Defensive Line – Atlanta just lost its top nose-tackle for the rest of the season. New England’s top nose-tackle still hasn’t really arrived yet. The team that can pull off the better pass rush should have the upper hand in this contest. (Like my John Clayton impression? If I could just shape my head into a sideways-eggplant, I’d have it down pat!) Edge: Falcons
Linebackers – Gary Guyton stepped up big in New Jersey last week. He isn’t necessarily filling Jerod Mayo’s shoes, but he came awfully close on Sunday. This week he has a weaker O-Line to rush through, but a better halfback to rush after. This is the kind of game Adalius Thomas gets up for. A statement game. Edge: Pats
Defensive Backfield – Chris Houston and Erik Coleman are decent; but on the whole, this Atlanta secondary is the weakest we’ve seen thus far. Even weaker than the Bills. (Diss!) Springs and Bodden should be able to keep up with White and Jenkins. And a couple bonecrushing Meriweather hits could put Gonzalez out of commission. Edge: Pats
Coaching – I’ve never been a fan of Mike Smith. I thought he and his whole team were overrated last year and I thought the same going into this season. But you can’t argue with wins. This is a big one though. If Atlanta can pull off a victory in Foxboro, they’re a legit contender in 2009. If not, they’re still a couple defensive pieces away from the complete championship puzzle. Edge: Pats
Forecast – New England can’t dip to 1-2. They just can’t. This isn’t a must-win game; but…we must win this game. I’m a little more confident than the Jets matchup, but I wouldn’t bet we cover the four points Vegas is giving us come Sunday.
Prediction – Atlanta 13 New England 9
MVP: WR – Roddy White. For the second straight week, the Pats go touchdownless. With a 9-6 lead late in the game Ryan catches White down the sideline for the game-winning strike. A 1-2 start isn’t the end of the world, however. Especially with how sloppy the Bills and Dolphins have started off. I don’t think we’re gonna beat the Jets for the division this year; but a quiet little underdog wild card spot is exactly where Belichick likes to be.