As the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons prepare to meet at the Georgia Dome on Sunday night, both sides have several injury questions to answer.
The Falcons have listed top receiver Julio Jones as questionable with a knee injury, which presents more of a glimmer of hope than running back Steven Jackson missing his second straight game due to a thigh ailment. Cornerback Asante Samuel is also questionable, a factor that won’t help Atlanta’s No. 25 secondary.
New England also could have receiver Danny Amendola and even tight end Rob Gronkowski back, and both could help Tom Brady improve a 22nd ranked pass attack.
Nevertheless a victory might mean more to 1-2 Atlanta, a team that didn’t lose its third game until the final week of the regular season last year.
The Falcons are coming off a heartbreaking 27-23 loss at Miami, that saw quarterback Matt Ryan throw an interception on the team’s final drive. Ryan totaled 231 passing yards and two touchdowns, and Jones had nine catches for 115 yards. Jones is tied with New England’s Julian Edelman for tops in the NFL in receptions with 27.
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Ryan is eighth in the NFL in passing yards (909) and fourth in completion percentage (68.1), but in both of Atlanta's two losses he's thrown a pick on the final drive. That trend could turn around against New England, considering Ryan has won 10 of his last 12 games against the AFC, and is 12-1 in his last 13 home starts, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Head coach Bill Belichick and Brady have remained undefeated after an inconsistent first two weeks breaking in new receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, and last week smothered Tampa Bay for a 23-3 win.
Thompkins caught both of Brady’s touchdowns, Dobson had seven receptions for 52 yards, and corner Aqib Talib made his NFL leading third interception. The Patriots secondary is now ranked sixth best in the league, giving up 188 yards a game, while as a whole New England has only allowed 34 total points in three games.
The game starts at 8:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast by NBC, or watch a live online stream at Sunday Night Access here.
Betting Odds: Atlanta is favored by 2 points.
Over/Under: 50.5 points
Prediction: New England 28, Atlanta 17