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Patriots seek 4-0 start in Atlanta Sunday night
By: Zach Cohen - StatFox
Published: 9/29/2013  at  4:12:00 AM
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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (3-0)
at ATLANTA FALCONS (1-2)

Kickoff: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Line: Atlanta -2, Total: 50.5

The Falcons look to get back to .500 while the Patriots try to stay undefeated when the two teams square off at Georgia Dome on Sunday night.

The last time New England and Atlanta played was in September of 2009 where the Patriots held a 445 to 257 yards advantage and prevailed 26-10. New England was a 4-point underdog in that game and was able to win-and-cover for the third straight time against Atlanta. The Falcons have allowed 296 passing YPG this season (25th in NFL), which doesnít bode well against a Tom Brady-led offense that could have TE Rob Gronkowski (back) for the first time this season. However, Atlanta also has a potent air attack (289 passing YPG, 7th in NFL) and will provide the first real test for New England's suspect secondary, which has faced three of the league's worst starting quarterbacks (Josh Freeman, Geno Smith and EJ Manuel). The Patriots are 39-16 ATS (71%) as an underdog under head coach Bill Belichick, but the Falcons are is 8-1 ATS in September home games under head coach Mike Smith. Although New England is 14-4 ATS (78%) coming off of a Belichick-coached game where his team allowed six points or less, Atlanta is 19-5 ATS (79%) after a loss under Smith.

Can the Patriots move to 4-0 with an impressive road win in Atlanta? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 season and playoffs. During the 2012 campaign, the experts combined for a 52% ATS success rate in NFL Best Bets, highlighted by StatFox Brian's 60% ATS mark (36-24-2 ATS) and StatFox Dave's 53% ATS accuracy (44-41-4). StatFox Scott and StatFox Gary dominated NFL Totals, with Scott going 57% (38-29-1) and Gary cranking out a 56% clip (28-22-1) during the season, capped off by a perfect 4-0 run in the postseason.

The Patriots are 3-0 SU to start the season, but their offense hasnít played well at all, gaining just 4.5 yards per play (3rd-fewest in NFL) and scoring only 19.7 PPG (22nd in league). New England is coming off a 23-3 victory over the Buccaneers in which Tom Bradyís receivers finally provided him with some competent play. Aaron Dobson had seven catches in the game for 52 yards while Kenbrell Thompkins was the recipient of two red-zone touchdown passes. WR Julian Edelman also chipped in with seven receptions for 44 yards, as he's tied for the NFL lead with 27 catches this year. Brady was 25-of-36 for 225 yards with 2 TD and 1 INT in the game, marking his 51st straight game with at least one touchdown pass. Many of those touchdown passes during his streak have gone to TE Rob Gronkowski who has an incredible 39 TD catches in 43 career games. The Patriots rushing offense really sputtered in Week 2 versus the Jets (24 carries for 54 yards), but chewed up 156 rushing yards as a team versus the Bucs, led by LeGarrette Blountís 65 yards on 14 carries and Brandon Bolden's 51 yards on just three rushing attempts in his season debut. One the defensive end, New England was near perfect, allowing just 323 yards of total offense against a weak Buccaneers team. For the season, the Patriots have allowed just 11.3 PPG (T-2nd in NFL) and 309 total YPG (T-8th in league), while forcing an impressive seven turnovers. With the offense beginning to get healthier and the Patriots still undefeated, itís interesting to see just how good this team will be in a couple of weeks when Gronkowski and top WR Danny Amendola (groin) return healthy.

Atlantaís defense has really struggled this season, allowing 24.7 PPG (T-19th in NFL) and 375 total YPG (23rd in league). They defense hasnít been able to get stops when it has needed to, both on third down (48% conversion rate, 5th-worst in NFL) and in the red zone (70% efficiency, T-23rd in league). Without RB Steven Jackson, who is out for a month with a thigh injury, the Falcons' backfield duo of RBs Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling was very productive last week, combining for 139 yards on 29 carries (4.8 YPC). Snelling also caught four passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. QB Matt Ryan went 23-of-38 for 231 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the game. WR Julio Jones continues to give opposing defenses nightmares as he caught nine passes for 115 yards. He now has a league-high-tying 27 receptions for an NFL-best 373 yards and two touchdowns on the year. Jones also leads the league with 194 yards after catch, which has been key because fellow WR Roddy White is still dealing with a high-ankle sprain that has really limited his usually stellar production. TE Tony Gonzalez is also off to a slow start with just 11 catches for 93 yards and one touchdown, a big drop-off from his 2012 season when he caught 93 passes for 930 yards and eight scores.

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