at home where they have been very good at and are desperate for a win to avoid going 1 – 3.
There are key matchups in this game that could and most likely will determine the winner of this juggernaut game.
3 matchups to watch
Julio Jones vs Aqib Talib
– This is an obvious one. Jones has been targeted 35 times through 3 games so you know where Ryan will be taking shots. Roddy White has been slowed down with an ankle injury so Jones has been picking up the slack, and is one of the best receivers in the NFL. Jones is big, tall, strong, and fast and a handful for defenders. Talib is the Patriots best defender and has done an excellent job shutting down the other team’s best receiver. This is the first time all season he is facing a guy who can be legitimately called a top 5 receiver in the NFL. Talib will probably receive some safety help on plays with McCourty, but Talib vs Jones is a can’t miss matchup in this game. The New England secondary that is improved is about to find out just how improved they really are Sunday Night.
Jason Snelling vs Dont’a Hightower
– I could technically add Jacquizz Rodgers to this mix for the Falcons as well. Snelling proved last week he not only can run but catch as well. He was a threat in the passing game and will be again this week. Ryan will dump it off to Snelling if nobody is open down the field and they will even draw up plays to get him involved in the passing game so Hightower, who has done an excellent job this season stopping team’s backs in the passing game, will be tasked with a tall order again. Hightower kept tight ends and runningbacks to low yards through the air and has improved leap and bounds in his coverage skills. Snelling and especially Rodgers are fast, shifty backs, and dangerous in open field, and the last thing New England needs is another headache in the passing game. Hightower’s matchup is important to make sure Atlanta doesn’t have another weapon outside of Julio Jones.
Osi Umenyiora vs Nate Solder
Osi recorded two sacks against the Dolphins and even record an interception against the Rams which he returned for a TD. This isn’t the first time Brady and the Pats have faced Osi and other times he gave them headaches. Osi has shown he is still good at chasing the QB and the Patriots offensive line will have to protect Brady to give the offense a chance. New England struggles enough to score already, they don’t need bad protection to add to their troubles. New England seem to find a groove in stretches against Tampa Bay last Sunday, and they will need to find more of it this week if they want to win. Solder has a big task in slowing down Umenyiora but not an impossible one. Solder is a very good offensive linemen and he protects Brady well, and if he does that this Sunday, he helps put the Pats in a good spot to win.