Week 7 is upon us and we have a SB51 rematch between the 3-2 Falcons and 4-2 Patriots. While both teams can say they are above .500, they both would probably say they don’t love where they are at, this far into the season. The Falcons coming off two straight loses and blowing a 17-0 lead to the Dolphins. For the Patriots, their defense has struggled all year and have given up the most yards per game this season.
The Falcons had the best offense in the league last year, they led the league in PTS/G with 33.8 and were second in YDS/G with 415.8 behind the Saints. They have regressed this year to 24.2 PTS/G and 378.4 YDS/G. Nothing significant in personnel has changed, however they did change offensive coordinators with Kyle Shanahan going to the 49ers. If the Patriots defense continues to struggle, like they have all year, they have the weapons to take advantage.
The Falcons have a really good defense, maybe not top 5 but they could be pushing themselves in the top 10 range. They have a plethora of guys upfront that can get to the QB or at the least generate pressure. They have two standout LB, Deion Jones ranked as #7 LB on PFF and De’Vondre Campbell ranked at #12. There secondary is also talented with guys like Keanu Neal and Desmond Trufant leading the way. The Falcons have the second highest Man Coverage Rate in the league at 49.5% just slightly ahead of the Patriots at 49%.
It will be interesting to see how the Patriots handle there RB situation Sunday. Gillislee only carried the ball 6 times after his fumble late in the first against the Jets, Dion Lewis led the team in carries last week and his workload has slowly increased recently. The Falcons struggled last week against downhill runner Jay Ajayi before that they were struggling with receiving backs such as Tarik Cohen, Ty Montgomery, and Theo Reddick, so maybe James White gets a few more catches. The last time these two teams met Gronkowski was obviously not a factor considering he was injured but something to watch is if Falcons can stop him. Brandin Cooks received a season high in targets last game with nine and caught a total of six of them. Chris Hogan leads the team in receiving TD’s, he has been limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday this week with a rib injury.
It looks as if both Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore will miss another game and that is not good news considering the players the Falcons have on offense. Regardless the communication breakdowns and the wide open receivers has to be limited because Matt Ryan is a guy that will be able to take full advantage of it better than most other QB's. The Patriots have given up 300 passing yards to every QB they have faced this season, they have also given up the most YDS/G at 440.7.
Players to Watch
Matt Ryan - He put together a great season last year and even that is understating it. He had a 117.1 passer rating and that puts him right next to Tom Brady’s 2007 season at 117.2 and better than Peyton Manning 2013 season at 115.1. Although this season has been decent it has not been nearly the same for Ryan as he already has 6 interceptions which almost matches his total of 7 from last season.
Falcons RB’s - They have some pretty talented guys coming out of the backfield in Atlanta. Devonta Freeman of course serving in a more traditional role but can still be a threat as a pass catcher, He is ranked by PFF as the #2 RB. Tevin Coleman should get some looks too, he is more of a receiving back, he is ranked at #32 in the run and #15 as a pass catcher. Both these guys will pose a threat just like they did it Super Bowl 51.
Julio Jones - Jones is ranked as the #2 graded receiver by PFF behind Antonio Brown. Jones however is not lighting up the stat sheet with only 25 receptions for 367 yards and 0 TDs. Dan Quinn was asked Monday if he was satisfied with how often Jones was getting the ball and his response was “No” so a bigger workload Sunday is not out of the question.
Vic Beasley - Beasley was a very good player in the 2016 season recording 16 sacks which led the league and he also forced 6 fumbles. He struggled to get going before his injury that sidelined him for a couple of weeks and again struggled in his return last game. Beasley is still very much a player that needs to be contained as he is talented enough to breakout any week he is on the field.
Photo: (USA TODAY)