I sat down with Dave Choate, Editor-in-chief of The Falcoholic , for a Q & A session discussing this weeks game between the Patriots and Falcons. Below are the questions I asked Dave regarding key matchups in the game. Dave will be posting the other side of the Q & A session on the Falcoholic website this weekend.
What is a weakness on the Falcons side the Patriots can exploit?
A huge weakness they can exploit right now is Duke Riley at linebacker. If you can get into space, the Falcons linebackers have struggled to make open field tackles; Riley in particular.
Running plays or short passes? Both?
Both, the whole defense has been missing tackles but he is worst culprit. Teams have had tons of success if they can get to the second level of the defense.
The Patriots have a variety of running backs. Gillislee is more of a between the tackles banger while James White is almost strictly a receiving back. Dion Lewis has looked great the past couple weeks and can both run or catch the ball while being the shiftiest of their backs. Is there a particular running back you see having more success against the Falcons defense this week?
Probably going to have the best luck with James White. The Falcons have had some trouble with running back between the tackles, but they did just sign Ahtyba Rubin who will help their run defense in the middle, but as I mentioned, the Falcons have had trouble containing speedy players who can get into space. A short passing game that functions like a running game is very effective against Atlanta.
Would it then be fair to say the Patriots should possibly focus on using the smaller Lewis and White combo?
That is probably a smart play. Only thing to remember about this Falcons defense is they are least effective when they are worn down late in games, so it would be smart to try and balance things out to at least tire the defense.
So we’ve talked a lot about the running game and the Falcons defensive front and linebacking corps. Is there a matchup in the secondary you think plays in one teams favor?
I think your defensive backs against Julio Jones plays very much in Falcons favor. Just because the Falcons haven’t done a great job of targeting Julio, people can forget just how productive he can be. I do not think there is a defensive back on that roster who is capable of stopping him.
How about in the Falcons secondary? Do they have a player they’ll assign to anyone in particular or just play sides of the field?
They’ll probably primarily play sides of the field. The team trusts Robert Alford almost as much as Desmond Trufant when it comes to slowing down quality receivers; so I don’t expect them to do a lot of switching. I think that the most favorable matchup for the Patriots is whoever has to cover Rob Gronkowski. Devondre Campbell is a very good linebacker who will probably get his chance to do that, but it’s not really ideal.
What do you see being the Falcons plan of attack? Their offense is still trying to get in sync with their new offensive coordinator this season.
I think the Falcons are finally going to try to establish the run early. I think you’ll see quite a bit of Devonta Freeman, and I think if they’re smart they’ll try to get Tevin Coleman more involved as both a runner and receiver. The Falcons need to stop being timid and treat the Patriots defense like its going to allow them to do whatever they want so long as they don’t get too predictable or conservative.
How do you think the motivation factor will come into play? The Patriots seem to always have motivation, but it seems quite difficult for the Patriots to match the Falcons motivation for this weeks games considering the outcome of last years Super Bowl.
The Falcons won’t lack for motivation in anyway. Devondre Campbell talked about how he’s been waiting to play the Patriots since February. Makes you wonder if they have looked ahead a little bit.
What is your score prediction for the game?
Terrific question my friend. I think this will be the first game of the season where the Falcons just cannot contain the opposing offense, but it will also be the first time since the Packers game where they will be facing a team that isn’t a top 10 defense in the NFL per Pro Football Focus. So, I would say that this will be a high scoring game, and I am going to predict that it will be 34-31 Falcons, and that it will never be 28-3.